Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lithuania Supports Sikorski for NATO Chief

Gazeta Wyborcza, January 8, 2009
Written by Jacek Pawlicki
Translated by Marcin Wawrzyńczak

'If Mr Sikorski puts forward his candidature for the position of the Nato secretary general, he can count on Lithuania's one-hundred-percent support,' conservative deputy Emanuelis Zingeris told Gazeta yesterday.

Audronius Ažubalis, head of the Lithuanian parliament's foreign affairs committee, spoke in a similar tone. 'It would be good if Radosław Sikorski became the Nato secretary general. From today's point of view, the election of a personage from Poland, Lithuania's strategic partner, would be a positive development. Poles have a superb historical memory and an excellent understanding of their role and significance in the region,' said Mr Ažubalis, quoted by BNS. In his view, the election of the Polish foreign minister would guarantee that the alliance paid attention to its 'Eastern European dimension' and that its eastward enlargement continued.

Mr Ažubalis and Mr Zingeris are the first politicians from a Nato member state to publicly comment on Mr Sikorski's potential bid for the Nato position. Until now only the press, e.g. Der Spiegel and The Economist, wrote about Mr Sikorski's chances. In late December last year prime minister Donald Tusk admitted Mr Sikorski was one of the candidates for the post of the Nato secretary general. He said it was not just hype.The Lithuanian declaration of support for Mr Sikorski came as a pleasant surprise for Warsaw. Though Polish-Lithuanian relations are good, Mr Sikorski fell foul of the Lithuanians at least twice last year. In late autumn he supported the EU foreign ministers' decision to reopen the talks on a new EU-Russia partnership agreement, which Lithuania as the only member state opposed until the very end. In May 2008, in a parliamentary address, he compared the Polish minority's situation in Belarus and Lithuania, which angered some Lithuanian politicians.A thorn in Polish-Lithuanian relations is the issue of the spelling of Polish names in Lithuania. Despite Vilnius's repeated assurances, the problem has not been solved to this day. That is why, according to Gazeta's sources at the Foreign Ministry, the support offered for Mr Sikorski's candidature by an influential member of the Lithuanian parliament, which holds the key to solving the spelling issue, bodes well for the future, even though it does not improve Mr Sikorski's chances of winning the post in any significant way. The decision on who replaces the alliance's acting head, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, will be made at the Nato's summit in April.

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