The Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) has been represented in Lithuania since 1994, with its office in the country’s capital, Vilnius. The office is led by an academic employee of the foundation, and is coordinated from the regional office for the Baltic States in Riga.
After the creation of the office in Vilnius, the initial focus of the projects was accompanying Lithuania’s transformation from a planned to free market economy and from a communist dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy. After the restoration of national independence, and the creation of a pluralist political system as well as of civil society and public institutions, FES projects supported the integration of Lithuania in the European Union.
The social, economic and political transformation of Lithuania has not yet been completed. The civil society in this country remains weak, and a democratic culture at universal participation of citizens has taken little root. Furthermore, Lithuania faces major social and economic challenges: Even though economic development is regaining its momentum after a large crisis, almost a fourth of Lithuania’s population, especially risk groups such as single parents, pensioners and the unemployed are threatened by poverty and social exclusion. There is a high level of emigration, especially among well-educated citizens. The necessary political reforms in the social, education and healthcare systems have seen slow progress.
With this background in mind, one of FES central objectives in Lithuania is to engage in a dialogue with progressive social and political figures with the purpose of promoting sustainable economic growth, social justice, future-proof and well-funded social security systems, and to expand options for participation in democratic processes.
Lithuania’s foreign policy is to a large degree driven by security interests concerning its neighbour, Russia. It is an express goal of FES in Lithuania to use dialogue-oriented project and event formats to communicate a progressive understanding of foreign and domestic politics, promoting international dialogue in the region, in Europe as a whole, and with Russia. The objectives of FES projects in Lithuania focus on consistently involving the Baltic States as a significant partner in debates over the future alignment of the EU and the central issues of security policy.