Committed to the future of the EU

Lithuania's Prime Minister in Berlin Committed to the future of the EU

Germany and Lithuania can look back on a quarter century of cordial relations with a wide spectrum of contacts, declared Chancellor Angela Merkel during the inaugural visit of Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis to Berlin. Other items on the agenda included the future of Europe and the Bundeswehr’s deployment in Lithuania.

Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis with military honours.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis stressed their close cooperation within the EU and NATO

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

"Over the last 25 years a wide-ranging foundation of common activities has been laid," stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel following her meeting with Lithuania’s new Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis at the Federal Chancellery.

The two states are facing similar challenges in terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. "But both of our countries are committed to the future of the European Union." That has played a part in all talks, summed up the Chancellor.

More opportunities for young people

Germany intends to offer all the advice and support it can to its neighbour, in an effort to improve the situation of young people in particular, said Angela Merkel. She supports Lithuania’s interest in Germany’s dual vocational training system. "German investors should also make clear their capabilities and expertise in the field of dual vocational training."

Focus on energy policy

Germany, said Angela Merkel, shares Lithuania’s concerns regarding the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus. Germany will do all it can to ensure that the technical standards are as high as possible, the Chancellor assured her visitor. "Since Chernobyl we obviously realise that safety and security in nuclear power plants is of the utmost importance." This is a point on which the German government is also in dialogue with Russia.

In terms of ensuring reliable energy supplies, Angela Merkel noted that Lithuania has achieved partial independence with its own gas terminals and power lines linking the country with Sweden. There are still close connections with the Russian market, but Russian oil supplies to Lithuania are currently stable.

Joint efforts to ensure security

The Chancellor pointed to cooperation within a NATO battalion as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence. Soldiers from Germany have been warmly welcomed in Lithuania. "I am delighted that the Lithuanians have welcomed our troops so openly," said the Chancellor. This shows that the two countries cooperate closely not only within the European Union, but also within the defence alliance.

The presence of German soldiers as part of NATO troops is of particular interest for Lithuania, noted Saulius Skvernelis. In summer 2016 at its Warsaw Summit, NATO decided to station four battle groups in the Baltic states and in Poland, against the backdrop of the increased security requirements of the north-east European NATO member states in the wake of Russian action in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

The NATO Battle Group Lithuania is new. Germany has assumed the military leadership of the multinational battalion, which is still being established. It is to reach its full strength of 1,200 soldiers in May 2017, with rotating contingents from Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Croatia, Norway and Luxembourg. The first 300 of a total of the 450 soldiers, who are to make up the German contingent, arrived in Lithuania at the end of January.

Vigilance called for regarding false reports

Referring to reports about alleged misconduct of German soldiers in Lithuania, the Chancellor stressed, "It was important to us, that we were able to establish very swiftly – jointly and also on the German side – that the reports were in fact false." She declared her conviction that it was the speed of the response that ensured that this matter "disappeared again very quickly". "But we must be extremely vigilant and look out for deliberately false reports," said Angela Merkel.