At a solemn ceremony outside the government building, the Lithuanian anthem was played during the hoisting of the Lithuanian three-color flag and the historic flag with the Vytis. The EU flag was put up, as the orchestra of the Armed Forces played Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the official anthem of the European Union.
After members of the government and foreign ambassadors gathered at the government, an exhibition of artistic interpretations of EU member-states was opened.
Authored by seven Lithuanian authors, the exhibition also includes the flag of Croatia, which joined the EU on the first day of the Lithuanian EU presidency.
Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said that EU Council presidency will put July 1 and 2013 into Lithuanian history books.
"Today is a great day. It is a day when honor and responsibility go together. As a free and independent country, Lithuania will for the first time have the responsibility of presiding over the EU Council," the prime minister said in an address to the participants.
Butkevičius emphasized that Lithuania is taking EU helm in the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament and the EU still coping with the economic crisis.
"Lithuania will hold the presidency under difficult economic conditions and during an exclusive democratic calendar. With the current parliamentary cycle coming to its end, we have to finish the key legislative tasks through close cooperation with the European Parliament and the European Commission," the prime minister said.
He has pledged that Lithuania will seek successful negotiations for legislation implementing the new EU budget and expects progress in the creation of the banking union.
"Lithuania will place a major focus on the multiannual financial perspective, seek active progress in the creation of the banking union and will participate in the proposition of the proposal on the common banking restructuring mechanism," Butkevičius said at the ceremony.
Among the priorities, he referred to efforts against unemployment and creation of a common energy market.
In his words, energy policy is crucial for strengthening competitiveness of the EU.
"It is our ambition to accelerate the implementation of agreements on economic development and creation of jobs, we will make extensive efforts to facilitate smooth and successful solution of energy matters and creation of an internal energy market in 2014," said the prime minister.
Butkevičius has also expressed certitude that the summit scheduled to take place in Vilnius in November will give a "strong impulse" to strengthening the EU Eastern Partnership program, which aims for closer EU ties with six post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe.