2020.11.18 09:58

Lithuania's new government in ‘dilemma’ over relations with Poland – analyst

Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS2020.11.18 09:58

Lithuania's would-be prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė is meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday, which may give an indication of how the country's new government will balance good relations with Warsaw and its professed championing of democratic values.

On Tuesday Duda, who is on a two-day visit in Vilnius, thanked outgoing Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis for great cooperation in building strong relations and said he expected the same good relations with Šimonytė's government.

Read more: Lithuanian president hosts Poland's Duda amid women's rights protests and EU budget deadlock

Political scientist Ramūnas Vilpišauskas of Vilnius University says the meeting could show the first signs of what the new conservative-dominated government's tactics would be in its relations with Warsaw, as disputes between the Polish government and the European Union on the rule of law continue.

Professor Vilpišauskas notes that Lithuania's energy and transport integration with the rest of the EU very much depends on Poland, which is also a crucial security partner, especially as the two counties share concerns about Russia's aggressive foreign policy.

Vilpišauskas believes that the Polish government's ongoing conflict with EU institutions on the principle of the rule of law, especially on judicial independence, is putting Lithuanian politicians and diplomats before a dilemma: how to sustain support of liberal democracy within the country and abroad while preserving good relations with the Polish government.

Read more: Poland, a moral choice for Lithuania – opinion

“Lithuania's leaders are trying to deal with this dilemma by speaking about dialogue both within Poland and also in EU formats. But it remains to be seen whether the newly-formed coalition of the Homeland Union [conservatives] and two liberal parties in Lithuania will continue with this tactic, since the coalition underlines the importance of human rights in foreign policy. Šimonytė's meeting with the Polish president is especially interesting because of that,” Vilpišauskas told BNS.

“Besides, although the Polish governments' controversial domestic policy that EU institutions and some member states are critical of is increasing the importance of Lithuania as a partner for Poland, it also undermines Poland's authority and influence within the EU and among Eastern Partnership countries,” he said.

‘We will not allow our unity to be divided’

Meanwhile Lithuania's outgoing Prime Minister Skvernelis has indicated he unequivocally favours good ties with Warsaw.

Read more: Lithuania’s outgoing PM slams ‘rule of law propaganda cliche’ during Polish president's visit

“Lithuania and Poland are stronger together, therefore we will not allow our unity to be divided. We must continue the implementation of strategic infrastructure projects and bolster common security in the region, based on transatlantic values,” Skvernelis said in a statement after meeting with Duda on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Skvernelis said the incoming government might ruin relations with Poland if it started criticising the Polish government's domestic policies.

Meanwhile, conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis said Poland was Lithuania's strategic partner, but added that Vilnius should not turn a blind eye to human rights problems in the neighbouring country.