Grybauskaitė’s international career: what is on offer?

Dalia Grybauskaitė observing military exercise  Iron Sword 2014 in Pabradė
Dalia Grybauskaitė observing DELFI

Grybauskaitė’s international career is a hot topic in Lithuania now. After ten years of presidency, Dalia Grybauskaitė will soon be departing the Presidential Palace. However, the head of state is still not forthcoming regarding her future career prospects. Political scientists uniformly believe that the president may plan a future in the world’s major international institutions because the Lithuanian political stage may be too small for D. Grybauskaitė, Monika Kasnikovskytė writes in tv3.lt

D. Grybauskaitė developed her career in various state institutions from 1991, when she became the director of the Ministry of International Economic Relations Department of Europe. A few years later, she was appointed director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of Economics.

Impressive career

In 1994, D. Grybauskaitė was the Republic of Lithuania envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the European Union, the representative of the national aid coordinator in Brussels and from 1996 – the minister plenipotentiary of the Lithuanian embassy in the USA.

In 1999, D. Grybauskaitė took the office of vice minister of finance and after a year – vice minister of foreign affairs. In 2001, she was appointed minister of finance. In 2004, D. Grybauskaitė became a member of the European Commission, charged with financial programming and budget affairs.

From 2009 to now, D. Grybauskaitė has been the Lithuanian president for two consecutive terms.

Candidates wish the incumbent an international career

The nine candidates, who sought the office of president this year, almost unanimously agreed that there is no longer a suitable office for D. Grybauskaitė in Lithuania, but she could develop an excellent international career because she has established connections with not only the heads of various international institutions, but also other heads of state.

“I believe that such experience could be employed anywhere in any international organisation. The president has a wealth of experience, massive charisma, good personal connections and a good reputation,” Ingrida Šimonytė told LRT.

However, Naglis Puteikis expressed doubt in about Grybauskaitė’s international career because in Lithuania, D. Grybauskaitė demonstrated “significant social insensitivity,” which would not be acceptable in European institutions.

Four empty seats

After a successful political career in Lithuania, it would not be surprising if, even after a brief pause, D. Grybauskaitė would choose to take to international waters.

Take how last week, European Union leaders met in Romania to discuss the next five years of the European Union and, likely, the most important question – who will open the next page of the Union?

What is interesting is that the terms in office for the four most important European Union organ leaders end at around the same time. European Parliament Chairman Antonio Tajani ends his term in July, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi end their terms in October and European Council President Donald Tusk will withdraw in November.

Thus, Grybauskaitė’s international career prospects looks good because there are at least four opportunities to obtain an exceptionally high office. Especially when the Lithuanian president’s name is already being spoken of among candidates to replace D. Tusk.

When asked whether she will seek the office of European Council president, she does not dismiss the possibility.

“Only one sentence on it: let’s not let the future hamper the present,” the president has told journalists.

Scenario – abroad

Eastern Europe Studies Centre (RESC) director Linas Kojala notes that the appointment to the four posts mentioned earlier is greatly interlinked and one position could have significant sway over who will have real chances at the others.  This is decided by the country the candidates represent, their gender, experience and many other nuances. However, according to L. Kojala, the most natural position for D. Grybauskaitė would namely be the European Council.

“She directly worked there for ten years and usually, it is not a person from outside that becomes the president of the European Council. It’s a fairly intimate institution, which has its own rules of operation. Another matter is, no doubt, that she is the head of a state – the mater of this status is very significant. In other terms, the number of potential rivals is reduced. Well, it could be that gender is also an advantage because there may perhaps not be as many notable female leaders and gender balance could play a role when the posts are distributed,” L. Kojala told tv3.lt about prospects of Grybauskaitė’s international career.

Beyond the aforementioned institutions, L. Kojala imagines there being a future for D. Grybauskaitė in other important world institutions as well.

“There is NATO, the United Nations and World Bank in particular, when you consider D. Grybauskaitė having an economic education and significant experience in working with these political questions. The spectrum of opportunities is truly broad, but it is very hard to guess,” L. Kojala mused.

Vytautas Magnus University professor Lauras Bielinis views D. Grybauskaitė’s chances to take office in major international institutions as being theoretically because both Lithuania and the president herself must actively work on this, but namely activity is what the professor finds lacking.

“These positions are taken not because the individual won. It is a combination of international agreements, influence, resources and political strategies. It is natural that such positions usually go to the representatives of stronger states, who easier gain support of other countries. But even the head of a less powerful country can occupy such a position, when the big powers do not come to terms. Then, the representative of the weaker state becomes a situational leader, who takes the position because they are no threat to either of the competing powerful political powers,” L. Bielinis strategized.

Nevertheless, he has no doubt that with favourable circumstances and if she so desired, D. Grybauskaitė “could easily become European Commissioner,” which she has already tried. Meanwhile, L. Kojala views returning to such an office as a step back.

Scenario – Lithuania

No doubt, the possibility cannot be dismissed that after a brief pause D. Grybauskaitė will try her hand at Lithuanian politics. Nevertheless, L. Bielinis quips that the president more likely “will calmly continue living in her newly built house and enjoy life.” It would be difficult for a president to find a suitable post in local politics after finishing their term.

“I believe that no place is suitable because in any political position in Lithuania Grybauskaitė would be on a far lower level, having been president. In all cases, it would be a position where a political group could openly criticise her. After all, today she is above politics and is somewhat accustomed to it and it matches her nature.

However, when she enters the political field, she will always be an object of criticism for opponents and this way she would lose the presidential aura, which exists for all presidents, who finish in politics,” L. Bielinis told tv3.lt.

As an example, he pointed out impeached President Rolandas Paksas, who did not seek to become a member of the Seimas after his presidency because it would be “a legal attempt at being mauled.”

L. Kojala echoes this sentiment, stating that having successfully established herself in international and European politics, it would be more natural for D. Grybauskaitė to take a step up – to international institutions.

Currently, she is 63 years old, but it is unlikely that after five years, she will once more seek to run for president, L. Bielinis believes. “Over that time, new leaders will emerge. We are seeing both Nausėda and Šimonytė. These are the leaders, who will dominate the coming decade. Grybauskaitė will likely not risk competing with Nausėda,” L. Bielinis mused.

However, he does see a possibility where D. Grybauskaitė could still be part of national politics – the European Parliament elections, be it with an existing or a newly created political power.

“She would likely be both unable and unwilling to create a new movement, but everything is possible. As for going with any political party, she would immediately become the party’s engine and any party would take her onboard because it would be a major engine, the president’s standing would allow the party to win many more votes,” the professor predicted.

The second term of President Dalia Grybauskaitė presidency will end this summer, on July 12.

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