Articles » June 22nd 2009 - Vilnius
Last evening there was a wonderful performance of the great Verdi Requiem, me in the audience, Jane among the altos. The most evocative passage, for me, is the Dies Irae, Day of Wrath.
Earlier we had wandered in the old town when all seemed well; busy streets, reasonable prices in the restaurants and coffee bars, shops full, and none boarded up, markets bustling. Until, that is, we chanced on a coffee house with an extraordinary placard in the window, in English and Lithuanian.
This gave notice of a strike on June 29th, following one on June 11th, with a call for a general strike on July 5th & 6th; July 6th is a National Holiday, Statehood Day. This protest is against the Government handling of the economy, not least a fierce rise in VAT putting many establishments at risk and 10,000 already unemployed in the tourism sector, a mainstay of the economy.
Lithuania’s problems are largely self inflicted. They could devalue and regain control but that is denied them. Like the idiotic Tories of twenty odd years ago, with the ERM fiasco, Lithuania has pegged its currency to the Euro. Unless they de-couple their Black Wednesday approaches.
Even more evocative is to visit the Cathedral, outside which, set into the paving near the West Front, is a distinctive tile. Here, in 1989, there stood the first in a human chain stretching all the way from Vilnius, through Riga to Tallinn. For over 300 miles, hand in hand, linking the three Baltic States, they defied the Soviet Union and successfully declared their independence from the Soviet Union.
And then they joined the EU.
DIES IRAE INDEED.
Derek Clark MEP Vilnius, Monday June 22nd 2009