Opinion: Lithuania needs a new goal(1)
Now, when all political decisions concerning Lithuania’s accession to the euro zone are already made and only technical currency changeover details are left to complete, it is time to ask what will be the new ambitious goal for Lithuania.
Several years on, I will remember this period not as the year of the failed referendum, nor as the year of increasing minimum wage. I will remember it as the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, a terribly hot summer, which forced me to cut my beard, and Lithuania’s adoption of the euro. And if Algirdas Butkevičius’ government is mentioned in history books at that time, the reason will precisely be his successful continuation of his predecessor Andrius Kubilius’ goal to join the euro zone.
Current kindergarteners, future school students, will be jotting down the date of the euro adoption, 1 January 2015, on wisely-hidden cheat sheets in their history classes, together with 11 March 1990, 13 January 1991, 29 March and 1 May 2004. Whether there will be room for one more date, and what will be written there, depends on the ability of today’s politicians to raise a new ambitious goal for Lithuania.
Not necessarily a goal which would be instantly approved by the society all at once. Up to this day, there were always more people who were afraid that after the euro adoption the prices will go up, many more than people who desire to use the same coins and bills as most Europeans. Only after realising that the euro will be introduced regardless of their willingness or unwillingness, did sceptics begin educating themselves in the matter, and soon understood that using the common European currency is not that bad. The Bank of Lithuania contributed to this greatly by their active information campaign, during which serious professionals are answering even the most naive questions, which should not arise for even primary school graduates.
Politicians who are talking about reducing social exclusion and changing the minimum wage to some magic numbers sound nice, but it does not fit to be capitalized as Lithuania’s Goal. We should not expect that the goal will be suggested by hired foreign consultants or public tenders. It is enough to remember the project suggested by Kubilius’ government, ‘Lithuania 2030’, and how poor the results came out to be – a thousand small, conflicting ideas which were all left only on the paper, instead of a one solid suggestion, which would get him into the history books.
Butkevičius’ stammering working groups sound even more desperate. The results of their work are either not heard at all, or they throw their offers to get more taxes into the public, which only opposes the pensioners and drivers, so, eventually, the suggestions are quietly killed.
The common goal could become the Visaginas nuclear power plant project, but politicians themselves have killed the idea and resurrected it again too many times already, so no one will ever believe that the project is still possible. As soon as Minister of Energy Jaroslav Neverovič signed the memorandum of understanding with Japanese corporation Hitachi on 30 July, with which he “committed to jointly carry out the preparatory work on the establishments of an intermediate company”, chairman of the Lithuanian Green Party Linas Balsys immediately rushed to remind of the referendum in 2012, in which, according to him, “Lithuanians clearly said no to the new nuclear power plant construction in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania”.
If the ruling coalition is determined to build a nuclear power plant, there should be a new open agreement of political parties, similar to the agreements of the adoption of the euro, and increased funding for national defense. Politicians must make it clear to the voters that the act of presenting the project of Visaginas nuclear power plant to the consultative referendum in 2012 was a mistake, and now they have decided to ignore its results. However, in my opinion, none of the leaders of the ruling coalition parties is capable of admitting their mistakes and misinformation directly to the public.
So instead we will be hearing uncomfortable excuses, saying that the newly implemented project of nuclear power plant is not the same as Kubilius’ Visaginas NPP or Gediminas Kirkilas’ Leo LT. Without an open political decision, this project will not in any way be able to pretend to be the most important project of the state.
New national goals will not be formulated until and during 2015 municipal elections, because none of the parties will want to ruin their ratings by sharing their bold but risky intentions, and municipalities deal with relatively small local issues. But immediately after that, the preparation for 2016 parliamentary elections will began, to which the politicians will desperately need to bring something new and bold.