Archive for January, 2010
We already were used that the President of the Republic only formally enjoys the “position of the first” in Lithuanian state power hierarchy. While taking into consideration his real powers and influence to the formation of state policy, he was considered to be only the second or the third highest statesman.
The President Dalia Grybauskaitė is changing this perception. Today it would maybe arise not so much doubts that D.Grybauskaitė is also a real head of state. It is enough to see how unwillingly, frowning, however, keeping his hair on, the Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius is replacing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in whom, without any *prima facie* serious reasons, the President expressed her non-confidence, even though the Prime Minister had confidence in him.
This kind of situation lead us to question if the preconditions for transformation of a parliamentary republic, even though it has certain features of a semi-presidential republic, to presidential republic are not being created? I don’t know how much there’re are citizens, disappointed by the functioning of the political system – in the system, such as it was till now – and longing for order and for a strong hand of a single state master, however, the number of this kind of citizens is for sure not small and these citizens would gladly approve of the aforementioned transformation.
This part of the citizens does not care that almost in all post communist countries these presidential regimes converted into authoritarian regimes or even into dictatorships with bigger or smaller restrictions of democracy, political freedom and human rights. For the people, who find themselves on the edge of misery and poverty, also for a part of the representatives of business democracy, political freedom and human rights are not the most important things and ultimate values.
Still I would think that today there’s no reason to suspect that the President has authoritarian intentions. The President is acting and is strengthening her political powers by using the formed political situation, i.e. by using the fragmentation and fragility of the governing coalition, under the conditions of financial and economic crisis – the growing unpopularity of the politics of the Government as well as the growing unpopularity of the Prime Minister himself, the absence of united opposition and the opposition’s unpreparedness, despite of the latter’s promises to take over the burden of the executive power, as well as by using the opportunities, provided to the President by the Constitution, those opportunities, that were not used by the previous heads of state.
Lithuania’s daily Lietuvos rytas on 30 January published latest opinion polls. According to the polls the Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite remained the most popular politician in Lithuania and the Social Democrats the most popular political party.
According to the poll some 40.4 pct of Lithuania’s residents convinced that the President represent their interests ’s the best. Even though it is by far the best result, Grybauskaite has lost some popularity, since in December with 42 pct of Lithuanians support.
Opinion poll indicates that the Parliament’s Speaker Irena Degutiene is gaining popularity and firmly remains in the second position of the most popular politicians. This month same 15.1 pct favoured Degutiene, up from 13.6 pct from December.
Rolandas Paksas, currently Member of the European Parliament, impeached president and the Chairperson of the Order and Justice remained the third most popular with 6.4 pct, up from 5.1 pct. Another MEP Viktor Uspaskich, the Chairperson of the Labour Party held his forth place with 5.2 pct, but down from 6.8 pct in December.
The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė has on 29 January signed a decree appointing Audronius Ažubalis as a new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania. Mr Azubalis, the Conservative Member of Parliament is currently Parliament’s Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The meeting was scheduled for 45 minutes but lasted double that.
After the meeting Ažubalis told journalists that the Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities are the same, ‘Real and deep integration into NATO and the European Union, good relation with our neighbours. It sounds banal; there is a lot of talk and writings about it. On the other hand, it is a different matter how we implement that. But I don’t want to comment on that at the moment. However, I have an impression that our conversation with the President was open, very clear, benevolent and to be precise, I am in a good mood from it.’
Asked to give his opinion about a Parliamentary probe on the secret CIA prisons in Lithuania he answered, ‘The probe helped Lithuania to clear out another jammed pipe in its circulation of democracy.’ He also added that in his opinion the probe will not effect Lithuania’s relationship with the USA in any negative way.
Some politicians and commentators see Mr Ažubalis as too anti Russian and not able to fit with a new, so called a pragmatic policy towards Russia, which began when Grybauskaite took the office half year ago.
“I think that Russia is a complicated neighbour and some of its actions can be named as threatening. Let us just look at the example of closure of Druzhba gas pipeline, the act that was threatening to Lithuania economically. We cannot deny that.” said Ažubalis.
