Welcoming remarks by Ms. Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, at the High Level Meeting of Speakers of Parliaments of NATO Member Countries
2 June 2023, Vilnius
Photo by Džoja Gunda Barysaitė, Office of the Seimas
Your Excellency President of the Republic of Lithuania,
Distinguished speakers of NATO parliaments,
Vice-speakers, chairs of committees and other members of parliaments,
Your excellences ambassadors,
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all at the plenary hall of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania to this High-Level meeting of speakers of NATO parliaments. I hope that you all had a pleasant evening yesterday and a good night rest.
I am pleased to announce that this meeting is attended by Speakers and Presidents or other distinguished parliamentarians from 25 Parliaments of 31 NATO Allies, as well as by the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sweden, the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, who will deliver address on behalf of Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg.
Thank you again for responding to this invitation to gather in Vilnius a month before the NATO Summit in Vilnius.
It has become almost a cliché to say that today's Europe, and the world in general, is facing a series of serious crises.
While it is true that there are other important challenges facing the world today, including the pandemic, climate change, social tensions, and economic uncertainties, addressing security concerns is crucial in order to effectively tackle these other issues.
The example of European integration and creation of the NATO alliance serves as a compelling illustration. Following the devastation of World War II, Europe recognized the need to address security concerns in order to ensure lasting peace and stability. The establishment of the EU and NATO provided collective economic and defense mechanisms, enhancing the security of its member states. With improved security, European countries were able to shift their focus from internal conflicts and rivalries as well from external threat towards fostering collaboration and integration. This demonstrates how addressing security challenges can pave the way for progress in other areas. When nations are burdened with immediate security threats, their resources and attention are often consumed, making it difficult to prioritize and address other challenges effectively.
That is why our meeting today and the upcoming NATO Vilnius Summit are so important. That is why we need to address security issues urgently and fundamentally. To put it simply, security in our daily lives is key to our well-being.
As I said yesterday, parliaments can and must play a role in ensuring a secure future for our countries and citizens. I recognize that due to constitutional position, role of certain Parliaments and Chambers in the area of national security and foreign policy varies. Yet, I believe that this does not prevent us all from recognizing the importance of the issues under discussion.
As NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has repeatedly said, “Parliamentarians have a vital role in keeping our transatlantic bond strong“.
As such, our gathering todays should not been seen neither as a duplication of NATO Parliamentary Assembly, nor as a weight put on Heads and Governments of NATO countries ahead of the summit in Vilnius. It should be seen as a meeting that adds value to our joint efforts as allies for the common goal of a safer, better and more peaceful area in and around the Euro-Atlantic Community.
Who knows, maybe our meeting will become a tradition. At least I certainly wish it were, because whoever it is, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania always has something to say on the most important issues of foreign policy and national security.
The Lithuanian Seimas has also made clear its position on the key objectives of the NATO Summit in Vilnius by adopting a resolution to this effect.
It contains five points.
First of all, the resolution calls upon NATO to significantly strengthen the forward defense and deterrence of the Baltic region and the entire eastern flank of NATO in line with the principle of ‘deterrence by denial’.
In particular, we ask that NATO's Forward Presence Battle Groups be increased to the level of NATO's Forward Brigades; that credible NATO air defense positions be established in the Baltic States; and that the prepositioning of NATO equipment and supplies in the Baltic States be reinforced.
Please understand that, in view of the atrocities and the level of inhumanity and cruelty by the Russian army, we do not want become another Bucha or Mariupol.
For our part, we are prepared to invest in ourselves. We have already taken strong measures to improve our Host Nation Support infrastructure. Lithuania's commitments are backed not only by words but also by funding: the Seimas of Lithuania took a decision to ramp up the national defense budget to more than 2.5 percent of GDP.
It is the Allies' financial commitment to defense that is the subject of another point in the said resolution.
The third point concerns Finland's and Sweden's membership of NATO, underlining that this will contribute significantly to the security of NATO as a whole. It goes without saying that the Seimas welcomed Finland’s membership of NATO and expressed the hope that the ratification process for Sweden's NATO membership will be completed before the NATO summit in Vilnius.
Further: recognizing the importance of Ukraine's current role in European security and advocating strategic solutions to ensure long-term peace in Ukraine and in Europe, the Seimas expressed the political will to invite Ukraine to join NATO.
I strongly believe that this could be one of the most important decisions of the Vilnius summit. Our support for Ukraine must be comprehensive. In any case, I would like to assure Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada that, as a confirmation of Lithuania's commitment to stand together with Ukraine until victory, the Ukrainian flag on this stand will not be taken down by a decision of the Lithuanian Seimas as long as the Russian invasion continues.
And finally, emphasizing that in pursuit of the rules-based international order NATO needs the unity of like-minded countries, the Seimas advocated for strengthening partnerships and co-operation with the Indo-Pacific partner countries.
Dear distinguished colleagues,
To conclude, I want to thank you once again for your solidarity and your determination not to stand aside on important, even, I would say, existential issues. Let’s remember that although the future is uncertain and complex, but it is up to us to shape it. By defending our values and harnessing the power of democracy and our ties, we can create a future that is not only sustainable but also just.
And now have an honor of inviting His Excellency Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania, to deliver his address.