Though the coronavirus is still on our radars, countries have been gradually easing lockdown all over Europe and getting back to work, even going on holidays, and reuniting with their families.
In the Martens Centre, we want to hear from our like-minded partners all across the continent as we launch #Back2EU, a video series to present our member foundations network, how their respective countries lived through the pandemic, and how they are coping with the easing of lockdowns.Baltic EU Member States
Back2EU from Estonia with Pro Patria Instituut
Multimedia - Other videos
07 Oct 2020
This time with Rasa Juknevičienė, EPP MEP, discussing EU-Russia relations, the Baltics, and other political issues.Roland Freudenstein Baltic EU-Russia
The Week in 7 Questions with Rasa Juknevičienė
Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions
15 May 2020
2017 marks the 70th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan as well as the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. For Lithuania, virtually the whole of the 20th century was overshadowed by developments in the East – the Bolshevik revolution, the rise of the Soviet Union and subsequent half-a-century-long Soviet occupation since 1940.
Left on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Lithuania could not enjoy direct benefits from the Marshall Plan. However, because of the Marshall Plan, the EU and NATO were born, and that is what gave us freedom. Both anniversaries provide a good opportunity to look into a broader historical and future perspective.
Why are we drawing parallels between 1947 and 2017? Because nowadays, as back then in 1947, we face the very same problem – Russia/Soviet Union and its development, which is still very much influenced by the events of 1917.
However, because of the Marshall Plan, the EU and NATO were born, and that is what gave us freedom.
In 1947 George Marshall became concerned that Stalin would be able to establish his political dominance in Western Europe, where people were suffering due to the collapse of their economies, destroyed by World War II. It was known that local Communist Parties in France and Italy, following political directives from the Kremlin, were ready to exploit the dissatisfaction of the people to win political domination in those Western European countries.
In 2017 we are concerned that in Ukraine Putin may come back with a re-establishment of political domination over the whole country, where the dissatisfaction of the people is a natural consequence of deep and painful reforms, of weak economic recovery and of prolonged war in the Eastern part of Ukraine, initiated and supported by the Kremlin.
It is not only the future of Ukraine, not only the security of our region, but also the future of Russia itself and the long-term relationship between Russia and Europe that we need to be worried about. We need to remember that in the 20th century Europe suffered because of two tectonic conflicts: the ‘Germany–France’ conflict and the ‘Russia/Soviet Union – continental Europe’ conflict.
The main goals of the Marshall Plan in 1947 were:
- recovery of Western Europe in order to prevent Stalin to succeed in establishing his political domination there
- a solution to the first European tectonic conflict – the one between Germany and France, with the beginning of European integration and the establishment of the Coal and Steel Community in 1951
The main goals of the Marshall Plan in 2017 should then be:
- recovery of Ukraine in order to prevent Putin to assert his political domination in the country
- a solution to the second European tectonic conflict – the one between Russia and continental Europe.
This can be achieved only if Russia transforms itself into a normal European country. Success in Ukraine is the single instrument available to the Western Community to encourage a positive transformation of Russia. The example of success in Ukraine would have a major impact on the opinion of ordinary Russians. Russia, therefore, should be surrounded by the ‘belt of success’ of the Eastern Partnership region, where Ukraine is the most important country.
Putin is fighting against the success of Ukraine, because it endangers his regime. He anticipates that painful reforms in Ukraine will overwhelm the Ukrainian people with dissatisfaction. In democratic elections, such frustration would bring into power political forces, which would abandon the implementation of necessary reforms. That would be a strategic victory for Putin, one which we cannot allow to happen.
How did we, in the Baltics, achiev our success without any kind of Marshall Plan? We were lucky, because soon after regaining our independence at the beginning of the 1990s, we were promised membership in the EU, conditional on implementing complex reforms. A clear membership perspective helped us to reach a national political consensus in Lithuania and kept alive our motivation for reforms. That is how our success was created.
Since World War II the Western Community has invented only two effective geopolitical instruments, which prevented Russia/Soviet Union from expanding its political influence on countries suffering immense economic challenges of recovery or transformation: it was the Marshall Plan in 1947 and the EU enlargement in the 1990s. For the time being, Ukraine cannot expect an invitation to join the EU. That is why we need a Marshall Plan for Ukraine.
We need to bring back the inspiration and wisdom of 1947.
