Vytautas Landsbergis

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Vytautas Landsbergis
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Vytautas Landsbergis

Professor Vytautas Landsbergis (born October 18, 1932) is a Lithuanian conservative politician, and member of the European Parliament. He was the first head of state of Lithuania after liberation from Soviet occupation, and served as President of the Lithuanian Parliament.

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A brief fact file on Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis

Vytautas Landsbergis was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. He holds a degree in music from Lithuanian Conservatoire (1955) and a Ph.D. in music (1968). He taught music from 1952 until 1990. The professor is an author of 10 books on music. From 1978 to 1990, he was lecturing in Lithuanian Academy of Music.

Vytautas Landsbergis entered politics in 1988 as one of the founders of Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian pro-independence political movement. After Sąjūdis' victory in 1990 election, he became the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania, having constitutional authority of both the leader of the state and the speaker of the Parliament. Landsbergis held this post from from March 1990 until the next elections in November 1992. During this time, and under his leadership Lithuania has successfully negotiated the restoration of its independence from the Soviet Union, thus becoming the first republic to do so, even though the Soviet Union attempted to blockade Lithuania in 1990. Iceland was the first foreign nation to officially recognise the restoration of Lithuanian independence, and Prof. Landsbergis was somehow critical of such Western powers like the United States and United Kingdom for not showing enough support in Lithuania's bid to restore its independence after more than 40 years of foreign occupation. He was also extremely dubious of claims that Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to democratize the Soviet Union.

In 1993, Prof.Landsbergis founded a new political party, the Homeland Union - Tevynes Sajunga. It gained a landslide victory in 1996 parliamentary elections and Profesor Landsbergis served as the Speaker of the Parliament from 1996 until 2000. He ran - although unsuccessfully - for President in 1997 (came up third after receiving 15.9% of the vote). During the runoff he supported Valdas Adamkus, who had received a second place in the first round, so the latter eventually became the President. In 2004 Professor Landsbergis was elected by Lithuanian voters to the European Parliament and has an office in Brussels ( the total number of EPMs from Lithuania in Brussels is 13 ).


A call to liken Communist insignia to the Nazi one

In January 2005 Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, backed by another Member of the European Parliament from Hungary, has urged a ban on Soviet symbols alongside Nazi ones. He has also sent a letter to Mr. Franco Frattini - the European Commissioner of Justice and Internal Affairs, where he suggested that in case the EU decides to ban Nazi symbols, Communist symbols should be banned too. The Commissioner became interested in this proposal and said that "I am ready to join this discussion. The Communist dictatorships - no less than the Nazi ones - are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people". A bit later, however, the Commissioner - under pressure from Italian communists - backed up from his initial statement. Prof. Landsbergis' proposal has caused quite a stir in Italy, where Italian leftists in the beginning of February 2005 strongly protested against such a move. The Reformed Communist Party and Italian Communists were outraged at Landsbergis' proposal. Professor's proposal became at the center of Italian media's attention. One of the most influential Italian dailies - "La Repubblica" - has even published a massive interview with Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis. It is indeed the first time when the daily allocates a full page for a politician from Lithuania. Nonetheless, Landsbergis' proposal has found a few supporters among some of Italy's politicians. For example, Alessandra - a grand-daughter of former Italian fascist ideologist Benito Mussolini - has commented that "to implement the proposal of the Members of the European Parliament, regarding Commmunist symbols, is our moral duty".

The proposal of Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis has not went by without a response from the Russian parliament too. The First Vicespeaker for the Russian Duma has branded Professor's proposal as "just abnormal". Another Russian MP - a Communist - has commented by saying that "Somebody in Europe just became insolent and forgot who saved them from the fascists".

However, the debate came to an end, when in the beginning of February, 2005 The European Commission rejected calls for a proposed Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be extended to cover Communist Party symbols as well. EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said it would not be appropriate to include the red star and the hammer and sickle in a draft EU law on racism.

Finally, at the end of February, 2005 The European Union has dropped proposals to ban Nazi symbols across its 25 member states. Luxembourg withdrew the plans when it became clear that members could not agree on which symbols to ban. There were also concerns that a ban was a threat to freedom of expression. The only country in Europe which has banned the use of Nazi insignia is Germany.

Landsbergis vs. Russia

Professor Vytautas Landsbergis is a great intelectual and thinker, who has been active in Lithuania's political arena for almost two decades, and - by gaining that enormous experience - revealed himself as a gifted politician. Professor Landsbergis is a fierce critic of Russia's intentions to impose any kind of influence on the Baltic States, therefore he never misses an opportunity to publicly lash-out Russia in both local and international media as well as in the circles of the European Parliament. He believes, that Russia has not yet given up its ill intentions to economically and - if possible - even politically control Lithuania and other Baltic States through a wide spy network of former KGB agents and other secret cells. Therefore, he is constantly urging Lithuanian officials and members of the public to stay on alert so as to ward off any possible Russian plot against the new EU state, as "the threat from the East is not over".

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