Lithuania Report



Despite Lithuania’s lack of a single, coherent WGA framework, there are procedures and mechanisms in place regarding what is and should be done in times of crisis. One part of the existing system (information-sharing) and how it functions among actors in various institutions have already been described above. In what follows, the additional elements are discussed.
As things now stand, plans for having a more integrated and coordinated system of managing crises are being proposed and discussed. This indicates that more systemic efforts are being made to move towards something more similar to a WGA. As discussed earlier, even though Lithuanian laws have established various crisis-management structures, to date they have either been ineffective or virtually non-functional. The Law on the Basics of National Security (Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania 1996) mentions the Crisis Management Committee, which is headed by the prime minister and consists of the responsible ministers and the chancellor of the government. The committee is supposed to help the government with crisis management and coordination. For example, it has to propose a strategy, develop a system of crisis management, and be the institution in charge should a crisis occur. However, this committee has never become fully functional, it has not had any supporting institutions to organise its meetings and activities, and it has usually only convened when a (domestic) crisis has arisen.
Another body, the Crisis Management Center in the MND, existed until 2010. Although this institution was also tasked with creating some kind of crisis-management system, it did not produce any significant results and was silently dissolved. Furthermore, it should also be noted that there are legal acts, procedures and sometimes even plans regarding crisis management on the governmental and ministerial levels. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge here is that not every minister has had trainings or participated in crisis simulations, which means that not everyone in the system would know what to do in an actual crisis.
Recently, the MFA and the MND, the two ministries that would deal with most external crises, have begun testing and checking their crisis-response systems and procedures. The mechanism in these two ministries for working and coordinating with EU institutions is also well established, as it is the same mechanism used for non-crisis situations. The leading actors are the MFA and Lithuania’s Brussels-based permanent representatives to the EU and NATO, who regularly also contribute to coordination efforts. The president contributes to the formation and representation of EU policy issues that are discussed in the European Council, but his or her involvement in the coordination process depends on the political and strategic salience of the issue. The Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU represents the country’s official positions in EU institutions, contributes to the formation of national positions, and disseminates information about EU initiatives. Thus, the representation is the main hub through which coordination and communication with EU institutions takes place, and its communication channels and procedures with the MFA are also well established. The biggest challenge is a matter of resources (mainly human, but also financial), so there must be scrupulous prioritisation regarding which issues to focus on (as discussed earlier in the section on Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities).
Regarding initial steps to establish an integrated crisis-management system, the programme of the current government (which assumed office in late 2016) mentions the goal of putting in place an integrated crisis-management and hybrid threat-prevention system by the end of 2020. The idea is to establish a functioning system that would be prepared to respond to hybrid threats. This would involve creating, among other things, a coordinating body, a mechanism for crisis prevention, an information-exchange system and an early warning system. The current government began working on establishing a more defined mechanism for crisis coordination among the ministries by creating a new structure in late 2017. The Governmental National Security Commission aims to become the main institution coordinating threat-monitoring and -prevention measures, and it would also serve as the main body responding to a security-related crisis (as mentioned earlier, the State Defence Council would retain responsibility for military threats). The new commission also aims to have a working crisis-communication system between ministries and other responsible agencies. The ‘working’ part here is meant to acknowledge that such a system already exists on paper, but nobody knows whether and how it would work in an actual crisis situation. The commission, chaired by the prime minister, consists of the heads of several ministries (Economy and Innovation, National Defence, and the Interior), a representative of the President’s Office, and the directors of the State Security Department and the Second Investigation Department under MND. The commission is supposed to generally meet on a monthly basis and to be responsible for coordinating the whole crisis-management cycle, including threat identification and evaluation, crisis prevention and crisis management. At present, it mostly discusses strategic questions and preventive measures, but it is also considered to be the main institution in charge of organising responses to emergencies.
The Office of the Government, as the Prime Minister’s Office is also known, is divided into groups, one of which is the Threat Management and Crisis Prevention Group. It currently serves as a secretariat for the above-mentioned National Security Commission (NSC) and the Crisis Management Committee (CMC). However, the CMC will cease to exist if the new amendments to the Law on the Basics of National Security are adopted. On paper, the NSC partly duplicates the work of the CMC. For this reason, the proposed amendments would eliminate the CMC and shift its responsibilities to the NSC, thereby expanding the latter’s functions. The new commission has been formed, but without the supporting higher-level legal acts. These provisions were being discussed in parliamentary committees at the time of writing (June 2019).
One of the related plans is to create a body responsible for supporting the work of the revised National Security Commission, called the Joint Threat Management and Crisis Prevention Group (not to be confused with the above-mentioned group with the almost exact name), which would comprise representatives of the relevant ministries and other governmental agencies. In this way, the complete institutional crisis-management system would be established: The NSC would handle coordination on the strategic level; the joint group would execute coordination efforts and facilitate information-exchange among institutions; the group in the Prime Minister’s Office would coordinate the work of the NSC and joint group; and the ministries would have their own crisis-management structures.
At the moment, the whole system only exists on paper as a draft. However, initial steps and existing plans indicate that a concerted effort is being made to move towards a more systemic and coherent WGA. If these plans are implemented, one could say that Lithuania has developed (at least on paper) a WGA system for crisis management. Still, even under the proposed system, the focus would remain on internal crises and domestic security issues. But, implicitly, the system is also supposed to work for the majority of major external crises.
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