THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Lithuania’s ambassador to the United States, Žygimantas Pavilionis
Ambassador ŽygimantasPavilionis interviewed by Aage Myhre
Ambassador, you represent Lithuania in the United States, a country where around one million Lithuanians and people of Lithuanian descent live, as citizens of the United States. Are you to a certain degree also their ambassador?
As an ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania, I represent, first of all, interests of my country and my fellow citizens. Not all Lithuanian Americans are citizens of Lithuania, but they, nevertheless, kept close ties to their Homeland and helped greatly to keep memories of independent and free Lithuania alive. All the Lithuanians no matter where their live are equally important share of our nation. This is not only the official position of our Government, but also my personal idea I always had and believed in. Therefore, yes, I am to certain degree their ambassador as well.
Lithuanian-Americans played a significant role in the post-war years, until Lithuania's recovered independence in 1990-1991, by constantly exerting pressure on the U.S. President and leaders in other Western countries so that they would
pressure the Soviet Union to allow the Baltic countries freedom after the Soviet occupation taking place during World War II. Now, as more than 20 years have passed since the freedom bells rang, the question is whether the Lithuanian-Americans have a role to play also today? See our article http://vilnews.com/?p=8899
We in Lithuania will never forget and never underestimate the role of Lithuanian Americans in our struggle for independence. It will remain an indispensable part of our history. However, it sounds sometimes a bit strange when I hear that the mission of our countrymen abroad might be over. Not at all! Free, democratic and Western minded Lithuania we fought for and we have now is not the fact that will last forever by itself. On the contrary, we must remember that state-building is a continuous process, which requires our personal everyday efforts. So there are a lot of challenges both in our foreign and domestic policy we are facing now where the help and support from the Lithuanian diaspora is of vital importance. Economy, energy, security issues, education, social affairs– those and many other areas where we need our common work on it. To be more concrete and to illustrate what has been said I would like to name at least two significant projects which our Embassy is going to undertake together with the Lithuanian community in US this year - NATO Summit in May and World Lithuanian Economic Forum in September. Both evens will take place in Chicago, but we do expect an active engagement of Lithuanians from all over United States in them.
“The majority, I believe, are disappointed and discouraged with the present president’s seemingly unfriendly view toward Lithuanian-Americans and others abroad.” This said Regina Narusiene, President of the World Lithuanian Community, in a recent interview (see http://vilnews.com/?p=6704), based on a comment referred to in The Baltic Times, where President Grybauskaite should have said that most prominent U.S. Lithuanian émigrés, instead of focusing on developing U.S. - Lithuanian business ties, prefer providing political advice to the Lithuanian authorities, which may not be that necessary nowadays. She was supposedly “disappointed by Lithuanian émigrés’ inability to attract U.S.-based investments to Lithuania.” Here in VilNews we often hear Lithuanian-Americans say they do not feel welcome to their
home country, and that Lithuania's current president seems to antagonize them. What are the ambassador's comments to this?
I would not like to comment the words of President which I haven’t heard myself, but as far as I’m familiar with the position of President Grybauskaite towards Lithuanian diaspora I could only presume that these words were taken out of the context and that the President didn’t mean at all anything that could be interpreted as an “unfriendly view toward Lithuanian-Americans and others abroad”…
Having said that I might add that Lithuanians are well known in the U.S. for their persistence, hard and committed work and interesting achievements. We know Lithuanians from every generation who became successful politicians, businessmen, artists, social workers, etc. Just look at our honorary consuls – people like Krista Bard or Daiva Navarette are known in their areas of expertise. We also know a lot of Lithuanians from a younger generation who are well established in universities, research labs, have created their businesses. And some of them very successfully extended their business in Lithuania. Do you know that the company “VPA Logistics”, which operate the block train corridor project from Klaipeda to China, called “Sun”, was created by American-Lithuanians from New Jersey? And this project was developed with a great support of the government and the President itself. And there are much more concrete examples were Lithuanian Americans has invested, developed business in Lithuania or with Lithuania, but they have not yet very much advertised that.
|VPA Logistics – excellent example of business venture established by a Lithuanian American
Mr. Vytautas ‘Victor’ Paulius is the Lithuanian American who founded the New Jersey company VPA (Vytatuas Paulius Associates) in 1967. UAB VPA was established in Lithuania’s port city Klaipeda in 1996, currently owning & operating over 30,000 sq.m. (320,000 sq.ft.) of state of the art cold storage space located within the Port of Klaipeda and Laistu International Trade Center (LITC), adjacent to Klaipeda State Seaport. VPA Logistics is the company behind the new SUN TRAIN that operates between China and Klaipeda.
