he main item on the agenda of Minister Zbigniew Rau’s visit to the capital of Lithuania was a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis. The heads of Polish and Lithuanian diplomacy covered the most important matters of bilateral relations, eastern and regional policy, economic and scientific cooperation as well as national minority issues.
The ministers also discussed security policy and the current situation at the border with Belarus. “Poland and Lithuania must work together to fight the ongoing hybrid war. We cannot agree to illegal migration organised by the Belarusian state. Using migrants by Lukashenko’s regime as a weapon to destabilise the situation in neighbouring countries is unacceptable and constitutes a breach of fundamental human rights,” noted Minister Rau. The heads of Polish and Lithuanian diplomacy agreed that protecting the external border concerns the whole European Union.
The ministers also highlighted a convergence of interests within NATO, in particular with regard to the Strategic Concept, deterrence and defence. The top diplomats expressed their grave concern about the Zapad-2021 military exercise of Russian and Belarusian troops, starting on 10 September 2021. “We are both following the development of the situation in Afghanistan and the Zapad exercise to see how they will influence the migration issues, in particular the situation at our borders with Belarus,” stressed Minister Rau.
During the meeting the interlocutors also discussed the necessity for the Polish national minority to be able to exercise their rights, including the adoption of the act on national minorities in Lithuania and the improvement of the situation of the Polish education in Lithuania. “In multidimensional relations between Poland and Lithuania there are many areas, which we want to pursue together. Therefore, I am all the more happy that on 17 September in Warsaw we will host the second round of the Polish-Lithuanian Intergovernmental Consultations, which will be an opportunity to hold a broad discussion on our current relations. They will cover many concrete projects which are important for Warsaw and Vilnius, and which develop and strengthen our region, such as infrastructural links, economic cooperation, as well as cultural and historical projects, which build the social fabric of our intensive collaboration,” emphasised the chief of Polish diplomacy.
As part of the celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of re-establishing diplomatic relations, Ministers Rau and Landsbergis adopted a joint statement highlighting the significance of Polish-Lithuanian relations. “Poland, just as Solidarity MPs in 1989-1993, has always been on the side of independent Lithuania. I hope that our relations, so extensive during the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, will remain exemplary and will serve as a model of how to overcome also the painful episodes in our history for other countries in our region,” stressed the Polish MFA head.
Moreover, Ministers Rau and Landsbergis launched the exhibition Poland and Lithuania – together in the name of freedom, presented in front of the Polish Embassy in Vilnius. The exhibition illustrates cooperation between Polish and Lithuanian opposition and independence groups, in particular the largest freedom movements: Solidarity and Sąjūdis.
During his Monday visit, the chief of Polish diplomacy also met with President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda, Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen and the country’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė. The talks with President Nausėda focused on the security situation in the region and in the immediate neighbourhood. The interlocutors agreed that this year’s 230th anniversary of the Constitution of 3 May and its celebrations attended by the presidents of the two countries constituted an important element fostering historical dialogue between Warsaw and Vilnius.
During talks of Minister Rau with Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the officials highlighted the exceptional character of the jubilee year with an active engagement of members of parliament, including the planned visit by the Speaker of the Seimas to Warsaw in October. Minister Rau called for efficient deliberations in Lithuanian parliament on laws concerning the Polish national minority, and in particular the act on national minorities in Lithuania. The conversation with Prime Minister Šimonytė focused on hybrid challenges created by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, the exercise of rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania, good prospects for economic cooperation between Poland and Lithuania, including infrastructure projects which are of key importance to the region. The head of the Lithuanian government thanked Poland for organising the second round of Intergovernmental Consultations and confirmed her visit to Warsaw on 17 September together with members of the Lithuanian government.
During his official visit to Vilnius, Minister Rau also laid flowers at Antakalnis Cemetery, where he visited tombs of Polish soldiers. The Polish foreign minister also took part in a debate at the Vilnius University and visited the Centre for Physical Sciences and Technology.