Ž. Šilėnas. Identity Crisis

Commentary published in the journal “IQ”

What do Lithuanians know about the European Parliament (EP), except that there you can get a high salary and do no work? Even more telling are the Lithuanian candidates of the EP. Some even honestly admit that their job posts in the EP are of great benefit to their political party in Lithuania.

The EP’s identity problem is catastrophic. Ask the people of any European country: “What does the European Parliament do?” I guarantee you will hear something about the rules on the curvature of bananas, and the great salary of its politicians. For a number of reasons, people do not like politicians who are far away, that is: in Brussels, where they live off tax payer’s money. This includes identity crisis.

The first problem is that the EP is trying to take the place of local government.  Lithuanians could understand the role of a supranational institution where politicians decide on very specific technical problems (this is what the European Commission does right now). However, the EP fights for the direct right to manage; that is through direct elections. No one raises the natural question: how exactly does an elected Lithuanian member serving in the EP benefit voters in a small Lithuanian town like Žiežmariai? Claims by candidates that they will still work for Lithuania do not sound true or reasonable.

The issues EP politicians are raising are not in the best interests of the European citizens. For instance, how should we react to the current media article saying “EP: We must learn to make do with the half number of plastic shopping bags currently being consumed. For this purpose, EP members recommend measures including taxes, marketing, and restrictions”? So are these politicians, who have nothing to do and are living off other people’s money, telling others they now have to live with less plastic bags?

Secondly, why do EP policy makers choose to address problems where individual liberty is compromised? European institutions and, more importantly, their own representatives, live in a self-imposed bubble that isolates them from reality. The EU annually spends about 7 billion Euros on non-profit organizations and initiatives. Cost analysis clearly shows that most of the money is spent on green and other left-wing interests. Don’t believe this? When was the last time you saw an EU proposal that advocated a reduction or exclusion of taxes?

The study conducted by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute shows EU funding for NGO’s was not efficient. 86 per cent of the money goes to organizations that have offices in Brussels. And the EU allocated 7 billion Euros. This creates a lot of insular activity which is concentrated in Brussels. So when we talk about funding for non-governmental organizations, forget about the diehard enthusiasm of young people who want to collect rubbish from Vilnius’ river Neris. Think of the tobacco lobbyist from the movie “Thank You for Smoking.” This creates a roundabout. They exist to receive money from Brussels by addressing the interests of Brussels. Organizations and groups spend tax payer money with the intent of receiving favors in the form of future funding from Brussels.

The negative effects of such EU ‘investment’ are twofold. Members of parliament believe that Europeans want to give away their luxuries for the sake of the environmental movement, and are able and willing to pay higher taxes in the name of sustainability. They believe that Europeans wake up in the morning concerned about the effects of climate change, and how much land will be lost in counties like Bangladesh in the next hundred years. It is natural that when politicians move from this matrix to the real world, it is very difficult for them to find a connection to their voters, and the real issues that concern them. It is not the immature voters fault, but rather the fault of the politician, who is not living in reality.

The first and the second problems lead to the third one, which can be clearly seen in the upcoming elections. Candidates’ campaigns in Lithuania will focus on national issues and activities that have nothing to do with the work of the EU Parliament, such as the minimum wage and pensions. Ironically, the only ones that actually touch on European issues are candidates speaking out against multicultural societies, or discrimination of LGBT people.

In conclusion, the above three topics all highlight the identity crisis of the European Parliament.