Lithuania plans to oppose further Palestinian unilateral bids for statehood at
the UN, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius told a group of visiting Israeli
journalists last week.
“We are in favor of continuing negotiations
[between Israelis and Palestinians] and not in favor of unilateral decisions,”
he said, as he sat in his office building in downtown Vilna.
It would be
best if the European Union could formulate a common position on the matter,
If it did, Lithuania was likely to support that position,
he said. “If that [common position] will fail, we are for continuing bilateral
He said it was important to find a real solution to the
conflict, one that was stable and provided a good foundation on which peace
could be built.
Kubilius explained that this was not a new stance for his
Lithuania is among a small minority of 14 nations that opposed
the Palestinian bid for membership at United Nations Educational Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last fall, when it welcomed Palestine as its
His country, Kubilius said, had a global, historical and
economic interest in Israel and with the Jewish people as a
According to Lithuania’s embassy in Israel, there are some 200,000
Israelis of Lithuanian descent.
“We are happy with how our relations are
developing with the State of Israel,” Kubilius said.
The two countries
had strong bilateral ties in trade, investment and pharmaceuticals, he
Lithuania was particularly impressed with Israel’s entrepreneurship
in innovative business, hi-tech and bio-technology, Kubilius said.
the most popular books in Lithuania was Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s
and, he said, “We are ready to become start-up nation No.
The number of Israeli tourists to Lithuania - 10,000 last year - was
also growing, Kubilius told the journalists.
As part of the growing bond
between the two countries, the Israeli airline Sun d’Or, together with El Al,
offered direct flights to Lithuania’s capital city of Vilna during the summer
Last week the Lithuanian government brought a group of Israeli
journalists, including from The Jerusalem Post
, to Lithuania. It also held a
special event in Vilna on biotechnology with Israeli entrepreneurs and
Before World War II, more than 200,000 Jews lived in
Lithuania, which was a significant center of Eastern European Jewish life.
Today, an estimated 5,000 Jews reside in the country.
Kubilius said that
many of the descendants of the former Lithuanian Jews had risen to positions of
leadership and prominence.
He recited the name of Israeli leaders with
Lithuanian origins including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Bank of Israel Gov. Stanley
Fischer, and noted that 17 Jewish Nobel Prize winners were of Lithuanian
A good relationship with the country’s Jewish community, as well
as with the global one, was very important for Lithuania, Kubilius
“Of course, Jewish people suffered a huge tragedy here in Lithuania
during the Holocaust years,” he said. “It is very shameful that some of the
Lithuanians took part in these atrocities.”
Kubilius noted that his
country recently passed a law to compensate the Jewish community for its
It was also working to preserve and honor the country’s
Jewish past, he promised. “It is very important to bring back an
understanding of the Jewish community and its history,” he
Lithuania also has an interest in Israel from a global diplomatic
and regional perspective, both as a member of the EU, and as the country that in
July 2013 will assume the rotating EU presidency for half a year. It follows
Ireland, which will hold that post from January to June of 2013.
a big challenge for us,” Kubilius said. It is the first time that Lithuania will
play such an important and responsible role, he said, even as he noted that the
EU presidency had limited powers.
There are likely to be a number of
significant issues on the agenda during that term, including a six-year EU
budget and the euro-zone crisis, Kubilius said.
In addition, Lithuania
has its own agenda. “We are looking for possibilities to push forward an
energy strategy on the EU level,” he said.
Energy is an important issue
for the newly independent Baltic states, which are less integrated into Europe’s
energy map and too dependent on energy supplies from Russia, Kubilius
Lithuania also hopes to be an advocate for Israel in the EU and to
help increase understanding with regard to Israel and the region as a
Some of this is dependent on larger issues such as how stable the
European economy is in 2013. The more stable life is in the EU is, the more
energy it can spend on other regions, such as the Middle East, he
But the EU needs to pay special attention to the region, including
what is happening in Egypt, Syria and North Africa, he added.
changing very rapidly and very dramatically,” Kubilius said.