Regional Conference: Building Bridges towards solidarity and social cohesion in the Baltic countries
17- 19 May 2018, Vilnius
This year Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as the Republic of Poland, celebrate a centennial anniversary of the restoration of their independence in 1918. After a short period of independent life, the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviet Union and only regained their independence again in the 1990s. They have made fundamental progress in the course of their persistent free development: the Baltic countries established solid systems of political democracy; they became members of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Living standards are gradually approaching those prevailing in the EU as a whole. Nevertheless, despite the obvious achievements in different spheres of social and political life, the Baltic countries face various internal and external obstacles which hinder their smooth progress towards a deeper cohesion of their societies and the development of harmonious relations with other nations.
The strengthening of solidarity and social cohesion in the Baltic states was the main aim of the ESU Conference in Vilnius on 17-19 May 2018. But not without remembering and celebrating the struggle for independence and sovereignity and the ‘Baltic Way for freedom’. An Hermans, president of the ESU, expressed her gratitude for the unique occasion organizing this conference, co-hosting it with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, having already 25 years of experience in the region and with Mr. Zibartus Jackunas and Mr. Jonas Volungevičius, co-chairing the seniors’ associations of the political parties, Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats. Participants from more than 10 European countries together with their Lithuanian colleagues listened in the Vilnius university to the opening speeches of Mr. Zibartas Jackunas (president seniors association Lithuania), Mrs An Hermans (President ESU) and Mrs Elisabeth Bauer (Head of Office KAS for the Baltic and Nordic Countries). They enjoyed the keynote speeches delivered by Mr. Wolfgang Frhr. Von Stetten and Mr. Vytautas Landsbergis.
The ESU was honoured that Mr. Wolfgang Freiherr von Stetten, accepted to participate in this meeting, supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and thanked him for his engagement for the development of this region. Dr. Wolfgang Freiherr von Stetten is a German lawyer and politician of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU). He served as Member of Parliament (the Bundestag) from 1990 to 2002. As a member of parliament, he founded the German-Baltic Parliamentary Association in 1991 and served as its chair to 2002. The association supported the independence of the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, and their membership in NATO and the European Union. Mr von Stetten is the Lithuanian Honorary Consul in Baden-Württemberg since 2004 and since 2005 until 2017 he was president of the Seniors’ Union (SU) of the CDU in Baden-Württemberg.Vytautas Landsbergis, born 1932 in Kaunas, began his career as professor at the Lithuanian Conservatory in 1978. From 1988 he began to become more involved in politics. He was one of the founders of the Lithuanian Independence Movement and was the first head of state (1990-1992) of the Republic of Lithuania after the restoration of independence in 1990. From 1996 to 2000 he was also President of the Lithuanian Parliament. From 2004 to 2014 he was a Member of the European Parliament.
The second day of the European Seniors Union conference took place in the Seimas (Parliament) in Vilnius. The first topic covered the social dimension of the European Union, introduced by two professors of the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL): An Hermans and Steven Van Hecke. Mrs Irena Degutiené, deputy speaker of the Seimas, opened the second day.
Very interesting was the presentation of social and economic conditions in the Baltic states by several researchers from universities and think tanks. Dr. Georg Männik talked about Handling the Social Problems: Short- Term Solutions, Long-Term Vision(s); Ivars Brīvers, Member of Saeima of the Republic of Latvia, covered the Institutional Aspects of Social Inequality; and Prof. Dr. Boguslavas Gruževskis tackled the topic of Reducing Social Inequality in Lithuania: Challenges and Solutions. ESU members from Sweden, Norway, Poland and Germany presented their own experiences.
The last session of our Vilnius conference on intergenerational cooperation, was chaired by Mr Claus Bernhold, vice president of the CDU Senioren Union. Mr Claus Bernhold brought the example of intergenerational talks between youth and seniors in Germany; Mrs Lina Kalibataite gave an overview of the activities of Kolping Lithuania; and Mr Mantas Benkunskas from the Young Conservatives League, focused on the role of youth organizations against the anti-social tendencies.
This ESU Conference gave all participants the feeling that we can learn from each other and that Europe is not built by heads of state and leaders of government alone, but also by citizens. More and more European leaders know that the involvement of citizens is crucial in the further development of Europe. Or, as Jean-Claude Juncker put it when assuming office as President of the Commission: “Europe will not have a lasting future until people feel that Europe cares about the improvement of their living conditions, their welfare and security, their social protection.” Here, the ESU can be a place where politicians and citizens could meet each other, where people feel that they can engage in dialogue in all openness.
Resolution Vilnius English
Resolution Vilnius Deutsch
For Photos THANK YOU Olga Posaškova.