Vilnius, Lithuania | Lithuanians are in favour of recognising an independent Catalonia, according to an opinion poll
International experts compare the cases of Scotland, Slovenia, the Baltic Republics and Catalonia at a conference in Lithuania
Self-Determination Processes in the EU – Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University
What do Lithuania, Estonia, Scotland, Slovenia and Catalonia in common? Not much, according to the experts, because every case is unique, but all share a common characteristic: the democratic force and the will of civil society to determine its political future of their territory. When popular support for self-determination is massive, the process becomes unstoppable. In some cases independence is the outcome, in others no, but there is no person or law who could stop the will and the right to decide, even more so when they have a transversal, democratic and peaceful character.
This is one of the main conclusions of the academic session on “self-determination processes in the EU”, which took place this morning at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science (IIRPS) at Vilnius University, organised by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) and the Institute of International Relations.
Welcome and Introductory word
Its director, Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, and Albert Royo, Secretary General of the Public Diplomacy Council, said words of welcome, and recalled each the main historic events of independence in Lithuania and the current process in Catalonia.
Self-determination processes in the EU: the Catalan case
The first round table dealt with the relation of Catalonia and Lithuania. Speakers were Gediminas Vitkus and Kęstutis Girnius, Professors of the IIRPS, and Vicent Partal, Director of VilaWeb and very knowledgeable of the independence processes of the Baltics. Vitkus presented the result of an opinion poll of last May, according to which 30% of the Lithuanians would be for their government to recognize an independent Catalonia, and only 15% would oppose this. According to Vitkus, the Catalan case presents a complex trilemma for Lithuania: preserving the integrity of the EU, respecting international law and the moral task to help a nation which fights for its independence. Girnius talked about the long tradition of political catalanism, and underlined its civic, as opposed to ethnic, character, which discards the danger of discrimination and xenophobia. Partal defined the situation in Catalonia as a “political problem”, and gave a summary of the most important events of the last years. Partal explained that in a democracy it is impossible to stop the will of the majority, and recalled that nothing is impossible, citing the case of Nelson Mandela, who turned within a few years from being prisoner to be the president of his country.
Overview of self-determination movements in Europe
The second round table of the morning enlarged the focus to other self-determination movements in Europe. Jože Mencinger, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Affairs of Slovenia and current Professor of Economics, Law School, University of Ljubljana, talked about the collapse of Yugoslavia and the independence of Slovenia. The Scottish case was presented by Norrie Macqueen, Honorary Research Fellow, International Relations, University of St Andrews, who underlined the importance for a small country to relate with international organisations such as NATO. Rene Värk, Associate Professor of International Law, University of Tartu, spoke about the return to independence of Estonia and reflected about the sense of self-determination in a century which does not have imperia anymore. Finally, Kai-Olaf Lang, specialist on EU integration of the prestigious German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) was convinced that the EU would react in a pragmatic way an adapt its treaties in case of the creation of a new state, which had already formed part of the EU within the state from which it seceded.
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The Institute of International Relations and Political Science (IIRPS) of the Vilnius University is one of the most prominent social sciences institutions in Central Eastern Europe and the Baltic region. IIRPS has formed part of the academic and political life of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic region since its establishment in 1992, achieving a wide range of academic accomplishments. It boasts a rich tradition of hosting high level politicians, diplomats and distinguished speakers. After first focusing mainly on educating the future members of the Lithuanian diplomatic corps, the Institute has gradually enlarged its focus to a wider range of knowledge and capabilities which empower its students to be able to work in a range of public administration, non-governmental and private institutions, and to continue learning in their future careers. Already the leading institution in the country, it has set in its most recent strategic plan the goal of establishing itself as the leading education and research institution in the Baltic region.
Last updated: 15 September 2015