At the meeting of Ministers for European Affairs in Brussels on 4 February, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Vytautas Leškevičius called on the EU heads of state who will be attending the European Council meeting at the end of this week, to send a clear message about the aim to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine, including a free trade area.
“A free trade area would create substantial economic benefits for both the European Union and Ukraine. As we draw closer to the Eastern Partnership Summit in November in Vilnius, Ukraine has to convince that the country is making progress and the European Union must speak not only about the signing of the Association Agreement, but also should start implementing the free trade area before the ratification,” Leškevičius said.
The EU’s General Affairs Council discussed the preparation of the European Council meeting scheduled for 7-8 February, which will focus on the EU’s trading policies with third countries, hence the progress of negotiations with the Eastern Partnership countries.
Leškevičius stressed that during the on-going free trade negotiations, the EU must ensure that opening markets would be equally beneficial to all member states and various economic sectors.
The Ministers met with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, who will lead discussions on the EU’s multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 at the European Council meeting. The Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the final agreement must reflect fairly all the needs of the member states.
“Three things are still most important to Lithuania. Cohesion policy should help less developed member states, taking into account the characteristics of the Baltic States. Aiming to reduce market distortions in agricultural policy, direct payments to farmers in the Baltic countries must achieve the EU average as soon as possible. Financial support for the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant cannot be different as provided for in Lithuania’s EU accession treaty,” Leškevičius said.
Lithuanian Foreign Vice-Minister wished success to Ireland, as the country took over the Presidency of the EU Council from 1 January and was presenting its priorities for the Presidency at the Council meeting.
“Being from the same Trio, we share and fully support Ireland’s ambitious goals, especially focused on growth and jobs, negotiations on the MFF, deepening of the EU Single Market and the Digital Agenda, internal energy market and the emphasis on Connecting Europe Facility,” the Vice-Minister said.
According to Leškevičius, Lithuania’s Presidency in the second half of this year will build on the results achieved by the Irish Presidency and continuity will be the main principle.