During a visit to Lithuania, French President Emmanuel Macron said he is aware of the Baltic countries’ experience of Soviet occupation, but said cooperation with Russia is crucial.
“If we want to establish lasting peace, we have to work with Russia since we share common geography and the past,” he told reporters in Vilnius after a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda.
The French leader said he was aware of the experiences and repressions suffered by Lithuania but emphasised that it was impossible “to live as if Europe were an island far from Russia”.
“That is why we have to work strategically. It is therefore necessary to pursue an architecture of security, renewed cooperation, renewed trust, which would help avoid tensions, fight against cyberattacks, misinformation and destabilisation,” Macron said.
“I think we will get stronger if we reinforce the European Union’s sovereignty and security, as we have been doing from the very beginning, and have this dialogue. […] We are not at all naïve. We are respectful and very demanding with Russia,” he added.
The French leader said that a dialogue with Russia was important in order to avoid the repetition of horrors suffered by the Baltic countries.
“This issue is very sensitive, I am perfectly aware of your past, I know that your families experienced horrible tragedies of occupation. However, I also look to the future, to the next century. And I am talking about the Baltic countries. This dialogue and its restoration are important for us so as to avoid the repetition of horrors,” Macron noted.
He also vowed to ensure the transparency of dialogue with Moscow with respect to Lithuania and other Baltic countries.
“Here the 20th century was different from what we had. You felt left on your own. That time after the Second World War dragged on too long for you. I know what it means for you to talk about a strategic dialogue with Russia. Therefore, I tell you that very frankly – that dialogue, which we are building, we are doing that with utmost respect for our European partners and everything is very transparent,” the French president said.
“I think we are capable of creating the 21st century with many conflicts related to our neighborhood resolved,” Macron added.
Lithuanian diplomats have previously criticised Macron’s aspiration to have a closer dialogue with Russia. President Nausėda also indicated that the two countries’ position on Russia differs.