On Oct. 2, Jerzy Buzek, European Parliament president and former activist of the Polish anti-Communist Solidarity movement, did find common language with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
VILNIUS - European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek paid a one-day official visit to Lithuania on Oct. 2, traveling from Riga where he was also on an official visit. Buzek's task was to show solidarity with this region's countries in a time of economic crisis.
While in Riga, Buzek, former prime minister of Poland and activist of the anti-Communist Solidarity movement, met with Russian-speaking demonstrators who demanded easier access to Latvian citizenship; in Vilnius, several Polish-origin protesters demanded the right to have street name plates in Polish and the right to write their names with Polish characters in their official documents. The latter demand also includes the writing of numerous Polish diacritic signs, which usually is avoided in official documents outside Poland.
Buzek came to talk with the protesters, holding slogans in Lithuanian and Polish with the inscription "Europe, protect our rights!" in front of the Lithuanian presidential palace. Demonstrators told him that they do not feel as living in a free country. Buzek asked them not to exaggerate.
"I guess, it was a little bit different situation some 25 years ago. There is never absolute happiness. We'll have a paradise after our death," Buzek told the demonstrators.
The issue of names using Polish characters was also raised by a Polish journalist during a joint press conference of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Buzek. "I can only say that Madame President is ready to help in this problem," Buzek said.
"We'll solve all problems of all minorities if some questions arise. Lithuania and international organizations did not find any violation in this issue. The Constitutional Court is deciding the issue of names [their writing in Polish characters] now. When it will make its ruling, I'll propose a draft for the parliament," Grybauskaite said.
Buzek was tougher on the Lithuanian Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effects of Public Information, which was described as homophobic by international human rights organizations. "My working group will propose improvements for this law at the end of this month," Grybauskaite said.
Grybauskaite thanked Buzek for support in organizing the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact at the European Parliament.
Buzek arrived in Vilnius on the very same day Ireland held its second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. "We prefer to be well-organized, not worse-organized. With Lisbon it would be better," Buzek said when the result of the Irish referendum was not yet known. On Oct. 2, Irish voters voted "yes" to the Lisbon Treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty will introduce the post of president of the European Council, for two-and-a-half years, replacing the current system where countries take turns at being president for six months at a time. A new post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs will be introduced as well as voting in the European Council based on a double majority of 55 percent of member states, accounting for 65 percent of the EU's population. A number of areas, for example in the field of justice and home affairs, will be moved from the national domain to powers of the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice.
There is not much euroskepticism in Lithuania, whose finances would be in ruins if not for EU funds. According to estimates by the Lithuanian Finance Ministry, this year 30.8 percent of Lithuanian state revenue will be money from the EU funds, while next year this figure should be even higher by several percentage points. Talking to Lithuanian officials in Vilnius, Buzek spoke in favor of easier rules to introduce the euro currency, although it is rather the domain of decisions by the European Commission, not the European Parliament. Lithuanian officials hope to introduce the euro in 2013-2015, though some optimists, like Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, say it could be done earlier.