The Presidential Palace and ruling Conservatives’ struggle over influence and important posts are striking down ever new figures on the political chessboard. When and how will this end, Vytautas Bruveris asks in lrytas.lt?
President Gitanas Nausėda continues to block the appointment process for a new Lithuanian ambassador to the European Union, having rejected all the nominations presented to him by Conservatives leader and Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.
It is believed that this is the head of state’s retribution against the ruling bloc for refusing ambassadorships to several of his proteges. According to Lietuvos Rytas sources, the Presidential Palace has selected its new favourite Asta Radikaitė that it is trying to foist into this post.
It is unclear whether the right-wing will break in this struggle. However, they are sharpening their spears in Seimas against political scientist Šarūnas Liekis who G. Nausėda nominated to the Central Electoral Commission (VRK).
Shoving match continues
The confrontation between G. Nausėda and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (URM) over the embassy to the EU has continued for many months now.
When last August, former President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s former advisor Jovita Neliupšienė concluded her tenure at this embassy, the head of state sought to seat an official from the European Commission, the head of his presidential campaign in Brussels Vygandas Jankūnas.
However, the Conservatives immediately opposed such plans and G. Landsbergis declared that the URM would organise a selection process, which will allow only politically neutral experienced diplomatic professionals to win. This way, the right-wing sought to pre-empt G. Nausėda’s potential argument that they are looking to place their own protégé, an individual related to the party in the position.
Furthermore, for a long time, an agreement could not be reached over who would lead the embassies in Germany and the USA.
The selections to these posts were launched at the beginning of the year and in February, the first set of winners was coordinated with the Presidential Palace and presented to the Seimas’ Committee on Foreign Affairs (URK).
However, the set didn’t include a potential ambassador to the EU because behind the scenes, G. Nausėda began proposing his foreign policy advisor Sigitas Mitkus for this post, but the URM leadership rejected him.
At the same time, in the final stage of the URM’s selection process, several candidates for the position emerged, the most important among them being former Minister of National Defence and former Ambassador the EU Raimundas Karoblis and Simonas Šatūnas, who is currently temporarily heading the embassy to the EU.
R. Karoblis’ nomination was rejected without hesitation. The former minister of national defence earned G. Nausėda’s ire because he refused to nominate an individual that the Presidential Palace and State Security Department wanted in the post of military intelligence chief. According to the president, R. Karoblis had to “politically cool down.”
Remembered even V. Adamkus
S. Šatūnas lingered at the back of the queue the longest, with the Presidential Palace making no effort to hide its scepticism regarding him. In the end, according to Lietuvos Rytas sources, the URM was informed that the diplomat was unsuited because he is, in the end, associated with the Conservatives.
The Presidential Palace attributed S. Šatūnas to the circle of a former diplomat, now URK chairman Žygimantas Pavilionis of the Conservatives. This politician has lately been increasingly critical of the president for supposedly usurping the right to represent Lithuania in the EU arena because he is barring the way for Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė to go to European Council meetings.
The Presidential Palace has also reiterated something that it emphasises in unofficial discussions – G. Nausėda wants the ambassador to the EU to be someone he could personally trust.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) has even begun murmuring that former President Valdas Adamkus should be drawn into this process, with the current head of state viewing the former leader as his greatest authority.
It is said that there were efforts made to convince V. Adamkus to ask G. Nausėda to reconsider his take on S. Šatūnas, who has worked as V. Adamkus’ foreign policy advisor.
However, according to Lietuvos Rytas sources, the Presidential Palace began pushing a new candidate to this post – the current director of the URM’s EU Department. It is said that she is the protégé of G. Nausėda’s chief foreign policy advisor Asta Skaisgirytė. Supposedly, the two diplomats aren’t just colleagues but also friends.
The shadow of Minsk
While the scuffle over the embassy to the EU and representation at the European Council continues, a potential new hotspot in the Conservatives-Presidential Palace’s relations might have been sparked when discussing candidates for the VRK.
At the moment, the Seimas is renewing the VRK’s composition. The president has also nominated candidates to become commission members.
They are Vytautas Magnus University political scientist Š. Liekis and former Seimas Press Service head and Vilnius University Communications Faculty dean Andrius Vaišnys. Both candidates’ names were presented to the parliament on Tuesday.
According to Lietuvos Rytas information, the Conservatives in Seimas particularly object to namely Š. Liekis’ nomination. That said, the right-wingers assure that they object to Š. Liekis for reasons other than how in public comments on the friction between the Conservatives and G. Nausėda, for example, regarding the European Council, Mr Liekis criticised the TS-LKD and clearly backed the president.
According to influential Conservatives, oversight of Lithuanian elections cannot be handed to a person who defended the head of the Belarusian regime Alexander Lukashenko, who is accused by the entire Western world of authoritarianism and electoral fraud.
At the beginning of this year, Š. Liekis did indeed publicly criticise Vilnius’ active support to Belarus’ opposition and the struggle against A. Lukashenko. According to the political scientist, this brought neither democratic change in Belarus itself nor benefit to Lithuania or the West; to the contrary – it pushed A. Lukashenko into the embrace of the Russian regime.
By the way, according to Lietuvos Rytas information, the parliament’s Conservatives relayed their negative take on Š. Liekis to the Presidential Palace even before the nomination was made officially. However, the Presidential Palace opted to go ahead anyway.
In any case, if the Conservatives are inclined to reject G. Nausėda’s nomination of Š. Liekis, they will have to also secure the support of their coalition partners for it.