Since 1990, many Central and Eastern European countries joined the NATO Parliamentary Assembly as associated members. Lithuania was granted the status of associate member at the Annual Session of the NATO PA in Madrid (Spain) in 1991. The session holding historic importance for Lithuania was attended by Audrius Butkevičius, Justas Vincas Paleckis, and Saulius Pečeliūnas, the then members of the Supreme Council-Reconstituent Seimas.
Once Lithuania joined NATO in 2004, it became a full member of the NATO PA.
Since the first days of the engagement in the NATO PA, members of the Seimas delegations were proactive by regularly submitting proposals and amendments to various documents of the Assembly, and establishing contacts with members of other delegations in pursuit of understanding and support for Lithuania’s positions.
Heads of the Seimas delegations to the NATO PA
1991–1992: Albinas Januška, Česlovas Vytautas Stankevičius, Saulius Pečeliūnas.
1992–1996: A permanent delegation was set up and Linas Antanas Linkevičius became Head of the Delegation. On 26 April 1994, he was succeeded by Gediminas Kirkilas, after he was appointed Minister of National Defence.
1996–2000: Vytautas Dudėnas, succeeded by Rasa Juknevičienė on 18 November 1999, after he was appointed Minister of Finance.
2000–2004: Algirdas Gricius, succeeded by Gediminas Kirkilas on 9 October 2001.
2008–2012: Audronius Ažubalis, succeeded by Petras Auštrevičius on 10 June 2010, after he became Minister of Foreign Affairs.
2012–2016: Andrius Mazuronis succeeded by Remigijus Žemaitaitis.
2016–2020: Rasa Juknevičienė succeeded by Gediminas Kirkilas.
Permanent work and active engagement of all the members of the Seimas delegations were highly appreciated in the NATO PA, as they were given the right to draft committee reports and were elected to important positions in the Assembly.
In 2005 and 2006, Juozas Olekas was Vice-Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Relations of the Political Committee. In 2010 and 2011, he was Vice-Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Democratic Governance of the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security. In 2017, Olekas was elected Vice-Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Security and Defence Capabilities of the Defence and Security Committee.
From 2006 to 2009, Petras Auštrevičius was the Rapporteur for the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations of the Committee on Economics and Security of the Assembly and served as Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co-operation and Convergence of this Committee from 2010 to 2011. In 2013–2014, Auštrevičius served as Chairperson of the Committee on Economics and Security of the Assembly prior to his becoming a Member of the European Parliament in June 2014.
In 2007 and 2008, Rasa Juknevičienė was elected Rapporteur for the Political Committee of the Assembly. In 2014 and 2015, Juknevičienė served as Rapporteur for the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships of the Political Committee, and in 2016 and 2017 she was the General Rapporteur for the Political Committee of the Assembly.
During the 55th Annual Session in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, in 2009, Audronius Ažubalis was elected Rapporteur for the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships of the Political Committee. In 2013 and 2014, Andrius Mazuronis served as Vice-Chairperson of the Science and Technology Committee of the Assembly, and in 2015 and 2016 as Vice-Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Democratic Governance of the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security.
Top-ranking positions of members of the Seimas Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
At the 54th Annual Session held in Valencia, Spain, on November 2008, Rasa Juknevičienė was elected Vice-President of the Assembly, a position she held until she was appointed Minister of National Defence of Lithuania the same year.
At the 56th Annual Session hosted in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, in the autumn of 2010, Petras Auštrevičius was elected Vice-President of the Assembly. He was nominated by the Liberal Group of the Assembly. His nomination was approved by the Standing Committee and agreed by consensus at the NATO PA plenary session. At the 57th Annual Session in Bucharest, Romania, in October 2011, Auštrevičius was re-elected as Vice-President of the Assembly for a second term.
At the plenary of the 62nd Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016, Rasa Juknevičienė was elected Vice-President of the Assembly. She was nominated by the Group of Conservatives, Christian Democrats and Associates of the Assembly. In 2017, Juknevičienė was re-elected as Vice-President of the Assembly for the second term and was elected Vice-Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships of the Political Committee of the Assembly.
In 2018, Juknevičienė served as President of the NATO PA. This is the highest position ever held by the representatives of the delegations of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania in this important and authoritative forum of parliamentarians. Juknevičienė was nominated during the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Assembly in Vilnius in March 2018, but according to the provisions of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure in force at the time, she took up the office of President on 24 September 2018.
