Lithuania's foreign policy-makers are "shooting themselves in the foot" with their confrontational tone and criticism of anything the European Union does to engage Russia, said Lithuanian European Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis.
Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

"Looking at it from Brussels, Lithuania's foreign policy sometimes looks pathetic. I do not understand how one can criticize the actions of other EU state leaders, like Angela Merkel, François Hollande, or EU Foreign Representative Federica Mogherini. The EU is pursuing a common defence and external relations policy, everyone is trying to work together, whereas the Lithuanian president falls out of line," Andriukaitis said in an interview with the daily, Lietuvos Rytas.

Andriukaitis, who is in charge of health and food safety in the European Commission, expressed scathing criticism of Lithuanian policy-makers, especially President Dalia Grybauskaitė, who has attacked any moves by the EU to include Moscow in dealing with global issues.

These attacks, Andriukaitis believes, are meant for domestic audiences more than European leaders: "No one pays any attention to this lecturing. It is ridiculous," he said.

"Lithuanian citizens should have something explained to them," Andriukaitis insisted. "There was recently a deal on Iran, now Syria is in talks. The world cannot do without Russia in solving these problems. So the question is: when the EU is talking with Russia about Syria and Ukraine, does it have the Lithuanian mandate, since we seem to be constantly annoyed that Moscow is not ignored?"

Lithuanian officials would serve the country's interests much better, if they cooperated with European politicians in finding a compromise rather than inciting tensions, he said. "Lithuania does not have eternal enemies or eternal friends. There are only eternal interests. Therefore we must act in the way that would make the Lithuanian people safer and better-off," Andriukaitis said.

"The EU must talk to Russia," he continued. "Great differences of opinion will remain, but there are problems that we can be slowly solving. No one is going to break any principles.

"Besides, there's no need to pretend that Ukraine is doing everything right. It has problems of its own. Reforms are too slow. As friends of the Ukrainians, we are telling them where they must work harder. A dialogue always and with everyone is good."

He also criticized President Grybauskaitė for usurping the country's foreign policy from the government and Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, a fellow social democrat.

"There should not be two foreign policies in Lithuania," Andriukaitis said. "The government's political programme, endorsed by the Seimas [parliament], defines foreign policy. It's a binding document that should guide all state institutions."

The president should be involved in Lithuania's foreign policy, but not lead it, Andriukaitis insisted.

"The foreign minister is not the president's squire. He must implement the government's programme and not someone else's," he said.

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