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Lithuania: Parliament Speaker Warns Of Growing Extremism In Europe

By Asta Banionis

Washington, 9 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Lithuania's speaker of the parliament Vytautas Landsbergis says political extremism is growing both in Eastern and Western Europe.

Landsbergis told an RFE/RL-sponsored briefing on Friday (Nov. 5) that the extremist groups are "chauvinist and xenophobic in slogan and ideology," and advocate the use of force over parliamentary processes which they view as "slow and ineffective."

Turning to the issue of how much of a threat they pose to civil society, Landsbergis said these are small groups that are seen as marginal in Lithuania, but not so small and marginal in Russia.

However, Landsbergis maintains that even the small groups are "strongly financed" and their financing is "tied with criminal wealth on one side, and former communist and KGB heritage from another."

Landsbergis says he is concerned that if the expertise of former KGB officers is put at the disposal of extremist groups, they can greatly increase their effectiveness and shorten the time line when they will pose a serious threat to such countries as Lithuania.

What concerns him more says Landsbergis is that the psychological atmosphere in Central and Eastern Europe is "fertile ground" for the growth of extremism because there are powerful and corrupt moneyed interests resisting privatization efforts and other economic reforms, as well as a society grown impatient with economic dislocations. Landsbergis says that in the entire post-Communist space the communist mentality which pervades these societies is very similar to the mentality of nazism. Despite years of Soviet Communism education against German Nazism, the "Russian people are not immune against this virus," he says.

Since the Western democracies provided no special program to help post communist societies cope with these extremist threats, Landsbergis says that it will be the "common failure of the democratic community" if these movements grow and take control of governments across the region.

Landsbergis said that presently, Lithuania can cope with its extremist groups because their calls for "an iron hand are not very popular," he says. Landsbergis says Lithuania does not allow extremist parties to register for legal political activity which he says helps to limit their growth.

Landsbergis also maintains that because "Lithuanians liberated themselves" from Soviet Communism, the tradition of an inclusive civic society which was at the core of the Sajudis democratic movement has so far withstood the appeals of extremists in the country.

Landsbergis was in Washington to attend a ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event was sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.