A High-Level Panel of Frontline Democracies held in Vilnius
On 7-8 July 2022, a Lithuania-initiated high-level Frontline Democracies meeting was held in Vilnius. During the event, participants discussed the challenges facing democracy around the world, possible ways to solve them and further cooperation. Most of the participants came from traditionally more distant, small and medium-sized democratic communities, which a) have recently undergone a democratic transition, b) are democratic success stories in the context of their regions, or c) have taken leadership in the fight against crimes perpetrated by authoritarian regimes. All participants of the event were united by the fact that in one form or another they represent democratic communities at the frontline of a fight against authoritarianism.
The Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, who officially opened the event, stressed that disruptive activities of authoritarian regimes were not new to Lithuania, but their pressure has increased in recent years. The Prime Minister noted that according to annual estimates by the Freedom House, the world is experiencing the seventeen year of democratic regress and the consequences of this are not only visible in Lithuania’s immediate neighbourhood, but also raise threats to Lithuania itself.
“After yet another stolen elections in 2020, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has been systematically strangling its society. As Lithuania and other democratic friends supported it, A. Lukashenko launched an unprecedented hybrid attack by instrumentalizing vulnerable migrants from third countries. Now, he is accomplice with Russia in its war against Ukraine, rockets are hitting civilian objects in Ukraine from Belarusian territory from the very first day of invasion. In 2021, we also suffered from illegal unannounced economic sanctions from China, which attacked not only our own production chains, but also the entire EU production chains because of Lithuania’s support to the democratic Taiwanese community. As Russia attacked Ukraine in February this year, we saw how far the authoritarians could go. They do not recognise the right to peacefully co-exist for democracy in their neighbourhood.”
According to the Prime Minister, there are similar examples of subversive activities of authoritarian regimes around the world, so it is time even for democracies less frequently gathering at the same table to strengthen cooperation and joint actions to counter authoritarian colonialism and ensure the rules-based international order.
Viceminister Mantas Adomėnas also informed the participants of the event about Lithuania’s intention to create a cohort of resistance to authoritarian pressure and invited the participating states, NGOs and democracy friends to join it. This alliance in the run-up to the U.S. Summit of Democracies in 2023 would seek to step up global action in helping those suffering from authoritarian regimes and strengthening the resilience of democratic societies to disinformation and economic coercion exercised by authoritarians.
The High-Level Panel of Frontline Democracies was attended by representatives from 12 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America, the Alliance of Democracies, Freedom House, National Endowment for Democracy, and other communities engaged in strengthening democracy.