President of the Republic of Lithuania President of the Republic of Lithuania

Speech by President Gitanas Nausėda at the Sejm of the Republic of Poland on the occasion of the 230th anniversary of the 3 May Constitution

2021-05-03

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Poland,

Distinguished Members of the Parliaments of Poland and Lithuania,

Dear People of our Nations,

On this memorable day, we witness by example the unbreakable bond between Lithuania and Poland.

Since the union of Vladislovas Jogaila and Jadwiga, our paths have been moving in the same direction – sometimes diverging, but gradually getting closer and closer together. At the heart of our relationship has always been a distinct sense of belonging to Western civilization and the feeling of duty to protect its values.

Ever since, Lithuania has been moving forward shoulder to shoulder with Poland. Today, we are together members of the European Union and NATO. We foster political, defense, economic and cultural ties and seek to ensure security in our region. We know that the aspirations cherished by the neighboring nations to live as they wish – and not as imposed from the outside – depend on the success of our cooperation.

That is why I invite you to look at the history of the May 3 Constitution first as a reminder of how much we have already achieved and how much more we can accomplish in the future.  

230 years ago, our two nations – after studying the sciences of Western political culture for a long time – joined the forerunners of the European constitutional and political thought in a single leap. By adopting the world’s second and Europe’s first written constitution, our ancestors reaffirmed their commitment to individual freedom and the ‘political existence’ of the country. They also applied the principle of the separation of powers for the first time in European history.

The Constitution of May 3 summed up the long years of existence of the Commonwealth of Two Nations and reflected what we had learned. It also marked the culmination of ambitious political, social and economic reforms in the Commonwealth.

The historical significance of the adopted document was well understood by contemporaries. Mykolas Pranciškus Karpavičius, one of the most prominent preachers in Lithuania at that time, stated that the “new law gave dignity and authority to our nation in the eyes of all Europe”. Rector of Vilnius Academy Martynas Počobutas said that “by abolishing the old disorder and endorsing wise freedom, a foundation was laid for our hopes, launching the country’s freedom.”

Today, we regret that this dream was not destined to come true: the Constitution was trampled by foreign troops a year later. However, it found resonance in society. The authors of the Constitution expanded and strengthened the political nation by forging a political union between the nobility and the townspeople and by improving the situation of the peasants. The state of nobles began to evolve into Homeland for all citizens.

That is why the Constitution of May 3 continued in the later ages as a powerful ideal – an alternative to tyranny. The legally endorsed ideas of the separation of powers and individual freedom were in direct conflict with the tsarist rule and inspired Lithuanians, Poles and other peoples in the region to resist. The spirit of the Governance Act resurged in new uprisings, and even in the 20th century, it guided those who dared to oppose totalitarian regimes.

Even though we are turning a qualitatively new page in Lithuanian-Polish relations today, sometimes doubts are still voiced as to whether the pursuit of our shared aspirations does not threaten our national sovereignty. I am convinced there is no conflict here.

Lithuania and Poland had suffered foreign oppression for too long not to value and cherish each other’s independence. The fact that we share close positions on many geopolitical issues, neighborhood policies, security, defense, and economic cooperation is our asset and advantage – not a problem, or moreover, a threat.

It is our commitment, in the spirit of the 21st century, to seek like-minded partners, not opponents, and to build on the positive energy of people and states because that is the only way forward.

I believe that the founding fathers of the Constitution of 3 May would agree with this principled stand. We can find many role models among well-known Lithuanian and Polish families. The Radziwiłł, the Potocki, the Chreptowicz, the Sanguszko, the Chodkiewicz, the Ogiński, the Tyszkiewicz, and others gave us outstanding personalities whose activities extended beyond national borders, making them historic heroes of both nations and Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Constitution of May 3 belongs equally to Lithuanians, Poles and other peoples of the region to the extent that they are ready to assume responsibility for the future of this long-standing tradition.

I am glad that we, Lithuanians, are rediscovering the Constitution of May 3. We remember the “Mutual Commitment of the Two Nations” adopted in October of 1791, which firmly set the Vytis of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania alongside the Crown Eagle. We begin to appreciate that period in history when, together with Poland, we set an example of unification for Europe.

