Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas met with a number of Lithuanian ministers and colleagues in Vilnius on Wednesday, where topics related to the presidency of the EU, Brexit and the Eastern Partnership were discussed.
On Wednesday, Maasikas met with Lithuanian Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs Albinas Zananavičius and Darius Skusevičius, Minister of Defence Raimundas Karoblis as well as colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Committee on European Affairs of the Seimas.
During these meetings, Maasikas and the Lithuanian officials discussed how important it was to observe and learn from those who have already held the presidency of the EU. "Lithuania held the presidency of the EU almost four years ago," Maasikas said according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release. "Their presidency was efficient and successful, so it is useful to examine their experiences and knowledge and apply the best of them."
According to the Estonian official, preparations for Estonia's EU presidency are on track, the priorities set and the calendar events to a large extent already in place.
Also discussed on Wednesday were the effects and consequences of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, popularly referred to as Brexit. The Estonian deputy minister provided an overview of the UK's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Unio David Davis to Estonia on Monday. It was unanimously agreed that it was in the interests of Estonia, Lithuania and the EU as a whole to continue constructive and cooperative negotiations on the matter.
According to Maasikas, it is extremely important to maintain the unity of the remaining 27 member states of the EU, which will be Estonia's special responsibility during its presidency of the union. "We must guarantee the rights of our citizens and companies and maintain good and close relations with the UK, with a balance between rights and obligations," he commented.
Maasikas: We want more concrete results in Eastern Partnership
The Estonian deputy minister noted that Estonia and Lithuania have similar views on many issues, including the Eastern Partnership, within which both countries support achieving more concrete results.
"The Eastern Partnership, which involves six countries [Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine], is a policy initiative of the EU to support the well-being of the people in the partnership countries, to help the countries move toward Europe and to support stronger cooperation between them," Maasikas explained. "At the same time, we keep the focus on the countries' need to improve administrative capacity and to reduce corruption and that is in all of our interest." He added that strategic communication needs more attention in the partnership as well.
The Eastern Partnership Summit to take place during the Estonian presidency is scheduled for Nov. 24 in Brussels. A number of conferences and business forums are planned as side events to the summit.
On the subject of transatlantic relations, it was agreed that it is important to guarantee the unity of the EU in relations with the U.S. as well as to strengthen cooperation in cyber and digital policy. According to Maasikas, Estonia supports preserving transatlantic unity on the sanctions policy against Russia, as the reasons for the sanctions, i.e. the annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression against Ukraine, remain ongoing.
The U.S. is an important supporter and guarantor of European security as well as a good partner in cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Maasikas highlighted, emphasizing that Europe desires a close partnership with the U.S. both in combating international crises as well as in trade.
Other topics discussed in Vilnius on Wednesday included the EU enlargement and energy policy, migration as well as other topical foreign policy issues.
Editor: Aili Vahtla