chapter  9
Lithuanian foreign policy since EU accession: Torn between history and interdependence
Pages 15

Introduction Accession to the EU, together with NATO membership and good neighborly relations, became a strategic priority for Lithuania soon after it declared the reestablishment of independence on 11 March 1990. Although in the early 1990s the prospect of EU (and NATO) membership seemed distant and uncertain, soon European and transatlantic integration gathered pace and Lithuania, together with the other two Baltic States – Estonia and Latvia – negotiated a number of agreements with the EU leading to the start of accession negotiations less than a decade after their diplomatic recognition (Vilpišauskas 2003). The accession negotiations which Lithuania started together with the other “second wave” of candidate countries in 2000 were finalized by the end of 2002. After a referendum in 2003 which indicated clear support for EU membership (of the 63 percent of all voters who turned out, about 91 percent backed EU accession), Lithuania joined the EU in May 2004. It also became a NATO member in spring 2004. How has EU membership affected Lithuania’s foreign policy toward EU members and non-members? How have the institutions involved in the making and conduct of Lithuania’s foreign policy used EU membership for advancing national preferences? How can we account for national foreign policy preferences, instruments, and strategies in the context of EU membership? What are the factors affecting the ability of Lithuania to realize its European and other foreign policy priorities? These are the key issues addressed below through a structured analysis of Lithuania’s foreign policy since EU accession. It should be noted that the definition of the independent variable – EU membership – is not as straightforward as it might seem. The impact of EU accession can be traced back to the years of association and accession negotiations. For example, after signing the Association (Europe) Agreement in 1995, Lithuania was drawn into a multilateral political dialogue with the EU by joining various declarations and positions within the framework of the CFSP (and sometimes having to make a difficult choice between the positions of the EU and the US, reflecting the importance of the latter for Lithuania as its main ally in security matters). In the areas of security and defense, NATO membership has been a powerful transformative

factor which should also be accounted for in any analysis of Lithuanian foreign policy, especially in such cases as Lithuania’s participation in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The definition of the dependent variable also merits closer examination. First, it should be noted that Lithuania’s policies toward EU member states as well as nonmembers (third countries) are analyzed here. Both categories are included in the notion of a country’s foreign policy. Moreover, EU membership has been used actively (though with varying degrees of effectiveness) by Lithuania’s institutions to manage interdependencies with geographically close and economically important non-members such as Russia, particularly in the area of energy. Finally, the dependent variable is discussed by assessing the effects of EU accession on the institutions, national preferences, and strategies for achieving those preferences mediated by domestic factors such as the leadership of particular institutions, party politics, and domestic interest groups as well as popular attitudes. The analysis is structured by addressing each of the elements of the dependent variable. It starts with a presentation of the main institutions responsible for Lithuanian foreign policy and the coordination of European policy in particular. Then it discusses national foreign policy preferences and their sources and evolution. Lithuania’s effectiveness in implementing the main priorities of its foreign policy is also addressed. Finally, the analysis assesses the strategies and instruments for implementing Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities, especially attempts to Europeanize (or EU-ize) these priorities, and the role of different actors in implementing and transforming Lithuanian foreign policy. It discusses the dominant character of Lithuania’s foreign policy and the sources of its transformation. It concludes with key observations and a discussion of the main factors which might frame Lithuania’s foreign policy in the future, in particular the importance of the forthcoming EU Presidency in 2013.