There are many different countries in the world. Some of them are high developed, like the United States of America, Great Britain, some Arabian countries and so on. Other countries are in the process of the developing. The level of the living assessment there is not high. Some developing countries are closer to better conditions. Some of them are on the lowest level and there is a long way in front of them on the field of politics, employment, education, and life conditions. In this project we are going to compare the level of living assessment in Lithuania and European Union (EU) Countries. We are going to explore the nominal conditions and the level of the life assessment; it is important to discuss the benefits that are available for countries – members of the European Union. After, we will compare the factual level of the life assessment in the countries of the European Union and the factual level of the live in Lithuania.
First of all, it is important to examine what the European Union is. It will help us to make our comparison objective and full. European Union (also known as Euro Union, EU) is the economical and political consolidation of the twenty seventh European countries. This Union is aimed on the regional integration. In the year 1993 the European Union was legally secured by the Maastricht Treaty. The Maastricht Treaty is based on the principles of the European Communities. There are five different criteria that are considered to be compulsory for every country that decides to become the part of the European Currency Union. Let us mention all of them, according to Barnard (2007):
- The deficit of the state budget should not exceed the 3 % of the gross domestic product (GDP);
- The state debt should be less than 69 % of the gross domestic product;
- A state should take part in the mechanism of the course of exchange during at least 2 years and to hold the exchange rates in the specified range;
- The level of the inflation of the country that is applying for the right to be the part of the European Union should not exceed the level of the inflation in the three countries, (that are already part of the European Union) with the most stable prices, more than 1.5 %;
- The long – term percentage rates of the state stocks should not exceed the average value of the certain rates in the countries with the lowest level of the inflation more than on 2 %.
We can see that nominally the European Union suppose to have a very high level of the living assessment. It means that those countries that are already the part of the European Union have rather high level of life for every citizen; also it means that a country that wants to become the part of the European Union should go through numerous changes and increase the level of the life assessment for every citizen.
The European Union has the standardized system of the law. The system is functioning in every country that is part of the European Union. This system helped to create the common united market which is guaranteeing the free motion of people, goods, services and capital; also the system of the standard common law allows canceling the passport control on the borders between the twenty two countries that are the members of the Schengen Agreement. It is one more advantage of being the part of the European Union for every single country. It is one of the reasons why different countries are trying to enter the European Union.
Craig (2007) emphasized that the European Union accepts different laws (controls, legislative documents and regulations) in the field of the justice and home affairs; also the European Union is making the common politics in the field of the trade, fishing, regional development and rural economy. Seventeen countries of the European Union put the single currency called euro in to circulation; this action created the “euro zone”. Lee (2009) mentioned that the European Union is the subject of the international public rights. It means that the European Union has the permission to take part in the international relations and in the concluding of the international agreements. Moreover, the common external policy and the security policy were formed. The policy provides the implementation of the coordinated external policy and defense policy. The constant diplomacy legations of the European Union and the representations of the United Nations Organization, the Group of Twenty and so on are established all over the world. The delegations of the European Union are headed by the ambassadors of the Union.
As we can see, the European Union is the international formation; it combines the indications of the international organization and the state. Nevertheless, the European Union formally is neither state nor international organization.
We can see that European Union gives a lot of different benefits. What countries are already using them? The European Union consists of the twenty seven states. They are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Czech Republic, Sweden and Estonia. Some of the states have rather high level of the life assessment. Partly it is caused by the fact that some states (like Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands and France) are the first countries of the European Union. It means that they had enough time to improve the conditions of the life for their citizens. Also most of them already were among the high developed countries of the world before they became the part of the European Union.
Now let us examine the level of the life assessment in different countries – members of the European Union that joined the Union during different years. It is pity to admit that the level of the life assessment in some European Union countries is factually lower that average level in Europe. The differences between the North and South are significant. Also there are many differences between old and new members of the European Union. According to different interviews, the buying power in the new members of the European Union (and also in those countries that are still among candidates) is fifty five percents lower than the average buying power in Europe. The part of those citizens who cannot afford some basic facilities (like for example heating, new clothes and recreation) is much higher in new countries of the European Union than in the countries which have been being members of the Union from the very begging and in the rest parts of Europe (Ford, 2005).
The conditions of living also differ. It is true that most of the citizens in the countries which became the part of the European Union recently, have their own apartments and houses. On the other hand, we should agree that the condition of the houses and flats is rather low. For example, almost 50 % of the citizens of Rumania are not satisfied with the quality of the materials that were used to build their houses. Let us compare it with the houses and flats in Finland. According to some reports, just less than 10 % of citizens in the country have the same complains. The rest 90 % of Finland people are satisfied with their living quarters.
