Lithuania is not a coincidental passenger on the European Union train

Mečys Laurinkus
Mečys Laurinkus A.Solomino nuotr.

An evaluation of 15 years spent in the European Union should jokingly start with the words “Thanks to the party and the state…” After a solemn speech you get lengthy applause and the EU’s anthem Ode to Joy. Mečys Laurinkus wrote in

I have been hearing similar news and opinions in broadcasts. I have not read a single article, which would start with pessimism, for example: “So we’ve lingered in the European Union for 15 years and what have we achieved? Lithuania is emigrating, committing suicides and drinking, the rich become richer, a third of Lithuania is at the poverty line; neither the promised equality, nor justice. What to say of state sovereignty, which when entering the European Union we already relinquished and are preparing to further give away?”

In all honesty, you cannot say that all this is just lies and slander.

Nevertheless, two thirds of Lithuanians view being in the EU positively, thus there are no more acute discussions between Eurosceptics and EU supporters.

I write supporters rather than patriots because it is still unclear whether EU citizens would sacrifice for their declared values.

Patriots for of the European Union?

Recognised EU analyst A. Giddens’ book Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? Reads as follows: “We hardly saw any street marches in support of the European Union… Despite its achievements, the EU never secured emotional support among its residents. As is accepted to say in academic circles, the EU is a functionalist establishment intended to achieve a result and having nothing to do with attachment, not to even speak of passion. The strong feeling of patriotism and civility that Churchill spoke of did not emerge.”

While reading and listening to a speech by European Commission chairman J-C. Juncker at the European Parliament, I was oft left thinking that he is a true patriot of the EU. The EU, starting with its predecessors, formed as a rational structure of strong states intended to prevent another war and gradually, by developing the values it defends, it grew into a powerful economic, social and civil rights system with sway across the world.

A unique project, which despite facing serious challenges, may exceed a century.

Imperial, even if modified, entities often show after around a century – whether it will fall apart or continue muddling through. The EU is no empire, it is an unprecedented idea and so far it has been fortunate.

Lithuanian manages to catch the EU train

Lithuania embarked on the project’s train in time and thus far has not shown itself to be a coincidental passenger.

If the train were to grind to a halt and the passengers disperse, this would be a catastrophe for Lithuania. Far greater than Brexit is.

Firstly it would be a psychological catastrophe. To my memory, when forming the Sąjūdis programme, there was little talk about the European Union, but after the Maastricht Treaty, the EU’s birthday, the idea of EU membership spread perhaps even faster than in other Eastern and Central European states.

Lacking the good-willed attitude of existing EU members, the process would have been far more confusing. Very soon our own professional experts emerged.

The EU is also about our security, not only about economy

A very clear without special ideological propaganda leanings easily united the public. While the EU is not a military alliance, there was always talk about security or more specifically – a feeling of safety. Thus for Lithuania (and not only it), being in the EU indirectly (and directly when in NATO) is a security guarantee.

Even if being in the EU would not appeal due to certain policy lines in agriculture or finances, it is compensated by the feeling of security, which is a further argument of why the EU needs to be supported.

Factually, Lithuania for the first time in its history has a double security backing. I believe that this is why, despite grumblings, a high percentage of trust remains for the EU.

And at the same time – a wary attitude to Eurosceptics. Lithuanians were the last to be baptised and, in the words of one young philosopher, would be the last to exit the EU.

Does this mean that Lithuanian residents have already become such EU patriots that A. Giddens finds to be missing in other EU states? Yes or no, we will see when EU financial support is reduced.

High EU ratings among Lithuanian citizens raises another, hidden problem – a feeling of calm over the EU’s future. It is believed that if the citizens favour the EU, at least in Lithuania there is no need to worry about what the future brings.

It is believed that all problems will resolve themselves, especially when a small state can change nothing. This, by the way, is the most frequent question from citizens to European Parliament candidates.

One out of 740

What of significance will you do when you become one of our eleven EP members in a parliament of 740? A question which is hard for candidates to answer without lying to themselves.

Without diving into conspiracy theories, you can muse as follows: if the threat of the EU’s dissolution emerges, even a single vote could be decisive. In any case, MEPs from our country should have a united position on questions of importance to Lithuania.

Whether this is possible in the current political relations atmosphere in our country is hard to predict. But at least in terms of gambling candidates, our voters should be more wary.

On the other hand, there are no Eurosceptics in Lithuania, who would start serious discussions in our country’s domestic policy.

Migration problems currently do not divide our society. But in Estonia, a wet snowball of nationalist ideas emerged. Rolling downhill it may increase in size and roll into Latvia and Lithuania.

So far, most Lithuanian residents view the EU as a success story.

Without a doubt, Lithuania is an intermediary on this road for Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. Many do not even imagine a different scenario though before becoming an EU member, discussions on the EU’s benefits and potential harm were held even among the “aware” political elite.

It was stated that we should limit ourselves to NATO membership. It is still early to say, what true influence the unique Alliance will have not only to the Lithuanian economy, but also thinking, self-consciousness and identity. I believe that whatever happens, positive colours will dominate.
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