On March 21 Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas and Defence Minister of France Jean-Yves Le Drian discussed security situation in the region along with possible actions of the countries in NATO and European frameworks, Eastern Partnership, and other relevant issues at a meeting in Vilnius.
„French Minister and I have discussed not only bilateral relations but a considerably broader context as well. Excellently, we have a shared view on the situation in Ukraine. Both Lithuania and France strongly condemn and disapprove the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. We must continue promoting support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the international community and its institutions,” Minister of National Defence J.Olekas said following the meeting. Minister also underlined that the principle of collective defence was essential like never before.
With regard to the concerns about the situation in Ukraine and in solidarity with the Baltic States and the entire region, Defence Minister J. Y Le Drian conveyed the French President’s reassurance of France’s firm commitment to collective defence and its readiness to commission any capability necessary for stabilising the situation in the region, and also to make additional contributions to NATO exercises and deploying additional fighter jets to NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Baltic States.
Minister of National Defence J.Olekas expressed appreciation of France’s involvement in the region and thanked for providing as many as four rotations of fighter jets and air personnel for NATO’s air policing tasks which made France one of the most active contributors to the Baltic Air Policing mission conducted form the Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai. “This mission is of topmost importance to us, it is a symbol of the Alliance’s solidarity with the Baltic States,” Minister J.Olekas said.
Minister of National Defence also extended gratitude to France for the promise to strengthen NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission with four fighter jets and the AWACs surveillance aircraft and radar. Lithuanian Minister also underscored the weight of French contribution to NATO exercises in the region: the largest contingent in NATO Article 5 (collective defence) exercise STEADFAST JAZZ last year came from France.
Minister also agreed to intensify the countries’ cooperation in the area of cyber defence and discussed plans of deployment to multinational operations.
French Defence Minister thanked Lithuania for sending the Spartan transport aircraft of the Lithuanian Air Force to render logistic support in Operation Sangaris deployed to stabilise security situation in the Central African Republic. Lithuania joined the operation with regard to France’s request and also seeking to step up the recently intensified Lithuanian-French cooperation.
Apart from being one of the most active participants of the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic States, France is one of the sponsoring nations of the Lithuanian-hosted NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence in Vilnius.
Lithuania and France endorsed an agreement of defence and security cooperation during Lithuania’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second semester of 2013.