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Šimonytė: we need to review policies and European Union law to preserve our core values

Date

2021 09 09

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Today in Berlin, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has met with Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz and Leader of the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament Manfred Weber, has participated in discussions, and has delivered a speech at the EPP Conference on the Future of Europe.

‘As we’ve returned to the debate on the Future of Europe, we should not give in to the pessimists’ prediction that we’ll just end up agreeing to disagree. In fact, there is no disagreement on what future we must build for Europe. The Europe of the future must be free, secure, and prosperous. And so, too, each and every of its citizens must be able to feel. An area where science, businesses, and talents flourish. Where the heritage is preserved, the history – owned and reflected upon. And the future is being built every day by empowered dreamers and innovators,’ said Prime Minister Šimonytė in her speech.

According to Šimonytė, now, as before, at the centre of the debate on the Future of Europe, is not the question of what we want to achieve but of how we get there.

‘I am convinced that we’ll get there, most importantly, by staying true to ourselves. By never compromising on the values that define and unite us. Freedom, peace, democracy, rule of law, human rights, and human dignity. Can we remain true to ourselves if we abandon the people of Belarus struggling for their basic rights and freedoms? Can we honestly say we live up to our values if one day we choose to forget Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison or the people of Ukraine losing their lives for Donbas? Can we come to the point where we trade Ukrainian Crimea for whatever bargaining chip the Kremlin might offer us?’ Šimonytė asked rhetorically.

‘As long as we remain true to ourselves, the answers are clear and there’s no multiple choice. Yes, a price tag is often attached to taking a moral stance. Sometimes it’s calculable – as in cases of economic sanctions. Sometimes exceeding any reasonable expectations – because there are no limits to dictators’ imagination. Lithuania learned it first-hand, as Lukashenka decided to forcibly land a Ryanair plane and take more than a hundred EU citizens hostage to detain Raman Pratasyevich. And as he chose to use irregular migration as a hybrid weapon against my country, our neighbouring Latvia and Poland, and the whole of the EU. But whatever price we are or might be paying in the future for choosing the right side of history, it cannot compare to the cost of losing (or worse even – trading in) our moral compass. For then we’d become “a community of those who have nothing in common”, if I may borrow this spot-on definition from Alphonso Lingis, an American philosopher of Lithuanian descent,’ Šimonytė noted in her speech.

‘And standing alone is not an option. If anyone had ever doubted it, numerous, mounting challenges – from economic crises to the current pandemic – have given us a lesson that we need a stronger, not weaker EU. The EU that can overcome the crisis. The EU that can even beat cancer. From economic recovery plans to vaccine sharing, from green certificates to border control – it is the EU we end up leaning on,’ said Šimonytė.

‘Which brings me to the second precondition of building the Future of Europe our people deserve. The EU must learn from its experiences and adjust to ever changing challenges and their contexts. Be it a blurred line between freedom of speech and disinformation, or an abuse of our migration and asylum policies by weaponizing human smuggling. We must review our policies and our acquis and find new mechanisms and solutions. To be able to preserve our fundamental values but not let adversaries turn them into our biggest vulnerabilities,’ emphasised Šimonytė.

Speech by the Prime Minister (Lithuanian)

Speech by the Prime Minister (English)

Photo © EPP (European People's Party)