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Valdemar Tomaševski: Polish example could help in improving the lives of common people in Lithuania.

‘The European Union cannot exist without Christian values,’ thinks Valdemar Tomaševski, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and chairman of the electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL). In his opinion, it is where the disagreement between European Commission and the new Polish government lays.

– How can you comment the criticism made by the European Commission on Polish reforms? Can it be called a conflict between the European institutions and the representatives of the Polish authorities?

– There is no conflict between the European Commission and Poland, but there are ongoing disputes on the concept of the European Union. There were similar disputes between the Commissioners and Hungary. After all, the European Union is an association of free states – as it was from the very beginning. However, now euro bureaucrats aim to make the European Union a single unitary state in which they can centrally decide on all questions. This is the distortion of the essence of the EU, its ideological foundation, which was developed at the moment of its creation. We must not forget that the European Union is based on Christian values. It is widely known that the EU was built by state activists who were deeply religious people: the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Konrad Adenauer. Schuman believed that European unification is impossible ‘without the inspiration from the origins of Christianity’ and that the Europe is the ‘incarnation of universal democracy in Christian sense of the word.’ R. Schuman had often stressed that the implementation of the idea of European integration is not possible without taking the religious values into account.

These words have been uttered more than 60 years ago, but they are still relevant. Blue colour in the background of the EU flag and twelve stars – this is the Christian symbol of the Mother of God. However, nowadays there are liberal and neoliberal activists in the EU who do not want to hear anything about Christian roots of the Union. Therein lays the controversy between the new Polish government and the Union liberals. Such disagreements emerged already 5 years ago, when Hungary identified the God and Christianity as the Hungarian statehood foundation in the Preamble to the Constitution. Hungarians also introduced other regulations based on Christian values, e.g. that a ‘marriage is the union of a man and a woman’ or that ‘the human life begins at the moment of conception’ etc. The ruling party of ‘Law and Justice’ also defines its Christian program very clearly. This, of course, is disliked by many people.

– The EU authorities called on Poland to refrain from the reform of the Constitutional Tribunal, which EU considers as threatening to the independence of this body …

– The sense of changes is that the Constitutional Tribunal must decide when at least 13 of the 15 judges are present; decisions require the majority of two-thirds; the cases should be considered according to the date of their submission. So far, 5 judges were enough to take the most serious judgements regulating the life of the country. This means that the state vital decisions were taken by 1/3 of the votes. This is illogical. This reform was necessary. In addition, the law provides the possibility for 5 judges to make decisions on private cases in order to prevent them from long-term examination. In Poland, every citizen can turn to the Constitutional Tribunal.

– The opposition and the EU consider that public radio and television reform increases the government influence on the public media. For example, legislative amendments state that the Government may dismiss management without providing any reasons and then the candidates for these positions may be approved by the Treasury Minister…

– The state media in Poland constitute no more than 15 percent of the market, which is the sixth part. Naturally, the management of these media is the prerogative of the state. It was regulated in the law. There is no problem at all in this topic, especially since 85 percent of the media is owned by private companies and the new law does not influence them. In the meantime, for example, 70 percent of publishing houses in Poland belong to private companies with German capital. From now on the radio and television will broadcast more programs on traditional Christian values. The previous government disturbed the work of some media, e.g. it did not issue the private channel ‘TV Trwam’, promoting Christian values, its licence for broadcasting on the entire territory of the country for a long time. Millions of people in Poland stood in the defence of the channel.

In general, the new government is following human interests – it will pay 500 zlotys (120 euros) each month for every second, third etc. child until he/she reaches the age of 18 years as of 1st April 2016. This money will be a tangible support for families. Unlike the previous government, which accepted the 67 years as the basis for the retirement age, the ‘Law and Justice’ decided to reduce it to 63 years. All of this is being made by rulers in spite of strong resistance of local liberals and euro bureaucrats.

The party has also fulfilled its third electoral promise: the tax of 0,44 percent was introduced for the actives of banks, credit and insurance institutions, as well as loan companies and cooperatives. A similar step was made by Hungary in 2010, when the country introduced the largest in EU and USA tax on banks – this way the state was trying to solve the budget deficit problem. The aim of the new tax is to secure an additional income to the budged in order to carry out governmental project ´500 zlotys per child’, as well as to reduce the retirement age and increase the tax-free wage share. The new government also intends to charge trade networks turnover. It is estimated that thanks to these changes, the state treasury will get additional 2 billion zlotys, primary from major foreign retailers functioning in Poland. This decision will also serve small and medium-sized businesses, which are being pressed by large German, Spanish and Portuguese trading networks. Of course, all of this raises dissatisfaction of some representatives of big businesses. Liberals who have lost their positions are also dissatisfied. But this is the right decision: instead of increasing taxes on the population, it is better to force big businesses to share.

