- June 11, 2013
J. Narkevič, R. Tamašunienė: Lithuanian president divides rather than unites society
The right-wing circles and especially the radical right-wing are delighted, whereas the majority have been left with a bad taste in their mouths – this is how the Tuesday address of the Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, is judged. It is observable especially in the opinions of commentators and politicians. “This is the best of the annual speeches Mrs President has made so far,” said Andrius Kubilius, the former, conservative Prime Minister of Lithuania. Others come to his aid: the former Minister of Finance and political scientists favourably disposed to the President’s policy, among others, Kęstutis Girnius, who defined the President’s speech as “patriotic and optimistic.” “After hearing Mrs President’s address, one has an impression that it will take time until Lithuania becomes a mature democracy. The rhetoric used by Dalia Grybauskaitė is characteristic of an authoritarian personality and directed at people who miss the “heavy-handed rule,” claims the Lietuvos rytas daily, referring to a psychologist’s opinion.
“The President once used to search for the guilty, at present she is searching for enemies” – this is the title of a recent article published by the 15min.lt portal. Andriusa Minas, a specialist in the field of social communication, emphasizes the President’s tendency to slalom between the notions of “I” and “we.” “Whenever the President boasts about the country’s achievements and positive changes, she speaks in the first person singular. When she talks about corruption and other social ills that have to be fought, she immediately starts speaking in the first person plural. In general, commentators observe that the Lithuanian president tries to avoid mentioning the topics on which in Lithuania there is no general consensus or on which social opinions differ. The President would most willingly bring up only the topics that do not cause much controversy.
That is why the President’s references to Polish postulates in Lithuania make people sad. Dalia Grybauskaitė has criticised, among others, preferential treatment during maturity exams in Lithuanian and accused the ruling coalition of making the Lithuanian language a hostage of the situation. The defender of the morality of the Lithuanian language dropped a broad hint at the Polish authorities, who, allegedly, have been closing down Lithuanian schools in Poland. In her address the President said: “The Lithuanian language is becoming a hostage of political negotiations of the ruling coalition. The controversial maturity exam in Lithuanian leads to other demands, which in turn divide the Lithuanian society. In the meantime, Lithuanian schools beyond the Lithuanian border are being closed down.”
Commentators have noted the very unambiguous and negative attitude of the Lithuanian president toward Polish-Lithuanian relations: “Her fourth address was exceptionally anti-Polish, occasionally nationalistic and thus pseudopatriotic, considering the President’s biography. Grybauskaitė has chosen to incite ethnic emotions at all costs, thereby activating her electorate. This is very dangerous for Lithuania as a European country. Nationalisms and phobias have contributed to Lithuania’s regression for a long time,” said Rimvydas Valatka, criticising the President’s address in an audition broadcast by the national public radio LRT.
Poles treat the President’s address with reserve. In general, in the context of Polish-Lithuanian affairs, no one has expected anything good from her address. “Knowing the President’s former activity and attitude, one could have expected that,” said Jaroslav Narkevič, the Deputy-Speaker of the Sejmas. “The growing distance towards Poland as well as the President’s obvious dislike for the neighbouring country make people sad,” said Rita Tamašunienė, the starost of the parliamentary group of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania.
In the video below we present full comments made by Rita Tamašunienė and Jaroslav Narkevič on the President’s Tuesday address and the aspects of her speech concerning Polish-Lithuanian relations.
Tłumaczenie by Elwira Łykus w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Elwira Łykus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.