The main priorities of Juknevičienė’s activities as President of the Assembly included strengthening transatlantic relations and parliamentary dialogue, supporting NATO partners and candidate countries, acknowledging their contribution to solving common problems and challenges to security and stability, and ensuring NATO’s open door policy.
On 7 September 2018, Juknevičienė presented her priorities to President of the Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė. NATO PA Secretary General, David Hobbs, also participated in the meeting.
During her tenure, NATO PA President Juknevičienė travelled to Brussels to meet with high NATO and European Union officials; to Moldova and Montenegro; to Bosnia and Herzegovina to observe the parliamentary elections and meet with high-ranking national officials; attended meetings with government representatives and led the delegation of the NATO PA in its mission to observe Georgia’s presidential elections. The President travelled to Ukraine twice. During one of her visits made at the invitation of Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, Juknevičienė also visited Eastern Ukraine, where she met with Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front. She received the award of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in Kiev. One visit was held in Washington, D.C., to attend meetings with members of the United States Congress, State and Security Department officials, representatives of non-governmental organisations, and political experts. Rasa Juknevičienė concluded her term of office as President of the Parliamentary Assembly at the 64th Annual Session held in Halifax, Canada, on 15–21 November 2018.
Photos (2018 Annual Presidential Report, p. 48).
Transatlantic cooperation is one of Lithuania’s key priorities. Therefore, members of the Delegation actively participate in the main meetings held in the United States and Canada. The Assembly usually organises one or two committee visits per year to the United States or Canada. Since 2001, Washington has annually hosted the Parliamentary Transatlantic Forum.
On 3 April 2019, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of NATO was marked in Washington, D.C., where Juknevičienė, the then Head of the Seimas Delegation and member of the Assembly Bureau, was invited to take part together with members of the NATO PA Bureau.
Nordic-Baltic (NB8) cooperation
The Nordic countries showed particularly strong support for Lithuania’s aspirations to join the Alliance. During the annual sessions, Denmark and other Nordic countries held working lunches with delegations from NB8 countries (NB8 represents an informal cooperation format between five Nordic and three Baltic countries – Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia).
At the 2015 Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Budapest, capital of Hungary, Bjorn von Sydow, the then Head of the Swedish Riksdag Delegation, together with Ilkka Kanerva, the then Head of the Finnish Eduskunta Delegation, convened heads and secretaries of NB8 delegations to a working lunch. The meeting discussed political and economic issues of each country and agreed to cooperate more closely in the future in making decisions important for the Nordic–Baltic region. Since then, such working lunches are held at every Spring and Annual Session. The Lithuanian Delegation hosted such a working lunch with members of the delegations at the 63rd Annual Session in Bucharest in 2017.
The Annual Session in Bucharest hosted the very first meeting of the recently established Assembly’s Working Group on Education and Communication about NATO, aimed at disseminating information about the Alliance and the NATO PA, their goals and aspirations. Juozas Olekas sat on this working group to represent Lithuania.
Visits of Presidents of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to Lithuania
Loïc Bouvard (France) in 1994;
Javier Rupérez (Spain) in 1999;
Rafael Estrella (Spain) in 2001;
Doug Bereuter (USA) in 2003;
John Tanner (USA) in 2009;
Karl A. Lamers (Germany) in 2010 and 2011;
Hugh Bayley (United Kingdom) in 2014; and
Paolo Alli (Italy) in 2018.
Key events in Lithuania
On 16–19 December 1991, Vilnius hosted the first Rose-Roth seminar on Baltic Security Requirements (see ‘About the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’). The fact that the event took place in a non-NATO member country was a significant historical event. In addition, the seminar was the first international parliamentary event where parliamentarians and military personnel of NATO countries, together with their colleagues from the Baltic States and Russia, discussed the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic region. The event was not about whether or not Russia should withdraw its troops, but when and how it intends to fulfil this commitment.
Other seminars under the Rose-Roth initiative that were held in Vilnius, Lithuania included the seminar on Security of the Baltic Region in October 2015 and the 80th Rose-Roth seminar on Eastern Partners: Contemporary Challenges and Future Prospects in June 2012. On this occasion, the Seimas hosted a photo EXHIBITION to commemorate the first Rose-Roth seminar.
