Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  In line with our promise to pass on Action Plans as they are agreed, I have pleasure in enclosing the new bilateral plan for Lithuania.

The aim of these Action Plans is to bring together and enhance the UK's practical support for reform in the applicant states in the run up to EU accession. Action Plans achieve better visibility for our projects and allow for better co-ordination and targeting of our pre-accession assistance.

  I am copying this letter to your Clerk and will be writing in similar terms to the Chairs, copied to the Clerks, of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and the Lords European Union Committee.

Rt Hon Peter Hain MP

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

October 200



  1.  Since Lithuania regained her independence in 1991 the United Kingdom has been a staunch supporter of her efforts to rebuild a country along democratic and free market models. The United Kingdom never recognised de jure the Soviet annexation of 1940. Diplomatic ties were re-established with the opening of the British Embassy in Vilnius in October 1991. The Embassy has nine diplomats, including a new Defence Section, and 16 Lithuanian staff. The UK's strong diplomatic presence in Lithuania underlines the growing importance of Lithuania as a partner in trade, diplomacy and defence.

  2.  The UK is strongly committed to the early accession of Lithuania to the EU and to supporting Lithuania in the associated process of reform. For 2001-02 the UK has decided to allocate GBP 64,500 (368,000 LT) for projects specifically related to Lithuania's preparations for EU accession. The EU Action Plan has been drawn up in consultation between the two Governments.


  3.  Trade activity between Lithuania and the UK is increasing. In 2000 British exports to Lithuania grew by nearly 40 per cent and were worth GBP 133.6 million (761 million LT). Lithuanian exports to the UK grew at an even faster rate, 56.2 per cent and were worth GBP 254.8 million (1.4 billion LT). At present the UK is Lithuania's fifth largest export market.

  4.  By early 2001 direct foreign investment from the UK to Lithuania totalled just over GBP 100 million (570 million LT). There are over 100 Lithuanian/British joint ventures and British capital companies in Lithuania.

  5.  In March 2001 the British Embassy organised the first British Week in Lithuania. It had a very strong commercial angle and included British products exhibitions in three major Lithuanian cities, four seminars (on EU integration organised by PWC, insurance, rural livelihoods and heritage), two trade missions and a business reception that attracted potential Lithuanian investors and partners and representatives from British business.


  6.  Since 1992 Lithuania has benefited from many projects under the Know How Fund. The UK is also a significant contributor (16 per cent) to the EU PHARE technical assistance programme which focuses on economic reconstruction.

  7.  The British government will increase its support to the Lithuanian government's own efforts to reform and strengthen its public administration service. Programmes include:

    —  The British Council with the Department for International Development will sponsor a £200,000 public administration project which will be launched in September 2001 and will run for two years. The aims of the project are, to develop human resource planning and management and to develop a network of training providers for public servants;

    —  The British Embassy, working with the British Civil Service College, will sponsor and organise a number of workshops which will focus on improving negotiation, presentation and EU drafting skills of senior Lithuanian officials; and

    —  The British Council will assist in the creation of a professional interpreters/translators association. The association will create a proper system of certifying translators and interpreters.


  8.  In March, during a visit to Lithuania to open British Week 2001, the British Foreign Office Minister, Brian Wilson, announced that the UK would make a bilateral contribution of 1.5 million euros to the Ignalina decommissioning fund. For the past five years the British government has been working behind the scenes in Ignalina providing specialist knowledge to enable Lithuania to ensure short-term safety of the reactors, prepare for eventual decommissioning and help with the social consequences of closures. Projects include:

    —  provide technical support to VATESI (nuclear regulator);

    —  arrange study visits of British nuclear plants undergoing decommissioning for Lithuanian experts;

    —  since 1995 the British government has funded an English language training programme for plant employees. In 2000 alone 120 employees received training;

    —  the UK has supported the Ministry of Economy by sponsoring the activities of Dr Helene Ryding, adviser to the Vice Minister responsible for decommissioning; and

    —  because of the special difficulties that the town of Visaginis will have to face due to the eventual closure, on the grounds of safety, of Ignalina Nuclear Power Station, the British government will pay for an EU information centre to be established and equipped in the town library. Besides the usual Lithuanian and English language material, the British Government will also provide Russian language material on the EU.


  9.  The British government will help finance Transparency International to prepare an institutional and geographical map of corruption in Lithuania. The results will be used to create corruption awareness and prevention workshops for civil servants, university students studying public administration and journalists. The British government is the main sponsor alongside the World Bank and the Finnish government.