The Marshall Plan for Ukraine would be a package of investment funds into the real economy of Ukraine, conditional on implementing reforms. Following the institutional example of the Marshall Plan 1947 – the European Reconstruction Agency – a similar agency should be created for Ukraine. Five billion USD annually are needed to bring the growth of GDP up to 6 – 8% in Ukraine. The EU External Investment Plan provides a real possibility for financing schemes of the Marshall Plan for Ukraine – it entails 88 billion USD until 2020.
A big part of this money from the External Investment Plan will be used to implement what the German Government calls ‘Marshall Plan with Africa’. We support this initiative and we hope that the similar idea of a ‘Marshall Plan for/with Ukraine’ will be supported by other countries. Our initiative gathers momentum, as the European People’s Party (EPP) in its Malta Congress expressed support for the Marshall Plan for Ukraine. Together with Ukrainians, we have already brought this initiative to Washington, and we shall go to Berlin and Brussels.
1947 and 2017 – a lot of similarities and similar challenges. We need to bring back the inspiration and wisdom of 1947: George F. Kennan’s deep understanding of why a ‘Russia Containment Strategy’ is needed; George Marshall’s boldness to propose a successful geopolitical initiative; the courage of Harry S. Truman and the leaders of Western Europe to take responsibility and confront Stalin with the Marshall Plan and defend Berlin during the blockade.
The same type of leadership and behavior is needed now – for the sake of lasting peace and stability in Europe through support of Ukraine in order to inspire transformation of Russia.Andrius Kubilius Baltic Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia
Marshall Plan: why we need it again in 2017
28 Jun 2017
The abduction of Estonian Secret Service Official Eston Kohver was an extraordinary event, even by the standards of the Cold War. It was yet another episode in the series of moves which Russia has been making recently to put pressure on NATO. Russian nuclear bombers have made incursions into US and Canadian air defence identification zones, Russia has seized the Lithuanian flagship vessel in international waters and Russian aircrafts have been violating NATO airspace with an increased frequency.
This is why Kohver is neither an Estonian-Russian problem, nor an isolated incident in a security operation gone off track. It is part of Russia’s attempt to undermine the system of Euro-Atlantic security.
Russia is pushing NATO to its extremes, testing its unity. In a run-up to the latest NATO Summit, a number of NATO members worried that Moscow would view NATO’s resolve to strengthen security and defence capabilities on its Eastern frontiers as a provocation. The Russians now are making it clear that they do. If the Kremlin has its way, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will enjoy NATO’s collective defence guarantees only formally, without having the needed military capabilities. If there are attempts to change this, there will be costs. The abduction of Kohver, for instance.
By attacking NATO on its own territory, Russia is also trying to put a final bullet into NATO’s enlargement agenda. Attacks on NATO’s security will divert attention to the challenges within the current borders. As NATO is regrouping to defend its existing members, any talk about extending security guarantees to Georgia, with 20% of its territory under Russian occupation, or to Ukraine, with an open economic, political and military confrontation with Moscow, becomes obsolete.
Vladimir Putin aspires for a resurrected Empire as his legacy. Getting back Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, is not an option. Even Putin must understand that. By launching an offensive on NATO members, however, Moscow is pushing the line of defence further away from Ukraine, away from Georgia. Moscow empowers those who oppose enlargement and assert that accepting the Baltic countries to NATO was a mistake. It is part of Russia’s well-orchestrated plan to impose on the West a new ‘Munich’ agreement. This would imply abandoning any plans to bring democracy to Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, thus forcing them to become the vassals of Moscow, once again.
Therefore, Kohver is a prisoner of war, a war which Putin has declared on the West. The fact that we have not found a name for this war yet, does not make his abduction in a foggy Baltic forest any less sinister.Salome Samadashvili Baltic Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security
Eston Kohver: a prisoner of war?
29 Sep 2014
In November 2012, CES welcomed its 26th member foundation as part of its expanding network of like-minded organisations in EU member countries. The Institute of Democratic Politics (Demokratinès Politikos institutas) from Lithuania was founded in 1999 by a group of Conservative and Christian Democratic politicians, analysts, essayists, and scholars. From the outset, its principal concerns have been the strengthening of the centre-right ideology and public defense of conservative values in Lithuania. The Institute’s aim is to accelerate the political and civic maturity of the Lithuanian society and to promote democracy and development in the European neighbourhood, seeking to contribute to security and stability in the region. CES’s newest member foundation is already involved in organising national and international conferences, seminars, round table discussions, as well as conducting research and producing publications. The Institute’s long-standing cooperation partners include the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Robert Schuman Foundation and its International Republican Institute, all of which are also CES partners.
