Viewing cable 06VILNIUS850

06VILNIUS8502006-09-14 10:48:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0850/01 2571048
R 141048Z SEP 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000850 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2016 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Rebecca Dunham for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
¶1. (C) Summary.  During DAS Mark Pekala's September 8 visit 
to Vilnius, the foreign policy advisors to the President and 
Prime Minister, the MFA's State Secretary, the leader of the 
opposition, and the Vice Minister of Economy outlined 
Lithuania's main foreign policy concerns.  Our interlocutors 
emphasized Lithuania's commitment to missions abroad -- 
especially in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and the importance of 
its efforts to promote democracy in its "neighborhood."  All 
expressed frustration about Lithuania's dependence on Russia 
for energy resources and the lack of a common European energy 
security strategy.  They also expressed the political will to 
solve two outstanding issues of concern to the Jewish 
community: a law on communal property restitution and the 
preservation of a historical Jewish cemetery site.  End 
Broad Support for Missions Abroad 
¶2. (C) Advisors to the President and Prime Minister, the 
MFA's State Secretary, and the head of the opposition all 
reiterated Lithuania's broad-based political support for its 
overseas missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans.  MFA 
State Secretary Algimantis Rimkunas told DAS Pekala that 
"Lithuania takes its contribution naturally as we are members 
of NATO, and it is our duty to contribute."  Echoing this 
sentiment, all interlocutors stressed the importance of 
support from other countries, especially the U.S., to 
Lithuania's ability to contribute to security abroad. 
¶3. (C) The President's chief foreign policy advisor, Valteris 
Baliukonas, and the Prime Minister's new policy advisor, 
Mindaugas Jurkynas, reaffirmed Lithuania's commitment to pay 
for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) that Lithuania 
leads in Ghor province, Afghanistan, but nevertheless 
stressed that it will pose a financial burden for Lithuania. 
Both asked DAS Pekala if it would be possible to obtain U.S. 
assistance to develop the civilian component of the mission, 
which Lithuania is working to expand.  The support of the 
USAID advisor in Ghor is crucial to their work, they said, 
and Jurkynas expressed his hope that the advisor would remain 
indefinitely with the PRT. 
Baltics:  An Energy Island 
¶4. (C) Nearly all interlocutors expressed frustration over 
Lithuania's energy dependence on Russia and Russia's pursuit 
of "political goals by economic means," highlighted by the 
current cessation of oil supply to Lithuania's refinery 
Mazeikiu Nafta via Russia's Druzhba pipeline (ref B). 
Baliukonas told DAS Pekala that the recent visits of Polish 
President Lech Kaczynski (September 5) and Hungarian 
President Laszlo Solyom (September 6-8) focused on energy. 
Baliukonas said that talks with Poland concerned a project to 
link the Polish and Lithuanian electricity grids (ref A) as 
well as the possibility of building a liquefied natural gas 
terminal in Gdansk to serve Poland and the Baltic states. 
Baliukonas was optimistic about both projects despite doubts 
over their economic viability.  These deals would be 
political, not commercial, Baliukonas said, pointing out that 
three high-level visits from Poland have made clear that the 
political will exists to realize the projects. 
¶5. (C) Baliukonas expressed frustration with Lithuania's 
inability to get the EU to speak with one voice to Russia 
about energy.  He said that Lithuania's credibility on Russia 
is generally undermined by the perception that Lithuania is 
"the hooligan of Europe, always shouting and complaining" -- 
especially when it comes to the EU's Russia policy.  The 
government's new point man on oil and gas, Vice Minister of 
Economy Nauduzas, made the same point, saying that despite 
Russia's antagonistic energy policy, "the EU is sleeping on 
the energy issue."  He emphasized that all the member states 
seemed to pursue their own strategy vis-a-vis Russia. 
Nauduzas agreed to DAS Pekala's suggestion to get regional 
players together to discuss information, strategy and tactics 
on energy issues, and DAS Pekala offered to get back to him 
with a more concrete proposal. 
Lithuania pushes Neighborhood Policy 
¶6. (C) All interlocutors expressed the importance of 
Lithuania's neighborhood policy, noting that the U.S. and 
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Lithuania generally agree on policy in the region and that 
Lithuania aspires to be an effective advocate of EU 
engagement to both the target countries as well as EU 
institutions.  PM's advisor Jurkynas and Rimkunas at the MFA 
emphasized Lithuania's ambitions to develop soft power, 
citing their sponsorship of conferences on EU engagement such 
the September 8-9 conference in Moldova and technical 
assistance programs to Ukraine, Moldova, and the South 
¶7. (C) Baliukonas expressed disappointment that the Finnish 
EU presidency has not more strongly supported Lithuania's 
neighborhood policy goals.  According to him, Finnish 
President Halonen warned President Adamkus during a May 13 
bilateral meeting in Vienna not to make problems with policy 
towards Belarus or Ukraine during Finland's EU presidency. 
(Halonen had just two weeks prior to this meeting declined to 
take part in Lithuania's May 5 Community for Democratic 
Choice conference in which Vice President Cheney 
participated.)  Baliukonas said that the Finns have since 
encouraged "silent diplomacy" with Russia over the 
interruption of oil supply to Lithuania's refinery, Mazeikiu 
Nafta.  "We don't believe the Finns are ready for open talks 
about Russia," Baliukonas concluded. 
¶8. (C) Lithuania will continue its policy towards Belarus, 
supporting civil society there, most visibly by hosting the 
European Humanities University in Vilnius, while also 
engaging mid-level Belarusian officials to protect its 
bilateral interests.  MFA State Secretary Rimkunas told DAS 
Pekala that the recent death of a Lithuanian diplomat under 
suspicious circumstances in Belarus will not change 
Lithuania's policy towards Belarus.  Rimkunas added that EU 
sanctions (which Lithuania strongly advocated) against the 
Belarusian regime should not harm the interests of the 
Belarusian people.  Rimkunas expressed concern that when 
Lithuania enters the Schengen zone it will no longer be able 
to extend discounted five euro visas to Belarusian citizens. 
The Schengen fee of 60 euros will be prohibitively high for 
Belarusians, discouraging cross-border person-to-person 
contacts.  The MFA has tried unsuccessfully to solve this 
visa problem with its European counterparts. 
Jewish cemetery, property restitution 
¶9. (C) All of DAS Pekala's interlocutors expressed the 
government's will to pass a law on the restitution of Jewish 
property and reach a negotiated settlement on the fate of the 
historical Jewish cemetery site in the Snipiskis area of 
Vilnius.  While everyone agreed that responsibility for the 
working group on the cemetery was likely to move from the 
MFA, its future remained uncertain as the government awaits a 
new Chancellor.  All parties agreed that Vilnius Mayor 
Arturas Zuokas has an important role in the future of the 
site, as the city of Vilnius now owns the land.  Zuokas, for 
his part, seemed more willing to compromise on the issue than 
in previous meetings, and agreed to host and work with 
international experts to conduct a scientific examination of 
the cemetery, a possibility echoed by presidential advisor 
Baliukonas.  Zuokas even said that he was willing to consider 
limiting any building on the site to the footprint of the 
current sports arena which stands there now. 
¶10. (C) On the property restitution law, opposition leader 
Andrius Kubilius said that he believed that parliament would 
likely pass the draft law on restitution in this session, but 
cautioned that in this minority government everything can 
become politicized.  The PM's advisor said that the Prime 
Minister would not forget the issue, but highlighted 
differences between the Jewish communities in Vilnius and 
Kaunas as an impediment to progress. 
¶11. (U) DAS Pekala has cleared this cable.