Monday, May 19, 2003
How divisive is Europe? - 19th May 2003, 10.45

Very. Here are some snippets from Lithuania to show how it strangles borders and black market enterprise.

"My girlfriend is in Belarus, but now I can't marry her, because then I wouldn't be a European," says Denis, who offers a dejected shrug and takes a long drag on his cigarette. "I don't want to be on the outside when they make this part of Europe. I can probably make more money living in Belarus and smuggling things, but Belarus will never be part of Europe, and I want to be a European."

"I don't think it will help me to be a European," said Janina Kisiel, the matriarch. "I'm doing this for my grandchildren. I'll die soon, but she shouldn't have to live like this," Mrs. Kisiel said, gesturing to 18-month-old Augustyna. "She needs to live in the modern world. She shouldn't be stuck behind with the Belarussians and Ukrainians."

"Now it's Lithuania with Lithuanian laws, and soon we'll have to live under European laws. Life is very difficult, and I don't think it will get any easier for me," said Mr. Kisiel, the farmer. "I won't be able to sell my milk, but I can say I'm European."
Denis the smuggler, on to his third beer at 10:30 in the morning, acknowledges that even he, facing the prospect of losing his furtive livelihood, has voted to wrench his country away from this hodgepodge of forgotten states in favour of joining the daring project of Europe. "We'll survive -- we'll think of something to do," he said with a wry smile. "A lot of things are going to cost more, but we're better off being Europeans."


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