Talking about the access to the medical service we need to state following: according to some researches, there is the lack of the qualified medical service and medical equipments in the South of Europe (exclude Spain) and in the rural areas. The half of the poorest citizens of the new countries – members of the European Union cannot afford to visit a doctor. In the West Europe the percentage of such citizens makes 31 %. This problem is getting worst because of the aging among the European people.
Citizens of Italy, Portugal and Greece and some new countries – members of the European Union are less satisfied with the level of the life assessment in their places. The citizens of the North Europe are most satisfied with the level of the live in their countries. Nevertheless, big part of the citizens in the countries that became the members of the European Union recently consider themselves optimists, while the citizens of such countries like France, Italy, Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria do not consider themselves the same ones. In tote, the number of the optimistic citizens fell from sixty four % in the year 2007 to the fifty five % in the year 2010.
The comparison of the life level in the richest and the poorest regions of the European Union give us the differences between them in six hundred fifty %. “The line of the break” between rich and poor zones divides the European Union in two equal parts – West Europe (rich zone with the high level of the life assessment) and East Europe (poor zone with the low level of the life assessment).
It is possible to divide all twenty seven countries – members of the European Union in to two hundred seventy one regions with the different level of the income (including the correctional data about the level life value). Albi (2005) said that the average income of the citizens of England (we are talking here about the north – western part of London that is considered to be the most wealthy part of the European Union) is in 7,5 % times higher than in the north – western part of Bulgaria. This region is considered to be the poorest region of the European Union. The average income per capita in London is almost 50 000 euro per year while in Bulgaria it is less than 7000 euro per year (Pinder, 2008). The difference is huge in spite of the life value in these two regions of the European Union. Different researches show us that the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Denmark are in the lead of the rating while Bulgaria, Rumania, Poland and Hungary are the last countries in the list.
Talking about the buying power of the citizens of Estonia, we can see that it decreased in the year 2010 in compare with the previous year. Thus, Estonia takes the seventh place from the back among the others countries – members of the European Union.
According to statistics, Birol (2007) stated that Bulgaria takes the last place among the other countries – members of the European Union in the rate of the buying power of its citizens. However, the life level in the country increased during the last two years, it is still the last country in the rate of the other European Union countries. For example, the incomes of the Bulgarian house – wives are just less than forty five % in compare with the average income in other countries – members of the European Union. According to some data this number keeps decreasing by now. The prelist country in the rate of the European Union countries is Rumania. The average income of a family in the country is forty six % in compare with other countries of the European Union. Some specialists hope that this level of the average income is able to provide the satisfaction of the vital needs of a family according to the value of the life in the country. They base their hope on the parity of the buying power that is neutralizing the differences in the price levels in the different countries of the European Union. Different independent researchers prove that the low level of the average incomes in Bulgaria cover the low prices in the country in compare with other parts of Europe and European Union countries. It is stated that the average prices in the country are making just fifty three % in compare with the prices in many others countries of the European Union. For example, Bulgarian citizens are enjoying the cheapest bread, tobacco and meat in compare with the rest of the European Union countries. Nevertheless, in spite of the statistics, the buying power of Bulgarian citizens is still very low and it cannot provide the level of the living assessment that is compatible with the one in other high developed countries – members of the European Union.
We can see that the level of living assessment in different countries and zones of the European Union is different (Jean, 2010). The swing of the activities is rather wide. In spite of the fact that all countries – members of the European Union (and also other countries that are still just the candidates to become the members of the European Union) are facing the same conditions of the membership, there are extremely rich and extremely poor countries.
What can the researchers say about the position of Lithuania among the other countries – members of the European Union? Is it among the richest countries or among the poorest countries, or may be the country is in the middle of the rate? What do we know about the country? Here are some short information that will help us to understand the place that Lithuania is placing in the rate of the countries – members of the European Union?
Lithuania (the official name of the country is the Republic of Lithuania) is the state of the Europe on the eastern seaside of the Baltic Sea. It borders with Latvia from the north, with Byelorussia from the east and with Poland and Russia from the south – west. The capital of the country is Vilnius. According to Rifkin (2007), in December, 21, in the year 2007, the country entered the Schengen space. Talking about the economics of Lithuania, we can underline shortly some weak and strong sides of it. On the one hand, the benefits of the country are following: it has moved successfully from the non – stable market economy to the stable one; also the level of the inflation is rather low, it forms just 1,2 %; the national currency is connected with euro.
