Lithua­nia and Poland: to­gether apart

The Baltic Times - - FRONT PAGE - Rokas Tracevskis

My ad­vice for Lithua­nia re­gard­ing Poland: keep close NATO part­ner­ship ties with Poland and, at the same time, go into the EU core with­out any doubts, re­gard­less to Poland as well as Swe­den and other non-eu­ro­zone coun­tries.

Lithua­nia and Poland – which, dur­ing many cen­turies, used to be close al­lies or harsh en­e­mies, some­times al­lies-en­e­mies, in the past – are des­tined to be ‘to­gether apart’ in the near fu­ture. On March 1, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion out­lined five sce­nar­ios for the fu­ture of the Euro­pean Union. It is ob­vi­ous that the EU will de­velop ac­cord­ing to sce­nario No. 3, be­cause the sce­nario got sup­port from all three Benelux prime min­is­ters (they were the first, back in Fe­bru­ary, who pro­posed a multi-speed Europe sce­nario), Em­manuel Macron, who won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with a euro fed­er­al­ist pro­gramme, and most im­por­tantly, Angela Merkel – the Eu­ro­zone coun­tries will in­te­grate fur­ther: the Eu­ro­zone will have its fi­nance min­is­ter, its own bud­get and its own par­lia­ment, while non-eu­ro­zone EU Mem­ber States will be en­cour­aged by the pros­per­ing so­cially-ori­ented Eu­ro­zone to in­tro­duce the Euro and join in.

It means that Lithua­nia will be at the core of the EU, de­spite all the mum­bling by Lithua­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Li­nas Linke­vi­cius, who de­scribes his po­si­tion in the fol­low­ing way: ‘We are against a multi-speed EU, be­cause some EU Mem­ber States can leave, but we want to be at the core of the EU, among the best.’ This diplo­matic ac­ro­bat­ics is prob­a­bly caused by his wish to please ev­ery­body: mostly rather eu­rophile Pres­i­dent Dalia Gry­bauskaite, as well as not-so-euro en­thu­si­as­tic ar­chaic Lithua­nian pa­tri­ots and their pho­bia of Euro fed­er­al­ism (they are scat­tered through­out all the Lithua­nian po­lit­i­cal par­ties), non-eu­ro­zone Poland (its gov­ern­ment is rather “Euro hos­tile” than “Euroscep­tic” if to quote for­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Alek­sander Kwas­niewski, al­though he ex­ag­ger­ated a lit­tle bit), Ber­lin and Brus­sels. Poland, de­spite fears of Linke­vi­cius, will not leave the EU, be­cause the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion, ex­cept some part of its youth, is the most pro-eu pop­u­la­tion in the EU, ac­cord­ing to all so­ci­o­log­i­cal sur­veys: though it has its specifics – more than 70 per cent of the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion is against Eu-re­quired re­lo­ca­tion of mi­grants from Italy and Greece. Kwas­niewski is right by point­ing out in his in­ter­view of June 19 to the Pol­ish Newsweek edi­tor-inchief, that Poland never was re­garded in the West as a very tol­er­ant coun­try, and now Poland is re­garded by Western Euro­peans as not a very Euro­pean coun­try. By the way, to those who com­plain about the lack of democ­racy in Poland: at least Poland has the most free me­dia land­scape in the EU – there is a com­pletely po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect (ac­cord­ing to Western stan­dards on such themes as Is­lam, LGBT, fem­i­nism) gov­ern­ment-con­trolled or pro-gov­ern­ment Pol­ish me­dia and there is the Pol­ish to­tal and rad­i­cal op­po­si­tion­sup­port­ing Western main­stream-style me­dia of mostly Western cap­i­tal, al­though both sides would be happy to si­lence each other for­ever.

In Fe­bru­ary, dur­ing the panel de­bate at the 53rd Mu­nich Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence “The Fu­ture of the [Euro­pean] Union: United or Di­vided?” – sit­ting to­gether with Ger­man Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaue­ble, Pol­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Wi­told Waszczykowski and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Vice Pres­i­dent Frans Tim­mer­mans (the lat­ter two, on stage, ex­changed bit­ter re­marks about the sit­u­a­tion of democ­racy in Poland) – Gry­bauskaite, un­like Schaue­ble (who is far from an ul­tra-pas­sion­ate Euro Fed­er­al­ist of the scale of Em­manuel Macron), spoke against the idea of a mul­ti­speed EU. Thank God Gry­bauskaite changed her mind: al­ready in March, dur­ing the EU sum­mit in Rome cel­e­brat­ing the 60th an­niver­sary of the Treaties of Rome (they laid the foun­da­tions for the EU), Gry­bauskaite told jour­nal­ists that Lithua­nia should be at the EU’S core, among the EU’S best (which ac­tu­ally means a multi-speed EU: the elite Eu­ro­zone and the rest of non-eu­ro­zone EU States of var­i­ous lev­els of so­cio-eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal marginal­ity in the EU con­text).

Great, the Eu­ro­zone’s deeper in­te­gra­tion is a chance for so­cial, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural break­through for Lithua­nia. The Lithua­nian elites, mostly due to his­tory-re­lated rea­sons, are quite pro­vin­cial and not of the high­est in­tel­lec­tual level. There­fore, some greater share of pan-eu rule might be help­ful for the peo­ple of Lithua­nia. For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­stat data (Gini co­ef­fi­cient), in­equal­ity of in­come in Lithua­nia is big­ger than in any other EU State (only EU neigh­bours, such as Turkey or Ser­bia, have a worse sit­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to this data) and there is not much in­di­ca­tion that the lo­cal elite has an in­ten­tion to solve this prob­lem.

