Vytautas Sinica. What kind of European Union does Lithuania want?

EU and Lithuanian flags
EU and Lithuanian flags K. Šatūnas photo

Membership of the EU and NATO are unquestionably necessary for survival and ensuring the national interests of our country. However, this does not mean that we unconditionally agree with any kind of ideas of Eurofederalism. In this article, we will present nine bullet points on what kind of European Union we want.

Two years of discussions!

Last year on May 9th a two-year debate on the future of the European Union officially began. Lithuania usually has no opinion or remarks in such discussion, but the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) has already started preparing and organizing discussions in Lithuania. 

The starting point – survival of the nation-state

In the document of the last term Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) office, the issue of the future of the EU was the most lacking one from which the issues related to the EU are assessed. Our goal should be the survival of the Lithuanian nation-state and the survival of the Lithuanian state as such. They can be threatened not only by occupation and demographic extinction but also by the loss of sovereignty where a state renounces its international obligations or loses a substantial part of its independent political decisions to society.

European Union and military security

From the military security point of view, the European Union is not a direct factor for our national security, but in the current conditions, the EU contributes to it at least indirectly. Full integration into Euro-Atlantic structures makes Lithuania a riskier target for aggressors. An economically stronger country also has greater opportunities to strengthen its defense budget. On the other hand, the plans of the EU army in recent years and in particular Mr. Macron‘s speeches about the unreliable US and therefore the necessity to the strengthening of EU self-defense could also threaten our military security to the point of straining NATO‘s presence in our region. Those speeches are likely to settle for the US president after European leaders become ideologically close and acceptable to Biden. In any case, Lithuania needs the most active participation of NATO and especially US forces in the defense of our region. Anything that opposes this could potentially weaken our security. 

European identity vs will defend

Defense capabilities are determined by military capabilities and the willingness of citizens to participate in the country’s defense. And this attitude, in turn, depends directly on attachment to one’s country and national identity in general. The potential problem here inevitably becomes the EU’s efforts to develop a European identity in the Member States. 

The problem of the European identity is always rejected by saying that “national and European identities are not mutually exclusive”. That’s half the truth. National and European do not contradict when we talk about cultural identity. It is possible to connect oneself and be proud of both national culture and European civilization. Most people do that. 

However, as the EU has begun to transform itself into a political union, it has long sought a political identity rather than a cultural one, which would create solidarity and loyalty. They are necessary for the political representation and wider decision-making of all Europeans, not of individual countries. But loyalty to one grows only at the expense of the other. It would not be revealed by the question of whether you feel European, but by the question of what you would be disinterested in supporting in the event of a conflict between your country and the European Commission. It is this identity that the EU creates as a prerequisite for a European demo, and it is precisely it that is incompatible with a political national identity that increases the will to defend one’s country. Fortunately, at least for the time being, the EU is not doing well. But it is programmed in the current project and it must be kept in mind. 

Extinction: migration

Migration is a great illustration of the fact that the EU is both a threat and an opportunity – what we do with it ourselves. Membership in the EU and the Schengen area led to a large emigration from Lithuania, and mostly young people of “fatherhood” age emigrated which also contributed to the decline in the birth rate. Most emigrants did not return, although migration has now balanced.

Lithuania itself is to blame for emigration trends and has not addressed them in any way during the 16 years of membership. The European Commission itself is constantly starving us of continuing social exclusion. Certainly, nothing was done to develop patriotic attachment, emotional attitude to live and work in Lithuania. Emigration normalized mainly because, roughly speaking, the demand for emigration was met. We paid for the EU financial support with Lithuanian citizens prepared by Lithuania – hardworking and easily integrated ones. 

Extinction: value wars

Demographics are also directly affected by so-called “value wars” which focus on the concept of the family, gender roles, the promotion and upbringing of children, and other related issues. The non-EU has started and the non-EU will end value wars, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that it was the EU that chose to become a political-value union that became very active in these wars on one Marxist side of these wars. It is no coincidence that the European Union was envisioned by such “unity and diversity” by its early visionaries such as Altiero Spinelli, on whose grave Merkel, Renzi, and Hollande lay flowers by chance. 