As we look to the future, it is no less important that these past events would inspire us to new joint endeavors. Together we are the main guardians of the historical legacy of the Commonwealth of Two Nations – and we must act accordingly at this difficult time. We have the duty to ensure that the historically close people of Ukraine and Belarus could enjoy the fruits of freedom, independence and democracy. In the past, they belonged to the common family of European nations – I believe this will continue to be the case!

However, we are living in difficult times. Just like 230 years ago, once again we see a growing military power in the East, which threatens our values and way of life. Our neighboring nations, aspiring to create democratic relations, continue to face brutal disregard for human rights and freedoms.

The build-up of Russian armed forces on the Ukrainian border and military actions carried out in eastern Ukraine by Russian troops and Moscow-backed illegal armed groups demonstrate an effort to create and maintain military tension as a lever of political influence.

I would like to emphasize that Lithuania will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and will seek to end the actual occupation of part of eastern Ukraine. Whatever happens, we cannot allow Ukraine to be cast back into the past again!

It is no secret that Russia wants to take control of Belarus and crush the freedom aspirations of the brave Belarusian people. The unsafe nuclear power plant in Ostrovets, which poses a threat to all the people of the region, also plays a significant role in this process. I have said and will say that we value the sovereignty of Belarus and will never agree that energy should become a geopolitical weapon for making Belarus a hostage to the Kremlin’s policy.

Our own security and well-being depend on our ability to create a space of peace, democracy and prosperity in the neighborhood. Therefore, we cannot just stand and watch the times of the right of the strong returning. We cannot ignore attempts to redraw the borders of sovereign states. We must clearly state that there is no place for new divisions into spheres of influence, which negate the sovereignty of independent states in the 21st century Europe!

or the people of the region to be able to freely pursue their democratic aspirations, we will also need a clear vision for the EU Eastern Partnership.

The lessons of the past teach that we must unite and join efforts in the face of an aggressive hostile force, without waiting for it to be too late. Presidents Valdas Adamkus ir Lech Kaczyński testified by their actions that together we will always be stronger!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased and proud that in the recent years we have done a great deal to consolidate bilateral relations between Lithuania and Poland. President Andrzej Duda’s presence at the funeral of the leaders of the 1863 uprising in Vilnius was memorable and symbolic. We have renewed the work of the Council of the Presidents to further strengthen the strategic partnership between Lithuania and Poland. The parliaments and governments of our two countries are engaged in close and intensive cooperation to help deliver our shared interests in the areas of security, defense, secure neighborhood, and the well-being of citizens. We highly appreciate Poland’s contribution to implementing joint infrastructure projects of key importance to the Baltic region.

As regards the future, it is just as important to creatively use the potential provided to Lithuania and Poland by membership in the most important Euro-Atlantic structures. Together with our NATO allies and partners, we must be prepared to deter any hostile action.

I will say more: fostering and improving relations with Poland is one of Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities. It is also my personal presidential imperative.

I strongly believe in the power of personal contacts and friendship between our people. Our nations are truly interested in getting to know better each other’s historical heritage and current achievements.

I admit that I am delighted when I hear the Lithuanian language spoken in Poland and Polish in Lithuania. It signifies that we our knowledge and understanding of each is expanding every day.

The outstanding personalities of the past, who bridged Lithuanian and Polish cultures, also serve this special purpose. I will mention only a few of them: the poetic genius Adam Mickiewicz, one of my favorite artists Ferdynand Ruszczyc, humanist and erudite Jerzy Giedrojc.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Members of the Sejm and Seimas,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout our long common history, we have endured many trials – wars and plagues, divisions, deportations and massacres, as well as resistance fights for our values, for our freedom. Faith has always been with us. The Holy Virgin – who protects glowing Częstochowa and shines in the Gates of Dawn – is in our hearts. The Vytis and the Eagle are on our national flags. The joy of our victories is with us. And we know that success is with those who never give up.

Today, as I look back at our common past, I see an inexhaustible source from which we can always draw inspiration. In the same way, the Constitution of May 3 calls on us not only to reflect on the values of patriotism, individual freedom and democracy, but also to actively defend them in the face of new threats.

I would like to wish that the friendship between our two nations should live on in the spirit of goodwill, mutual understanding and determination to bring about positive change for our citizens.

Let us keep moving forward shoulder to shoulder! May our Homelands always be model examples for other nations!

For our freedom and yours!

Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Last updated 2021.05.03 11:23

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