(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Dear Minister Skaiste,
What a pleasure to be here today at the Library of the University of Vilnius. A beautiful place of culture, whose Scientific Communication and Information Center has benefitted from cohesion investments.
My congratulations to everyone who helped create this Partnership Agreement between Lithuania and the European Union. To the local and regional authorities, the civil society and youth organisations, the businesses and the social partners, and of course to Minister Skaiste, and the Lithuanian authorities.
Yesterday was a special day in Lithuania. We remember all those Lithuanians who were deported after the Second World War. We mourn those who were forced to leave their homeland and we celebrate the hope of those who were able to make the journey back.
Unfortunately, these days we are being faced with similar tragedies right next to us. Millions of Ukrainians forced to leave their homes because of the brutal and unjustified Russian aggression. But these days are also filled with the hope of those who bravely defend their territory, as well as something so dear to all of us: democracy, freedom and self determination.
In times of uncertainty, when crisis follows crisis, we need strategic thinking and bold action. Solid strategies for the future, and the right means to implement them. We need to reinforce our economic and societal resilience and prepare for future challenges. We need European unity and solidarity to face the adversities.
So in the coming months and years, this Partnership Agreement will be our compass and our guiding star. It represents our common strategy to become more resilient and more capable to face future challenges with the right means to deliver it. It is therefore a concrete expression of European solidarity.
We are agreeing 6.4 billion euros of European investment in Lithuania, an investment of over 2200 euros, for every person in Lithuania.
And this significant investment has 3 key goals. First, to invest in a modern, digital Lithuania. Secondly, in a greener Lithuania. And third, to ensure that everyone in Lithuania benefits, and no one is left behind.
First, a modern and digital Lithuania.
In 2020, research and development in Lithuania represented 1.16% of GDP, approximately half the EU average. So our joint goal is to nearly double the research capacity of Lithuania, with a target of 2.2% of GDP by 2030.
This will require extraordinary efforts. By 2020, cohesion policy had already invested in the competitiveness of 8000 Lithuanian enterprises.
In the 2021-2027 programmes, we will redouble our efforts.
There is scope for improving the innovation capacity of Lithuanian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and for increasing exposure to research networks, particularly international networks.
So we will invest in scientific skills for SMEs, and the skills of commercialisation of science. We will invest in the automation, and digitalisation, of SME production processes. And we will invest in new value chains, the internationalisation of activities, and the development of export markets.
The digitalisation of the economy is a key priority. But we will also invest in the digitalisation of the public sector: promoting demand-driven science, public sector data management, and, of course, cybersecurity.
Second, we will invest in a greener Lithuania.
Energy efficiency has been progressing only slowly due to a large proportion of non-renovated buildings and an energy intensive economy.
By the end of 2020, cohesion investments had upgraded the energy performance of 42 000 households.
In the new programmes, we will invest in large-scale renovation schemes for buildings, and advanced environmental-friendly equipment for industrial enterprises to reduce their energy intensity. This should lead to substantial energy savings.
Transport remains a major contributor to Lithuania’s carbon footprint. So we will invest in sustainable transport. In particular, we plan to reduce urban congestion and boost clean public transport.
In terms of energy supply, Lithuania is still dependent on imported electricity. So we will invest in renewable energy to increase electrical production in Lithuania, from 41% in 2019 to 70% in 2030. This almost 30 percentage point increase will be driven by significant increase in the share of renewables: from 20% of total electricity in 2020 to 50% in 2030.
In addition, we will promote renewable energy for heating and cooling, including in district heating systems. With a target of increasing the share of renewables from 50% in 2020 to 67% in 2030.
Lithuania knows well that energy is not just an important variable of a thriving economy it is also a key part of our collective security.
Our third key priority, is to ensure that no one is left behind.
We will invest over 1.1 billion euros, in employment, skills and social inclusion. This will address the employment and societal challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic, as well as new challenges triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
And to enable everyone to participate in the future economy we will invest in upskilling and reskilling, in vocational education, and in adult learning.
We will focus particularly on the health system. Covid highlighted structural and organisational challenges, particularly in primary care and particularly in terms of quality, and accessibility, especially in less developed areas.
So we will invest in primary care, to increase the range of services provided, and ensure the supply of health professionals, and appropriate medical equipment.
We will also invest in local development, ensuring that every part of Lithuania benefits in the future economy.
This is especially important given the significant difference in economic development between the capital region and the rest of Lithuania. Our ultimate goal is to bridge this gap. Nearly a billion euros will be invested in local development strategies, developed and delivered in close partnership with local people.
These strategies will invest in economic development, as well as social and public services. In particular, 10 cities have been identified as regional hubs. Investments in these cities will benefit the surrounding areas, providing jobs, private and public services, social initiatives, and access to quality infrastructure.
And we will invest in the local development of fishing areas, promoting sustainable fishing, aquaculture, the blue economy, and the efficient use of marine and inland water resources.
These are our plans, for a modern, digital and green Lithuania, in which no one is left behind. 6.5 billion euros of European investment will lay the foundation for the digitalisation of business, for more innovation and research, for energy security based on more renewables, and for a Lithuania that leaves no one behind, neither for lack of skills, nor because of where they live.
This is what we have agreed, between the European Commission and Lithuania, and this is what we have agreed with all the Lithuanian stakeholders and partners.
This is what we have all agreed, and now it is time for all of us to make it work.
So now is the time for concrete action on the ground. Now is the time to get the programmes up and running. Now is the time for a pipeline of quality projects. And now is the time to mobilise all the partners and build their capacity.
The next few years will be crucial for Lithuania – and for Europe. Let us do our work in such a way, that those who come after us are filled with the hope of a better future.