Zagreb/Vilius - Croatian Parliament Speaker Josip Leko is in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Monday and Tuesday for an annual conference of European Union parliament speakers. At the start of the conference, Lithuanian Parliament Speaker Loreta Grauziniene welcomed Leko as representative of the EU's news member, and Leko said in his brief address that he was honoured to attend and congratulated Lithuania on the excellent presidency of the Council of the European Union. The participants discussed the role of the parliaments in overcoming the economic and financial crisis.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said that the democratic deficit was one of the biggest problems, citing the results of a Eurobarometer survey which showed that two-thirds of EU citizens did not believe their voice carried any weight. He said that the national parliaments could reduce the democratic deficit and be an active intermediary between citizens and EU institutions.
European Parliament Vice-President Miguel Martinez said that the economic and financial crisis had resulted in a crisis of democracy. Our citizens have not seen solidarity in practice and have therefore turned their backs on us because we do not respond to their needs, he said. Martinez called on the participants to seek an answer to the question why many people would not vote in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament. He said that the national parliaments should exercise greater control of their executive authorities, noting that the European Parliament and the national parliaments were not rivals but partners.
During the discussion, Leko said that the European Parliament and the national parliaments should assume greater responsibility in making all decisions, including those relating to harmonisation of economic policies as part of the European Semester. He said that both the European Parliament and the national parliaments should regain people's confidence in the EU institutions. Leko said that the interparliamentary conference on economic governance in the EU was a good framework for an exchange of information and views of members of the national parliaments and the European Parliament.
In the continuation of the conference, the participants will discuss the principle of subsidiarity during the five years since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and interparliamentary cooperation with countries of the Eastern Partnership. Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov cancelled his attendance because of tensions in eastern Ukraine. On Tuesday, the conference is expected to adopt a declaration on the occasion of International Roma Day, which is observed on April 8, discuss interparliamentary cooperation in the area of freedom, security and justice, and adopt the conclusions of the Presidency.