“It’s not foreign policy but domestic policy that’s important now” said Mr. Juozaitis after arriving at a discussion at the East European Studies Centre (RESC).
This he believes has become evident during President Grybauskaitė‘s term of office. “Domestic policy is a sign of the quality of foreign policy” said Mr. Juozaitis who is running for president.
“You can’t hide from the fact that Lithuania emptying and social exclusion is growing. It’s grown from five to sevenfold”, he noted. “The decline in demographics is taking on even greater proportions. We’re going to be faced with large-scale emigration.”
After sharing his insights, Mr. Juozaitis named three major blocks: education, civil protection and law enforcement.
“Out of fourteen ministries only thirteen are needed for party quotas. And it is possible to create an education council, it’s not difficult”, was his proposal to change appointments for the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport.
He states that physical preparedness of the youth must be changed. “Military training must be set up in the senior classes” said Mr. Juozaitis “This year pupils are having two physical exercise lessons a week”.
The four most important camps
“Foreign policy must start with the European Union. One’s own shirt is always closer to one’s body” he said. “There’s no getting out of this neighbourhood. The first of the four camps is neighbours”.
Arvydas Juozaitis named the main neighbours and made proposals on what changes must be made. He believes that Latvia is Lithuania’s best neighbour, however he says that this neighbour has been largely ignored. “Presidential relations are dead, something totally unacceptable. Latvia’s centenary was celebrated without Lithuania”, he said reminding us that Dalia Grybauskaitė couldn’t get to Latvia because of a faulty aircraft.
In Mr. Juozaitis’s opinion Latvia’s economic leverage and opportunities are also not being utilised. “Latvia isn’t in the spotlight” he stated, adding that links with Latvia should of a cultural and economic nature.
According to him, Latvia would be the first country he’ll visit if he is elected president.
And there’s another neighbour – Poland. “The keys to NATO are in Poland. The Suvalki corridor is very important for both of us” he said. The third neighbour is Belarus which, according to Mr. Juozaitis, is nurturing a generation inspired with the air of freedom. “Over the past thirty years, Belarus, even though it’s a Russian satellite, has nurtured a generation that has tasted freedom” he said. “It could very well be that Belarus will one day change its name to Litva”.
According to Mr. Juozaitis, discussions on the change in name should start after the current president’s term. “It’s still early days but the youth’s opportunities, prospects, hopes and expectations of freedom are linked to Lithuania. With Litva. They feel more and more like the descendants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania” he said.
He said that now “the president’s policy toward Belarus is very restrained”.
On a different note, Mr. Juozaitis says that it’s necessary to communicate with Ukraine. “The most important goal is for Ukraine to remain united. Here we can only play a regional neighbourhood role. Lithuania does not need to do something on its own,” said Mr. Juozaitis.
And the last and biggest neighbour is Russia. In Mr. Juozaitis’s opinion, our position with this neighbour is the most unique in Europe. “Kaliningrad is a heart of Lithuanian culture” he said and added that “we should treat Russia carefully” but he gave no details as to what “carefully” means.
Relations with the big states
Astravyets is a sore tooth that just recently become an abscess. There are lots of reasons for that which we won’t discuss, we ourselves have contributed to it with Ignalina. There’s lack of agreement in this regard with Latvia even though Latvia has less of a connection than Lithuania has. But Latvia as I understand is not one for economic interests”, he said in answer to a discussion on Astravyets. After discussing the situation, he nevertheless said that he does not have an exact answer as to what to do.
“Europe, has deceived itself in thinking that it can influence America. But then so has America if it thinks that it can have influence on stopping the disintegration of Europe” said Mr. Juozaitis.
In his opinion there is something more important – the US’s conflict with China.
China’s influence he believes can be felt even in Lithuania, especially on the coast. “China has its own strategy stipulated by the high echelons of the communist party”, he said. “You have to imagine the scales, ambitions, strategies and opportunities. Europe will have to defend itself as one. I see Lithuania as being at the eastern edge of Europe on which the Chinese have set their sights and it’s there we must defend ourselves together with our European partners.
Main programme guidelines
The philosopher, politician and writer was one of the first to announce his decision to run in the presidential election. He broke this news officially last year at Biržai Castle.
Arvydas Juozaitis was one of the initiators of Lithuania’s perestroika movement. He was an editor of cultural publications and advisor on educational affairs to the then prime minister Algirdas Brazauskas. Later on, he was the Lithuanian cultural affairs attaché in Kaliningrad district.
After announcing that he was running, Mr. Juozaitis gave a speech during which he stated the current position in which Lithuania finds itself. According to him, currently in Lithuania there are two lives – the political elite’s and the regular citizens’.
According to the philosopher, there the four most important “towers” in Lithuania are language, family, national education and justice. He believes that all of these “towers” are somewhat ruined. The Lithuanian language he says is going astray. It’s hotly debated now as to what a family is and according to Mr. Juozaitis there’s an attempt to turn it into nothing. In the meantime, education is currently an interim yard for various ministers and programs.
Mr. Juozaitis has already gathered more than eight thousand electronic signatures. Presidential candidates may be elected by electronic or paper signatures by 28 March and submitted to the Central Election Commission (VRK).
The minimum number of signatures required to get to the next round is 20 thousand.
After endorsing the signatures on 12 June, the VRK will present the final list of candidates.