On the other hand, according to Gavin (2007), here are some weak sides of the Lithuanian economics: the source of the raw materials of the country is rather poor; moreover, Lithuania has the growing deficit of the service balance. In the year 2009 the anti – crisis help of the European Union became the highest income item of the state budget in Lithuania during the whole history of the country. This statistics is still increasing.
Now let us examine independently the life level and also the level of living assessment in Lithuania. Also we should pay attention to the economical development of the country. First of all, it is pleasant to report that the life level in the country has passed ahead the leading countries of the Central and Eastern Europe and even the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Sweden (as we mentioned above, these last two countries are among the most wealthy countries; moreover, they are among the oldest members of the European Union).
How the specialists are counting the average index number of the life level in Lithuania? This index number is the complex multi – level characteristics that is showing the level of the social development of the country visually. It consists of such data as the condition of the education and medical service, the percentage of the unemployment, the development of the cultural relationships, the buying power, the level of the average income of the citizens, the level of the minimal retired payments and so on. Also it is important to pay attention to the demographical rate named “the average duration of the future life” and other categories as well (for example, culture and arts, the banking infra – structure, penitentiary system, the safety on the roads and social climate). It is unexpected, nevertheless, Lithuania takes the twenty second place in the short – list.
McKie (2007) showed that the country raised in the rating list due to the rather high assessments of the civil and democratic rights of the Lithuanian citizens (including the political freedom, the comfortable conditions of the life with the favorable climate and other criteria).
Low assessment Lithuania got for the economical situation and the development of the social infrastructure. According to the independent researches, Lithuania follows France, Switzerland and Germany, thus the country takes the highest place among the countries in the Central and Eastern Europe. Talking about the closest neighbor countries, we can mention Estonia (that is taking the thirty second place in the rate), Poland (that is taking the thirty fifth place in the rate) and Latvia (that is taking the forties place in the rate).
After that, what can we say about the average income of the Lithuanian citizens? It’s a pity, but the minimal salary in the country is still the lowest among countries – members of the European Union (including the new member of the European Union). It is just Latvia that follows Lithuania in the rate. In the same time, the average income of the Lithuanian citizens is the five hundred dollars per month. According to some interviews, “the average life level” for the citizens of Lithuania consists of the following three compulsory parts:
- The ability to pay for the housing habitation;
- The ability to buy a quality food;
- The ability to afford the leisure – time and summer rest for a family.
The average salary (as we mentioned, it is making five hundred dollars per month) does not show the significant spread of the statistics. The social stratification in the country is rather visible, the salary of a cleaner in the Lithuania is in 15 – 20 times lower than the salary of a layer (while in the countries of Western Europe the minimal salary is just 7 times lower than the maximal salary).
The social tension that was caused by the unemployment and by the incommensurability of the incomes has recently decreased in the country due to the citizens that decided to migrate. These citizens decided to move to countries of Western Europe and look for the legal incomes. According to some Lithuanian citizens who moved, they are getting in the countries of Western Europe 20 times more than they were getting in Lithuania (Stead, 2009). According to some non- official data, the quarter of million Lithuanian citizens have left the country. The population of Lithuania is three million of people, thus this migration has affected the country. There is already lack of builders, drivers, doctors and seamstress. It is interesting to mention, basing on Gow’s (2007) words that most of the citizens who moved from Lithuania to another country confessed that they would come back to their native country willingly as soon as their labor became more valued there.
According to Dawisha (2008), the level of unemployment in Lithuania is making 20 %, while the officially announced level is almost 5 % lower. Talking about the countries of the European Union, this level of unemployment is the highest in Europe. It is one of the main after – effects of the world crisis. Politics are trying to hide some facts about the level of unemployment; nevertheless, we should agree that it is the common tendency even n rich and the high developed countries, like The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Germany and so on. Politics are trying to hide some sad facts to avoid the panic among the citizens. Comparing the level of unemployment in Lithuania, we can see that it is the same with the level of unemployment for example in Spain. Due to the crisis, the situation with employment keeps getting worst by now.
One more sad fact, according to Smith (2007) is that almost twenty five % of the Lithuanian citizens are living below the poverty line. In spite of the government declaring that the country is saved from the bankruptcy by the reducing the outcomes (it helped to reduce the deficit of the state budget until 9 % of the inner gross product), the citizens of Lithuania do not see any improvement for them. According to some researches, every fifth citizen of the country is beggar.
