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On 16 December in Vilnius, representatives from academic community, media and general public were acquainted with the report on this year’s activities of the Lithuanian diplomatic service “Lithuanian diplomatic service 2011”, which outlines Lithuania’s key foreign policy priorities of transatlantic security and democracy promotion, efforts to consolidate energy and economic security, and emphasizes open diplomacy and responding to the needs of Lithuanian citizens.

At the initiative of Lithuanian Foreign Minister A.Ažubalis, public is acquainted with such a report for the first time. The Minister believes that not only the diplomatic service, but also representatives from general public are interested in the implementation of foreign policy; therefore, such public discussion should contribute to a better understanding of and greater engagement in the implementation of foreign policy goals, which is especially important in our daily life that is becoming more globalized every day.

As the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs said during the presentation of the report, this year national and regional security goals received real security guarantees.

According to the Minister, active efforts to strengthen democracy in Lithuania’s neighbourhood bore the following results:  activities of organizations promoting democracy and human rights are transferred to Lithuania; the West gives attention and generously supports democratic and economic reforms in Eastern Europe.

A.Ažubalis said that besides these great interests in political security and support for the democratisation process in the East, this year the diplomatic service focused also on the issues, which had a direct impact on the quality of life of the Lithuanian people, i.e., on de-monopolizing Lithuania’s energy sector, on economic development and on fostering of the Lithuanian identity.

“I could compare the struggle for international support for strategic reforms of Lithuania’s energy sector with the fight for full sovereignty and with dropping the financial burden that rested on Lithuanian citizens for many years. But we are hopeful, because despite various obstacles we are integrating into the European electricity system, and because we have witnessed progress of the projects of the Visaginas nuclear power plant, liquefied natural gas terminal, electricity and gas links,” said the Minister.

According to the Minister, this year’s activities of economic diplomacy are related to international transit projects, trade and investments: the geographical coverage of the train “Viking” project has been extended, the financing of the roads “Rail Baltica” and “Via Baltica” has been secured, the greatest NATO cargo flows in the Baltics are now carried to Afghanistan via Lithuania, and the new train “Saule” linked Western Europe with China for the first time.

“We secured and guaranteed billions to Lithuanian traders through bilateral and multilateral negotiations and helped them enter markets in emerging economies. I believe that the increase in Lithuania’s exports by one third and a couple of dozens of investment projects are telling,” A.Ažubalis listed the achievements of economic diplomacy.

The Minister also spoke about the future and acquainted his listeners with Lithuania’s priorities for the next year, when the country would take over the coordination of activities of the Nordic-Baltic eight.

“This will be an excellent opportunity to prompt the region’s integration. I will be frank: the Baltoscandia is wakening up and it is one of the core and most promising ambitions of Lithuania’s diplomacy. It is a long-term project, but this year we have found the perspectives and we have launched the initiative, which is a good start to base further work on,” stressed A.Ažubalis.

According to the Minister, the next challenge that arises to the Lithuanian diplomacy is the upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU.

“This year we did some essential preparatory work, and, the most important thing was to form a consensus on political and financial matters in Lithuania. The most recent polls show that our citizens support the country’s membership in the European Union and understand the benefits of holding the Presidency to the country,” said the Minister.

The Minister said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would continue to split attention in two directions: aiming to create favourable international milieu for holding the Presidency and professional preparation of the diplomacy and state institutions, as well as rally and solidarity of all the Lithuanian people.

A.Ažubalis stressed that Lithuania’s foreign policy had to be open to Lithuanian citizens, to respond to citizens’ needs and to foster the Lithuanian identity in the world.

“In my opinion, the Lithuanian diplomatic service is an icebreaker en route to distant international waters, but has to respond more to what happens at home, i.e., to respond to citizens’ needs. This is how I would define the main trends of diplomatic activities this year,” said the Minister.