Lithuanian PM: We oppose Palestinian moves at UN

Kubilius condemns Palestinian unilateral bids for statehood, stresses special ties with Israel.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia)
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia)
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, Kubilius said.
If it did, Lithuania was likely to support that position, he said. “If that [common position] will fail, we are for continuing bilateral negotiations.”
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 country.
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 195th member.
His country, Kubilius said, had a global, historical and economic interest in Israel and with the Jewish people as a whole.
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 said.
Lithuania was particularly impressed with Israel’s entrepreneurship in innovative business, hi-tech and bio-technology, Kubilius said.
One of the most popular books in Lithuania was Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle and, he said, “We are ready to become start-up nation No. 2.”
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 months.
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 scientists.
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 descent.
A good relationship with the country’s Jewish community, as well as with the global one, was very important for Lithuania, Kubilius said.
“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 property losses.
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 said.
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.
“This is 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 said.
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 whole.
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 said.
But the EU needs to pay special attention to the region, including what is happening in Egypt, Syria and North Africa, he added.
“Things are changing very rapidly and very dramatically,” Kubilius said.