According to the official statistics, more than six hundred citizens of Lithuania are poor in no depend on if they have work or if they collecting the material grant – in – aid from the government. 10 % of the working citizens of the country are indigent because their salaries are too low; also some researchers agree that the social politics of the country is far not perfect (Jeffery, 2008). It means that one working person should support many non – working people with material means. Among those who are getting the grant – in – aids from the government 60 % are families where adults cannot find a job. Barrot (2007) shows that the number of recipients of the grant – in – aids from the government is increasing. The saddest fact is that even those families that have two adult children are among this number. A family is traditionally the pivot of the European society and it is pity that it is becoming harder for families to find a good job and to support themselves. Politicians agree that the situation where the level of the unemployment is high is the worst one that can happen to a state; and if the situation is rather continuous it is decreasing the wealthy of a state.
As we mentioned before, is makes people move from their native country and look for the good job in other states. Some researchers say that people are escaping from the Lithuania and the number of such kind of runaways is increasing. During the last three years (2008 – 2010) the number of those citizens who moved from the country increased three times. For example, during the year 2009 five thousand five hundreds and seventy two people declared their departure from the country (Paul, 2009). In the year 2010 this number reached 16 000 people. It means that one hundred and thirty people are moving from Lithuania every day. There are just three more countries – the new members of the European Union that have the same percentage of the migration. According to the opinion of the citizens, they are moving because they do not see any hope to improve the situation for them.
The same tendency is common for some other countries – new member of the European Union. Some specialists agree that this tendency is one of the after – effects of the crisis in Europe. We need to agree that very European country was affected by the crisis. Nevertheless, rich countries with the stable economics recovered faster than new countries – members of the European Union. As we have discussed above, the new countries had no stable economics before the crisis; that is why now the situation in the developing countries and new members of the European Union is still complicated.
Comparing the situation in Lithuania and old members of the European Union, we need to mention that due to the high level of migration is causing the criminal tension between different foreigners and nations in some rich cities and countries. Talking about such countries as Lithuania, the specialists notice that this problem is not pressing. On the one hand, the migration of foreigners to the country is not high so the criminal situation is rather stable and there are no international conflicts there.
On the other hand, some researchers consider that one day Lithuania is going to lose independence. They think that it will be a way to improve the economic situation is the country; also they agree that Lithuania made a first step on this way when it became a member of the European Union.
What do the Lithuanian citizens think about the independence of their country? According to some interviews, more than twenty six % of the citizens agree that Lithuania will lose the independence one day; the one third of the citizens is sure that their country will keep being independent for ever; almost the same number of the citizens found hard to answer the question about the independence of their country; the rest of the citizens told that Lithuania would stay independent for some time more (15 – 90 years). Those people, who are not citizens of Lithuania, think that the country will lose the independence. Nevertheless, this is still just forecasts. It is hard to say now what future is waiting for the country and if it is going to stay independent. We can say that many of the developing and small countries are facing the same problem. We hope that now when crisis in Europe is reducing, such countries as Lithuania have a hope to recover their economics and overcome some after – effects of it; as a result we can talk about the lasting independence of the country with confidence.
Now let us examine the level of prices and survival in Lithuania. One of the most urgent problems is the high prices of petrol. It leads to increasing of the prices of the foods and other vital goods. This situation is common in every country – while the price of fuel is increasing the price of goods that need to be transported is also increasing. This year one liter of the most popular petrol (95) costs almost 1,5 euro. It is twice expensive than two years ago. The great part of the fuel price is made of the increased excises and other state taxes. It is important to mention that the state taxes in Lithuania passed the necessary minimum for the countries – members of the European Union long time ago. The reason is the necessity to refill the poor state budget. One more reason is the only monopolistic manufacturer and provider of the fuel – Mazeikiai refinery in Poland. The most crying fact is that Mazeikiai refinery is selling fuel to Lithuania much more expensive than to other countries where the competition is high. It means that the high fuel prices are affecting even those citizens of Lithuania who have no car. The reason is that the price of the fuel is making almost half of the goods’ prices on the inner market of the country. Moreover, some goods, for example milk, are getting more expensive not only because of the transport fee, but also because there is lack of the goods on the international market. It makes the goods 15 – 20 % expensive in compare with the two previous years (Mirea, 2010). Also the raw materials are getting more expensive. Combining the facts we mentioned above, we can understand the reason why approximately 10 % of the Lithuanian citizens are starving.
