THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Text: Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
When I came to Lithuania for the first time from my native Norway, more than 20 years ago, this country's political leadership was in the process of drafting the new law book that would be the legal framework for the modern democracy this country was supposed to become after all the years of Soviet occupation. Our small delegation from Norway suggested that one simply could translate our Norwegian legislation, of a free and functioning democracy, but Lithuania's politicians chose not to follow our advice, and used instead many years to develop their own laws. This country's leaders have, for better or worse, an extensive belief in their excellence and ability to reinvent the wheel even when it would have been so much easier to seek advice and help from good neighbours.
Many Norwegian delegations have appeared over the 20 years that have elapsed since that time. They have come and gone without seeing the relationship between Norway and Lithuania thus has become particularly warm or close. In several instances, I know that the Norwegians have travelled back home, headshaking. One example is the delegation that already four years ago came here to give advice on how Lithuania could solve its energy situation after the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. The energy nation Norway was not listened to, and we all know what is now the situation in this country.
But it's not too late to seek cooperation with Norway, in many areas, and I encourage President Dalia Grybauskaite and Prime Minister Kubilius to follow up the visits and meetings that have taken place this last year. Norway is one of the world's richest countries, and also a neighbouring country that in many fields can both understand and help to find solutions to the many challenges still facing Lithuania. I sincerely hope that Lithuania now seizes the opportunity to develop a systematic structure for a very close cooperation with my home country.
The time of emergency measures connected to the crisis and depression areover. Now we need pragmatic, bilateral action.
A good and close cooperation must naturally involve benefits to both parties, and I can imagine many areas where that may be possible. Let me mention a few:
Norway is an energy nation of world format; in oil, hydropower, wind power, solar energy and energy efficiency. Lithuania is in the process of developing their own systems, but could move infinitely faster forward by collaborating with Norwegian companies and institutions.
I see it as likely that many Norwegian companies could outsource much of their production to Lithuania. What we need is a skilled professional, who knows Lithuania’s opportunities in manufacturing, who can travel around Norway to discuss possible cooperation projects with Lithuanian companies.
SHIPPING / OFFSHORE
A Norwegian friend of mine produces fittings for ships and oil platforms here in Lithuania. His company has also teams of Lithuanian workers who travel around the world to furnish ships or platforms. An area that could have been expanded to a considerable extent and scope.
In the interwar years Denmark and Lithuania competed to be leaders in northern European agriculture. Today, agriculture in countries like Denmark and Norway at a very high level, whereas Lithuania desperately needs new investment and new technology. A collaboration with Norwegian farmers and agricultural organizations could come to mean endlessly much in this process.
A Norwegian friend of mine is the director of a fish factory in Klaipeda. The owner is the Bornholm company Espersen. The factory was built new in Klaipeda's Free Economic Zone a few years ago. Now an extension of the factory is underway. This is an excellent example of how Lithuanian labour can do a good job for a company that processes fish for European markets.
TOURISM, COURSES AND CONFERENCES
I am convinced that Lithuania would attract many more Norwegian tourists if they had a person or a group of professional sales people that toured throughout Norway with presentations of what Lithuania has to offer. Not least, this applies to the training and conference sector, which is incredibly large in Norway. Lithuania should clearly be able to come up with very attractive and competitive offers.
Another example: The former Reval Hotels (now operated by Radisson BLU) in Lithuania are Norwegian-owned, and a close collaboration with the owner, the Linstow group, should be investigated further.
The Lithuanian school system desperately needs improvement, and collaboration, school-to-school, with Norway, would undoubtedly be useful. I got an excellent example of how useful such cooperation can be when a few years ago I visited the headmaster at the Birštonas Secondary School, Alvydas Urbanavičius. This school, having 800 students, is famous throughout Lithuania for its high level of education. When I asked the headmaster about the reason for this his reply was cards and cash, "We were very lucky to be 'adopted' by a Danish school already in the early 1990s, and the Danes taught us how to run a modern school and also gave us important funding so that we could avoid many of the problems that other Lithuanian schools and the very educational system here is still fighting with."
In terms of higher education, Norway is otherwise heavily involved in Lithuania already. The ISM Universities (University of Management and Economics) in Kaunas and Vilnius, for example, are owned by Norwegian BI (Norwegian School of Management).
But there is much that can be further developed in many levels and learning areas.
A very large number of Lithuanian physicians and other health professionals are today working in Norway. Maybe there could be an idea if one instead tried to find forms of cooperation between Norwegian and Lithuanian health care so that this country would not be completely drained for health professionals for the benefit of rich Norway? Norway has a very important task to fulfil in this aspect, and it should be imposed on Norwegian health policy makers to take this issue far more seriously.
Lithuania has a wonderful culture that should be experienced by a large number of Norwegians. An extensive cooperation between the cultural sectors of our two countries would mean microns for both parties. As an architect, there is much on my heart to find help to preserve the great Lithuanian wooden houses and other old architecture, and I hope the right institutions in Norway would be ready to help…
During my visit to Lithuania in January 1991, while the Soviet troops surrounded the Parliament and the TV tower in Vilnius, our Norwegian delegation brought with us a letter from Oslo's mayor confirming that Oslo was ready to be Vilnius' first sister city in the west. Later, many Lithuanian and Norwegian cities, municipalities and counties have established friendship agreements. But in most cases only with words, little action.
Now is the time for action. President Grybauskaite’s state visit a few weeks ago is a good step forward, and I hope PM Kubilius and his government now realise that Norway is a land of opportunity – also as Lithuania's closest friend and ally. A comprehensive and professionally planned cooperation structure on many levels should be prepared.
We have no time to lose.
VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editors: editor@VilNews.com.
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