“Our eastern neighbour does not use Lithuanian, Polish or Russian citizens but particular politicians to achieve its goals”, said the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė in an interview for “Kurier Wileński” (A Polish journal in Lithuania)
Your Excellence, recently you have been often visiting the Vilnius and Šalčininkai Municipalities, why?
The state has been giving too little attention to those regions for an extended period of time. The situation of the south-eastern region of Lithuania is unique with regard to social, political and economic status. This area requires more active interest from the government and more intense dialogue with its inhabitants.
Every Lithuanian citizen is important, regardless of nationality or place of residence. This is why I always insist on meeting with the locals. I want to listen to them, know how they live, how they cope, what problems they have.
Rich, own cultural traditions are the hallmarks of the Vilnius and Šalčininkai Municipalities. Some of them are unique. For example, no other Lithuanian region can be as proud from designs and lively traditions of palm weaving. I presented an exquisite, tri-colour palm, made by the Vilnius Region palm makers to the Pope Francis during his inauguration in 2013.
Can the inhabitants of the Vilnius Region count on bigger involvement of the government in its social and economic development?
The state is interested in equal development of all of the Lithuanian regions. The geographic situation of the south-eastern region is very beneficial. Proximity of the country’s capital means enormous potential for development. Unfortunately, as we can see, it is not adequately utilised.
Both regions are under the state’s mean regarding the rates of unemployment, average pay and attraction of direct investments. First of all, we should focus on the Šalčininkai Municipality. Here, a bigger effort is required to better the social and economic situation of the local-government. For example, in this year, there are twice as many people using social services compared with the country’s average. This situation has to change. It lies in competences of the government and local-government.
As far as last year I set a target for the government to pay more attention to the south-eastern region of Lithuania. Currently, the government already has an approved, precise plan of action aimed at making it easier for those two municipalities to compete for particular project funding. Things are going well, but this is only a one-time case.
This area requires continuous attention. This is why I support the initiative of creation of a special foundation for the development of the south-eastern Lithuania or of a special improvement program for this region. Similar undertakings help in diminishing social differences and creating more places of employment. They also strengthen the relations between people and make our citizens feel better and more secure. There should be more such initiatives.
What, in your opinion, should the Poles in Lithuania do in order to better the Polish-Lithuanian relations?
Lithuania is our shared home. One of the most positive aspects of our country is that Poles, Lithuanians, Russians and citizens of other nationalities all together live in harmony and cooperate with each other.
There are plenty of examples. This week I am visiting a camp organised by the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union which this year is situated in the Šalčininkai Municipality. Among many Lithuanian patriots, participants of the camp include citizens with Polish and Russian ethnicity. In this year’s camp youth from Ukraine will be also present. It is a perfect occasion for children to get to know each other, discuss views on their Lithuania and share opinions on how to improve their country.
We have seen many examples how representatives of our national minorities strengthen our country with their personal effort. Such thing obliges us even more to tighten mutual relations with the national minorities living in Lithuania.
Tensions between Lithuanian citizens of Lithuanian and Polish ethnicity are often created artificially for the political purposes. They are intentionally stirred up from the outside or by the politicians for their personal agenda. Ethnicity and identity of a human being becomes a political tool. Such processes are very harmful for the whole country. We should make every effort so our citizens live in harmony. We first must give an example that we honestly strive for it.
What Your Excellence thinks about a suggestion that our big eastern neighbour, for its own purposes, uses people of the Polish ethnicity living in the Lithuanian Republic?
Our eastern neighbour does not use Lithuanian, Polish or Russian citizens but particular politicians to achieve its goals.
Above all we should not allow for manipulation and disinformation. It depends only on us, how well we can oppose stirring up conflicts.
We all, Lithuanians, Poles, Russians have a common purpose: creation of a strong, stable country in which every citizen feels safe. And only by a collective effort we can achieve this goal.
Author of the interview: Robert Mickiewicz
Source of the original: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2015/08/10/dalia-grybauskaite-my-wszyscy-i-litwini-i-polacy-i-rosjanie-mamy-wspolny-cel/
Tłumaczenie by Marcin Wus w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Marcin Wus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.