Liberal Movement leader Šimašius: Party situation is unenviable

Remigijus Šimašius
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The President of the Liberal Movement Remigijus Šimašius calls the Attorney General’s assertions that the Liberal Movement activities were financed illegally – interpretations. He hopes that the Parliament this Thursday will abolish parliamentary immunity of Gintaras Steponavičius and will allow law enforcement to find out everything. Remigijus Šimašius recognizes that because of this the party is feeling a huge burden. About all this – a conversation with Remigijus Šimaš reported.

– Mr Šimašius, at the request of the Attorney General to terminate Gintaras Steponavičius Parliamentary immunity, a number of prominent commentators wrote that it is the end for the liberals. It appears that one year after the start of Eligijus Masiulis scandal, the Liberals sinking deeper and deeper. Do you agree?

– Last year on May 12th, when the mess of Eligijus Masiulis appeared, was the day on which the liberals lived in tension. Time is really serious and critical. It is clear that we have not left the time. On the other hand, I am sure that it will go away eventually. I have repeatedly said that the present is complicated, the future – certainly bright, what remains is only to find out about the past. I think we will figure it out.

– You probably have repeatedly talked with Gintaras Steponavičius about the circumstances, which the Attorney General mentioned in the Parliament. Gintaras Steponavičius is not denying to have met with Raimondas Kurlianskas, but says that they talked about the general political situation, and the support and fund which is called a normal Western practice. The Attorney General said that it is fiction and that was to cover the debt for the Liberal Movement of publicity activities, etc. How do you evaluate it?

– Some things I know very well, others I do not. Some legal entities are prohibited to finance political parties, I know that at the time the Liberal Movement, directly or indirectly, did not receive any support from any other legal entity. From the concern “MG Baltic”, the Liberal Movement of people also did not receive any money. These were checked many times and I state this very firmly.

– You say that the Liberal Movement and the candidates for the election or other accounts did not receive anything from “MG Baltic” and other people for the 2016 elections?

– Yes. I am talking about the Liberal Movement as a member of the election campaign.

– But you are not talking about the Liberal Movement candidates?

– I could not guarantee for each candidate but I guarantee for the Liberal Movement. I cannot tell about what Gintaras Steponavičius spoke to “MG Baltic” representative and whether he promised anything.

-You, as President of the Party, are trying to figure out the past and while doing that you hear such wording – that 10 thousand Euros were given to a public office. Part of this money was intended for the debts of the Liberal Movement for publicity activities. How do you assess this?

– I read what is written in the Attorney General’s address to the Parliament members. I also went to see what the “Freedom Studies Center” is doing. Public institution “Center for the Study of Freedom” can get legal persons support. It received for the execution of a project. I myself according to the number of projects talked in schools without any reimbursement. The project was aided by the society and other well-known people, it actually took place. Does the project have contributed to the Liberal Movement for publicity, recognition, was it not a hidden party financing? A careful reading of the prosecutor’s appeal may be understood as follows: since the project had and still has debts, part of the funding received was intended to cover the debt.

– Did you understand it like that?

– I have carefully read it and understood that in that way.

– I realized that there was some kind of Liberal Movement in the publicity campaign for which you have remained in debt for public institutions and owe to some kind of a third party.

– I think most people understood it like that, as you say. Supposedly the citizenship project was party financing and the debt for the activities was the debt of the party. I can assure you that the project did not mention the Liberal name or essentially supported, nor politics was talked about. Citizenship project was designed to encourage people to feel that they are masters of their own lives. The witnesses may be hundreds of people. I do not find the prosecutions’ interpretation fully convincing. I agree with everything the prosecutor says on the material sense, but it is this interpretation regarding the alleged party financing is strange at least. In Germany such funds even receive state funding, I have been in Naumann Foundation training. Many members of the Lithuanian Parliament have their own name own foundations. Who will say that “Forget-me-not” campaign was not initially associated with a party? Is it forbidden? I think that is not prohibited. And it should be very clear. On the other hand, the question is whether politicians should be involved and be the initiators. After May 12th it was bad for the liberals, we made clear conclusions that politicians cannot be founders and managers of such funds.

– But many probably have acted improperly before May 12th and from there the problem arises?

– This is why I say that there is a need to find out about the past. Do they mess up because they understood certain provisions differently? You need to figure out who is right. For a fact no one is discussing if someone got the money then it means means they got it. All activities are an open book.

– The facts are not as impressive as in the case Eligijus Masiulis. No boxes with cash, bills are not labelled, but the Criminal Code in terms of the situation is very similar. Politicians completely exhibit a different behaviour. Eligijus Masiulis gave up the mandate, left the party and closed the door. Gintaras Steponavičius is going to go to the end at the expense of his political career and party future. Are you are supporting his way to the end?

– I am very happy that the liberal group’s members understand that the Parliament members do not hide behind immunity from prosecution. We want the decision to be made as soon as possible. I hope that the Parliament on Thursday will not interfere with immunity test. Why is Gintaras Steponavičius not giving up his mandate, should ask him. In my opinion, he does not want to identify himself to other situations. As for Gintaras Steponavičis, I have no doubt due to the prosecutor’s interpretation. It will be interesting to see how things evolve. As for Eligijus Masiulis it is obvious. The money should not have been in any case, under any scenario. This is a tragedy. And in this case, the law enforcement will have to figure it out. I think this work will be carried out competently.

– Not only Gintaras Steponavičius has said his words. You, as the chairman of the party are probably the same way. You supported his decision to maintain the mandate as the Parliament member, he remains a member of the Liberal Group, and it is logical that he continues to be identified with the democratic party. Is this useful for you?

– Whatever G. Steponavičius did today or tomorrow, he will still be a liberal, he was and will be identified with the Liberal Movement. We fully understand that the burden falls on the party. We are also well aware that a major step is to do everything to make everything as easy as possible for law enforcement to do their job. I believe that all or nearly all members of the Liberal group will vote for the abolition of Gintaras Steponavičius immunity.

– Have you generally considered that it cannot get worse? Let him remain in the Parliament, because it cannot be worse than the scandal of E. Masiulis?

– It is bad enough, I am well aware of the seriousness of the situation. We are in a crisis situation and we a focused, the situation is truly unenviable. However, lot of people in the party will not go anywhere. They joined the party not to explain relations or take away immunity, but to represent their ideas and voters. That they will do.

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