– How are these reforms seen in Lithuania?

– Our media broadcasts completely different pictures from Poland – protests that according to press are organized with an international financier Soros financial support. The media state that the Conservative party has won in Poland, creating associations with not very popular Conservatives of Lithuania (though the party ‘Law and Justice’ is completely different both by the name and different policies). Our media also does not publish research results of a public opinion, which indicate that the majority of Polish population supports the new government policy.

Meanwhile, Polish reforms are a very good example for us. By the way, EAPL already included two following matters – bank and trade networks profit taxation (which would save small shops from bankruptcy) – in its election programme of 2012. Naturally, such proposal was disliked by trade networks’ owners and Scandinavian banks prevailing in Lithuania. That is why our party has been defamed by the press. Even today we are not being invited to the television – probably they are scared of the fact that we would bring up the topics of social issues and taxes, and the issue of the Constitutional Court. After all, we do not want the case of Rolandas Paksas to happen again, when, according to our media, the Chairman of the Constitutional Court was having coffee just before taking a negative decision in the case of R. Paksas with Deputy Chairman Gintaras Steponavičius, the person concerned in the case. What kind of independent judgment can we speak about then? At that time it became clear that the former president granted citizenships five times more often than Rolandas Paksas. Our aim is to make the Constitutional Court to defend the interests of people, including those who are seeking to regain their lands, rather than to care for the interests of ruling Liberals. Unfortunately, the Constitutional Court ruled that a compensation for the unreturned hectare of land in Vilnius is € 1700, while the market price in the capital is thousand times greater.

– So we have an example now?

– Although the retirement age in Lithuania is 63 years now, a new social model is foreseeing to increase it. If Lithuanian people and trade unions do not defend their rights, social protection of our citizens will worsen. We can see this on the example of the new social model, which was developed according to employers´ interests. By the way, EAPL disagreed with this and organized the protest action in which four thousand people took place next to the Government edifice in October 2015. We have registered a draft law stating that after the birth of second and following children an amount of 120 euros would be paid monthly. Polish example shows from where we could get the money. In Poland and Lithuania the GDP per capita is about 16 thousand dollars per year, but it is distributed more fairly in Poland. The average salary and retirement pension are higher by 50-70 percent there and the prices are lower. Therefore EAPL will continue to consistently defend its programme provisions, which are designed to improve the lives of ordinary people. When we are told that there is no money for something, we indicate the sources from where, according to the Polish example, the money could be obtained.

– Why did not EAPL faction participate in the voting on the resolution condemning the speech of the former head of the State Security Department Gediminas Grina regarding closing of national minority schools?

– We believe that this voting was nothing more than a show, which was held in order to get voices for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Gintaras Steponavičius is a person who as a Minister of Education and Science destroyed national minority schools and now, in the light of upcoming elections, hypocritically stood up in the defence of these schools along with his colleagues and initiated the voting. EAPL parliamentary faction chairwoman Rita Tamašunienė evaluated this action as a cynical act of a man attempting to become the ‘great defender’ of national minority schools, after when not so long ago he made them fight for their survival.

It is exactly him who is responsible for funding reductions, new procedures of schools’ reorganization and accreditation, adoption of the Law on Education in 2011 – all this led to the closure of several secondary schools. Today Steponavičius’ colleague, Mayor of Vilnius City liberal Remigijus Šimašius is trying to destroy even those schools, which meet the accreditation conditions, i.e. Vilnius Simono Konarskio Secondary School, Vilnius Vladislovo Sirokomlės Secondary School, Vilnius Levo Karsavino Secondary School, Vilnius Centro Secondary School, and Vilniaus Aleksandro Puškino Secondary School. What we need is not a resolution in response to Mr. Grina escapade, which is drawing away the attention from the real problems of national minorities in the field of education, but the parliamentary support for schools, which are seeking to gain the status of a gymnasium – especially since the schools have time till 2017. That is why the faction decided not to participate in this pre-electoral show of liberals.

Jelena Jurkevičienė