VILNIUS – State institutions should pay more attention to the promotion of historic memory, culture and the Lithuanian language, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says.
In an exclusive interview with BNS Lithuania, the president also pointed to the threat of globalization-induced temptations to the Lithuanian identity, especially among young people.
The head of state believes the recent sharp discussions on historic issues show the public is looking for inspiration in the past and wants "to see heroes there, not only criminals."
"I believe that in our today's historic discourse and in general in the public life, as you can see very well, the historic past evolves into very sharp forms," the president said. "And it only shows once again that a major part of our society would like to look for inspiration from its past and see heroes there, not only criminals, so that would help us take stronger steps towards the future."
"All of that I had in mind when I spoke about the need for us to resist the temptations of globalization, that we, first of all, have to be Lithuanians and only then Europeans and everything else," Nauseda added.
He also expressed his concern over the recent public rift around the memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika, saying that the Vilnius mayor is to blame for that.
Nauseda said his initiative to establish a historic memory forum would allow bring positions together, and until then he called on municipalities to refrain from controversial decisions.
"I do understand that we will not resolve all issues during the first, second or even fifth meeting. But what I, as head of state, am really concerned about is that some 60 policies might emerge in Lithuania as different municipalities might view the historic memory as they like. And we definitely need certain rules here," the president said.
"Probably, there's no discussion today on whether Vincas Kudirka is a good hero or a bad hero. There are certain aspects we need to find the common denominator on. And my invitation would be to look for that common denominator, to look for what unites us, not divides us," Nauseda said.
The president also said more attention should be paid to the promotion of the Lithuanian language, and he also criticized the decision by former governments to merge several institutes of Lithuanian studies.
"Some time ago, we saw attempts to eviscerate the center of Lithuanian studies by splitting it and making it smaller. I don't think it's the right path, and I think we have to give more attention to our culture, language and history," Nauseda said.
A proposal by a working group to merge several institutes of the Lithuanian language, history, literature and folklore into a single Lithuanian center of humanitarian research caused outcry last year.
Government representatives said then the move was aimed at avoiding overlapping, but critics said the proposed optimization could have undermined the status of the Lithuanian language. The plan was not implemented.
In the interview with BNS Lithuania, Nauseda also said he would not ignore the public opinion when making decisions on the sexual minority situation to avoid public polarization. He also said he expressed such a position to the Swedish parliament speaker during his visit to Vilnius earlier this month when the speaker inquired about the LGBT situation.
"This was the question the speaker of the Swedish Riksdag asked me during his recent visit to Lithuania. We said we will be resolving this issue moving in the direction of ensuring human rights, nevertheless, taking into account the specific existing public position which is not homogeneous and differs considerably in major cities and rural areas," Nauseda said.
"And only afterwards we will make decisions as it's also very easy to spark major polarization in this area. And in an atmosphere of polarization, I am 105 percent convinced it's impossible to seek either the creation of a welfare state, or the implementation of any constructive objectives in general," the president said.
Nauseda said he would take into account the Catholic Church's position on value matters but it would not be the only one he would listen to when making decisions.
"The Catholic Church has always been and will be important for me. Is it the only one? No, but, with no doubt, we need to take into account the opinion of the Catholic Church, having in mind the fact that the majority of people in Lithuania are religious and are Catholics," Nauseda said.