• February 19, 2015
  • 193

The Polish Debate Club: Šimašius wants the Polish Mass in the Cathedral of Vilnius

We cannot imagine a coalition with Zuokas – almost unanimously agreed the candidates for the mayor of Vilnius from the liberal and conservative parties Remigijus Šimašius and Mykolas Majasukas, who were the guests of the yesterday’s discussion at the Polish Debate Club. The meeting was rather informal and took place in “Sakwa” coffeehouse.

“We wished that five, in our opinion, most popular candidates for the mayor of Vilnius would meet at the one discussion. Unfortunately, for different reasons, it did not happen. The discussion was attended by three candidates (Zuokas, Paluckas, Tomaszewski – editor’s note). That is why today, in an informal atmosphere, we end our series of meetings with the candidates for the mayor of Vilnius with the discussion with Remigijus Šimasius and Mykolas Majauskas” – welcomed the attendants the chairman of the Polish Debate Club Artur Zapolski.

Like always, at the beginning of the discussion both candidates presented their visions of the city, which were not much different – organizing the city’s finances, paying more attention to the sleeping districts and suburbs, resolving the urgent issues concerning education (especially the lack of places in kindergartens), and reducing the costs of heating by eliminating the monopoly of the Rubicon-Icor partnership and increasing the role of biofuel in the production of heat energy. Majauskas clearly pointed out that one of the biggest problems in Vilnius are the political-business connections. “If we want to say good bye to Zuokas, we need to say good bye to Rubicon” – pointed out the conservative. According to him, the recognition of starost offices should be restored, which in turn would become the level of the self-governance of the citizens, and not the branches of the quasi-governmental administration of the local government.

With whom after the elections?

The attendants at the meeting had a lot of questions for the guests of the Club, which concerned thermal economy, the renovation of multifamily houses, the repair work of pavements in the sleeping districts, kindergartens, preserving the schools of minorities. The attendants were also interested in whom the candidates are ready to start a coalition with after the elections, and whether they would resign from the position of mayor if their parties remained in opposition.

Remigijus Šimašius said that he will not resign from the position of mayor, and he will try to bring the opponents around to his views, or try to form a minority coalition. Both Šimašius and Majauskas rather excluded the possibility of a coalition with Artūras Zuokas. Šimašius noted that he could also hardly imagine a coalition with the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, which operates on the similar principles to the “Zuokas people”. Majauskas, on the other hand, stated that he did not see the point in being the mayor if he did not have the majority of people in council on his side; and as far as the formation of a coalition is concerned, he values the principles more than parties, therefore, he does not want to say anything on that matter before the end of the elections. He added that in certain issues concerning the world view, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania is closer to him than any other party.

The Vilnius local government should work with patents also in the Polish language

Both candidates referred to the Polish issue as well. Remigijus Šimašius distributed his leaflets in the Polish language among the attendants, in which he pointed out that he has always supported the idea of writing non-Lithuanian names and surnames in the native language, and as a Justice Minister he proposed the proper bill in the parliament. He also distributed stickers depicting his support for the action “Żółw” (“Turtle”) initiated by the blogger Tomasz Samsel. “We the liberals do not divide people according to their nationalities. The absolute majority of the problems of Vilnius concern both Lithuanians and the members of minorities equally: public transportation, high costs of heating, the renovation of multifamily houses, and the lack of places in kindergartens. Of course, there are also specific, or rather symbolic, problems concerning the minorities which should be solved. I have always supported the idea of writing names and surnames in the native language, and I do not have anything against the bilingual plates with names of streets. I believe that the Vilnius local government should work with patents not only in the Lithuanian language, but also in Polish, Russian or English since there are objective reasons and opportunities for it” – said one of the leaders of the Liberal Movement to the attendants. He also criticized the education reform from 2011. Generally, according to him, one should seek agreement. “One should do something that the president of Poland could without resistance lay flowers at the monument to the Lithuanian partisans, and the president of Lithuania would lay flowers at the monument to the soldiers of the Home Army” – explained Šimašius.

Mykolas Majauskas, on the other hand, reminded the attendants that two years ago he was the initiator of the spontaneous action called “Lithuania loves Poland”, which showed that despite the general opinion, there was much mutual love and respect in both Lithuanian and Polish nationalities. “Unfortunately, it is – let me use the concept coined by Richard Nixon – the “silent majority”, and Polish-Lithuanian relations are dominated by the loud, radical minority. I have worked in Poland, England and Australia, and in all these places I have met Poles; I lived in one room with a Pole for some time, and our relations were always great” – said M. Majauskas.

Will there be a Polish Mass in the Cathedral?

One of the most interesting moments of the discussion was the question of Remigijus Šimašius to the candidate from the conservative party: will he support the call made by Remigijus Šimašius to the archbishop Gintaras Grušas to finally allow for masses in the Polish language in the Cathedral of Vilnius? Apparently, the archbishop answered Šimašius that the society is not ready for it. “I do not understand why masses in the most important church in Vilnius and Lithuania cannot be said in the Polish language, since half of the congregation in the diocese of Vilnius are Poles? I think that if my appeal was supported by one of the leaders of the conservative party, who traditionally are in the better relations with the Church, it would be more influential” – pointed out Šimašius.

Mykolas Majauskas, who underlined his attachment to the Christian values throughout the whole meeting, did not want to take a clear stand on that matter: “I think that in the current state of affairs it would lead to the further, unnecessary disputes on the ethnic grounds.”

At the end of the meeting, there was the traditional “club” question about the three monuments, which the candidates for mayor of Vilnius (if they became one) would raise. “Surely there will not be a monument to Antanas Smetona in Vilnius. If people living in Kaunas want such a monument, they can do it on their own, in their city. Generally, the best monuments are those which are raised on the initiative of people and residents, and not on the initiative of the authorities. The best example of it is the most famous Vilnian idea, an absolute crazy one – the monument to Frank Zappa” – claims Šimašius. Majauskas was more categorical on that matter. If he became the mayor, there would be a monument to Jonas Basanavičius, and the Soviet sculptures from the Green Bridge would be gone.

Generally, the discussion was conducted in quite friendly and full of humour atmosphere. The candidate from the conservative party Mykolas Majauskas was constantly calling liberals “brothers”, but at the same time he tried to tease Remigijus Šimašius, who responded in the same way.

The discussion lasted more than two hours, and was attended by about 30 participants.

Translated by Tomasz Szatkowski within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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