On 27–31 May 2001, Vilnius hosted the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. This was an extremely important event for Lithuania. The decision to hold the Spring Session in Lithuania was taken as early as at the Spring Session of the NATO PA in Barcelona in 1998, when the Standing Committee was considering the potential hosts for the 2001 PA sessions. North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Lithuania had submitted their proposals to host the session. Thanks to the great efforts of Vytautas Dudėnas, the then Head of the Seimas Delegation, and the members of the entire Delegation, the Standing Committee decided in favour of Lithuania, to hold the 2001 Spring Session in the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius on 27–31 May.
In 2014, when our country was celebrating the tenth anniversary of its membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Vilnius hosted the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly once again. At the 2010 Annual Session in Warsaw, the Standing Committee of the Assembly had accepted the invitation of Irena Degutienė, the then Speaker of the Seimas, to hold the 2014 NATO PA Spring Session in Lithuania.
Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Vilnius, 30 May, 2014
Photo of the Seimas Office (author Olga Posaškova)
In 2009 and 2018, meetings of the Standing Committee of the Assembly were held in Vilnius. Lithuania hosted a number of committee meetings, seminars and visits.
In 2005 and 2006, on the initiative of the Seimas Delegation to the NATO PA, Vilnius hosted seminars to discuss the situation in Belarus. Representatives of Belarusian public and political organisations, some international organisations and foundations played an active role in the seminars.
Members of the Seimas and staff of the Office of the Seimas participate in trainings, traineeships and meetings organised by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Meeting of the Standing Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 24 March 2018
Photo of the Seimas Office (author Olga Posaškova)
To mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the NATO PA and the accomplishments of the Assembly, NATO published a book titled the NATO Parliamentary Assembly from 1955–2005, giving special credit to Lithuania. One part of the book was authored by Česlovas Vytautas Stankevičius, former Head of the Seimas Delegation. The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, along with Parliaments of Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, France, Slovenia, Turkey, and Germany, contributed financially to the publication of this book.
In 2015, as the NATO PA was marking its 60th anniversary, one of the goals of the Assembly was to increase the awareness of its activities and the activities of the North Atlantic Alliance among the public and young people in particular.
During the 60th Annual Session in The Hague, the Netherlands, in autumn 2015, the Standing Committee of the Assembly called on each national Parliament to send, to one of the Assembly’s sessions, one of its country’s youth representatives interested in international politics, security, history and culture and actively engaged in public activities. In cooperation with the Atlantic Treaty Association Lithuania, the Seimas Delegation to the NATO PA sent Lukas Kriščiūnas, first-year student of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University and winner of the international competition ALIANTE 2015, to the Annual Session held in Stavanger, Norway.
Lithuania has 4 votes in the NATO PA. The Delegation may also include alternate members. In accordance with the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, the Delegation should be set up in accordance with the principle of proportional political representation in the national Parliament. Members of the Government may not be members of the Assembly.
Funding. The annual budget of the Assembly is composed of contributions from each member country. NATO also provides financial support for the activities of the Assembly. In 2020, Lithuania’s contribution amounted to EUR 9,498.
The governments of Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland provide additional funds to implement the Rose-Roth Initiative. NATO, the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are also among the contributors.
On 8 December 2020, pursuant to Article 81(1) of its Statute, the Seimas, formed 10 parliamentary delegations, including the Seimas Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, for the 2020–2024 legislative period. The Seimas approved Mr Audronius Ažubalis as Head of the Delegation and Mr Dainius Gaižauskas as his Deputy.
Sweden and Finland are associated members of the Parliamentary Assembly, i.e. they do not have the right to vote.
In 2003, he was awarded the Grand Cross of Commander of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
Dr. Karl A. Lamers was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order for Merits to Lithuania in 2011, is an Honorary Doctor and Honorary Professor of Mykolas Romeris University.
The then Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
ALIANTE is an international competition for senior students of schools of NATO member and partner countries. Its main goal is to expand students’ knowledge about NATO activities, to introduce them into the national defence system and military forces of Lithuania and NATO member countries. From 28 June to 3 July 2015, the International Finals of the ALIANTE competition was held in Lithuania at the Division General Stasys Raštikis Lithuanian Armed Forces School and Kazlų Rūda Training Area.