President Dalia Grybauskaite has urged Lithuanians living in Britain to defend their freedoms in the midst of increasing reports of bullying and hate crime incidents since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
"I'd like to say that Lithuanians must fight for their rights," she said in an interview to BNS on Thursday.
Grybauskaite said that she personally talked over the issue of incidents against immigrants with British Prime Minister David Cameron during the most recent EU summit in Brussels.
The president emphasised that the UK is still an EU member state and as such needs to abide by the bloc's rules and international agreements that prohibit racism and incitement to hatred.
"We spoke that this is an absolutely intolerable, unacceptable expression that has to be stopped by the British government. Because Britain is an EU member and until the divorce is finalised, all the conditions, rules and regulations, and directives remain effective," she stated.
According to observers, immigration was a top priority for those who voted in favour of the UK’s departure from the EU in last month’s referendum.
Grybauskaite said that the split will not be easy and suggested that it may take longer than the estimated two years.
The referendum’s outcome also refreshed dialogue regarding the European Union’s future. France and some southern EU countries are encouraging closer integration. Eastern Europeans are pushing to reduce Brussels' powers, while some Eurosceptics have predicted the EU’s collapse.
In Grybauskaite's opinion, the EU must "stop and think," as now is not a good time for reforms.
"This is not an environment in which to do reforms or revise agreements, because European issues are still very much linked to domestic politics," she stated.
"National politicians in individual countries very often use Europe as a scapegoat to hide their inaction or political disability. Therefore, Europe often suffers due to politicians' inability to handle their domestic issues.”