Lithuania’s Statistics Department finally released data showing Lithuania’s GDP performance in 2009. According to the report Lithuania’s GDP in 2009 contracted by 15 pct compared with 2008.
In the last quarter of 2009 on year-on-year calculation Lithuania’s GDP shrank by 13 pct. However, according to the quarterly calculation in the forth quarter Lithuania’s GDP grew by 0,1 pct.
Opinions on Lithuania’s GDP performance in 2010 are split. However, the main message coming from this Baltic country is that Lithuania’s economy is stabilising and it stopped falling.
If one puts things in prospective in the beginning of 2009 many predicted that Lithuania’s GDP will fall back to the levels of 2004, when Lithuania entered the European Union. However, statistics show that Lithuania’s GDP returned to the levels of 2007. Hence, the crises, in terms of GDP threw Lithuania back by two years. It is bad, but could have been much worse.
The first solar cell production line was opened in Vilnius on 26 January. Modernios E-technologijos (MET) and Precizika Metrology (PM) invested some 10 million Litas into the project. According to a press release from the Ministry of Economy other five Lithuania companies are ready to start production of solar cells.
Dainius Kreivys, the Minister of Economy participated in opening of the production line and hoped that this is a beginning of whole new sector in Lithuania’s economy, which could grow into a significant industry and would become a pillar of growth. Mr Kreivys is quoted in the press release saying, ‘ It is estimated that the clean-tech sector is creating seven times more of added value than traditional industries. I hope that this investment will become a great example of how high technology is becoming a every day reality in the Lithuania’s industry.”
The Conservative party’s presidium has chosen Audronius Ažubalis for the Minister of Foreign Affairs post and approved request for resignation from the post of Vygaudas Ušackas. The Party decided to delegate their colleague unanimously since it was the only one candidate. The Conservative party is holding the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs according to the agreement in the coalition.
Audronius Ažubalis is 52, a journalist by trade, worked as a press person for the Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis the Chairman of Seimas twenty years ago. He was Member of Parliament in 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 onwards.
Mr Ažubalis took part in many positions related to foreign affairs, currently is the Chairperson of Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs. Andrius Kubilius, the Prime Minister and the Chairperson of the Conservative party commented on the party’s decision to appoint Ažubalis by highlighting his experience in this field. Mr Kubilius said after the party’s presidium meeting to the journalist, “He is experienced, heads the Foreign Affairs Committee and has been working with foreign policy affairs for a good decade.”
Mr Ažubalis was moved by the party’s decision and stated to the journalists, “I’m deeply touched that my party colleagues showed their trust in me and that they said so many beautiful words in my address. I really didn’t expect this. I will now look forward to hearing the president’s decision.”
would think that every minister should feel the political situation so well as never to receive an official suggestion from the head of state to leave his post. „I am not clinging to my chair, so if my resignation would solve the problems, I will immediately sign an application to resign,” -this standard sentence is repeated by everybody. Also we all see how much the words differ from the deeds. A phrase “I would like to check how much confidence is placed on me” is still absent in Lithuanian political vocabulary.
A Minister of Foreign Affairs who did not manage to check how much confidence he enjoys, did a mistake that makes us to entertain doubts about his diplomatic wit. Even though this might be only a coincidence, however, this kind of mistakes are not justifiable for a former negotiator for EU membership, Lithuanian ambassador in Washington and London, one of the most professional our diplomats.
It is also hard to understand how Vygaudas Ušackas understood one of the most important problems that are rooted in Lithuanian diplomatic service that is under his leadership. While having a look from aside, it is hard to get a rid from an impression that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was too much close with the State Security Department, and this impression was even more sustained by a free migration between these two services. Links between these two institutions are natural as well as cooperation between them.
However, these links have to be based not on a subjection of one of these services to another but on healthy competition between them. As we can see from a tragic story of Col.Vytautas Pociūnas or from a shameful story of the adviser of the minister Dainius Dabašinskas, there was no balance between the Ministry and the Department. After choosing the side of the faction and not the state interests in the case of CIA prisons, Vygaudas Ušackas showed that he will not manage to regulate the relationships with the State Security Department.
