- March 26, 2019
Antoni Radchenko: Is Grybauskaitė worth an order?
I do not know how Dalia Grybauskaitė will be evaluated by historians in a few decades’ time. However, I am convinced that they will use the term “Grybauskaitė era”. The ten years of the Lithuanian President’s rule is a turbulent, changing period, with new challenges and threats. After the annexation of the Crimea and the subsequent Donbass war, there was a cardinal geopolitical change not only in the region, but also in the whole of Europe and perhaps the world.
A fragment of Polish-Lithuanian relations may also be interesting for future researchers. Grybauskaitė’s term of office began in the times of the “strategic partnership”, which soon turned into a “cold peace”. When the head of Polish diplomacy Radosław Sikorski stated that he would not visit Lithuania until the so-called Polish demands were fulfilled. This includes issues such as education, spelling of surnames and bilingual inscriptions. Lithuania, on the other hand, has chosen the Nordic way to Europe. And both ideas failed. Sikorski came to Lithuania, however, and no one in Scandinavia was waiting for Lithuania.
As a result of these emotional announcements, bilateral relations and the Polish minority itself suffered, as the resolution of the disputed issues in Lithuania was perceived as the pressure of a larger neighbour and the imperial inclinations of Poland.
Unexpectedly, after several years of diplomacy, relations on the Vilnius-Warsaw line improved, which was confirmed by the visit of Grybauskaitė in Warsaw and Lublin last week. The meetings took place at the highest level and several important bilateral agreements were signed. In order to emphasize “friendly and allied relations”, the heads of state awarded each other with important state awards.
Dalia Grybauskaitė presented Andrzej Duda with the Order of Vytautas the Great, and the President of the Republic of Poland presented the Lithuanian leader – the Order of the White Eagle.
Certainly, the president of Lithuania is not the main architect of the improvement of Polish-Lithuanian relations. The Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who met with Jarosław Kaczyński even before the parliamentary elections and later became even the Man of the Year in Krynica, contributed much more to this.
Nevertheless, the participation of Grybauskaitė, perhaps not so visible, but it was also. It was thanks to this attitude that the President managed to break up the Lithuanian railway system’ agreement , which for years had been blocking the reconstruction of the tracks in Latvia and the settlement of the dispute with Orlen.
Coming back to last week’s visit, it is worth stressing that the greatest number of disputes was caused by the awarding Grybauskaitė with the Order of the White Eagle. I am referring not only to Renata Cytitska’s unfortunate statement, but also to people who genuinely care about the warming of relations. Well, the President is certainly not a Lithuanian politician liked by Poles. Personally, I have never voted for her myself, and I think I will not vote for her any more.
However, it is worth noting the change in the position of the President regarding the spelling of surnames. This is to say that the Constitution, which allegedly did not allow for such solutions, was still mentioned earlier. Today she says that there are three projects in the Sejm concerning the spelling of surnames and there is already a chance to solve this problem.
Of course, one can say that this change is illusory, and that it is not much for the President herself, because elections will take place in May and the Polish demands of Nausėda, Šimonytė or Skvernelis will have to be persuaded. Nevertheless, it is a positive signal that even the most reluctant Lithuanian politicians can change their minds.
That is why I think that this signal is worthy of an order.
And let’s stick to that!
Translated by Dominika Kownacka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.