The entire past decade has been akin to an unending challenge to the European Union. Europe is greatly behind and likely is losing the technology competition against the world’s two largest economies – the USA and the growing China. Furthermore we can observe the beginnings of Eurodisintegration: as someone pointed out accurately, first we had Grexit, then it was Brexit and now there are ever louder talks of Lexit, Robertas Dargis writes on lžinios.lt.
That said, surveys show that despite all the worries, Lithuanians support their country’s membership in the EU. 88% of the country’s citizens believe that membership is beneficial and 68% view membership as positive. We are nigh the greatest Euroenthusiasts in the entire European Union, but have we considered to what extent Lithuania is a European country and how much each one of us espouses core European values?
88% of Lithuanians believe that EU membership brings benefits – are we not hostages of EU financing and did we not become enthusiastic supporters only as thanks for the funding provided? What will happen after 2020 when this flow of funding significantly declines or perhaps completely dries up? What are those 88% of Euroenthusiasts actually thinking when they agree with the statement that “membership in the EU brought benefits”? Do we care about European values or just European money?
We often speak of our core values: freedom, independence, but at the same time forget another word: responsibility. Have our people also become responsible for themselves upon becoming free? Without the responsibility for ourselves and our own environment, we cannot reach all the good that was the aim of our welfare. I believe that the development of this principle is only at its early stages in Lithuania. And at the same time it is being used in Lithuania because if there are those who wish to be taken care of, there will always be those who will say “Yes, I can care for you, but grant me powers and authority and I’ll make you happy.”
Municipality is the basis of state development in Europe. I have been speaking of granting municipalities powers for the past 15 years. Instead of delegating decisions to the central government, people should resolves 85% of their problems through municipalities. However up to now we continue to copy the Soviet model of “democratic” centralism. The centre decides what to do and the periphery obeys. It is necessary to implement a fundamental principle of Western democracy – real municipal rule with real direct representation. As long as regional leaders do not have legislatively delegated responsibility for the basis of their region’s development – economy, they cannot influence the future of their regions.
Democracy, market economy and private property protection are core European values. However are they really upheld in Lithuania? As for democratic distribution of power, does it work in Lithuania today? How much supremacy of law and legislation do we have, to what extent do we respect the institute of private property. There are already changes, but business is still faced with problems. An entire 95% of court cases between state and private property owners ends to the benefit of the state. The public sector does not feel the need to pay for work performed and services granted in time because it knows well that businesses are hostage to the current situation where they can change nothing and thus have to cope with the existing situation.
How do regular citizens today understand the market economy? For most Europeans it would be incomprehensible, why government meetings would be held over the price of cauliflowers. Our citizens still often complain that the state is not regulating prices, not setting wages. People still do not grasp how the market economy works, but we cannot blame them for it. Our education system simply does not reflect the issues of the day.
The economic activity of an individual in creating added value is still presented as an evil in school. Even in the academic community’s discussions on children’s education I notice lingering views that added value is just what was described in Marx’s Das Kapital. Investment into school system changes and teacher training are one of the fundamental preconditions for a continued European direction.
How do we understand democracy today? Have we already shed the Soviet perception that “democracy is what the main democrat decides”? Democracy is a sharing of power: neither politicians, nor heads of state, nor the business or academic elite can have absolute power. The future of the state will depend on whether the centres of power manage to come to agreement over the country’s future, but primarily they must realise their responsibility.
Today there are ever more talks about yet another worrying trend – the bureaucrat monolith. Traditional political discussion about the future of the state was always based on ideas and political views, but today there are ever more bureaucrats entering power and we are already lacking state governance based on a traditional understanding of politics. We see what views dominate – conformism and ability to survive in any political field, seeking to hold onto one’s post, this is already becoming a prevalent trend. We have forgotten (or not yet realised) that the state can be strong only thanks to its ideas and vision, something an increasingly strong bureaucratic layer simply doesn’t have.
Currently Europe and the world is considering what influence globalisation and technological progress will have on our futures. It is very difficult to guess how the public will change during this breakthrough, thus we need to change our thinking and perspectives, something we are still not preparing the public for.
We lack speed in our changes and it will not be granted by any EU support. I understand that the question of “how will we live after 2020” is important, but it will be completely meaningless if we continue to only think about money and not values. When government interference into private citizen’s lives or (even worse) property causes as much uproar as did the cauliflower, we will realise that we live in a European way.
Robertas Dargis, president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists