In the second half of 2013, Lithuania will preside over the Council of the European Union. It will be a historic chance for Lithuanian politicians to get out, at least temporarily, from the shadows of their country’s provincial existence in the EU’s outskirts. Will they have enough intellectual capability for it? That is the question, taking into account the cronyism of Lithuanian political elite that influences also the formation of its assisting staff, where intellectually pale personalities usually find their place.
There is one thing that Lithuania can really do during its EU presidency: to try to revive the spirit of the EU’s founding fathers, who created the united Europe due to their desire of peace and their goal to guarantee the protection of human rights, while the economics were just a tool to achieve these tasks. At the start of the Lithuanian presidency over the EU Council and at the end of it, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite will give her speeches in the European Parliament. It would be good if her speech would be interesting not only for English-language Brussels-based newspapers specializing in the EU affairs. During these difficult times for the EU – the EU’s hardships provoke the world’s focus on Europe – she has an opportunity to make her speech as famous as Winston Churchill’s Zurich speech of 1946 when he urged to “build a kind of the United States of Europe” and to make all Europe “as free and as happy as Switzerland” by stating “in this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living.”
Grybauskaite should emphasize human rights as the EU’s basic value. The recent EU advice to Cyprus (it was later revoked), which included suggestion regarding confiscation of some parts of Cyprus-based deposits smaller than 100,000 euros, showed that dangerous Bolshevik-style thinking can appear at the EU’s very top – this suggestion was in breach of EU regulations guaranteeing total security for bank deposits below 100,000 euros across the entire EU. The EU should respect its own laws.
Grybauskaite should avoid going into detailed specifics by mentioning the boring moralistic preaching of international bureaucracy and its sponsored NGOs, which all the TV channels broadcast 24 hours a day. She would be better off saying that the EU should allow for each EU citizen absolutely everything that does no harm to other citizens – each person should have his or her total freedom regarding his or her own mind, body and soul, in the case when it makes no obvious harm to another person (a reason why illegal drugs, or at least the hard ones, should remained banned – drug user can cause harm to other people) while nobody has a right to question such freedom on the basis of religion, moral views, tradition, public interest, aesthetical and cultural preferences or something else.
Grybauskaite also should speak Angela Merkel-style in favor of closer cooperation on fiscal and banking issues in the eurozone – the lack of the centralized supervision over the eurozone’s national budgets and banking systems caused the euro problems. She should also force herself (although she represents the country, which could compete with Latvia for the title of the champion of wildest capitalism in the EU) to say that social solidarity, along with human rights, should be placed at the core of EU policy. The world’s enthusiasm over Pope Francis’ statements on the poverty issue shows that poverty is the main obstacle towards the Churchill-mentioned “simple joys and hopes which make life worth living”.
That is the recipe for the speech about the EU worth living in it. Forbes.com came to a similar conclusion about a recipe of happiness, analyzing the research of the Legatum Institute, a London-based nonpartisan think tank, which set out to rank the happiest countries in the world.
“Being an electoral democracy is almost a given - of the top 25 most prosperous countries, only Singapore and Hong Kong aren’t. Being small helps, too. Big countries have so many disparate groups (ethnic, geographic, civic) vying against each other that it’s hard for true social cohesion and trust to emerge, and harder to maintain high levels of safety. Among countries with populations of more than 150 million, the United States ranks the highest, at No. 10. What else? They are all borderline socialist states, with generous welfare benefits and lots of redistribution of wealth. Yet they don’t let that socialism cross the line into autocracy. Civil liberties are abundant (consider decriminalized drugs and prostitution in the Netherlands). There are few restrictions on the flow of capital or of labor. Legatum’s scholars point out that Denmark, for example, has little job protection, but generous unemployment benefits. So business owners can keep the right number of workers, while workers can have a safety net while they muck around looking for that fulfilling job,” Forbes.com wrote earlier this year analyzing the Legatum-made list of the world’s happiest countries, which is topped by Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, and similar type of countries.