Viewing cable 04VILNIUS1401

04VILNIUS14012004-11-12 15:17:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001401 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/11/2014 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Officer Christian Yarnell 
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 ¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Lithuania became the first member state to 
ratify the EU Constitution on November 11 when the government 
rushed through a vote on the treaty on one of the 
Parliament's last days in session.  The GOL had previously 
decided not to hold a national referendum on the 
Constitution.  Opposition MPs criticized the rushed vote, 
insisting that additional public debate was necessary. 
Although earning the praise of the European Commission, 
Lithuania's race to ratify smacks more of show than good 
statesmanship.  Indeed, it may backfire if the Constitutional 
fails to win acceptance in other capitals -- being first to 
approve what others reject won't be much of a claim to fame. 
Controversial Ratification of EU Constitution 
¶2. (U) Lithuania on November 11 became the first EU member 
state to ratify the EU Constitution.  Parliament ratified the 
treaty on the last day of its sitting through a fast-track 
mechanism, with 84 MPs voting in favor, four against, and 
three abstaining.  Although the vote was well above the 
57-member majority needed for ratification, it proved 
controversial among MPs who felt that the ratification 
process was unnecessarily hurried. 
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GOL Calls for Quick, Parliamentary Ratification 
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¶3. (U) Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and Foreign 
Minister Antanas Valionis, Lithuania's signatories to the EU 
Constitution, had urged speedy ratification and pushed the 
document through Parliament expeditiously in order to allow 
the current Parliament to approve it.  Some MPs argued during 
the final sitting of Parliament that they did not have enough 
time to properly study the 500-page-plus document. 
Opposition parties had called for a delay in the run-up to 
the vote, but Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas 
overrode their concerns and moved for immediate ratification. 
¶4. (C) President Valdas Adamkus had agreed with Brazauskas 
and Valionis that a public referendum was not necessary.  He 
explained to the media that that the Lithuanians' 
overwhelming vote in 2003 to join the EU was sufficiently 
recent to render a referendum unnecessary, especially as 
voters had already made four separate trips to the polls this 
year.  Arnoldas Pranckevicius, advisor to the President for 
domestic policy, told us that Adamkus had not, in fact, 
believed a speedy ratification critical, but had wanted to 
avoid the costs of organizing another public referendum, and 
he feared that voter fatigue might threaten the "yes" vote on 
such a complex treaty. 
¶5. (C) According to Pranckevicius, the Government also feared 
there would be long delay if this Parliament failed to 
ratify, since the next Parliament would likely take up more 
pressing issues in its first few months of work.  Tomas 
Gulbinas of the MFA's EU Division added that the next 
Parliament will contain a large number of new MPs, lacking 
experience with the Constitution negotiations, who would have 
required time to familiarize themselves with the issue and 
the document before bringing it to a vote.  He also claimed 
that the GOL had prepared the necessary legislation months 
before the October 29 signing of the Constitution but had had 
to wait for the Rome ceremony before formally starting the 
ratification process at home.  Pranckevicius said that many 
current MPs, especially outgoing Social Democrats, had viewed 
ratification of the Constitution as a fitting, symbolic 
conclusion to the process of Lithuania's European integration 
-- a process for which they took credit. 
Opposition: What's the Rush? 
¶6. (SBU) Gintaras Steponavicius, Liberal Center MP and 
prominent opposition figure, told us that he had believed the 
rush for ratification a mistake and had called for a longer 
period of public education and debate.  He added that he 
expects this Constitution to fail to win approval in some EU 
countries, and wondered whether the Lithuanian public would 
think it wise that their representatives so quickly approved 
a document others were still studying or rejecting.  During 
the Parliament's final session, several MPs joined the 
Liberal Centrists to urge public debate, although most 
ultimately voted in favor of ratification.  Hoping to mollify 
such criticism, the GOL organized a conference on November 12 
to formally present the EU Constitution to the Lithuanian 
¶7. (U) Petras Austrevicius, Lithuania's former chief EU 
negotiator and now parliamentarian-elect, publicly criticized 
the rushed procedure for removing a "bargaining chip" 
Lithuania could have used in pursuing various goals within 
the EU, such as securing additional EU funding.  During the 
Parliamentary debate, Conservative Party leader Andrius 
Kubilius noted his concerns that the EU Constitution failed 
to properly establish a permanent role for the United States 
in European security.  Kubilius in the end voted to support 
ratification, however. 
Comment: Haste may waste public support 
¶8. (C) Although the European Commission was quick to hail 
Lithuania's ratification as "a very positive development 
indeed," most Lithuanians themselves are critical of their 
government's strong-arm tactics in forcing the treaty through 
Parliament on its last day of operation.  The bumbling in 
Parliament, with MPs claiming not to have read the 
Constitution, took the shine off what the GOL had hoped would 
be a moment in the sun.  The GOL will now try to convince the 
public that adoption of their new "Constitution" was indeed 
in Lithuania's interest.