Mrs Irena Degutienė opened the conference titled the Re-establishment of Lithuanias Statehood organised to mark the 20th anniversary of the completion of the tasks by the Supreme Council Reconstituent Seimas and the 80th birthday of Vytautas Landsbergis, first Head of State in the re-established independent Lithuania.
Distinguished organisers and guests of the Conference,
Highly esteemed first Head of State in the re-established independent Lithuania, Vytautas Landsbergis,
His faithful companion, Mrs Gražina Landsbergienė,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I think that this conference and our meeting are very timely. Today, Lithuania is closely following the elections; we can see emotional verbal fighting and sometimes it may seem that we forget the essence. We forget the values that constitute our foundations, nurture us, and protect our nation and state. We forget that elections, similarly to the term of office of an MP, have a beginning and an end while the history of our nation and our country must continue. We forget our role and the meaning of our words and actions measured against Lithuanias history rather than against an election campaign.
The history of the re-established independent Lithuania comprises nearly twenty three years. This is a longer period than that destined by God to the pre-war independent Lithuanian state. It translates into more years, more hopes and more potential, as well as more reproaches for failing to seize more historical opportunities, ensure a better, brighter, and a more democratic life.
The future may well demonstrate who is right. However, it is evident today that Lithuania has seized its major opportunity, which was to break free from the Soviet empire. Bearing in mind the attitude of the present-day Russias leaders towards democracy and freedom of thought and speech, as well as their strategic stance on restoring the influence in the former provinces of the empire with the help of energy dependence when weapons cannot be used, we should appreciate the achievements of the Supreme Council Reconstituent Seimas more.
First of all, the major achievement was the declaration of Independence on 11 March 1990. This was the triumph of revival of the entire nation and our major legal, political and diplomatic victory. And above all, this was a moral victory of Lithuanians and all the nations living in our country, as well as every person of good will. We often hear that politics is an art of compromise. I agree with this statement with one reservation. A compromise can be sought with a political opponent or a power that has a different understanding of how to pursue the same goals. However, seeking a compromise with a murderer and enemy, or perpetrator of genocide of any nation seems neither sensible, nor even possible. I also believe that it is impossible to seek compromise at the cost of conscience, truth, and freedom.
In view of my long-term experience in politics, I know that sometimes you must seek a compromise or agreement and give way or renounce something. But sometimes you must call a spade a spade when the betrayal of values and principles not only proves moral weakness, but also leads to the weakening of democracy, which actually weakens your country, tramples on your values, and undermines the statehood. In the period between 1990 and 1992, especially from the declaration of Independence until the failed August putsch in Moscow, Lithuania was pressurised on multiple occasions to renounce certain positions, temporarily return to the status quo before 11 March 1990, and surrender some freedom. It is very frightening to think that the idea of agreeing to one or other compromise and renouncing our freedom, perhaps some of it, perhaps for a short period of time, could have prevailed. How much freedom would have remained then and how much freedom would we have now? Would not Lithuania, as a fighter for freedom, become a mere political caricature of itself? Would we have an occasion to celebrate today?
I consider this faithfulness to moral principles, no matter what, to be one of the most significant or even the most significant lesson that Lithuania has been taught by the Reconstituent Seimas on our way to democracy. Unfortunately, democracy has a shadow side. It ensures equal protection for all citizens: both the creators of history and those who scorn it, the defenders of freedom and those who defame their memory. However, every honest person must remember two dates: 11 March 1990 and 13 January 1991, as well as the price that was paid for them. We must admit that it was a challenge for the Lithuanian government, the entire nation, and each and every one of us.
The present-day Lithuania should be grateful to the Members of the Reconstituent Seimas who worked 20 years ago. All the achievements in Lithuania which are valuable, meaningful, and appreciated in Europe and worldwide result from the restoration and consolidation of Independence, the real spirit of freedom, as well as the words and deeds of the parliamentarians of the time. I pay my tribute and sincerely thank every Member of the first and truly free Lithuanian Parliament who recognized and promoted this spirit of freedom. My thanks go to Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, first Head of State in the re-established independent Lithuania and Chairman of the Reconstituent Seimas, whose courage unified the nation and bewildered the opponents of Independence. Certainly, it is thanks to the first Head of State that Lithuania managed to resist and that the Reconstituent Seimas was recorded in history with this particular name. Thank you Professor. And I apologize for those who will not do it and for those who have despised, downgraded, lied about, and smeared both your name and Lithuanias history. I apologize for those who are still doing it cynically, publicly and fearlessly.
You cannot help it because this is a part of Lithuania. This is the reason why the lessons of the Reconstituent Seimas have retained their existential importance not only as a foundation of the state we all live in today. When we see that there are many people who do not consider freedom a value and who can seek a compromise at any price, it means that the duty to protect freedom, truth, natural right of the nation, and human dignity falls on us. We cannot do otherwise. We will do it, as Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis has once said, just for Lithuania to remain. May you, Professor, remain in Lithuania with Lithuania and for Lithuania for many years to come, just as you have always done. I congratulate you on your glorious jubilee.