Distinguished Chairman of the High Seimas,
Dear Members of the Seimas,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have gathered on a truly historic day, when our State opens a new page in its history. Today we have finally liberated from the labyrinth so intricately designed that at times it had seemed impossible to escape from.
After fifty years of wandering in this dark labyrinth, Lithuania finally saw the light and chose a clear path, along which it has been progressing steadily after regaining independence, guided by clear goals and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles on its way.
The year 2004 is a crucial time for Lithuanias domestic and foreign policy, having a decisive impact on the future of our state and opening up new tangible possibilities to build in a secure environment the well being of our people.
Four weeks ago the Lithuanian tricolour flag was hoisted at the NATO Headquarters. Today we see yet another goal of our state become a reality Lithuania has become a full member of the family of European nations. We have become part of a united Europe and a full-fledged member state of the European Union. This new reality brings new tasks and new political missions for us.
We have joined Europe being united and ready to take on new work and implement new ideas. In the referendum a year ago, Lithuanians have said a firm YES to joining the European Union. Today, I want to thank all of you who have supported our goal and contributed to its attainment. At the same time I believe that we will stand united in our efforts in the future and show that high hopes, which Lithuanians have set on the EU membership, were and are grounded.
This day is equally important to us, new members, and to the whole of Europe. Having taken in ten new members, the European Union, which has united 25 nations and 450 million people, enters a new stage of political development. Today, the project of building a Europe based on shared values and co-operation, which took long decades if not centuries to implement, has become a reality. Since now on, the future of Europe is our common concern.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having joined the European Union, Lithuania enters a new stage of historical, economic and social development. I firmly believe that membership of the European Union will guarantee a better and more secure life for us and our children. We have to build a Europe that would allow for closing fast the existing economic and social gap. I believe that catching up with the rest of Europe is a top priority task for us.
Membership of the European Union not only opens up new opportunities, but also equips us with new instruments of power. This is both a serious challenge and a promising opportunity for Lithuania. Therefore we, statesmen, politicians and public figures, should rally our people and strengthen their belief in their power and their trust in the state as only then our efforts will bring fruit.
The European Union is first of all about economic well being and social security. Lithuanian people will now have an opportunity to travel, live, work and study in any of the Unions states, and our goods, services and capital will move freely within the territory of 25 nations. I pledge to take every effort to ensure that Lithuania makes the best use of all advantages of the single market, to attract large flows of foreign capital to Lithuania and make the business people compete for business opportunities in our country.
No doubt, that support coming from the European Union structural funds will accelerate the development of our country. Our task is to put in place a transparent and effective mechanism to administer this support and prevent any corrupt action. We should effectively absorb the funds channelled to Lithuania, and as the experience of other member states shows, this is not an easy task.
Lithuania returns to Europe. However, in the absence of a modern highway between Vilnius and Berlin, and a straight modern railway line joining Lithuania with the West, our return to Europe will take too much time.
Therefore, we should accommodate our national economic policy to the possibilities offered by the European Union to ensure complementarity and establishment of conditions for building a welfare state in Lithuania.
Lithuania will see the growth of employment and wages and social guarantees. This will certainly lead to the reduction of poverty. The experience of previous enlargements allows us stating that membership of the European Union will make our state stronger. However, how and to what extent, it will depend on our efforts and on our ambitions.
At this point I want to underline the political aspects of Lithuanias membership of the European Union. From this day, our people can work in the Unions institutions; our representatives will sit as equal members together with other European nations at one table. The success of our state in high politics will depend largely on the competence, integrity and diligence of these people.
In a months time, on 13th June, Lithuanians, just like other Europeans, will elect a new European Parliament. All citizens of Lithuania having the right to vote will have to decide as to who should be entrusted with a mandate to defend the interests of our country. And I take this opportunity to wish the best of success to those Lithuanians who will be elected to the European Parliament.
Opportunities offered by the EU membership are not restricted to the areas of economy, politics and security. They also cover a broad range of ideas in the fields of culture, science and education. All these ideas make the basis for achieving greater progress, well being and security. But they will translate into action only if we work consistently and are active and open to novelties and changes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Unity in diversity is a spring from which the European Union takes strength.
And today this spring will be enriched with new vigorous streams.
The distinctiveness of Lithuania is a genuine value that will enrich Europe.
I have no doubt that the enlargement will reinforce the inner powers of both Europe and Lithuania and will stimulate further progress in Europe. Having embraced ten new nations, the European Union will grow stronger, just as it will increase its political power and ambitions. With new strength, it will take up new challenging tasks that the turbulent 21st century has brought.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Lithuania is committed to be an active member of the Union, acting in unity with all its other nations. Today we can and must agree with the other small and big European nations on the European Constitution and institutional architecture.
Building on its experience, Lithuania can help the Union find new friends among the neighbouring nations and engage them in a mutually beneficial European co-operation, strengthen democratic processes in them and at the same time strengthen the position of Lithuania among its neighbours and in the Baltic region.
The EU membership will contribute to the broadening of the old and forging new relations with our traditional partners: Poland, the Baltic states and the Nordic countries.
I am certain that the European Union will continue to develop a transatlantic dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and shared values. The transatlantic link needs a strong European Union and a strong NATO. This is the goal of Lithuania which now is a member of both organisations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Much work is ahead of us and much has to be learned. We should strengthen our government institutions and develop their administrative capacities. But our immediate task is to consider our diplomacy in the European Union. It should be designed to defend our national interests, promote our state in the world and represent the state of Lithuania and its citizens who have linked their future, hopes and prospects with Europe.
I am confident that our return to Europe, just like the return of Europe to Lithuania, marks the beginning of a long-lasting win-win partnership of equal EU member states.
It will be the partnership that respects and promotes the identity, culture, language and interests of all nations.
It will the partnership that helps to fulfil the hopes which our citizens link with the European Union. Let us join our efforts to live up to their expectations and to make Europe a truly comfortable home for us.
Thank you for your attention.
H.E. Mr. Artūras Paulauskas, acting President of the Republic of Lithuania