O P I N I O N
by Leonidas Donskis
The European Parliament recently reacted by way of a resolution to a piece of draft legislation by a member of the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, Petras Gražulis. If enacted, his legislation would have de jure expelled from public life homosexual citizens in the country. Since then, several comments have already rung out in our public space in Lithuania, whose essence, despite differences in levels of nuance, is similar: that the European Parliament is allegedly interfering too minutely and grandly in the affairs of the Republic of Lithuania; that it is allegedly violating the principle of subsidiarity; that it is applying double standards because it was so careful in commenting upon the sins of France in the sphere of human rights but ruthlessly attacks the new member states, first and foremost Lithuania.
Is the European Parliament actually rudely interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state, merely by reminding that state of the collection of laws and set of values which that state, in seeking membership in the European Union, unconditionally adopted and pledged to honor as its own political values, and later, having safely joined the club, began to freely revise according to the needs of internal politics, or for the purpose of openly appeasing very influential portions of the Far Right in their current ruling coalition?
And is this the signal we are sending about Lithuania: a reliable and predictable strategic European and Western partner faithful to the fundamental values of Europe? Or are we to remain unclear and in denial about the discreditation of Lithuania that is underway, about our nation’s inability to finally stop dancing to the music of our antisemites and homophobes as policies and politics are construed or constructed according to their sentiments and agenda, a development that will soon cost us even minimal political respect as well as economic and intellectual attention?
The argument that the expression of the European Parliament’s position on the human rights situation, and its interpretation, in the legislation of one EU member state, and the accompanying request that our country’s president, parliament and the European Commission be aware of and oppose homophobic and discriminatory initiatives, somehow constitutes interference in the affairs of another state, is simply silly. The passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania is the property of the Republic of Lithuania. But the citizen and his rights are truly not such property.
What if the question of reintroducing the death penalty was already in the phase of introduced legislation and consideration? Would we then also say that the EU’s reaction was politically illiterate or semi-literate (a turn of phrase which my esteemed colleague, the famous Lithuanian European parliamentarian Professor Vytautas Landsbergis allowed himself)? Or that the European Parliament had turned stupid, as political analyst Kęstutis Girnius recently said in an article on the web?
Allow me to recall that we were accepted into the European Union on the unquestionable condition that we annul the death penalty and decriminalize homosexuality. That’s what we did. So let’s ask ourselves: How did it happen that Europe’s unconditional respect for human rights and liberal political values did not shock us then and did not pose a danger to our sovereignty, statehood or national dignity, but today all of a sudden it has begun to demean and oppress us?
No one forced us to join the European Union. Neither is anyone forcing us to be there now, if it seems now to us and our political class and political analysts that we have joined a union similar to the Soviet Union, differing only in slight nuances. If so, then the question arises: Has the time come for us to begin considering the question of strategic partnership with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States?
Actually, such thoughts have already been expressed in Lithuania. All the more so since our Far Right, who today rule the country, have begun to express their attitude toward the West and liberal democracy as being merely the mirror image or a slightly modified variant of Putinism — a mix of nationalism, xenophobia and the police state.
With all the dogs unleashed on the EU and EP we have somehow forgotten our very mundane and true problems. Perhaps we would do better to think about what is occurring in an EU and NATO country where up until today the parliament does not control the state-within-a-state that our State Security Department has become, carrying out intrigues and meddling in our internal politics — even though this destroys the logic and operation of the democratic state. The State Security Department must be reformed and turned into a fully civilian and depoliticized institution.
But somehow state security services fail to notice that some of the members of the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, and even advisors to the highest politicians, harbor neo-Nazi views. Perhaps it is time to worry about the stench from the rising tide of fascist ideas and interpretations of history in our political life and media instead?
I won’t belabor what the British call “adding insult to injury”. But those words of Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, whom I deeply and sincerely respect, about the “semi-literate resolution” by the European Parliament, left me with the impression that perhaps even entirely unwittingly a simplistic sort of moral monopoly was sought: our stupidity is our own internal matter. We will scold our trouble makers, not you. Let us remember now that this European Parliament resolution was drafted by the known European human rights champions EPU members Renate Weber and Sophie in’t Veld). It was later supplemented by further EP comment that was made in direct response to Petras Gražulis on what he as an incontestable authority on politics and public life felt obliged to say,
It is even stranger for me to read the view of Kęstutis Girnius, who does not usually throw words around irresponsibly, that the composition of the European Parliament and its members’ occupation with outside and petty affairs is the best explanation for why the EP became stupid and criticized Lithuania during the earliest phase of our country’s adopting such legislation. He thinks that this is best demonstrated by the composition of the European Parliament’s Lithuania Working Group.
Kęstutis Girnius can think and write as he pleases about Lithuanian europarliamentarians and about me. I am not going to rush to deny his opinion. I will not speak about myself, much less about my colleagues. But if Mr Girnius would have an opportunity to speak with or even hear, once, such leading European MEPs as Guy Verhofstadt, Andrew Duff or Charles Goerens, he would understand how silly his words sound. Such words are not worthy of him and testify to obvious error or creative failure.
So who was stupid, the European Parliament or us?
It wasn’t the European Parliament.
Original Lithuanian text is at: http://blog.delfi.lt/donskis/8359/ (2 February 2011).
This English translation is by Geoff Vasil with input from the author. By permission of Leonidas Donskis.