On Friday in the Seimas of the Lithuania the conference “Security of Central and Eastern Europe in the face of hybrid dangers” was held. The main speaker at the conference was Anna Fotyga, MEP from the Law and Justice, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence of the European Parliament and former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was held on the initiative of MEP Petras Auštrevičius.
“The visit is aimed at defining common security challenges of both countries, actually across geographical borders, in democratic Europe. But equally serious matter is to specify why it is so difficult to promote easily such an approach and to address the issue of security in the first place” – said Anna Fotyga in an interview with zw.lt. As she stated, her visit includes equally important talks and meetings with Lithuanian partners where, among other things, the issue of Polish minority in Lithuania will be discussed.
“I remember the last visit of President Kaczyński in Lithuania. Unfortunately, circumstances were not positive at that time and that is why I have not come here, to Lithuania, since his death seven years ago. I had to overcome regret and realize that security priorities are more important. However, it is beyond any doubt that I want Poles in Lithuania to be finally treated as equal citizens of this country” – emphasized Fotyga.
“I know that there were cases when the West settled its own issues, excluding us. We cannot say that global security of the state prevails over security of Poles in Lithuania” – she added. She estimated that from the legal perspective there is still much to be done to ensure Polish rights in Lithuania and actions taken by Vilnius authorities are necessary.
She noticed that the report on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties, which was accepted by the European Parliament in November last year, was the subject of one of the lengthiest negotiations in the history of European Parliament – there was lack of mutual understanding between representatives of many countries, as to why this issue is topical. Even when a compromise was reached with representatives of different factions, authors of the document were still not positive about vote results until the last moment – eventually 304 MEPs voted for the report and 179 were against. Polish MEP noted that during her work on the document she efficiently cooperated with Lithuanian politician Petras Auštrevičius who was so called “rapporteur – shadow” of the report.
“Aggressive information policy of Russia was evident before the Crimea was annexed and other actions were taken in Ukraine by Russia. Russia uses sophisticated information strategies to deal with western societies, and thus makes them less resistant to hybrid dangers” – said MEP. She claimed that during her first term in the EP in 2004-2006 as well as later, when she was the Polish Foreign Minister, western states were more aware of threats coming from Russia. “Now the situation is deteriorating. No one objected when we were talking about threats from the South, from Islamic organizations and others, while the stance towards Russia was different. This means that Russia has a great influence on western democracies and may be represented even in the European Parliament” – she noted.
According to conservative Rasa Juknevičienė, countries of Central and Eastern Europe are the first to be dealt with by Władimir Putin in his attempt to fight against the West, but this is not his ultimate goal.
“The goal is the Western democracy. I think that the turning point was Putin’s address delivered in Munich in 2007 – this was kind of a declaration of war on the West. At the same time, he insisted that the West did not allow Russia to join them. Meanwhile, before Crimea was annexed, talking about threats from Russia was seen as politically incorrect behaviour by western countries. We were called Russophobes and paranoiacs” – stated Juknevičienė.
“Russia’s actions are aimed at creating havoc. All methods are good – even similar to KGB or ones that make use of criminal groups to achieve a goal. These are the attempts to undermine our values and good relations between states. In that situation politicians should not be the only ones to try to deal with that problem. All together – with the media and society – should wonder how not to help disseminate disinformation” – stressed Lithuanian member of the Seimas.
Beside hybrid dangers, much attention was devoted to Polish-Lithuanian relations.
“10 years ago our relations were based on a strategy, vision. When we were united, we could reach a higher level, we were a force to be reckoned with. All we can do now is to react to the situations created by somebody else. In the meantime, Kreml’s primary goal in the region is to damage our relations and this goal is achieved quite efficiently” – noticed Žygimantas Pavilionis, member of the Seimas.
He added that rebuilding good relations is a moral obligation of current politicians. “We should not treat our relations instrumentally. We should see Poland and Lithuania as a family. In a family there are ups and downs, but family members never betray each other and are doomed to live together so they have to seek agreement” – said Pavilionis. The need to restore Polish-Lithuanian cooperation was also mentioned by Gediminas Kirkilas, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas.
Input into the discussion was also made by Jarosław Narkiewicz, member of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance.
“One of the responses to threats related to hybrid war is good Polish-Lithuanian relations. In Lithuania there are probably no people with Polish nationality who are against sustaining good relations. The question is why we meet: simply to meet, to consider the situation, as we have been doing for 15 years with no result, or to state what approach we should adopt” – said Narkiewicz. He faulted Lithuanian politicians for manipulating poll results, which showed that Poles in Lithuania have pro-Russian views. “No analogical poll was carried out in reference to respondents having Lithunian nationality, which reflects intolerant attitude towards a specific group of citizens” – claimed the member of EAPL-CFA.
Security objectives of Lithuania and Poland are similar and should be important both for Polish minority in Lithuania and Lithuanian minority in Poland. President Lech Kaczyński wanted us to meet in person, to speak with one voice, regardless of differences. He believed that Poles should be loyal cirizens of Lithuania, and at the same time Lithuania should perceive Poles as equal citizens of the state. Poland should be open towards Lithuania, and at the same time Lithuania should try to understand that Poles living here are not aggressors. This is how relations should be built. Sometimes one good step forward is enough to push ahead with the matters” – concluded Anna Fotyga.
Tłumaczenie by Grzegorz Gaura w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Grzegorz Gaura within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.