The CES and the Institute of Democratic Politics are already exploring ideas for collaboration and common activities for 2013. Every year, the Centre organises more than 100 common projects with its member foundations and like-minded third party organisations in all EU’s member states, including research, events and publications.Baltic Centre-Right Education EU Member States Party Structures
CES Welcomes 26th Member Foundation
09 Nov 2012
For the first time since re-establishment of independence in 1990, Lithuanians had the opportunity to re-elect the same government which served a full four-year term in office. In the neighbouring Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, governments pushing for greater fiscal prudence and pro-growth economic reforms have laid the foundations for economic recovery. However, judging by the results of the Lithuanian parliamentary elections of the 28th of October 2012, and the currently developing coalition scenarios, the picture seems to be different.
Why are left wing and populist opposition parties celebrating such a strong result? The Conservatives and Christian Democrats merged in 2008, creating the strongest Lithuanian political party, the Homeland Union—Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Tevynes sajunga—Lietuvos krikscionys demokratai, TS-LKD). When the 2008 financial crisis hit the Western world, the Lithuanian centre right coalition was just taking over governance from the Social Democrats, who had been in office for 8 years. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius won praise from economists abroad for slashing the budget deficit and successfully fostering solid economic growth, but was less liked at home as pensions and public wages were cut and unemployment rose. The country’s Central Electoral Commission confirmed the final election results on Sunday. A centre left opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (Lietuvos socialdemokratai) which campaigned on promises to end budget cuts and increase social spending came first in Lithuania’s 2012 parliamentary election with 27% of the vote or 38 seats in the new parliament. The party had planned to form a majority coalition government with two other opposition parties: the populist Labour Party (Darbo partija) and the right-wing populist Order and Justice Party (Partija Tvarka ir teisingumas), which garnered 20.5% and 7.8% respectively. These three parties would control approximately 78 seats in Lithuania’s 141-seat parliament.
Meanwhile, the incumbent party, the Conservative Homeland Union—Christian Democrats, suffered due to austerity-weary voters and finished second with 23% of the vote or 33 seats. Their coalition allies, the Liberals’ Movement (Liberalu sajudis), won 10 seats in the new parliament. Though the Liberals were a fragmented group in the past, they now seem to be a cohesive force and are gaining votes. However, even the greatest oponents of TS-LKD have to admit that these elections have not been a straightforward defeat for the party. Considering the economic and social factors in Lithuania, coming in second place was a good result for the party. It is important to remember that in 2008 TS-LKD got slightly more votes in the first round, but not by a wide margin—about 27% of the vote. That does not compare too badly with the 23% gained this year, after a bruising period in government. In particular, the Conservative party was in favour with urban citizens who understood the ruling majority’s determination to overcome the economic and financial crisis. The left-of-centre parties did best in the countryside, hard-hit by the downturn, as Uspaskich promised to raise the minimum wage by half and cut unemployment to zero. The remaining 8 seats went to the fifth place Polish-ethnic party (Lietuvos lenku rinkimu akcija).
Lithuanian elections often throw up protest parties. This year another populist and anti-establishment newcomer was The Way of Courage (Drasos kelias), which campaigns against a purported pedophile conspiracy. The party won 7 seats. Three independent candidates and a member of the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (Lietuvos valstieciu ir zaliuju sajunga) were also elected. The President’s reaction to controversial coalition partners President Dalia Grybauskaite disrupted the trio’s plans to form a coalition the day after their election victory. Grybauskaite announced to a former Finance Minister, Algirdas Butkevicius, leader of Social Democrats, that she would advise him to form the government, but could not accept the Labour Party as part of the government. The president’s dislike is reminiscent of the Austrian case in 1999/2000 when the president showed hisscepticism about the coalition between ÖVP and the right-wing populist party FPÖ. The left-wing populist party in Lithuania is facing a vote-buying inquiry which caused the first-round results in one constituency to be declared invalid. Furthermore, the leader of the party, Viktor Uspaskich, Member of the European Parliament, is a controversial former refugee to Russia. He and a colleague, Gabsys, are battling criminal charges concerning a supposed role in fraudulent party financing. Under the constitution, the president appoints the prime minister and tasks him or her with naming ministers, who need presidential approval. However, no president has refused to approve the composition of a government in Lithuania’s history, and a 1998 constitutional court ruling said the head of state should not ignore a parliamentary majority. The third possible coalition partner is also controversial. The two left-wing parties want to include the right-wing populist Order and Justice, led by the impeached ex-president Rolandas Paksas, who is not allowed to participate in the elections personally.
