News2019.08.14 10:01

Lithuanian president's visit to Germany: 5 key topics

Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS 2019.08.14 10:01

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda is starting a two-day visit to Germany on Wednesday. It is his third foreign trip since assuming office and Nausėda is expected to seek to establish cordial relations with Europe's most influential politician while eschewing the more divisive issues, like Nord Stream 2.

BNS reviews the five key topics to be addressed in Berlin:

1. Personal diplomacy

In the diplomatic language, Germany calls Nausėda's visit an official introduction visit. The Lithuanian president will seek to build a personal relation with Europe's most influential politician, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

During their meeting, he plans to speak German, the language that Nausėda learnt during his studies in Germany in 1990-1992. He has said earlier that his time in Germany helped shape his strong Western values.

The personal touch might be important when Nausėda seeks the German chancellor's support for Lithuania's positions during EU summits. Merkel plans to lead the German government until 2021.

2. Defence and security

Germany is leading a NATO battalion in Lithuania and has deployed about 550 troops here. Lithuania is buying 88 IFVs, 18 Howitzers and over 300 trucks from Germany for a total value of almost half a billion euros.

Moreover, Germany plans to invest over 100 million euros into military infrastructure in Lithuania. The Lithuanian army's Iron Wolf brigade is affiliated with a German division, and Lithuania's troops in Mali act within a German contingent.

During the visit, the Lithuanian president will express his country's desire to continue deepening military cooperation, and certain military acquisitions might be discussed. Lithuania will also express its support to plans to increase the defence budget, as the issue has been raising major political discussions in Germany, with left-wing politicians, in favour of smaller defence spending, say other European countries fear Germany's militarism due to its Nazi past.

3. Energy

Nausėda is due to express Lithuania's concerns over the safety of the Astravyets nuclear power plant that Belarus is building close to the Lithuanian border. The German authorities usually say they understand Lithuania's wish to seek higher safety standards but, as other EU countries and EU institutions, they rejected the initiative to block electricity imports at the EU level.

The two countries' positions on political relations with Minsk have also differed, as Germany favours deeper ties with the Belarusian authorities to counterbalance Russia's influence and get access to its market, while Lithuania's former President Dalia Grybauskaitė advocated for Mink's isolation during her second presidential term and she also blocked agreements between the EU and NATO and Belarus. Nausėda has said he does not discount the possibility of gradually resuming dialogue with Belarus.

The major point of contention between Vilnius and Berlin is the construction of the Russian gas export pipeline Nord Stream 2 on the bed of the Baltic Sea. The United States, Poland and the Baltic countries say the pipeline is aimed at making the EU more dependent on Russia. Germany says the project will bring gas prices down. Nausėda will probably try not to exacerbate these disagreements.

4. The EU agenda

Nausėda will present Lithuania's aspiration to secure higher payments to Lithuanian farmers from the 2021-2027 EU budget and also the so-called cohesion funds meant for reducing the economic gap between the EU's richer and poorer regions.

Under the European Commission's proposal, cohesion funding for Lithuania is set to be cut by around a quarter, taking into account the country's economic progress. The budget negotiations will probably be moved to next year.

Germany might try to secure more of Lithuania's support in growing disputes with the United States and also seek Lithuania's commitment to the distribution of migrants within the EU. The two leaders will also probably discuss the impact of Brexit on the EU.

5. Investment

During his election campaign, President Nausėda stressed the importance of economic diplomacy. The president had plans to meet with potential German investors, but it could not be done due to summer holidays.

In Berlin, the president's advisers plan to meet with representatives of Mikron. Several German companies have stepped up their investments in Lithuania in recent years, with Hella and Continental building productions facilities in the country.

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