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  Lithuanian policy of the East: victories of 2007 (I)

Povilas Þielys
2008 06 16

Photo President.ltBefore the NATO summit on April 2–4 in Bucharest a discussion on the foreign policy pursued by the country was boiling on the Lithuanian internet media. The discussions were about whether Lithuania should recklessly support the membership of the Ukraine and Georgia in the NATO, or to wait and see, if the democratic reforms carried out in those countries, are stable.

Lithuania (and the West in general) put efforts that the wave of democracy, which “submerged” Lithuania earlier, would roll further to the South Caucasus. But the Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia so far has only been reached by its spatter: “colored revolution” in Georgia and the Ukraine, and partial democratization of Moldavian elite should not be considered as a complete transformation of those countries.

Is it possible to speak about a progress made in the year 2007, which would lead to conclusion that the East policy pursued by Lithuania (and the West) is successful?

One of the most reliable sources annually presenting the values of democracy indexes of the world countries is “Freedom House“. A democracy index announced by it consists of two parameters: political freedom and citizens’ rights assurance, given in points from 1 (the best) to 7 (the worst).

The points given to the Ukraine and Moldova remained the same during 2007. Security of political freedom in the Ukraine is assessed with 3 points, when the citizens’ rights -2 points. The country is attributed to the category of “free” countries.

Moldova in 2007 remained in the category of “partly free” countries. Security of political freedom in Moldova is given 3 points, when protection of citizens’ rights is 4 points.

Georgia in 2007 made a step in the opposite from democracy direction. Security of both political freedom and citizens’ rights worsened (both points fall down from 3 to 4). Worse assessment of the democracy situation was determined by the events in November 2007, when police dispersed an opposition meeting and the president Saakashvili imposed the state of emergency, temporary restricting the rights of meetings and free speech.

Another task of the Lithuanian policy of the East continuously reminded by the politicians and officials of our country is the approach of the “new democracies” to the NATO and EU. Unfortunately, to measure the progress in this field during 2007 is not easy.

In 2007 none of the “new democracies” reached a qualitatively new step of relationship with the NATO or EU expressed by agreements. But for assessment of progress approaching the membership in the NATO and EU, the criteria of public support to the membership by the Ukrainian, Moldavian a and Georgian societies can be used, since the orientation of  society is not less important than the official position of authorities. Intensification of pro-western creed in those countries shall be considered as a doubtless success of the Eastern policy pursued by Lithuania (and the West).

Least questions arise in the case of Georgia. In April 2006 74% were for and 10% against the membership in the NATO. In 2007 already 80 % supported the NATO membership and very small opposition was left. Similar trends were noticed in respect of the Georgian society approval of the EU membership.

In Moldova the number of the EU membership supporters from November 2006 to November 2007 increased from 68 % to 76%, but the number of opposition also slightly went up (from 6 to 8 per cent). But the opposite trend was noticed in respect of the NATO membership: in November 2006 34% of the population approved it, when in November 2007 the number of supporters dropped to only 23 per cent. The number of the NATO membership opposition increased from 18 to 41 per cent.

In the Ukraine the public opinion almost did not change during 2007. According to the investigations, the share of supporters of the NATO membership fluctuated within 16-21 per cent and was much under the share of the opposition of the membership (54-60 per cent). The attitude towards the EU membership of the Ukrainians is much more positive: in 2007 about 46-54 per cent was supporting it, when the opposition was about 29-36 per cent.

So, the fact that during 2007 in Moldova the support of the EU membership obviously intensified can be considered the only victory in the Eastern policy front. And the stable skepticism of the most Ukrainians and even increasing of the Moldavians in respect of the NATO should be considered as its failure.

It is interesting to remember that in 2000, when Lithuania had already started to implement the plan for the NATO membership, the share of the Lithuanians in the membership opposition still was bigger than that of its supporters. In July 2000 35 per cent was supporting the NATO, and 47 per cent were in the opposition. This fact should make those, who define the low support of the Ukraine population of the NATO membership as the key obstacle on the way of this country to the full membership, think it over.

Summarizing, it is not difficult to answer the question whether Lithuania made progress in the support of the “new democracies” and strengthening the pro-western orientation of their societies in 2007. The figures show that no considerable progress was made. Political attitudes and values do not change within a year; therefore not just the architects of the Lithuanian foreign policy must be armed with patience, but their critics as well.

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