Lithuania and EU
Lithuania became a full-fledged member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. We are part of a unique economic and political family, which consists of 28 member countries. The EU acts in a variety of policy areas, from consumer protection to security and defence. Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the core values of the EU. The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU for its contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
Lithuania’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013 was one of the country’s most important contributions to the EU policymaking and implementation.
Lithuania’s integration into the EU is a never-ending process, which provides opportunities to become a strong and modern state, to continually develop, to be economically viable and to ensure social welfare. Furthermore, as a member we ought to cherish European values. The EU membership also encourages us to implement structural reforms that are beneficial for Lithuania.
Benefits of EU membership
Strong and growing economy. Lithuanian businesses have now access to a market of 500 million consumers. Lithuania gained more than 10 billion euros in financial aid, which has boosted economic growth and created jobs. Before the country joined the EU, Lithuania’s GDP per capita stood at just 42 percent of EU average, while in 2011 it increased to 62 percent and to 73 percent in 2013.
Increasing level of foreign direct investment. About 80 percent of foreign direct investment flowed to Lithuania from the EU member states. It is estimated that in the first three years of Lithuania’s membership its GDP was 2 percent (2 billion litas) bigger thanks to the single market. Nevertheless, the EU’s financial aid has increased annual economic growth by 1 percent. Public survey showed every second Lithuanian felt the EU’s aid personally.
Energy independence. It would be difficult to achieve energy independence all by ourselves. In 2009, the European Commission approved the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), which aimed to further integrate the Baltic States’ energy market, bringing them closer to the light – quite literally. The EU provides funding for important regional energy projects: the Visaginas NPP, projects, such as NordBalt linking Sweden and Lithuania, and LitPol linking Poland and Lithuania, regional LNG terminals, an underground gas storage and a gas interconnector between Poland and Lithuania.
Freedom of movement in the EU. Since 2004, Lithuania is a member of Customs Union that removed restrictions for import and export by opening borders with Latvia and Poland. In 2007 we joined Schengen zone, since then Lithuanian citizens can freely travel all over Europe. Thanks to EU Commission’s efforts, cell phone chargers were standardized in all 28 member states.
Investment in science and education. Lithuanian schools, universities, laboratories, research facilities and other infrastructure was renovated with EU funding. Moreover, teachers, pupils, students and researchers are offered a wider range of opportunities for internship and cooperation with other EU countries. Since 2004, almost half of Lithuanian secondary schools have participated in European exchange programmes (Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates/Erasmus).
Social guarantees in the EU. Lithuanians who work, visit or study in other EU countries enjoy more social guarantees. Those who travel abroad keep their social guarantees. Moreover, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles EU citizens to free emergency care in the EU. Finally, when moving to another EU country, EU citizens continue to get their previously granted pensions and other allowances.
Global consular assistance. Every person holding the nationality of Lithuania is a citizen of the EU and has access to EU missions and consular assistance even in countries, where Lithuania has no diplomatic or consular representation, such as Chile, Saudi Arabia or Nepal.