VYTAUTAS "VICTOR" PAULIUS
In a meeting at your embassy in Washington last year, representatives of LAC (Lithuanian American Council) expressed their concern on a wide range of topics including Lithuania's developing energy policy, the country’s image in the international community, emigration issues and their demographic impact, the prospect of maintaining citizenship rights of recent immigrants, ongoing cooperation between organizations of the Diaspora and Lithuania, and minority issues in Lithuania. LAC representatives suggested that Lithuania would benefit significantly by availing itself of the expertise and knowledge found in the Diaspora communities in developing energy and security policies and a host of other areas such as environmental issues, ecology, medicine, economic development, and the promotion of improved interactions between the government and the people through non-governmental organizations (ref. http://vilnews.com/?p=5031). Has there been any official Lithuanian response to this?
The Embassy deals with various Lithuanian American organizations on a daily basis, including on issues that you just have mentioned. The meeting that you are referring to was held as a coordination meeting to compare our notes and to brief each other on the most important issues on which we should unite our efforts. As I already said, we greatly value the experience and experience that Lithuanians American can bring to their Homeland, and if there are concrete proposals or advices, we listen to them and use accordingly.
In November 2011, the Jewish Lithuanian Heritage Project hosted a roundtable “Think Tank” at your embassy. The theme of the discussion was, "A comprehensive Five Year plan to improve Lithuanian-Jewish relations: Cultivating Sunflowers." (ref. http://vilnews.com/?p=9949). In a response, one of our readers wrote: “Is this about the establishment of a new Judenrat to apologize for Lithuanian anti-Semitism? “If truth be told” having a holiday party at Lithuania’s D.C. Embassy is not revolutionary. What would be revolutionary would have been, and would be, is the prosecution of Lithuanian collaborators and SS members, the prosecution of today’s neo-Nazi youth groups, reinstatement of the ban against the display of the swastika and ending the noxious practice of the Uzgavenes holiday when people dress as Jews and beg on the street.” Harsh words?
Yes, words are harsh and a bit unfair as they fail to describe the whole picture of what’s happening in an attempt to confront the past. I recognize that the awakening process among Lithuanians has been a long one and is still ongoing, but no one can deny the progress that has been made. The Lithuanian government is committed to rehabilitating the heritage of Lithuanian Jewry, preserving the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, and developing an educational program on the subject of the Holocaust so these atrocities would never happen again.
Let me be clear that Lithuania has never denied that there were those among us who collaborated with the occupying power of Nazi Germany and committed crimes against Lithuanian Jews. We know that we owe an immeasurable debt to our Jewish compatriots. The war crimes are never to be forgotten and never to be forgiven. Lithuania seeks to follow this path - all cases of genocide are meticulously investigated.
|ZYGIMANTAS PAVILIONIS (Phonetic: pa-vill-i-OH-nis)
Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania
Ambassador Pavilionis joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993, where he was instrumental in achieving Lithuanian accession into NATO and the European Union. Between 1993 and 2009, he has held various high-level positions in the Lithuanian MFA, most focused on Lithuania’s relationship with the European Union. Most recently Ambassador Pavilionis acted as Ambassador –at-Large and Chief Coordinator for Lithuania’s Presidency of the Community of Democracies and Chief Coordinator for Transatlantic relations. He has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations and Doctoral Studies. He pursued both degrees in Vilnius University, Lithuania.
Pavilionis is married to Lina Pavilioniene and has four sons.
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