Lithuania president: Take new members to make EU stronger
Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nausėda on Tuesday (14 March) urged the EU to continue supporting Ukraine and to keep its doors open to Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.
"The fight in the battlefields in Ukraine is a freedom fight, not only for Ukrainians but it is our freedom fight," he told MEPs in Strasbourg as part of a series of speeches by EU leaders to European lawmakers.
"The most effective way to expand the space for peace, stability, and prosperity in Europe has been and will continue to be further enlargement of the EU," Nausėda said, adding these things cannot be take for granted anymore.
"If we wanted to make the EU stronger, let’s embrace new members," he argued and welcomed the decisions to allow candidate status last year for Ukraine and Moldova.
Nausėda claimed that the next target of Russian president Vladimir Putin will be the Baltic countries and Poland, "maybe Romania". He added that there may be further targets if "Putin is not stopped in Ukraine".
Nausėda, who was a central banker before becoming president in 2019, highlighted Lithuania’s massive public support for Ukraine, saying that his country donates almost 1.5 percent of its GDP to Ukraine.
Last May, Lithuanians raised €6m to buy a combat drone, and this February they raised €14m for tactical radars, he said.
Nausėda recalled that the European Parliament was the first international institution that stood by the Baltic states, saying that in 1983 the parliament condemned the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Lithuania has been occupied by the Soviet Union for much of the second half of the 20th century. It became the first Soviet-occupied state to declare the restitution of independence in 1990.
It took another three years for the Soviet army to completely leave the country of almost three million people.
"We are all paying a heavy price for failing to learn the lessons of the second world war," he said.
Nausėda argued that while the world "rejoiced" overcoming the Nazi regime, it overlooked the crimes of the Soviet totalitarian regime.
"These crimes went unpunished and it allowed the Soviet Union and later Russia to glorify perpetrators of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes agains humanity," he said.
He said that the "distorted memory of the Second World War was instrumentalised in Russia and beyond to justify the atrocities committed today".
He called on sanctions against Russia to be strengthened and those responsible for the crimes of aggression against Ukraine to be held responsible.
"It is deeply distressing that this unspeakable terror has returned to Europe," he said referring to alleged war crimes committed across Ukraine.
"Unexposed evil kept in silence year after year not only poses a constant threat to the fundamental European values, but also prevents the Russian people from conforming their own past," Nausėda argued, saying those those responsible for crimes of aggression need to be held accountable.
Lithuanian is one of the EU countries that is supporting the setting up a special international tribunal to investigate crimes of aggression.
Prosecuting the crime of aggression means going after the top military and political leadership. But any court able to do that needs broad international support.
So far no EU consensus has emerged on what type of tribunal to back on the international stage.