UNCLAS VILNIUS 000898
DHS FOR SECRETARY CHERTOFF FROM AMBASSADOR CLOUD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL DHS KHLS KCSY EUN LH
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SECRETARY CHERTOFF'S VISIT TO
Â¶1. (SBU) Secretary Chertoff, welcome to Lithuania! We and
the Government of Lithuania are very much looking forward to
your visit on October 30. The announcement by President Bush
of Lithuania's entry into the Visa Waiver Program October 17
was the fulfillment of a long standing (and much discussed)
national goal. Though Lithuania has been independent for
over eighteen years, memories of Russian domination have not
faded, especially in light of recent activity in Georgia.
Lithuania has been a strong and forward leaning NATO ally
since 2004, but the Lithuanians see membership in Visa Waiver
as welcome evidence that they are securely ensconced "in the
Â¶2. (SBU) Though your visit will be short, it will be busy.
You will meet with Lithuanian President Adamkus and will hold
a press conference immediately afterward. This media event
will give you the opportunity to highlight publicly
Lithuania's entry into the Visa Waiver Program, announce the
effective date (presumed to be sometime in mid-November), and
also emphasize the necessity of using the Electronic System
for Travel Authorization (ESTA) -- a requirement of which
much of the general public is probably unaware.
Â¶3. (SBU) I will also be hosting a lunch at my residence in
your honor, and expect the ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Interior, and Transportation as well as a representative from
the State Security Department -- all of which contributed
during the Visa Waiver qualification process -- as well as
the American Caucus in Parliament. This lunch will afford
you the chance to celebrate with senior Lithuanian officials
Lithuania's entry into Visa Waiver and also share any
additional details on the program.
Â¶4. (U) Lithuania itself is no longer an emerging democracy
but an established one. In the first round of recent
Parliamentary elections, held October 12, the center-right
Conservative party won the most seats. A second round will
be held October 26. By the time of your arrival, political
parties should be deep in coalition talks. We expect the
final government to form by mid-November. Regardless of the
final composition, the parties that have done well so far in
these elections are generally pro-NATO and pro-EU and we
expect the new government will not deviate from Lithuania's
current foreign policy path.
Â¶5. (U) Lithuania, particularly in recent years, has assumed a
notable role in promoting peace and prosperity in its own
eastern European "neighborhood" and in supporting NATO
missions as far away as Afghanistan. Lithuania is lobbying
NATO (as well as the EU) to strengthen its ties with Georgia
and Ukraine, openly supporting extending MAP offers for both.
The Lithuanians also favor a more conciliatory approach to
Belarus, their immediate neighbor to the East, advocating
increased EU engagement as a countermeasure to Russian
Â¶6. (U) Lithuania currently has more than two hundred "boots
on the ground" in Afghanistan in support of ISAF. It leads a
multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan's
Ghor province, and also contributes forces to more front line
counterinsurgency operations to the south. Lithuanian
soldiers also serve as peacekeepers in the Balkans.
Â¶7. (U) In spite of the worldwide economic slowdown, Lithuania
is still one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.
However, heady growth has slowed from last year's 8.8 percent
to a predicted 5 percent this year. Domestic demand is
beginning to slacken, wage increases are slowing and
unemployment is projected to be 5.3 percent for 2008.
Lithuania needs to attract foreign investment to sustain
long-term growth, which complements our own objective of
attracting more U.S. investment here. The United States is
the twelfth largest source of foreign direct investment in
Lithuania, with investments totaling approximately 306
million USD as of the end of June 2008. Lithuanian
emigration has slowed in recent years, but earlier high rates
have resulted in large Lithuanian emigrant communities in
London, Dublin, and Chicago.
President Valdas Adamkus
Â¶8. (SBU) Your sole bilateral meeting on October 30 will be
with President Valdas Adamkus, himself a post World War II
emigrant to the U.S. and former American citizen. He had a
long, successful career with the EPA, all the while being
active in the Lithuanian American community. He moved back
to Lithuania in the early 1990's and previously served as
president from 1997 to 2002, when he lost his bid for
reelection to populist Rolandas Paksas. Adamkus regained the
presidency following Paksas's impeachment and removal from
office in April 2004 in proceedings that rocked the nation
and tested the democratic institutions of the young republic.
Now well into his second term, Adamkus is pro-U.S. and a
strong supporter of NATO's eastern expansion. He met with
President Bush in Washington in late September and discussed
the possibility of Lithuania's entry into Visa Waiver; and he
is no doubt very pleased that less than two months later it
Â¶9. (SBU) I will greet your delegation upon arrival in Vilnius
and we will proceed directly to the President's palace for
the meeting with President Adamkus. After the press
conference we will go to my residence for a lunch with
Lithuanian officials. I will then escort you back to the
airport for your departure. Let me again say that entry into
Visa Waiver is a most welcome bit of news for this small yet
valuable NATO ally; it is also a highlight of my tenure here.
I and all of my staff at Embassy Vilnius very much look
forward to your visit.