Today's date:
  European Viewpoint



Vytautas Landsbergis was the first president of Lithuania after independence from the Soviet Union. He is now a member of the European Parliament.

By Vytautas Landsbergis

VILNIUS, Lithuania The Russian New Year greeting of gas shortages for Europe shows rather explicitly that, despite Russian president Vladimir Putin’s facade-like friendships with some European leaders, there are no guarantees against Russia’s fundamental unpredictability.

Perhaps, Europe has learned a lesson and is now returning to its senses. As former leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia recently said in a joint statement: “In a few years we will all be grateful to Vladimir Putin for having prompted Europe to think seriously about the efficient use of energy and increased diversification of sources.”

The alternative promises not prosperity and strength for Europe but decline and dependency — both economic and moral. The real strength of Europe lies in the depth of its spiritual values and its solid political and economic integration, not indebtedness to Russia. Is the European Union still operating on those founding principles, or are they merely slogans eroded by shortsighted consumerism and the comfortable illusion of warming ourselves with Russian energy?

These questions need to be addressed now when Europeans are still in the sober frame of mind prompted by the wake-up call of winter gas shortages that have revealed the complacency and insufficiency of European relations with Russia managed by now-departed German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and British Prime Minister Tony Blair — all of whom now rush to remind us of the urgent necessity of common European policies.

And, once again, European eyes slumbering under the illusion of energy security have been opened to the growing racism, continued genocide in Chechnya and the denial of fundamental European freedoms in Putin’s brutal Russia.

The most important area of common policies must be in energy. We need urgent, well-financed research on pan-European alternatives in energy planning and production. As Wolfgang Schuessel, the chancellor of newly E.U.-presiding Austria said recently in the European Parliament, “We will meet instability in the states rich with energy recourses, therefore we must be prepared.”