President Gitanas Nausėda delivered his fourth annual report at the Seimas on Tuesday. According to political analysts, it was one of the most interesting speeches of the Head of State, with some very good accents. However, the President did not miss the opportunity to criticise politicians and their decisions, and the cherry on the cake was the mention of the “cheques” scandal, Toma Andrulytė is writing at the tv3.lt news portal.
In his annual address on June 20, President Gitanas Nausėda focused on the national security situation, emphasising Lithuania’s support for Ukraine and the importance of being independent of Russia politically and energetically. According to the Head of State, the East and West of Europe must choose which side they support: going along with the aggressor or supporting the Euro-integration of the countries suffering from it.
The news portal tv3.lt asked political scientist and professor of Vytautas Magnus University, Lauras Bielinis, what is so special about this fourth annual speech of Nausėda.
What are the highlights of the President’s speech?
We have to agree with what most people say, that this is the last speech and that it is really aimed at the elections. He has put those accents in the speech, and we can see that family and education are becoming one of the most important issues.
If we look at the speech as a whole, we can see that half of the speech and the very beginning are devoted to the most pressing issue at the moment – the war in Ukraine. This is also linked to Lithuania because Lithuania is inevitably involved in that problem. We are sick of Ukraine. That emphasis was strong.
As far as domestic politics and its problems are concerned, the nuance that stuck out for me was that the President tried not to single out one problem and to show the overall panorama of all the issues and problems that have arisen in Lithuania. That panorama is quite broad. Many people think that the President has gone over the surface, but in fact, this is not a superficial approach but an attempt to demonstrate that there is a huge variety of tasks, of problems for which we are all, in one way or another, connected and responsible.
Here, the President is probably right because it might be harsh to speak in terms of one emphasis, but it would be forgetting other emphases. What the President has done, in my opinion, is to show a huge panorama of problems and challenges and to make it clear that the inner life is too complex for us to emphasise one single issue.
What do we miss most?
This is a matter of position. In fact, according to the Constitution, the President’s speech does not oblige him to speak very strongly on specific issues. He simply expresses his opinion on the situation at home and abroad. He can do this in any way and with any emphasis. And each of us, from our own point of view, wants something to be shown more clearly, to be mentioned. That is natural.
For that reason, I would not say that the President did not say something. He has said a lot.
The President also mentioned the oak tree in the centre of Vilnius. Was that to be expected? