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Summit Sidelines: Lithuania's Foreign Minister On EU Eastern Partnership

Usackas says that "we have our own national interests and our national interest is to have friends."
Usackas says that "we have our own national interests and our national interest is to have friends."
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas spoke with RFE/RL correspondent Ahto Lobjakas on the sidelines of the European Union's Eastern Partnership Summit in Prague on April 7. He talked about the program's goals, how it might be perceived in Moscow, and the partnership's enfant terrible in Minsk. What follows are excerpts of that discussion.

On the goals of the Eastern Partnership initiative:
"The Eastern Partnership is about promoting the interests of the European Union in response to the interests of the Eastern Partnership countries. And the major interest of our countries is, indeed, to contribute to greater stability, economic welfare, and prosperity on the borders of the European Union."

On Russia's attitude toward EU engagement with the bloc's eastern neighbors:
"I have been witnessing the evolution of the Russian thinking about the Eastern Partnership. I think they had a misguided perception of the Eastern Partnership, and I hope that as we move forward with the Eastern Partnership, our colleagues in Moscow and across Russia will appreciate the value and positive impact the Eastern Partnership Initiative by the European Union promotes to that region."

On relations between the EU, Russia, and the Eastern Partnership states:
"We, as the European Union, have our own national interests and our national interest is to have friends -- stable, prosperous countries -- on our borders. And it is up to those nations to decide and to define their own polices, strategies, and relationships, be it with Russia or the European Union."

On EU relations with Belarus and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka:
"I think President Lukashenka made a clever decision not to come to Prague. I think that what is important, what matters, is that Belarus will be a part of the Eastern Partnership. At the moment I believe that none of the parties have yet matured to the stage of engaging with President Lukashenka directly. I think it will come over time. We have to be realistic that we have a leader in Belarus whom we have to talk to and to deal with, but what is important is that the Eastern Partnership is not limited only to the administration of a particular country, but also would go beyond and would embrace and engage other elements of society, with civic society, and would support Europeanization."

On Lithuania's support for Georgia and Ukraine:
"We [Lithuania] strongly advocated that as we launch a new page of relations with Russia -- which we are doing -- we should also maintain consistency in support of sovereign choices of Ukraine and Georgia to become fully independent, democratic countries with a clearly defined desire to become truly European countries, countries which embrace democracy and the rule of law, with the destination to be members of the Euro-Atlantic community."

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