  10.  At the beginning of 2001 a British expert on combating and preventing economic crime, Ewen McCleod, launched a 12-month UK/EU twinning project with Lithuanian law enforcement agencies. The project is led by the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) and aims to assist Lithuania by providing training and developing capacity and skills, to investigate economic crimes.

  11.  In 2002 the British government will help Lithuania strengthen the fight against crime through a UK/EU twinning project which will establish a National Europol Bureau and up-grade the forensic science service's central laboratory.

  12.  The British government will work to further support co-operation between the British and Lithuanian legal systems.

  13.  In April 2001 the British government sponsored the second series of seminars on EU law by Lord Slynn of Hadley.


  14.  The British Embassy and the British Council have been active in supporting the Lithuanian government's efforts to explain to the public the advantages of EU membership. The British Council has a Resource Centre in Vilnius and seven Outreach Centres in other cities that disseminate information about the UK and the EU. Projects for 2001-02 include:

  15.  The British Ambassador, Christopher Robbins, at the invitation of Seimas members, has so far completed 25 presentations of Britain's View of the Advantages of European Union Membership for Lithuania. The presentation has been translated and published into Lithuanian and distributed to politicians, officials, schools and EU Information Centres.

  16.  The Press and Public Affairs Section at the British Embassy are working with one of Lithuania's leading national radio stations, Radijocentras, to create 50 programmes focusing on the UK and Europe.

  17.  A television crew from the main national television station will be sponsored to go to the UK and make three programmes focusing on EU issues (1) the implications of the single market, (2) privatisation and regulation of energy companies and (3) ethnic diversity and tolerance in the UK.


  18.  Since April 2000 the British Council has helped school teachers learn how to introduce an understanding of the EU into schools.

  19.  In 2000-01 the British government has funded EuroFaculty (specifically the Economic Faculty) at Vilnius University. The funding supports the activities of a British economics lecturer who, besides teaching economics, is also training the next generation of Lithuanian economic lecturers.

  20.  The British Foreign Office will continue with its annual sponsorship of one young Lithuanian diplomat to attend an EU seminar in the UK.

  21.  Since 1992 the British Foreign Office's Chevening scholarship has sponsored over 70 Lithuanians to pursue postgraduate studies in the UK. The funding for this increased to £100,000 per annum last year. Many of the scholars work in the public sector on issues directly related to EU accession. A special Europe Chevening scholarship has been running for three years with public officials being sent to an intensive EU course at Sussex University.


  22.  The Embassy's political and economic section will make a series of presentations at Lithuanian universities on "Britain and the Euro".

  23.  In 2002 the UK will manage a UK/EU twinning project designed to strengthen public auditing.


  24.  In January 2001 a UK/Lithuania EU twinning project on improving the Lithuanian social assistance system started. The project will last for two years and involves officials from Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

  25.  In 2001-02 the Department for International Development will establish the following projects:

    —  social rehabilitation camp for the disabled;

    —  UK experts to work on reforms in children's care home;

    —  provide internet access for children's home;

    —  provide vocational training for orphaned children; and

    —  drug addicts rehabilitation programme.


  26.  The UK values and supports Lithuania's active engagement on the question of Kaliningrad.

  27.  The British Foreign Office and Wilton Park conference organisers are preparing to hold a high level conference on Baltic regional security issues in Vilnius in June 2002.

  28.  In 2000-01 there have been visits by: Brian Wilson, Foreign Office Minister, Dr Moonie, Permanent Under Secretary of Defence, Mr Keith Vaz, Minister for Europe and a delegation of six MPs from the British/Lithuania Inter-Parliamentary Union Group. Further visits are planned for 2001-02 including one by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in November 2001.

  29.  In the past year the British government has sponsored working trips to the UK by the Chairman of the Seimas, the Minister of the Economy and the Minister of Finance.

  30.  The British government will continue to sponsor Lithuanian ministers, politicians and officials to attend important conferences on EU related issues in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

  31.  The British Council will continue to sponsor a Lithuanian politician or official to attend the annual conference on policy developments in Europe. In 2000 the Chairman of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, Alvydas Medalinskas, represented Lithuania at the meetings which were held in Brussels, Dublin and Edinburgh.


  32.  The UK is interested in providing assistance and support, where possible, to Lithuania in areas covered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). For example:

  33.  The pan-Baltic project entitled "Strengthening Capacity and Environment Project Development", funded by DFID. The project is designed to improve the ability of rural and regional authorities to develop environmental projects for funding by the EU and other donors.

British Embassy, Vilnius

October 2001

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