The European Economic and Social Committee ended 2002 by inaugurating yet another Joint Consultative Committee - with Lithuania. This is the tenth JCC established with a candidate country to promote dialogue between employers, social partners and other interests; a new JCC with the Czech Republic was also set up earlier in 2002. And with the three candidates for which there is as yet no JCC, the EESC has established contact groups, to perform a similar function, but with reduced means.
According to the just-released minutes of the EU-Lithuania JCC, and a joint declaration issued by the two Co-Chairpersons, Uno Westerlund and Mr and Gedeminas Saulys, the members expressed their commitment to actively contribute to the positive outcome of the referendum on Lithuania's accession to the EU, and actions will be undertaken to spread information, knowledge and awareness as well as to encourage public debates about topics related to the consequences of EU membership. And they said they wanted to have acceding countries' representatives as observers to the EESC's specialized sections upon signature of the accession treaty.
The EU-Lithuania Joint Consultative Committee is a joint body of the economic and social interest groups of Lithuania, on the one hand, and of the EU organized civil society represented at the European Economic and Social Committee (employers, trade unions and various interest groups), on the other hand. Its inaugural meeting, in Vilnius on 16 December 2002, was attended by Vytenis Andriukaitis, Deputy to the Chairman of the Seimas, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs; Michael Graham, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Lithuania, and Petras Austrevicius, Director General of Lithuania's European Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, and Chief Negotiator for Lithuania's EU accession.
Mr Andriukaitis praised the results of the Copenhagen summit - just days before this first meeting - and stated that Lithuania is not anymore a candidate country but a future EU Member State. He expressed his deep satisfaction that Europe is now reunified, and underlined the importance of the JCC activities, in particular to help Lithuania to understand the EU functioning process, to reinforce dialogue and co-operation and to progress on its integration process.
Mr Graham underlined how far and how fast Lithuania has gone towards accession, but insisted on the necessary support for EU accession by all segments of …