Piano and Politics I: Lithuanian MEP Vytautas Landsbergis

Institutions - 23-07-2007 - 14:38
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Lithuanian MEP Vytautas Landsbergis in his office in the European Parliament

Lithuanian MEP Vytautas Landsbergis

Among the ranks of MEPs are two concert pianists - Lithuanian Vytautas Landsbergis and Luxembourg's Erna Hennicot-Schoepges. This week we speak to them both to get their views on the relative merits of piano playing and being an MEP. Vytautas Landsbergis shot to prominence in the late 80's as the leader of Lithuania's independence movement from Soviet rule. He was the county's first post-Soviet leader before becoming an MEP. Prior to both of these he was a concert pianist.

Are musical and political skills comparable?
Skills are mental and physical. When talking about music we usually have physical abilities and their preservation and improvement in mind. Nevertheless, mental skills like memory and ideas for performance are following the music during all the moments. One can prepare a well known repertoire for a concert without practicing for a long time - performance is more than repetition.
In the European Parliament sometimes you have to prepare for the meetings when you are at the meeting. Preparation is in one's head, unless the questions discussed are completely new.
Should politicians stay out of or support the arts?
Patronage and care about conditions of creation and expression does not necessarily mean interference. We used to live in a regime that was interfering with everything, including the art, but it met insurmountable obstacles, such as  music. Just remember the party's decision on good and bad music taken during Stalinist times. It wasted time and created some rubbish. Interference with art is wrong, nevertheless if politicians care about art it does not automatically mean interference.
You personally know the price of freedom and democracy - what is your message to people who are not inclined to vote?
Non-voting means treason towards representative democracy. It is a paradox. We're re-establishing independence through democracy and won a right not to mechanically vote, but rather choose. If people do not cherish democracy, do not want to participate in it then they  can loose it. Sometimes people have to pass democracy exams and defend their elected governments using direct democracy - like in Lithuania in January 1991.
What about those who compare the European Union to the Soviet Union?
It is hard to speak to ignorant people who confidently repeat clichés. This mental barrier can be overcome by acquainting with the facts on the spot. For example by organising visits to the EU institutions, showing how debates are conducted. Have the people forgetten about the Soviet dictatorship? The Soviet Union was no union, just a falsified Orwelian entity. There was no socialism – the state became a capitalist exploiting workers.
Finally, what is your favourite piece of music?
It is hard to name a single one. My favourite composer is M. K. Čiurlionis.
REF.: 20070705STO08860