Lithuania and its Membership in the European Union
Lithuania presented its application for EU membership in December 1995.
Lithuania’s main goal was to harmonize with its European neighbors and become part of the greater European community after being isolated for decades under the Soviet Union.
Lithuania was a strong candidate for membership due to its largely successful transformation into a democratic state and establishment of effective rule of law, human rights protections, and special legal safeguards developed for minorities. Lithuania’s success also included its implementation of a functioning market economy and privatization within most of its sectors. These changes illustrated Lithuania’s desire and ability to make serious changes and accept obligations as a member of the EU.
In 1995, Lithuania and the EU entered into a Free Trade Agreement, which allowed free trade for six years. By 1997, Lithuania adopted customs programs, standardized numerous laws, and cooperated on trade issues to comply with EU regulations. In 1992, the EU provided financial and technical assistance under Poland and Hungary Assistance for Restructuring of their Economies (PHARE), which was expanded to apply to other Central European countries in their transition to market-based economies and democracies. Early assistance focused on legal reform, infrastructure restructuring, and privatization. Trade has been largely affected by these reforms; the EU has become Lithuania’s largest trade partner.
Lithuania has also implemented rural development programs. Lithuania has received monetary assistance through Special Accession Program for Agricultural and Rural (SAPARD), which was created to support the efforts being made by the Central and Eastern European applicant countries in the period of pre-accession. Under SAPARD, there have been new rural development programs aimed at making livestock production more competitive with other markets.
Many of the programs have focused on agricultural reconstruction, and the following chart outlines the objectives and funding allocation for those objectives:
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Additionally, Lithuania also received funding from ISPA (Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession). ISPA supported large-scale infrastructure and environmental projects. Specifically, ISPA financed transportation infrastructure initiatives that promoted sustainable mobility.
Lithuania successfully concluded accession negotiations and signed its Accession Treaty in Athens in April 2003, and it became a Member State in May 2004.
As a member, Lithuania has 12 seats in the EU Parliament, and 3 votes in the EU’s Council. Lithuania has made remarkable progress and successfully implemented a number of reforms as part of the accession process.
Although Lithuania became a member in 2004, it still needs to reach a number of its obligations set forth by the EU. Specifically, the EU has identified Lithuania’s need to improve investment services and securities markets. It needs to improve its conformity with animal welfare and animal nutrition. Though an overall taxation program has been implemented, improvements are needed in customs practices.
Lithuania must also advance financial management in the areas of public procurement and environmental protection programs. Moreover, Lithuania continues to fail to meet standards in professional training, most notably in healthcare fields. These shortcomings prevent Lithuanians in this field from working freely in other EU countries. Additionally, Lithuania continues to have very high levels of fraud and corruption, particularly attributed to organized crime, which discourages foreign investment and transactions.
Public Education and Opinion
In order to advance public awareness about Lithuania’s accession into the EU, the Information and Communication Programme was created. The Information and Communication Programme’s role has been to collect and make available information about the EU. Part of its main objective has been to make the goals and key stages of EU accession understandable to the general population. Other tasks of the Programme include training and organizing workshops and seminars.
The information center provides brochures, films, books, and other media sources for adult audiences, as well as for young audiences. There are many books designed especially for elementary school children to learn about the EU integration process. These brochures have been distributed to libraries, information centers, schools, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
According to public polls, Lithuanians have strongly supported Lithuania’s membership in the EU. The government took a nation-wide referendum in May, 2003 where over 70% of those who participated in the referendum supported membership. Public support continues to be strong since Lithuania’s formal entry into the EU.
Political system: Parliamentary Republic
Geographical size: 65 300 km2
Population: 2 943 472 (2014)
Population as % of total EU population: 0.6 % (2014)
GDP: € 36.309 billion (2014)
Official EU language(s): Lithuanian
EU member country since: 1 May 2004
Seats in the European Parliament: 11
Currency: Euro. Member of the eurozone since 1 January 2015
Schengen area member? Yes, Schengen Area member since 21 December 2007.
Lithuania is the southernmost of the three Baltic States – and the largest and most populous of them. The country is predominantly flat, with a few low hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands. Forests cover just over 30 % of the country.
The most important sectors of Lithuania’s economy in 2014 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (32.7 %), industry (23.6 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (13.9 %).
Lithuania’s main export partners are Russia, Latvia and Poland while its main import partners are Russia, Germany and Poland.