The first meeting of the Ukraine-Lithuania Presidential Council has been held in Kyiv’s Mariinsky Palace, according to the President`s press-office.

      It focused on ways to enhance trade, energy, military and cultural cooperation between the two countries and Euro-Atlantic issues.

      In his speech to open the event, Victor Yushchenko said the two countries had strengthened political, economic, regional and humanitarian ties over the past fifteen years.

      The President also said the stability of our partnership was based on our common desire to build a free and stable Europe.

      “We are very pleased to say that Lithuania supports Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and shares the experience it gained on this path,” he said.

      Mr. Yushchenko said the two countries should develop trade and investment cooperation. (Ukraine’s Economy Minister Volodymyr Makukha, who was present at the meeting, said the import/export rate between Ukraine and Lithuania had grown by 40% in the past year. He added that, with 161 Lithuanian companies operating in our country, Ukraine was the biggest receiver of Lithuanian investments.)

      The Ukrainian leader said we should formulate and implement a new energy strategy for the EU, diversify energy supplies and routes, develop alternative and renewable energy and promote energy efficiency. He suggested that members of the council coordinate their plans on the issue at a next meeting in 2007.

      Mr. Yushchenko believes Ukraine and Lithuania should develop transportation routes between the Black Sea region and the Baltic countries.

      He said the two partners would actively cooperate to ensure “Europe’s collective security” and take part in international peace-keeping operations.

      As far as cultural cooperation, the President said it would “help enhance contacts between the people and strengthen traditional friendship between our countries.”

      Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus expressed confidence “the involvement of specialists […] will help find the answer how to help Ukraine faster join the democratic community.” He said energy issues and the promotion of democracy in the region were among the main priorities in Ukrainian-Lithuanian cooperation. Ukraine’s NSDC Secretary Vitaly Haiduk took part in the meeting.

      Following the event, Victor Yushchenko decorated the Lithuanian leader with the Order of Merit. Mr. Adamkus decorated his colleague with the Vytautas the Great Order.