INFORMATION AND PUBLIC OPINION The Lithuanian Public Awareness and Information Strategy in preparation for accession to the EU was adopted on 6 April 1999, which aims to present and explain the main aspects of the process of integration into European Union and familiarise the Lithuanian society with the position of the Government of Lithuania on EU membership.
In the context of integration, the strategic goals of Public Awareness programme are the following:
• To introduce and explain with reasoned arguments the most important aspects of the process of European integration.
• Properly familiarise the society with the position of Government of Lithuania on EU membership.
• Encourage public acceptance of EU membership by providing exhaustive information.
• Facilitate public and aware discussion in the open information environment on the questions of EU membership, based on exhaustive and reliable information.
The European Council in Luxembourg concluded “from the end of 1998, the Commission will make regular reports to the Council <…> reviewing the progress of each Central and East European applicant State towards accession in the light of the Copenhagen criteria, in particular the rate at which it is adopting the Union acquis”. Importance of regular accounts of progress had been raised by decisions made at the Helsinki European Council on 11 December 1999 where the European Council decided to convene a bilateral intergovernmental conference in February 2000 to begin negotiations with Lithuania on the conditions of its entry into the Union and the ensuing Treaty adjustments. The European Council also stated, that “in the negotiations, each candidate country will be judged on its merits. This principle will apply both to opening of the various negotiating chapters and to the conduct of the negotiations. <…> Progress in negotiations must go hand with progress in incorporating the acquis into legislation and actually implementing and enforcing it”.
Relations between Lithuania and the European Union
Lithuania welcomed the conclusions of the European Council meeting in Laeken on 14-15 December 2001 and regards as a very important the EU assertion that the accession process is now irreversible. Lithuania also welcomed the determination of the EU to bring the accession negotiations with the candidate countries that are ready, to a successful conclusion by the end of 2002, so that those countries can take part in the European Parliament elections in 2004 as members. Lithuania welcomed the view of the EU that Lithuania is in a position to achieve this goal.
In the field of political criteria,
The proper functioning judiciary was consolidated by the adoption of the Law on Courts on 24 January 2002 guarantying the independence of the judiciary 9in force from 1 May 2002). The number of vacancies in courts was further reduced. From September 2001 to 1 May 2002, 12 judges were appointed bringing the ratio of occupied posts to vacancies in all courts to 656 : 56. The backlog cases in courts has been further decreased. The backlog of criminal cases under investigation for more than 6 month in the courts of first instance decreased from 595 on January 2001 to 412 on 1 January 2002, or by 31 per cent. The backlog of civil cases under investigation for more than 6 month in the courts of first instance decreased from 1430 on 1 January 2001 to 964 on 1 January 2002, or by 33 per cent. During the reporting period, efforts to improve the training of judges have been sustained. In 2001, a total of 1215 judges were trained.
In the area of economic criteria,
During the reporting period, Lithuania economy continued to grow, despite the slow-down of growth in the EU member states. Macroeconomic stability has been preserved, especially during the re-pegging of its currency Litas to the Euro and by following a strict fiscal discipline.
The structural reforms were further advanced, especially in the area of privatization (privatization of all state-owned banks in Lithuania is now completed), restructuring of energy sector and faster bankruptcy procedures. During the reporting period investments, access to the credit and the level of financial intermediation in the banking sector increased. The initiatives by the Government in the fields of business environment, industrial policy, small and medium sized enterprises’ promotion were further continued.
On the other hand, the pension reform, more effective enterprise-level economic policies and solutions to the problem of structural unemployment remain as the major priorities of Lithuania till its accession to the EU.
In the area of free movement of goods,
All the basic legislation is in place including the recently amended Law on Pharmaceutical Activities. Legislation in sector specific areas has been harmonized in the fields of crystal glass, textile, footwear, detergents, fertilizers, toys, electrical equipment, gas appliances, pressure vessels and equipment, lifts, personal protective equipment, electromagnetic compatibility. The pre-marketing registration has been abolished for cosmetic and detergents.
In the area of free movement of persons,
Upon accession, Lithuania will set up a database on the assessment and recognition of professional qualifications, strengthen the Co-ordinating Commission in the Field of Professional Qualification Assessment and Recognition under the Ministry of
Social Security and Labour, and improve qualification of staff aiming to ensure effective monitoring and control of the implementation of the EU directives.
In the area of freedom to provide services,
Following the adoption of the Law on Compulsory Motor Third Party Liability Insurance (2001), all necessary secondary legislation was adopted and institutional arrangements (including the establishment of the Bureau of Compulsory Motor Third Party Liability Insurance in November 2001) were made; thus as this system is operational. The progress in issuing policies and accumulating necessary finances for the operation of the system has been good (the ratio of policy holder to owners of vehicles in use is about 75 per cent; i.e. 940 thousand of contracts concluded since 1 January 2002; LTL 163 million accumulated, of which 1 per cent paid out to the policy holders in settlement of claims). The minimal insurance sums will be raised up to the minimal EU levels, as envisaged, in the 3rd quarter 2003.
In the chapter on agriculture,
Restructuring of milk processing industry is completed, and reorganization of the meat processing industry has been started (in 2001, 39 slaughterhouses and 18 meat factories were closed down because of their failure to compete and implement the veterinary-sanitary and environmental requirements – or, respectively, 22 and 12 per cent of the total number of establishments of these types, which is twice as many as in 2002).
In the chapter of fisheries,
As regards administrative capacity, progress has been achieved by establishing the Klaipėda Division of the Fisheries Department. In order to strengthen inspection and control in the fisheries sector, training of inspectors, upgrading of navigation equipment and the acquirement of a new inspection vessel is foreseen in 2003. During the reporting period, progress in development of the satellite-based tracking system was made. Presently, satellite transmitters have been installed and programmed for transmission of data in 59 fishing vessels operating in the Baltic Sea and in the all vases operating in the high seas.
The ongoing establishment and implementation of the Integrated Information Database System, the Satellite Based Fishing Vessels Monitoring System and the separate Fishing Vessels Register will be competed in 203, also with the PHARE assistance. Conditions for fish landings and control of fish resources utilization will be improved after the construction of a separate fishing port in Klaipėda in 2003.