A few months ago, the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) began a debate on forming a new permanent committee on emigration.
Kęstutis Eidukonis
Kęstutis Eidukonis
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

With the population decreasing every year due to natural attrition - deaths outnumbering births and more people leaving the country then returning - it is natural for the government to act. Thus the debate on the new commission. The original idea originated with the Labour Party, but was soon picked up by the Order and Justice party and has a number of prominent sponsors.

There is only one problem - a commission with the same functions already exists. This is the joint commission of the Seimas and the PLB (Pasaulio Lietuvių Bendruomenė or the World Lithuanian Community). This commission consists of 10 members of the Seimas and 10 elected representatives from the Lithuanian Diaspora. It has been meeting now for a number of years and has had a mixed record of successes.

One of the reasons for the mixed record is the fact that the commission is not a permanent body with some clout - but rather an advisory commission with a "liberum veto" right. For any recommendation of the commission to have any validity, it must be passed unanimously. One of its members, Mečislovas Zasčiurinskas, has constantly pointed out the lack of clout of this commission in relation to the importance of its mission, which is reversing emigration and increasing returnees.

I tend to agree with my colleague Mečislovas. He has also put forward a suggestion that the new Emigration Committee include members of the Lithuanian World Community; unfortunately, his proposal has not been accepted and cannot be accepted, since under the present rules, only members of the Seimas can sit on a permanent commission.

I cannot speak for the World Lithuanian Community (though I am a member of the current Seimas-PLB commission), but I do believe that any commission without the World Lithuanian Community representation would be looked upon by diaspora as a slap in the face and an attempt to diminish the importance of this historical organization which has contributed so much to the Lithuanian cause. To have two commissions with the same duplicative charter does not make any sense either, so something has to give. The Seimas has already signaled its intention by failing to confirm the schedule for the next PLB/Seimas commission meeting.

At a time when the diaspora and the country needs to stand together firmly in the face of Russian aggression, not including the World Lithuanian Community in the new commission would be playing right into Mr Putin's hands. I do not think the Seimas wants to do that. Instead of forming a new commission, maybe we should look at changing some of the by-laws of the original commission to make it more effective, but let us not silence the voice of the Lithuanian diaspora at this time.

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