How Grybauskaitė‘s presidency decade will be remembered in 50 years?

Dalia Grybauskaitė
Dalia Grybauskaitė/ DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Comments or analytical pieces on the situation in Lithuania that appeared after President Dalia Grybauskaitė annual address appear more interesting to me than the address itself. D. Grybauskaitė‘s text, which we heard from the Seimas podium for the tenth time, reminded me more of the style of old – everything is fine in the country, but there are still flaws. One of them is the current government, criticism of which made up a third of the Grybauskaitė annual address itself, Mačys Laurinkus wrote in

Nevertheless, Grybauskaitė annual address mentioned many important and even moving achievements. Obviously, not without the firm hand of the head of state.

Whatever, annual presidential addresses are more archival material for future historians and not an inspiring document, a testament of political experience that would benefit the new generation of politicians. That said, some of the more notable Western European figures have left such wise summaries and insights for the future as they departed the political stage.

Unfortunately, the president’s address with its jabs at the current government that doesn’t really match this genre is not quite at the level of an epochal document at the scale of Lithuania. Or perhaps I, an individual with an interest in our political processes and with a biased view of certain decisions made by the president, am unable to perceive the deep thoughts hidden in Grybauskaitė annual address?

When asked to comment on the address, President V. Adamkus proposed to postpone for 50 years evaluations of D. Grybauskaitė‘s leadership of the country and the period’s significance to Lithuanian history. I understand, what the man, who took Lithuania into the Euro-Atlantic community, wants to say. It is just unfortunate that I will not be able to participate in such an evaluation.

Let’s fantasize

Let’s not be afraid to fantasize: what would a kindergartener of today, starting to write 50 years later about Lithuania’s post-modern history, say about D. Grybauskaitė‘s decade? Perhaps it would sound along these lines. The first female Lithuanian president. Back then it was fashionable.

She continued the country’s European Union integration that had been started by prior Lithuanian leaders. She cared for Lithuania’s energy independence from Russia, though the president’s personally overseen LNG terminal-ship, symbolically named Independence, was later repurchased by the same Russians.

Disregarding beginning friction between EU member states on sanctions against Russia and this would later contribute to the EU breaking in half, D. Grybauskaitė consistently supported the line of speaking to Russia strictly. That said, the current Kremlin, having renewed almost all strategic agreements with the USA and presented a new Russian integration into the EU project, has a lenient view of the Lithuanian-Russian relations “Cold War” period that was initiated by D. Grybauskaitė.

A decent potential evaluation. How many heads of state there are, whose names no one even remembers. Or perhaps, Lithuania’s political arena will, up to the little one writing the historical piece, be dominated by some political genius? By that point, there will have been at least five presidents.

And back to reality

But enough fantasizing, back to reality. V. Landsbergis’ comment was interesting. As in most cases, the professor cares whether Europe still has a spine in regard to Russia. He views D. Grybauskaitė’s position on foreign policy questions as a supporter of the firm and a straight spine. His evaluation contains a hint to President-Elect G. Nausėda.

“But Europe is already capitulating against the aggressor. Perhaps we no longer need sanctions for aggression? Let’s do business as usual somehow. People tire of confrontation. Meanwhile, the aggressor sits and waits for you to tire and conform, relinquishing the freedom of your beliefs… and for Lithuania with its new president, this will be the greatest test – will Lithuania be among the conformists?” the professor noted.

I have no doubt that G. Nausėda clearly grasps the messages being sent by D. Grybauskaitė and V. Landsbergis. The path of the new president’s rhetoric and actions in regard to Russia will be difficult. Expert radars sitting among the Conservatives, as well as analysts that favour the “strong spine” conception will follow every word very closely.

Perhaps this is why, when asked to comment on D. Grybauskaitė‘s annual address, G. Nausėda chose an evasive response – he found the address lacking a reaction to the European Commission’s warning to Lithuania on its inept social policy.

At the same time, it is also a subtle evaluation of the decade of D. Grybauskaitė‘s domestic policy because the president is also responsible for this in the eyes of the people. Of course, all the problems can be heaped on the cabinet and this, by the way, was what was heard most often from the president when answering inconvenient questions.

On Lithuania’s economy

In recent days, I have noticed another text, which discusses the European Commission’s recommendations for Lithuania. MEP A. Kubilius published an article with a significant name – Will the European Union force Lithuania to change?”

Lithuania’s economic growth is, according to the author, consistently declining because “the force of the inherent coil spring of rapid growth, which dragged Lithuania upward after Lithuania entered the EU in 2004 is near exhausted.” A. Kubilius’ forecasts are sad because, according to him, long-term economic stagnation is beginning.

In brief – we have gotten lazy and “are not concerned with further transformations (begun immediately after independence – author), but only with how to subsidise our untransformed economy with the aid of the EU.”

These are not new thoughts, there have long been talks about easy days in the EU’s dependants basket, but the question is why things weren’t done otherwise, without waiting for stagnation? While he was the prime minister, did A. Kubilius discuss this looming threat with D. Grybauskaitė, who left the impression for people at the start of her presidency that she is very familiar with economics? A. Kubilius does not comment on the annual address, but the article is also relevant as an evaluation of the decade. And in part, it is even self-criticising.

I heard a joke about D. Grybauskaitė. She is told that soon support from the EU will cease. Response: but it is still being paid. Since D. Grybauskaitė also thanked her critics in her address, I will make no other jokes.
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