The publicly announced President’s idea to invite the President of the Federation of Russia to the celebration of March the 11th was the last proof for the Minister. Vygaudas Ušackas who is skilfully griping in the channels of mass media showed that he is not inclined to use these skills as well as the cultivation made by the Ministry in the public sphere for the sake of the state.
Lithuanian web site Delfi on 12 January published an interview with Albinas Januška, a former state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, former adviser to President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, and signatory to the Lithuanian Independence Act.
Some commentators call him Lithuania’s grey cardinal and a mastermind behind so called group called the ‘Statesmen’ (Valstybininkai). This very rear interview with a man who is known for being the main Lithuania’s foreign policy strategist, but his influence in Lithuanian politics was also huge.
The interview is omitted. Commentator Vladimiras Laučius conducted it.
Foreign Policy Is Too Personal
(Delfi.lt) About a year ago, current Foreign Minister Vygaudas Ušackas announced his plans to “open new page in relations with Russia.” Have you noticed any changes?
(Januška) Usačkas is talented and brave. Visions and innovations are necessary. There indeed are some new initiatives. But it is important not to make a mistake and not to imagine oneself as the forerunner of a new historical period.
It seemed that the country was mature enough, that it had opened a sufficient number of “new pages,” and that we had the right to expect to have a predictable, stable, but also sharp and expansive foreign policy.
The biggest mistake is that we again chose to have relations with the Kremlin based on the tête-à-tête principle. This is why we are a member of a modern empire – the EU, to speak with Russia as an equal. A powerful rival against an equally powerful rival. The Kremlin’s foreign policy is based on the principle that one has to divide and rule, because when Russia deals with everyone separately, it is stronger. Our current policy helps Russia strengthen its interests.
I would like to remind you that when Adamkus and [former Minister of Foreign Affairs] Petras Vaitiekūnas were in power, they had added to the EU-Russia negotiation mandate some issues that were important to us and other EU countries: Russia’s commitment to observe the requirements defined in the Energy Charter, the possibility to renew the delivery of oil via the Friendship [Druzhba] pipeline.
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Prime Minsiter Kubilius said this morning that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vygaudas Usackas should submit his letter of resignation in the nearest future. He also stated that he is sorry for Mr Usackas to go, since he is one of the best diplomats Lithuania has. President Grybauskaite expressed her non-confidence towards the Minister on 20 January.
On 21 January, the Prime Minister said Ziniu radijas, “I will discuss the minister’s resignation, which he will turn in to me shortly, with the party’s leadership, which delegated him, and they will have to decide on what to do next”. However, he added that he regrets that Usackas has to leave the Cabinet, “The situation at hand is quite regretful, because, in my opinion, Usackas is a professional, so it’s really sad to see that the president can no longer work with the minister”.
The ultimate like request for Usackas to resign came on 20 January, after Mr Kubilius paid a planned visit to Grybauskaite. After the visit the President’s office issued a statement that clearly indicated Grybauskaite’s firm stance on the issue. The statement said, ‘According to the President, she has lost confidence in the Foreign Minister, and foreign policy therefore may not be implemented efficiently. The President urged the Prime Minister to take procedural actions and to come up with a proposal to dismiss Foreign Minister Vygaudas Ušackas from office.’
Today, the Lithuanian commercial TV station LNK claimed that Lithuania’s Foreign Minister’s resignation letter will land on the President Grybauskaite’s desk tomorrow, 20 January.
According to the report, the Prime Minister Andrius Kubulius who is scheduled to meet the President tomorrow will bring the letter. Presidential Spokesperson Linas Balsys said to BNS, “In response to the prime minister’s request, the president will meet him to discuss the political situation in the country, the ruling coalition’s issue and the issue of Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas”.
The Prime Minister said to the Public Radio today that Usackas should work harder to regain the President’s trust. He said, “Any minister has to have both the president’s and the prime minister’s trust. If this trust is lacking – speaking of the president’s trust with regards to specific ministers – we all are certainly prepared to spare no effort to restore this trust, and this should first of all be the responsibility of the minister.”