“A na­tion with­out a good elite is a shitt* na­tion,” An­drzej Celin­ski, the Com­mu­nist-era Pol­ish op­po­si­tion ac­tivist and later, a cen­trist Pol­ish politi­cian, said speak­ing to Pol­ish-lan­guage Newsweek mag­a­zine edi­tor-in-chief in the in­ter­view on June 19, which was streamed via in­ter­net. Celin­ski spoke about his own na­tion, which, due to his­toric rea­sons as well, has a prob­lem with its elite. Due to their self-ab­sorbed elite, ac­cord­ing to so­cial re­search, a quar­ter of Pol­ish youth has far right views, which is rather ex­otic for Europe. Celin­ski spoke skep­ti­cally about both elites: the PM Don­ald Tuskera elite and, much harsher, about the cur­rent elite of the Law and Jus­tice Party, which now en­joys ab­so­lute power in Poland and is led by Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski, de facto head of the Pol­ish State.

Ra­doslaw Siko­rski, For­eign Min­is­ter in the Tusk gov­ern­ment, chan­nelled a huge amount of na­tion­al­ism, which ex­ists on a large scale in Pol­ish so­ci­ety, in the di­rec­tion of Lithua­nia (maybe an in­signif­i­cant lit­tle coun­try for mod­ern-day Europe, but due to his­tory, an im­por­tant coun­try for the Pol­ish psy­che, un­like for ex­am­ple, Latvia – which is why Latvia was not a tar­get for sim­i­lar Pol­ish pro­pa­ganda at­tacks). At that time, the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment fol­lowed the po­lit­i­cal line of Ger­many (now pro-gov­ern­ment pub­li­cist Stanis­law Ja­necki sug­gests that Angela Merkel could have promised the post of Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent to Tusk when he was still Pol­ish PM) and, at that time, the pro-ger­man Pol­ish pol­icy meant friendly re­la­tions with Rus­sia – Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov even was then the only (and very dear) guest at the an­nual congress of the Pol­ish diplo­mats (of course, now, af­ter Rus­sia in­vaded Ukraine, Siko­rski de­scribes Putin’s regime as a fas­cist one). Since Kaczyn­ski came to power in 2015, Rus­sia is en­emy No. 1, while Ber­lin/ Brus­sels be­came en­emy No. 2 for the Pol­ish ‘pub­lic’ me­dia (ac­tu­ally, this me­dia, un­like in the ma­jor­ity of other EU coun­tries, was never re­ally ‘pub­lic’ in Poland – it al­ways was a pro­pa­ganda tool of the dom­i­nat­ing po­lit­i­cal party). Due to the choice of Ber­lin/ Brus­sels as en­emy for pro­pa­ganda wars (their pur­pose is to boost the rul­ing party rat­ings – the specifics of its elec­torate re­quires it), there is not much need to stage a largescale pro­pa­ganda war against Lithua­nia on the Pol­ish ma­jor ‘pub­lic’ me­dia, as it used to be dur­ing the Siko­rski-era. Now the lat­ter pro­pa­ganda war is left to mar­ginal Pol­ish ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist in­ter­net sites of the far-right, which con­tinue to de­velop the themes of the spell­ing of Pol­ish names in Lithua­nia and sim­i­lar is­sues (ac­tu­ally, let­ters x, q and w would be use­ful in Lithua­nian doc­u­ments, but it has lit­tle to do with the Pol­ish pro­pa­ganda war theme). Any­way, now, for the Pol­ish pro­gov­ern­ment me­dia, the main op­pres­sor of the Pol­ish mi­nor­ity in Europe is Ger­many, where two mil­lion Poles have no Pol­ish schools at all and so on, al­though they don’t de­mand that a daugh­ter of some Kowal­ski would be in­di­cated as Kowal­ska in a Ger­man pass­port, be­cause they think that would be too much to ask from the Ger­mans. Af­ter the dis­ap­pear­ance of Siko­rski from the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment, Lithua­nian-pol­ish re­la­tions be­came less dra­matic.

Kaczyn­ski un­der­stands well the se­cu­rity chal­lenges for our re­gion. Pol­ish Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda man­aged to in­vite Don­ald Trump to Warsaw, due to the al­ter­na­tive right ide­o­log­i­cal broth­er­hood be­tween the Law and Jus­tice Party, and the cur­rent U.S. Pres­i­dent, as well as Trump’s PR need for an en­thu­si­as­tic crowd, which he would hardly find in Western Europe. Trump’s visit was use­ful for our re­gion’s se­cu­rity.

Rokas Tracevskis is a Lithua­nian jour­nal­ist and re­searcher of Lithua­ni­an­pol­ish re­la­tions.

“Lithua­nia and Poland – which, dur­ing many cen­turies, used to be close al­lies or harsh en­e­mies, some­times al­liesen­e­mies, in the past – are des­tined to be ‘to­gether apart’ in the near fu­ture. On March 1, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion out­lined five sce­nar­ios for the fu­ture of the Euro­pean Union. It is ob­vi­ous that the EU will de­velop ac­cord­ing to sce­nario No. 3, be­cause the sce­nario got sup­port from all three Benelux prime min­is­ters, also Em­manuel Macron, the French pres­i­dent, and most im­por­tantly, Angela Merkel – the Eu­ro­zone coun­tries will in­te­grate fur­ther: the Eu­ro­zone will have its fi­nance min­is­ter, its own bud­get and its par­lia­ment.” own

Rokas Tracevskis

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