Posts filed under ‘Politics’
This morning the Lithuanian media reported that one more minister might submit a resignation letter to the Prime Minister Kubilius. The Minister concerned is Algis Caplikas, from the Centre and Liberal Party, who is heading the Ministry of Health. However, the Minister will stay, at least for the time being.
The reason for his resignation was a ‘political responsibility’ after former Vice Minister of Health Mr Arturas Skikas. The former Vice Minister was sentenced for two years of conditional sentence postponing its enactment for a two-year period on 5 February for taking a bribe. Mr Skikas, then the Vice Minster, demanded a 20.000 to 30.000 LTL bribe from the National Blood Centre Director.
In the last two months Lithuanian political scene have witnessed birth of two new political parties. Even though the Lithuanian People’s Party claims to represent the centre left, and the Lithuania’s Christian Party planning to be a voice of the centre right, they have more similarities than differences.
Let us start with differences, since there are only few of them. One of them was mentioned above. Another is that the People’s Party declared that it will be openly pro Russian party. The Christians declared that they would aspire to the Scandinavian values.
Other fundamental difference between the parties is that the People’s party is not a Parliamentary party but Christians Party is. The Christian Party already have twelve MPs in their political faction already. How is it possible when a newly elected party, which is not officially registered yet have a rather significant number of MPs?
The answer is a very simple one. The United (One) Lithuania political faction had twelve MPs in the Parliament, but they did not have a party structure to represent them in Lithuania. This happened after the Show Stars party calling itself Lithuania’s Insurrection Party has swept into the parliament during the last elections. The party not only had almost twenty MPs, but the newly formed party joined the ruling coalition, and their leader Arunas Valinskas managed to get the second most important post in Lithuania, that of Seimas’ Speaker. However, soon the group of friends gradually realised that to work together in the parliament is different than party together.
It took them even a half of year to come to a conclusion that they cannot be together any longer and the political Insurrection faction split. Seven MPs, loyal to Mr Valinskas, the leader of the party has left the faction and formed an Oak Faction hopping that the majority of the former partying mates will join them. However, this did not happen, and those who staid in the Insurrection faction decided to name themselves the United Lithuania Faction. Before that, the Insurrection party presidium expelled from the party few of their colleagues who rebelled against Mr Valinskas.
The Lithuanian media announced that the Polish PKN Orlen is considering selling Orlen Lietuva refinery (former Mazeikiu Nafta) if it will fail to secure control over Klaipedos Nafta oil terminal.
According to the Polish daily Parket the most logical buyer of Orlen Lietuva would be a company from Russia. The paper quoted Pawel Burzinski, an analyst from BZ WBK saying, ‘”The sale of Mazeikiai is a very possible development if it will emerge that PKN Orlen has failed to agree with Lithuania’s Government. The sale of Mazeikiu Nafta may be launched by the decision of the concern’s (PKN Orlen) board.”
Mr Burzinski thinks that the sell off scenario could be such that in the first stage of it some 10-30 pct of Orlen Lietuva could be offered to an investor with an option of increasing its stake to more than 50 pct. In analysts’ opinion, then, the PKN Orlen eventually will withdraw from the shareholders of Orlen Lietuva.
Lithuania’s Government, on the other, regards the Klaipedos Nafta as a strategic object and has not intention of selling it to any other company. According to the TV3 programme Savaites komentarai on 24 January, the Polish PKN Orlen is planning to sell Orlen Lietuva to Russia’s Lukoil. However, the Russians would buy Orlen Lietuva only if the company ‘Klaipedos Nafta’ is included into the ‘package’.
Excellencies, distinguished priests of One God, colleagues parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen!
Let me share with you some words on tragedies in plural, not only that unique we are commemorating.
Haiti disaster caused by the earthquake is an enormous and terrible human tragedy, which does continue until now.
The tsunami, which passed over Aceha and other Indonesian areas, caused tremendously huge and painful human tragedy, as well.
But what about mass murders in Rwanda, Darfur, East Timor, Kambodja, Chechnya etc.? – there we need another, different definition.
Tragedy for the victims, not for the killers.
What then about the Holodomor or death camps of Nazis and Soviet Bolsheviks, indoctrinated and premeditated for extermination day-by-day of millions of innocents? We need again a different, special definition there for the dark creatures – from the system-builders to physical perpetrators, so similar to humans – but we would abuse the beasts when calling those shaped on two legs by this very word. Wild beasts never behave in such a way. Who could kill the elder, women and children – thousands and millions – only because they were Jewish?
Allow me to say, Ladies and Gentlemen, not so many words of sorrow and sympathy to the victims we are commemorating in solidarity and mourning, as they deserve, today and here, near to Auschwitz. Requiem aeternam. This European camp of death is a particular one, as it was used for real industry of killing and only by one totalitarian power only, not by two replacing each other like it was made in Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen or even Macikai in my native Lithuania. But if we stay on it, one may ask: why do you not look into the future?
Allow me to say more words about the mysteries of the degrading human soul. It may become deadfully significant for our common future. Holocaust of the 20th century was a signal about essential failures of culture, even that called the Western one, but same time also about future disasters which are currently and worldwide coming on.
Did we receive that signal?
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.
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.’