‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ a slogan in Vilnius
It is only a matter of days before Lithuania officially will recognize the Kosovo Independence. Meanwhile the Lietuvos Rytas basketball club supporters raised a banner ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ during a match just few days ago. So, what is happening in Lithuania?
First of all lets talk big politics. According to the Lithuanian Constitution such an act could be adopted only by the Parliament (Seimas). However, some politicians argue that the President alone could do this.
Nevertheless, the President already congratulated Kosovars with their Independence and asked the Minter of Foreign Affairs to submit the recognition proposal to Seimas.Hence, Seimas will begun its spring session on the 10th of March. Then it looks that the matter will be solved soon after. When the Chairman of the Seimas’ Foreign Affairs Committee was asked why Vilnius is lagging behind its Baltic neighbours and does not recognise Kosovo now he replied that ‘this is not a sports race’.
Well said, because Lithuania and Serbia (maybe more accurately, ex-Yugoslavia) has a very long sports ‘love and hate’ relationship. This is of course about Lithuania’s second religion – HM basketball. Since the Soviet times every game between a Lithuanian team and an ex-Yugoslavian team (regardless BCs or on the National lever after we gained Independence) was a nerve rack. Lithuanians were good but the Serbs or Croatians could also play, and sometimes win. When the Lithuanians lost it was never our fault, it was the Yugoslavians who bribed the referees, and so on, and so forth.
We have one or two ex-Yugoslav basketball players here and our Lietuvos Rytas team is trained by a Serb Trifunovic. As we know the sports could be very political. A great manifestation of that was a match in Vilnius when some of the Lietuvos Rytas’ supporters raised a banner with a slogan ‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ The Serbian coach refused to comment on it.
I am not convinced that the supports thought about the politics, more likely they thought about a moral support for their coach. Same as the Kaunas’ Žalgiris suporters raised the Palestinian flag during a game with the Tel Aviv Maccabi team. I am quite convinced that when the Lietuvos Rytas will change the coach to not a Serbian, we will see the Kosovo flags flying during a match against a Serbian team. The Lithuanian sports fans are notorious of their Political Incorrectness. We should only remember when the Lithuanian national team’s football fans unveiled a large banner with a shape of African Continent in the French national colours with a slogan ‘Welcome to Europe’.
Even thought the Lithuanian media is covering the Kosovo events well, I am not sure that many Lithuanians too concerned what is happening there. However, the media and the politicians are quite united in support of Kosovo case. First of all, Serbia is portrayed as the last bastion of the Russian influence in the Balkans. Hence, this automatically puts Serbia ‘on the wrong side of the fence.’ Second of all, the commentators argue that this is not an ideal solution to the problem but it is the best in this complex situation.
However, there is a feeling in the air that the Serbs put their bet on the wrong horse, starting with Milosovech and ending up with the Russians. Nevertheless, the Lithuanians congratulated the outcome of the Presidential elections in Serbia.
But the biggest talk in town at the moment is not Kosovo, it is the Vilnius Book Fair, the International Baltic book fair. Reading books is once again become a fashionable past time in Lithuania. This year the Fair welcomed the acclaimed American novelist John Irving (read an interview with him) and the most popular living Norwegian writer Per Petterson.
P.S. I am not sure that many from the general public aware that the Kosovars are the Muslims. Having in mind that absolute majority of the Lithuanians have a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the Muslims, their view of Kosovo would alter. Paradox is that a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the other races than white does not obstruct Lithuanians’ fascination with the black NBA players. Furthermore, my generation’s never ending ‘love affair’ with Freddy Mercury goes on despite a very ‘reserved’ view towards the gay persons.