Credibility, growth and openness are Lithuania’s priorities as it takes over the 6-month EU presidency on 1 July. Progress on each will be easier now national leaders have agreed on a budget for 2014-20.
Lithuania has vowed to be an ‘honest broker’ as it steers decision-making for the next 6 months. Many of those decisions will aim at helping Europe out of the current economic slump.
As one of Europe’s most successful countries in tackling the crisis, Lithuania is perhaps well-placed to help the EU return to growth. After a steep decline in 2009, when its GDP fell by almost 15%, Lithuania had started growing again by 2010. In 2013 it is expected to be among the EU’s best-performing economies.
If the €960bn budget is agreed by MEPs, Lithuania will need to push through around 70 pieces of legislation so that EU money can continue to fund projects and activities in areas from research to regional regeneration.
Lithuania’s plans for the next 6 months are summed up by the slogan ‘credible, growing and open Europe’.
Deeming the EU’s economic credibility dependent upon financial stability, Lithuania intends to ensure sounder public finances in the bloc. A key stepping stone will be progress on banking union and financial market reforms.
Priorities will include pressing EU countries to implement reforms agreed previously, for example on economic governance, and strengthening economic and monetary cooperation within what is known as the economic and monetary union.
The single market – the removal of national borders for people, goods, services and money – has the potential to drive growth and create jobs. The Lithuanian presidency would like to make sure all relevant goods and services are included, such as energy and research.
Closer integration between the EU and its eastern neighbours, alongside free trade agreements with countries such as the USA, Japan and Canada, will help reinforce the EU’s reputation for openness.
This is the first time that Lithuania has held the EU presidency. The government has been preparing by working closely alongside the Irish government, which was in the driving seat for the first half of 2013.