Close relations between UK and Lithuania reaffirmed in bilateral exchange
On 17 February, UK and Lithuanian parliamentarians met virtually to discuss bilateral relations, regional dynamics and their respective responses to COVID-19. The meeting was chaired by the Lithuania APPG Chair, The Rt Hon Mark Pritchard MP from the UK side and by Mr Zygimantas Pavilionis, Chair of the Lithuanian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, from the Lithuanian side. The UK delegation also included Chris Matheson MP, Pauline Latham MP, Mark Menzies MP, Baroness Barker, The Rt Hon the Baroness D’Souza, The Rt Hon the Lord Beith and The Rt Hon the Lord Grocott. And the Lithuanian delegation comprised of Ms Dalia Asanaviciute (Chair of the UK-Lithuanian Friendship Group), Mr Mindaugas Puidokas, Mr Lukas Savickas, Mr Kasparas Adomaitis, Ms Aiste Gdviliene, Mr Matas Maldeiks, Mr Marius Matijosaitis and Mr Raimundas Lopata.
Mark Pritchard provided the opening remarks and welcomed Mr Pavilionis to take the floor. Mr Pavilionis was keen to emphasise the continuation of the strong UK-Lithuania relationship in the wake of Brexit, and the Lithuanian desire to use Brexit as an opportunity to develop these relations further. Lithuania values the UK as one its most reliable strategic partners and friends, and these remarks were welcomed by the UK delegation who echoed the importance of the relationship from the UK perspective. The topic of neighbourly relations was discussed in depth, particularly with regards to the Russian movements and regional peace and security. UK delegates were also keen to understand dynamics with China as it becomes a bigger player in the Baltic region through investment and economic partnerships. Both nations stressed the importance of upholding the rule of law and cooperating with multilateral fora.
The conversation moved on to the COVID-19 situation where Lithuanian counterparts discussed the serious impact which the pandemic had had on their healthcare system. UK and Lithuanian parliamentarians noted that their healthcare systems had both struggled to deal with the influx of cases at certain points in the past year. Both sides shared the lessons learned from the pandemic and spoke positively about the development and speed of vaccination rollout programmes. Everyone was in agreement that multilateral organisations would be key to recovery and vowed to continue to support the World Health Organisation in particular.
Strong interest and engagement from both sides in the UK-Lithuania relationship was evident through the large number of attendees. Both sides agreed to hold further discussions which would focus on climate action in the lead up to COP26 and beyond. The hope is that future discussions will involve wider Baltic-UK cooperation including other Baltic states. Parliamentarians on both sides were extremely grateful to have the opportunity for dialogue during these turbulent times while international travel is not permitted. The meeting was extremely useful for both sides to gain an understanding of regional dynamics, the UK-Lithuanian strategic partnership and look towards a sustainable recovery beyond COVID-19.