House Baltic Caucus


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Lithuanian prime minister Butkevicius and House Baltic Caucus co-chair rep. Schiff discussed mutual economic interests

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on October 10, 2014 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Halfway through the visit to the United States, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius had a meeting with Congressman Adam Schiff, as well as business and trade associations.



The PM pointed out the importance of the United States as Lithuania's strategic partner, and invited any investments in the country. He shared the anxieties generated by the geopolitical situation in the region and stressed the importance of opening of the American market for Lithuanian pork and beef, the prime minister's press service said.


"US are a strategic partner of Lithuania. Our two countries share common values, security guarantees and economic interests. I am happy that globally known American companies operate in Lithuania, but it is notable, however, that the full potential has not as yet been exhausted. We are interested in cooperation in information technology and life sciences. We also invite American businesses to use our country as the springboard for trade with Eastern European countries, as Lithuania has a well-developed road infrastructure and the ice-free seaport, as well as highly-skilled professionals," said Butkevičius.


The PM noted that in the context of the Russian embargo, the good news coming from the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in terms of its confirmation about Lithuania's compliance with US requirements is more than welcome by the Lithuanian sectors of agriculture and logistics. The prime minister said he was convinced about the successful outcome of the necessary procedures required for the adoption of the regulation by the US administration enabling the listing of Lithuania in the US Federal Register of countries authorized to bring in meat products to the US, as well as the public debate on the issue, thus providing a possibility to open up new markets.


Congressman Adam Schiff noted that his country saw Lithuania not only as a strategic political partner, but also as a reliable country for the development of bilateral business interests.


Among other items discussed was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, Lithuania's accession to the Economic Cooperation and Development organisation, euro introduction and the current geopolitical situation.




Deputy Minister of National Defence Marijus Velicka discussed security situation in the Baltic region and Ukraine, and US-Lithuanian defence cooperation with the House Baltic Caucus member rep. Devin Nunes

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on August 8, 2014 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

"We appreciate the speedy deployment of additional US fighter aircraft and troops in response to the changes in security situation in the Baltic region. That is a huge support and assurance to the people of Lithuania that the USA, out our key strategic ally, is firmly committed to NATO's collective defence. We are highly interested that the US presence in Lithuania is maintained after 2014 with approval from the majority of Lithuania's population," Deputy Minister of National Defence Velička said at the meeting.


According to Deputy Minister Velička, Lithuania was looking forward to the approval of the additional USD 1 billion financing for the US President's European Reassurance Initiative at the US Congress.


Nunes assured that the United States would keep to its commitments and support even though those were not easy decisions regarding additional financing for the USA.


The guest welcomed the 20 percent increase in Lithuanian defence spending to be reached this year already and the agreement of Lithuania's political parties to commit 2 percent of GDP for defence financing by 2020.


"You must continue holding intensified training and investing into strengthened military training capacity and host nation support - allied troops, US military in particular, receiving mutual benefit from the exercises in Lithuania appreciate that beyond doubt," the members of the US House of Representatives said. "


Lithuania has always been a particularly reliable partner to the US despite the changes in the security situation in the region, we were, we are and we will be prepared to contribute to multinational operations and missions side by side with the USA whenever that is necessary," Deputy Minister of National Defence Velička underlined.


Later in the day Congressman Nunes visited the Mechanised Infantry Brigade (MIB) Iron Wolf (Lithuanian Land Force) in Rukla and met with the current rotation from the 173rd Airborne Brigade deploying troops to combined exercises in Lithuania since early April.


At a meeting with Commander MIB Iron Wolf Colonel Raimundas Vaikšnoras and leadership of the US military deployed in Rukla Congressman Nunes discussed joint operation of Lithuanian and US troops and relevant issues. While in Rukla, the guest also observed US and Lithuanian troops training combat self-defence.




Black Ribbon Day in Washington, D.C., marks 75th anniversary of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on August 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)


August 23 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that divided Europe and facilitated the start of the Second World War. Now remembered as Black Ribbon Day in many countries, it coincided this year with the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way event. There were several commemorations in the United States that started early in the morning with a ceremony in the United States Congress and later the same morning at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Congressman John Shimkus, of Lithuanian origin, sponsored a bill to designate 23 August officially as Black Ribbon Day. Now that legislation has passed the House of Representatives, it was the first time that the Black Ribbon Day was commemorated in the Freedom Rotunda of the Capitol. John Shimkus reminded the audience of the fight for freedom in the three Baltic countries that led eventually to the successful integration into the EU and NATO. It was a particularly moving experience to hear Congressman Shimkus read a quote by Rasa Juknevičienė’s mother from the book "Children of Siberia” in which she recounts her family’s experience whilst in exile in Siberia.

The Georgian and Ukrainian ambassadors reminded the audience that the fight for freedom is still an ongoing struggle. Ukrainian Ambassador, Olexandar Motsyk stated, "We need to mobilize all forces to ensure that Ukrainians retain their freedom and that we gain a free and united Europe." Ambassador Motsyk thanked Lithuania for the full support and expressed sympathy with Honorary Consul Mykola Zelenec who was kidnapped and murdered on Friday in Lugansk.


Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States, Žygimantas Pavilionis, thanked Congressman John Shimkus for initiating the bill to designate Black Ribbon Day. Ambassador Pavilionis expressed the hope that the United States Senate will in turn pass the bill soon. "Congress is a crucial part of democracy in the United States and a symbol for the world, and therefore the commemoration of the Black Ribbon Day, will not only remember all the victims of totalitarian regimes, but honour them," said ambassador Pavilionis. He concluded, "Any attempts to cover lies and the use of intimidation and violence in an attempt to subjugate freedom, such as at present in Ukraine, will need to be confronted and unanimously supported by all forces.”


The events in Washington continued at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C. The monument was inaugurated in 2007 and the Black Ribbon Day remembrance has been an annual event. Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, expressed the wish that "In the future, we hope Black Ribbon Day will become a better known day and that more people in the USA would use the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact anniversary to remember all of the victims of communism and fascism in Europe." Karl Altau of the Joint Baltic American National Committee and the incoming Estonian Ambassador, Eerik Marmei also reminded the audience of the wider significance of Black Ribbon Day. It was also announced that there are plans to build a museum about the history of communism on the National Mall in Washington DC, starting in 2017. The Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Georgian, Hungarian, and the Czech embassies placed flowers and wreaths in honour of the victims of Communism. All the participants finally held hands around the statue to mark the Baltic Way’s 25th anniversary.