Nausėda’s speech reminds of Grybauskaitė’s addresses in one key detail

Gitanas Nausėda
Gitanas Nausėda

President G. Nausėda’s second annual address exceeded those of his predecessor D. Grybauskaitė in terms of length but was similar in one key detail – casting blame on the ruling bloc and self-praise. Just he spoke more politely and not as categorically wrote in an editorial column Laiko ženklai.

This is in line with G. Nausėda’s character, but he has no lack of ambition either, identifying the problems in Lithuania political life and not perceiving any of his own blame.

The president brought up power plays that politicians enjoy a number of times, but has he not engaged with them himself? He is right in saying that the public health crisis became a crisis of coexistence and trust while politicians stumbled over fruitless bickering.

However, the Lithuanian people watching the speech also saw how the president isn’t talking to the prime minister on who should represent the country at the European Council.

The Conservatives’ public calls for the president to share participation at the council with the prime minister bring nothing good to Lithuania. It weakens our positions in the EU, but by refusing to even discuss this topic with I. Šimonytė, G. Nausėda is also demolishing dialogue.

The head of state loudly thanked the Lithuanian people, the country’s medics, doctors, social workers, experts, businessmen and those working in other professions for their endurance, firmness and self-control when fighting the pandemic, described them as the foundation of the state.

However, when the president declared that leadership has shifted from ministry offices to the municipalities, you could think that the ruling bloc doesn’t deserve a single good word for its efforts in pandemic containment. According to G. Nausėda, the country’s government is demonstrating a lack of confidence, is meandering, changing decisions and is unable to plan for the future.

If the annual address was a press overview, it would appear as if the president were able to relay news media criticism in brief, but one would like deeper insights and new ideas from him.

Of course, this is not something that D. Grybauskaitė’s addresses were possessed of either and G. Nausėda, while avoiding concrete proposals, spoke at length on the vision of the welfare state, which he endorses, explained that the pandemic only confirmed how correct he was. That said, the concept of the welfare state didn’t gain much clarity even after this address.

The president reminded that the social benefits and pension increases he supported served to reduce the pandemic’s social impact and how this seemingly is in line with the aim of a welfare state, but economists found there to be a lack of ideas on how to reduce the gap between us and the wealthiest Western states faster. It is not enough for the welfare state to redistribute the value that is generated, we also need rapid growth in state revenue.

An economist by profession, G. Nausėda outlined more left-wing economic policy guidelines, spoke about reducing social exclusion, increasing the untaxed income size, narrowing tax concessions, as well as a capital income tax.

However, these were non-specific musings, remembering cases covered on the media already of how irresponsible businesses, according to G. Nausėda, bought Ferraris and yachts upon receiving state support.

Naturally, his critics also heard some notes of populism here.

The president spoke about the highly disputed partnership legalisation – cautiously, avoiding standing on any side. However, he emphasised that we must strictly comply with the constitutional concept of family and in doing so, he indicated that he would not approve the partnership law if, based on it, marriage status will also be granted to same-sex couples.

This annual address voiced a number of thoughts that appear to be appealing to a significant part of society. For example, how it is necessary to create conditions for people to directly elect mayors, to run for Seimas from the age of 21.

At least publicly, the ruling bloc wouldn’t oppose this, but the president’s rhetoric of how we must consult the citizens’ opinions on key questions, forming conditions for them to express their will through referenda, was met with criticism – the Seimas elections also grant politicians a mandate to make decisions in the nation’s name.

Politicians reproached the president over how his address focused too little on foreign policy. Indeed, perhaps not even a tenth of the speech’s time was spent on overviewing this presidential constitutional remit.

That said, all the most important Lithuanian foreign and security policy goals were remembered, just that no ned initiatives were declared. In other words, there was diplomatic continuity, just emphasising that our country should more actively take a leading role in implementing the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy.

Traditionally, presidents also speak of law enforcement problems.

G. Nausėda made no mention of specific individuals bar the prosecutor general. It was directly stated that he has great expectations of the officer he appointed and, among other things, he hopes that the prosecutors’ office will reduce excessively length pre-trial investigation durations.

However, this is only a small part of the law enforcement problems troubling the public. There has long been much poor work performance, impermissible politicking or even barely legal balancing on abuse of authority within the work of the Special Investigation Service (STT).

Nowhere in the EU does such an individual service exist and so, the question emerges of whether criminal police, which has far greater capacities and is more professional, might not perform the STT’s functions in Lithuania. However, the president made no mention of this.

Perhaps there’s no need to expect that the head of state will discuss all the pains of the country in his address. However, the priorities could be chosen more carefully, delving into them in more depth, showing the way Lithuania should head more clearly.
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