Lithuanian diplomat speaks up about castes and secret sharing of high posts

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Lithuanian diplomat speaks diplomatic ranks are being shovelled to Presidential Palace advisors and offices in embassies are already set aside for them. Back stage dealings are being performed with such audacity that even the usually temperate diplomats could no longer bear it.

One of them spoke to Lietuvos Rytas on castes. Lrytas.lt spoke to former Lithuanian ambassador to Slovenia and now special envoy for border management, Lithuanian diplomat Rimutis Klevečka, who has headed the Foreign Ministry‘s recently established trade union.

Painful to see nepotism

Why are the president’s advisors proposed to important offices in our country’s embassies without any competition?

The minister of foreign affairs has the right to accept an individual to diplomatic service. However, he also has the duty to ensure equal opportunities for both those working in the ministry and those invited from outside.

The minister was hired by the state to dutifully perform at their office – uphold the equality of individuals as per the law and remain objective, not abuse their power. But he is using his rights, while not performing his duties.

Individuals from outside are hired without considering others, who have been waiting in line for their careers to proceed. Yes, already 20-30 people have entered diplomatic service, while others’ careers were halted.

These presidential advisors probably do have the right to return to diplomatic service, however the principles of justice and fairness should not be dismissed, with higher offices granted without a competition.

Somehow people become high ranking diplomats over a single day. Meanwhile, others seek it and wait for it for decades. Such cases show that not everyone is equal in the country, some are made more equal than others.

This pushing of one’s own is probably unacceptable to other diplomats?

Yes, it’s hurtful for us. We proposed to amend this – prepare procedures for selection to be made more transparently. The ministry leadership responded that it consulted the labour council and we can be free.

However, the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court ruled this February that the labour councils do not have any rights in state service legal relations. They can only represent staff working based on work contracts, while the decisions of the Diplomat Attestation Commission are the competence of state service.

I read your investigations into problems in the Prosecutor General’s Office, pushing one’s own to important positions. Similar things happen in our ministry – one thing is declared, but actions are made completely differently.

In diplomatic service, we interact much with the outside. Foreign policy is the country’s spine. Our politicians declare equal opportunities and rights, fairness in the international arena, but inside the country, they act otherwise.

Perhaps it is convenient to some to change nothing?

That is the case because how else can you explain the fact that the Diplomat Attestation Commission distributes ranks and offices without any clear criteria?

There is no desire to change a flawed system and form equal rotation opportunities for everyone. Even if the state service law demands this.

Backstage agreements

Is entry into diplomatic service a gift?

For some it is, for others it is responsible work. For example, I work a great amount, I am dedicated to diplomatic service. I have worked in it since 1994, when it was still being created. I held a variety of offices and prior to Lithuania entering the European Union, I led the Lithuanian Customs Service. There were many serious challenges back then.

But we want to continue creating and not destroy. However, we are not allowed to do it.

A door was left wide open for the president’s advisors, while others have to wait in the common line. How was this achieved?

Some individuals enter diplomatic service, when there is a change of government. But why are the diplomats, who worked in the Presidential Palace, not returning to the ministry through the normal routes and instead the minister is advised to form diplomatic service contracts with them?

In other words, even the diplomatic service law is applied selectively and double standards apply. In the backstage, it is said that certain people have to be employed and then everything proceeds quickly.

How is it even possible that Presidential Palace staff are reserved offices in a different state institution well ahead of time? That’s nepotism.

That’s nepotism at the highest level and so much more! To my knowledge, recently there have also been appointments of people linked to the minister and other high officials.

There are talks that advisor Ž. Šatūnienė may be proposed as the head of Lithuania’s permanent representation to NATO. Why not another experienced diplomat?

That’s a very notable problem. Diplomatic representatives of our country are either career diplomats from the ministry or political appointees.

The president has the right to propose such individuals to ambassador positions, but they are political appointees and have to resign as soon as the president’s term in office ends. For example, that’s how it is in the USA.

The term of Lithuania’s representative to NATO is nearing its end; perhaps it will be made shorter yet? Would it be fair to replace them with a person, who will not participate in any selection process? No because there are ambassadors, who have waited for 6, 7 and even more years. Equal opportunities for all should be formed.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs DELFI / Audrius Solominas

Numerous privileges

Could such appointments be seen as recompense?

In private businesses, a departing leader can recompense their subordinates, but is it moral to do so in state institutions?

The appointment procedures in diplomatic service are not clearly defined, the minister exploits the right he has been granted to make appointments.

However, this does not mean that this can be done. After all, the moral aspect is no less important than the legal one.

The rulings of attestation commissions, which present recommendations to the minister, cannot be appealed by diplomats. Thus, the individual is left alone before the train of the old system.

Is it true that this way, many anointed ones from the Presidential Palace have made careers this way?

I can’t disagree with this because the facts are obvious. Instead of returning to their earlier positions, they are appointed higher.

While working in the Presidential Palace, they amassed experience, but other diplomats also put in work, had expectations. But now they are told to wait because they do not belong to the anointed caste.

I am the child of exiles, I was born in Siberia and I cannot comprehend such privileges. I work in the hopes that Lithuania will be rid of rampant nepotism and cases like with the president’s advisors or prosecutor J. Gelumbauskas to become impossible. But it keeps happening to this day!

Senior politicians loudly proclaim from their tribunes that they are combatting soviet heritage. But in fact, they themselves do so to their own countrymen, who earnestly pursue careers, but do not belong to cliques.

Is it easy for young people, who have finished university studies, to enter diplomatic service?

Competitions for young people are massive, there being fifty or even a hundred competing for a single position. They only receive their first rank of attaché after a test period. As for becoming a minister counsellor, it’s like going to the moon. You could wait an entire 20 years.

However, the cases of the president’s advisors show that not everyone has to wait.

What privileges do those appointed to serious embassy positions receive?

They receive further compensation for their children’s studies, up to 8 thousand euro annually for each child. They are also provided funds for rent. Spouses also receive monetary compensation.

According to the 1961 Venice Convention, diplomats in foreign countries can be made exempt from VAT. You can regain VAT payments for any purchases – cars, clothing, household appliances.

From advisor to head of state to prestigious offices

Former senior advisor to D. Grybauskaitė, Rūta Kačkutė found a good new job already at the start of this year. There were talks about her victory in the competition to the office of National Museum director already ahead of time, apparently the office had been promised for her.

R. Kačkutė, who advised on education, science and culture, was a member of the president’s team since 2009 and has been awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit to Lithuania.

Former presidential advisor for energy and transport questions Arūnas Molis started working as the Klaipėda Liquified Natural Gas Terminal Service director at the start of this year. The competition for this important post featured almost 40 candidates.

Protocol Service head Donatas Kušlys also took flight from the Presidential Palace without waiting for the end of term. He was appointed ambassador to Austria, where he took office in February.

Former presidential advisor for economics, Nerijus Udrėnas, was appointed to the board of Klaipėda State Seaport already in 2016 and became board chairman this year.

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