It is the Marxist camp and its proposed vision of the family that is unfavorable to the attempts of some states to promote large families, to pay attention to the family and parenthood as a priority of life, and so on. Although there is a wide-ranging disagreement between EU countries and citizens on family issues, the EU itself announced last year in the person of the European Commission quite openly that it was pursuing one thing – the Marxist in particular, i.e. for the liberation of minorities – the establishment of an approach to the family in the EU countries. And before that, for many years it was the largest financial sponsor of LGBT organizations in various countries.

A state without sovereignty? 

The third and most complex threat is the threat of sovereignty loss. States exist as the right of nations to self-determination, and this s based at a time when each nation knows what its cultural norms are the corresponding legal norms. The state loses its meaning when the nation can no longer decide on many issues that are most important to it. I fully understand that Lithuanian society is so apolitical that it does not have the question of sovereignty. Andrius Kubilius‘ thesis that it makes sense in the managed areas that the EU cannot interfere in, and that we should transfer those areas to the EU, is scandalous, but it is certainly not scandalous in Lithuanian society. But even with that in mind the problem still exists.

When the desires of the elite do not coincide with the desires of the people

EU studies agree that the EU responds to crises that shake it by offering deeper integration. WE have seen this with the euro crisis, the migrant crisis, partly with the Brexit crisis, so far we are looking for something else, in addition to the division of money, to offer it in response to the COVID-19 crisis. However, in contrast to Lithuanian society, sovereignty is valuable to the societies of the countries that maintain the EU, and the benefits of the EU must outweigh the loss of sovereignty. 

Over the past decade surveys by the Pew Research Center, YouGov and other researches have made it clear that there is a significant increase in the number of people in various old EU countries that would (a) want a membership referendum; (b) are not sure that they will vote in favor of further membership. Nowhere did those numbers reach a majority for withdrawal, but in many places, they matched the numbers in the UK before Cameron announced the referendum. In 2017 Macron said that if he allowed such a referendum in France, the French would vote to leave the EU. After EU leaders blocked aid to Italy last spring, there is no need to prove the EU’s thesis of instability – EU representatives themselves say it is necessary to agree on new aid packages if we do not want the South to leave the EU. 

This is important for us because Lithuania needs the EU and Lithuania is probably the last country to want to leave the European Union. But for that, it has to be united and strong. What becomes questionable is the growing gap between the desire of EU leaders for further deeper integration and the desire of old EU societies to keep decisions at home. If we are interested in the survival of the EU, it is needed in a way that would appeal to societies that view the EU much more critically than Lithuanians. 

EU values

Lithuania needs an EU that makes the right choice between political / value union and benefit / economic union. The EU must take one decision in principle -the direction of development – and stick to it. The attempt to become a political union with and emphasizing common values is disastrous in many ways. Firstly, it is not possible to create an EU-like political community (demo) without promoting multiculturalism in Europe (“unity in diversity”) and without developing European loyalty at the expense of national loyalties. Secondly, as a political union, the EU has no values to agree on and defend in principle. Looking at the declarations, the EU’s values are democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. However, when specific situations need to be addressed, EU bodies and members are unable to agree on their content and defend them both in the Eastern Neighborhood and within the EU. Looking at the actual EU policy, it is unanimously pursuing the project of creating a “new man”, fighting for the rights of minorities both in the Eastern Neighborhood and within the EU. However, although the “elite” agree on this, there is no European consensus at the level of societies that would allow it to be called European values. 

We need the EU as much as it creates benefits 

The EU is needed when it does things whose benefits are understood by all. The EU itself defends the same, understandable and from critical days by simple arguments of benefits. Of course, that‘s true. But after the last year‘s failure with the COVID-19 crisis it also tried to make up for it by showing its benefits. That‘s what it must do which it must confine itself to, without pretending to be what it does not exist, i.e. political-value union. In many cases, the economic arguments are objective so the EU needs to optimize in this direction, and in other areas it needs to act as “opt-in”, to not be an ideological project of claims and to not impose values on those who do not see the benefits of that. In the context of COVID-19, there are more opportunities than necessary for the EU to function effectively.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Lithuania Tribune.

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