Viewing cable 04VILNIUS1369
Title: AMBASSADOR IN SIAULIAI STRESSES DEVELOPMENT AND

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04VILNIUS13692004-11-05 12:57:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001369 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV OVIP LH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR IN SIAULIAI STRESSES DEVELOPMENT AND 
TOLERANCE, TOURS NATO DETACHMENT 
 
REF: A. VILNIUS 1331 
     ¶B. VILNIUS 079 
 
¶1. SUMMARY.  Ambassador traveled to Lithuania's northern city 
of Siauliai October 20-21 to conveying a message of 
admiration for Lithuania's rapid democratic and economic 
growth and appreciation for its activist foreign policy and 
contributions to the NATO alliance.  In a town often 
identified with anti-Semitism, the Ambassador promoted a 
message of tolerance and the rights of persons during 
meetings, press interviews, and a public forum with local 
governmental and NGO leaders.  He also visited the Zokniai 
airfield, home to NATO's Baltic air policing assets, and 
received briefings from the Commander of Lithuania's Air 
Force and NATO's detachment commander on the air-policing 
mission.  End Summary. 
 
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Background 
---------- 
 
¶2. The visit to Siauliai was the second in a series of 
planned Ambassadorial trips (reftel A) to regional towns in 
Lithuania.  Siauliai is Lithuania's fourth largest city and 
the economic, cultural, and educational center of Northern 
Lithuania.  The city is most famous for the memorial of 
thousands of crosses planted in a hillside, initially 
dedicated to people who were killed for Lithuanian freedom, 
which draws nearly a million visitors per annum.  After WWII 
left Siauliai in near ruins, the Soviet Union rebuilt and 
developed Siauliai to support the largest military airport in 
Eastern Europe.  The Zokniai airport is currently home to a 
Lithuanian air force base and, since March, has hosted NATO's 
Baltic air policing assets. 
 
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The Ambassador's Message 
------------------------ 
 
¶3. The Ambassador stressed five themes with local 
governmental, NGO, cultural and educational leaders during a 
two-day tour d'horizon on October 20-21: 
 
--ACTIVIST FOREIGN POLICY:  Ambassador Mull noted Lithuania's 
activist foreign policy, its role in strengthening the 
transatlantic alliance and its constructive role in regional 
stability. 
 
--CONTINUED STRONG BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP:  The Ambassador 
assured interlocutors that Lithuania's close relationship 
with the United States will continue. 
 
--DEMOCRATIC AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:  Ambassador Mull 
praised Lithuania's success in progressing from a 
totalitarian system to a democracy that is vibrant, free, and 
secure. 
 
--INCREASED ECONOMIC COOPERATION:  The Ambassador promoted 
greater economic cooperation between the United States and 
Lithuania and highlighted December's Baltic Trade and 
Investment Mission in London. 
 
--TOLERANCE:  The Ambassador praised those who, recognizing a 
serious threat to democracy, stand up and condemn intolerance 
in all its forms, including anti-Semitism. 
 
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A Provincial Town In Development 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶4. Interlocutors focused discussions on issues related to 
economic development and attracting foreign investment. 
Though Siauliai has Northern Lithuania's largest university, 
hospital, and airport, interlocutors noted that Siauliai is 
best described as a provincial town, one hungry for 
development and investment. 
 
¶5. Siauliai County Governor Arvydas Sedzius, who also serves 
as Chairman of Siauliai's Regional Development Council, said 
that Siauliai has not yet benefited significantly from EU 
structural fund support.  These funds, and foreign direct 
investment, said Siauliai Mayor Vytautas Juskus, have gone 
primarily to Lithuania's three largest cities, Vilnius, 
Kaunas and Klaipeda, and have only begun to trickle to 
Siauliai for local development projects.  Ramunas Markauskas, 
Administrator of Siauliai's 68-member strong Confederation of 
NGOs, told the Ambassador that the region's budget for social 
welfare programs, for example, is only 130,000 Litas 
(approximately $46,000 USD), insufficient to meet the needs 
of a population of 150,000.  Leadership at the Siauliai 
Hospital and Siauliai University told the Ambassador that 
lack of government assistance keeps these institutions on 
shoestring budgets and impedes expansion or improvement of 
services. 
 
¶6. Siauliai airport Director Jonas Jutkelis noted his 
frustration at attracting private investment capital to one 
of Eastern Europe's best-equipped civilian airports.  In 
spite of its very long runway, new control tower, highly 
qualified specialists, close proximity to the Latvian border, 
and first-rank certification, the airport has not attracted 
private capital for infrastructure development.  The airport 
continues to seek investment partners, but Jutkelis said he 
was not optimistic about finding one in the near future. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Rebellious Past, Undercurrent of Intolerance Today 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
¶7. Siauliai, a center of rebellion against both Tsarist 
Russian and Soviet oppression during its nearly 800-year 
history, is still known for its straightforward, outspoken 
people.  Acts of intolerance are occasionally reported 
(reftel B) against Siauliai's small Jewish community, though 
governmental and NGO leaders downplayed these sporadic 
occurrences, and highlighted Siauliai's inter-ethnic harmony 
to the Ambassador.  Reflecting Siauliai's reputation for 
candor, residents asked the Ambassador challenging, 
hard-hitting questions on topics that ranged from USG support 
for Lithuania following the Potsdam Conference to the lack of 
U.S. investment in the region during an open forum at the 
Siauliai Community House.  A leader of Lithuania's National 
Democratic party present at the forum questioned the U.S. 
role in the Middle East. 
 
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NATO's Footprint 
---------------- 
 
¶8. Lithuanian Air Force Commander Colonel Jonas Marcinkus and 
NATO's Detachment Commander British Wing Commander Dan 
Storrs provided briefings on the ongoing renovations of the 
Zokniai airfield and the NATO air-policing mission. 
Marcinkus said that renovations to the Zokniai airfield are 
on schedule and should be complete by 2006.  Storrs spoke 
highly of the logistical support provided by the GOL has 
provided to his detachment since its arrival October 14. 
Storrs, during a comprehensive tour of his operational 
headquarters, also detailed his efforts to keep NATO's 
footprint as small as possible in Siauliai, in order to 
maintain amicable relations with the civilian population. 
 
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Media Coverage 
-------------- 
 
¶9. There was extensive media coverage throughout the visit. 
The Ambassador gave an exclusive interview to the region's 
largest daily newspaper and provided interviews for the 
region's television and print outlets throughout the visit. 
 
----------------------------- 
Comment:  Hope for the Future 
----------------------------- 
 
¶10. Siauliai lags behind Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda in 
terms of development and investment.  With low unemployment, 
a well-educated work force, the region's largest university, 
and NATO funds helping renovate the airport and contributing 
to the local economy, the future for Siauliai could be 
bright.  The region's Achilles' Heel is the undercurrent of 
intolerance, particularly anti-Semitism.  For the region to 
achieve its potential, its leaders must play a more active 
role in promoting tolerance. 
MULL