Lithuania and Poland: together apart
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