There was another surprise after prospective Prime Minister Butkevicius met the head of state to hear her evaluation on the formation of the government coalition. Unusually the Lithuanian President decided to go to the Constitutional Court over the legality of the election results because of some probable violations during the general elections. She refused to consider the coalition formation until the findings from Constructional Court were issued. This presidential step again adjusted the trio’s plans to sign the coalition agreement on Tuesday. Consequences The opinion of the President of Lithuania is greatly respected because of her popularity with citizens and her strong personality. However, a scenario in which a coalition is formed without the Labour Party is unlikely. The most possible outcome is that all current negotiators and the President will agree on a softened scenario—to continue forming a coalition without appointing controversial personalities, such as Uspaskich, Gabsys and Paksas to leading positions. The Polish party with 8 seats, was invited to join the coalition last week. However, its leaders have not shown great interest in cooperation. Therefore the coalition agreement will, most likely, to be signed without them with the possibility to join later according to the formula ‘3+1’.
Finding an alternative coalition is difficult, especially in the complicated case of a minority government, which is usual in the Scandinavian context. However, there are doubts if this scenario is applicable in times of crisis. The Conservatives together with the Liberals’ Movement won insufficient votes to build a government. Sometimes, a great coalition with the Social Democrats, a so called ‘Rainbow Coalition’, is discussed, taking as an example other countries, for instance, Germany. However, grand coalitions are usually formed in cases of major crises or in order to create a solid governing majority. This does not seem to be the case at the moment. Lithuanians have also voted against building a Visaginas nuclear power plant in the country, although that vote did not have the force of law. The power plant would increase the country‘s independence from Russia, which has become an issue also on the European level. Therefore, the Social Democrats remain sceptical about the strategic project as they campaigned for its rejection. Furthermore, they want to deepen the relations with Russia and to postpone accession to the euro zone until 2015. Different leftists’ views towards foreign affairs seem to threaten a smooth Lithuanian presidency of the EU in the second half of 2013. The leftists have pledged to raise the minimum wage and reform taxation to favour the worst-off. Despite this, analysts have said that sweeping changes are unlikely, given the budgetary constraints Lithuania faces in the wake of one of the world’s deepest recessions. In the long-run, at least until the European elections in 2014, voters will be disappointed in a similar way as in France because the leftward swing cannot fulfil the package of promises they made in terms of taxes and social benefits, especially since the left-wing parties have no agenda to stimulate growth.Vesta Ratkeviciute Baltic Elections
Lithuanian elections. Reforms on a roll?
06 Nov 2012
Mart Laar was the Prime Minister of Estonia for two terms, from 1992 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2002. His role in the successful democratic transformation of Estonia made him an internationally recognized expert in “democratic transition”. “The Power of Freedom” tells the gripping story of the journey of Central and Eastern European countries “back to Europe”. It maps the history of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe in times when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. On the western side people enjoyed freedom, democracy, the rule of law and successful market-based economies, while those on the other side suffered at hand of violent totalitarian regimes and the socialist planned economy. These regimes destroyed economies and provoked an environmental disaster. The book offers a detailed analysis of the transition to democracy and successful integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. It looks at past achievements, current political, social and economic developments, as well as the challenges ahead – and concludes that the transition has been a true success story. Mart Laar also provides several examples of how the reunification of Europe brought stability and prosperity to Central and Eastern European countries through sound economic policies and democratic political engagement.Baltic Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment
The Power of Freedom: Central and Eastern Europe after 1945
31 Jan 2011
The Baltic Sea region is the first macro-region to be recognised in Europe. The region is, therefore, a pilot project, setting an example and offering best/worst practices for other macroregions in the making. Dr. Esko Antola, the Director of Centrum Balticum in Finland, describes the development of the Baltic Sea Strategy and the next steps for the region.Baltic Democracy EU Institutions
Baltic Sea Strategy a Pilot Project for Macro-Regionalisation in the EU
01 Jun 2010