With Lithuanian EU Presidency micros and curtains tuning down now is a moment to look back from a birds fly at this European venture of politics, technocracy and art at the second half of 2013. All this time Lithuanian culture was on equal terms with politics and technocracy of Brussels European integration carousel.
Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra and opera diva Urmana at BOZAR; a mysterious journey to visual sounds of Lithuanian forest and sea of composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis; the Wall bricked by a soul of Fluxus, a Lithuanian cosmopolitan Jonas Mekas; a discussion with H.E. Vytautas Landsbergis, who in 1990s was leading Lithuanian independence movement (Sąjūdis), orchestrating the fall of Soviet empire, braking Iron Walls in our minds and actions as inspired by the dream of the same artist Čiurlionis.
These were the gifts by Lithuania to the European Union, to all European family, including a country, which is still fighting its independence in the Maidan of Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Lithuanian chaired the Council of European Union in the second half of 2013. The Europe at this time was at a turning point of ending an economic recession caused by the debt crisis. In the eve of Lithuanian presidency Europe was chaired by Ireland, which has stroke an agreement on Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 and together with the Presidents of European Council and Commission set an ambitious blueprint for a genuine Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). At this point of juncture one could not afford a comfort of hunting the headlines. One had to act, and act quickly.
Lithuanian Presidency had to act quickly in order to adopt around 70 spending programmes of the MFF package, including an important part of Cohesion Policy support. At an operational level, the MFF had to start with an adoption of first, in new perspective, EU budget for 2014, on which it had reached an agreement with the European Parliament.
The roadmap to a genuine EMU had as well to find its way to commence. And it has found it with an agreement by the Council to initial the EU Banking Union. The Council, led by Lithuanian Presidency, had agreed a general approach on a single resolution board and a single fund for the resolution of banks – we call it Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM). It has set the principles, where the details on its intergovernmental agreement have to be negotiated by 1 March 2014. Lithuanian Presidency has reached a political agreement with European Parliament on directives setting out the bank bailout rules. The bail-in mechanism will be introduced from 2016 with the target level of a Resolution Fund set to 1 percent of covered deposits, which is to be reached by 2025.
With stability of finances, the EU now must embark on the Agenda for Growth. Lithuanian Presidency together with incoming Presidency of Greece presented a roadmap outlining key steps in the implementation of the 2014 European Semester. It will include the reinforced role for December European Council in guiding Growth Agenda and will give more attention to the implementation of country-specific recommendations for structural reforms to ensure a sustained long-term growth, especially in area of labour market reform. The Council approved the scoreboard of Employment and social indicators, which from now on will be included in the Semester Governance cycle as well as initialled the preparation of the Justice scoreboard.
The investments into growth need a solid basis in innovation economy. The Council adopted the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, which will replace EU 7th Framework Programme. Lithuanian Presidency had reached general approaches on nine public and private partnerships that will allow carry out innovation activities. Five private-public partnerships will be set and further developed in the fields of bio-based industries, aeronautics, electronics, fuel cells, innovative medicines. Four partnerships will be developed jointly with the Member States in areas of assisted living, health in Africa, motrology and innovative performance of small and medium enterprises. The Council also gave a green light on quality revision of the stock EU legislation, which will be done under a systematic analysis and be based on evaluation and fitness checks (REFIT).
One also has to admit that EU Single Market is still in a creation mode, which hinders the competition and fair treatment of consumers. The peer-review of Services Directive has revealed an existence of disproportionate requirements to European businesses. Nevertheless, the Council has asked for analysis of remaining obstacles to a fully functioning Single Market for services, including on non-regulatory restrictions. And a new focus will be placed on commercial establishments seeking to facilitate a cross-border online and offline retail operations.
Digital Single Market is another key initiative by the EU to address missing-links in innovation and growth. The Council under Lithuanian Presidency has reached an agreement on electronic invoicing in field of public procurement and encouraged the Commission in pursuing further the use on e-invoicing in Europe. However, the innovation is not limited to the Single Market only. The Council has also adopted the European e-Justice Strategy, which sets the objectives for the use on information technologies in the Member States‘ judicial systems, in particular by facilitating the access to justice in cross-border situations.
More employment will be attained and more jobs will created with a growing economy, but also with effective inclusive public service and quality education policies to tackle labour market asymmetries. The EU Council during the Presidency of Lithuania has reached a general approach on enhanced cooperation between public employment services (PES) aiming to create a fully-fledged network between Member States, businesses, professional education institutions, NGOs at central and regional levels. This is also very much relevant to youth employment policies, especial to social inclusion policies on which the EU Council has adopted conclusions regarding disadvantaged youth, which is not in education and employment. The Council has also reached an agreement on posting of workers, which will be now discussed with the European Parliament to ensure equal employment conditions for workers temporarily posted to another EU Member State. The Lithuanian EU Presidency also adopted a review of the professional qualifications directive aiming at greater mobility of skilled workers across the EU.
2013 were called the European year of Citizens. The Council under the Presidency of Lithuania has adopted Justice Programme, which aims at value added judicial cooperation on civil and criminal matters. It also has adopted a programme on Rights, Equality and Citizenship, which will support actions in areas of Union citizenship, non-discrimination on grounds of sex, racial and ethnical origin, intolerance to xenophobia, ensuring personal data protection, consumer and business rights in the internal market. The EU Council in this area has endorsed EU Citizenship Report, by which it has noted the forthcoming legislative proposals in areas of removing obstacles to workers, students and trainees in the EU.
Even in the area of human health the EU Council, chaired by Lithuania, did not remain silent and adopted a revised EU Tobacco directive. This directive on the market will ban the cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco having characterising flavours such as fruit flavour, menthol or vanilla and among others will place stricter requirements on health warnings.
These are but few areas of actions done by Lithuanian EU Council Presidency. One could continue with naming EU enlargement and accession negotiations with Serbia and Turkey, start of transatlantic free trade negotiations, governance of European satellite navigation systems, railway safety, environment action programme, preparing the negotiations on UN Climate Change Convention, environmental impact assessment, F-gases or agriculture policy reform package.
However one has to mention the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit. A Summit which once again took a lesson from people of Ukraine in Maidan reminding us that in continuous exchanges on austerity or stimulus policies, structural reforms or protesting in the streets, one has to remember that we are living in the area of freedom, security and justice. And in our actions we have to remember our historic responsibility to those who made this possible.
Thank You, Maidan, for that. You once again proved to be a member of our European family.