Some researches show that ten % of the Lithuanian families do not have enough money for food; another thirty five % of the families in the country have money for food, but it is hard for them to buy clothes; thirty nine % of the families consider their material condition average (Bieshaar, 2010). It means that they have money for food and cloths; also they are able to save some spare money. Nevertheless, such kind of families cannot handle some significant buying, like for example, fridge, TV or car. Twelve % of Lithuanian families stated that they are able to buy some expensive goods; from the other side they cannot afford buying of the apartments, house or cottage in the country. Less than one % of the Lithuanian citizens sad that they can buy everything they need; there also some % of the citizens decided not to take part in the interview. This situation is common for the cities.
Talking about some rural areas we need to agree that half of the rural population have no enough money for food and clothes. Jeffery (2008) demonstrated that almost half of the people in rural areas (45 %) consider their material condition poor. During the year 2010 such kind of people became 4 % more. There are just 13 % consider their material condition average. This number reduced during the last year. Half of the population in the Lithuanian towns considers their salary too low. There are just some numbers that shows the real affair in the country, but even these numbers prove that the level of living assessment in Lithuania in contrast to other EU countries is rather low and needs its immediate improvement.
It is interesting to mention that the prices for the man goods are higher in Lithuania than in Germany, Switzerland and Finland that consider to be destroyed by the world crisis. It means that the citizens of Lithuania are suffering more than citizens of other countries – members of the European Union. Some experts consider that it is caused by the decreasing of the salaries and by the unwillingness of the politicians to reduce the prices for at least main goods. One more problem of Lithuania is the absence of the competition. It holds the prices on the same position and even let the prices increase freely.
According to some experts’ opinion, citizens of the other countries – members of the European Union would start strikes of the situation with the prices was the same with the situation in Lithuania. The citizens of the country are shocked, nevertheless, the temperament of the Lithuanian citizens is much more calm than the temperament in some other countries of the European Union (like for example, in Greece). The population in Lithuania is trying to express the dissatisfaction and unrest, but the citizens do not try to start some active resistance. Some researchers consider it the result of the Lithuanian traditions. It is not according to traditions to strike and resist actively. While the citizens of such European countries like for example Greece, Spain and Portugal are more inclined to different changes; the citizens of Lithuania prefer to avoid strikes and changes. Thus we can see that partly the decreasing level of the economics and the level of life in Lithuania is the result of the passive position of the citizens of the country.
One more problem that is decreasing the level of the life assessment in Lithuania is the wrong way of avoiding the deficit of the state budget. For example, trying to decrease the deficit of the state budget, politicians provided some norms that are not in agreement with the main priorities and humanity. They decreased the procurements of different books for the public libraries because people can still use the old books. Next step was to do away all unprofitable local hospitals all over the country. It caused the increasing of the death rate because for many sick people it is hard to go to so – called profitable hospitals. They are dying on the way to hospitals. It became hard to give people the urgent medical help.
The independent researchers call this way of decreasing the lack of the state budged inhumane because it was reached for account of the wealthy of the Lithuanian citizens. It helps unfair politicians to launder money. It is pity, but the problem of the stealing in the highest government layers is not the problem of just one country. The difference is that in wealthy countries with the stable economical situation and with the high level of the life it is not affecting the citizens so much. The benefits of the European Union are that a country does not face the problem alone. There are many different laws that help to control the situation and to improve it. If the state wants to become the member of the European Union (or to stay the member of the Union), the government suppose to run some improvements. It means that the governments of the countries – members of the European Union have some power above them. It gives a hope for the citizens of the Lithuania to meet some improvement of the economic situation and the life level in the country.
We need to state that since Lithuania was accepted as the member of the European Union the citizens of the country have a hope for improvement in the nearest future. As me mentioned above, Lithuania is already among the most developed countries according to some in some rates.
Summarizing the information above we can conclude following. The European Union takes a much expanded territory; it consists of twenty seven different countries, all of them joined the European Union during different periods of time and they had different condition of the economics and life level when they joined the Union. It means that the life level at the territory of the European Union is not the same. As we examined in this paper, there are rich high developed countries. If we want to compare the level of living assessment in Lithuania and in such kind of the European Union countries (like the United Kingdom of Great Britain, German, Denmark, Austria and so on) we see that Lithuania is in the end of the rate list.
Nevertheless, among countries that became the members of the European Union recently Lithuania is not the worst one. We can say that the problems it is facing now are common for the countries with similar economics and social situation. Due to the world crisis new members of the European Union were affected in the same way and now they are trying to overcome the after – effects of it.
The final conclusion is following: Lithuania is in the middle of the rates. There are countries above it and below it. We hope that the country will be able to improve the social and economic situation. The European Union has good laws and perspectives for the countries – members. We hope that Lithuanian will be able to use the benefits of the European Union membership and improve the weak side of the state.
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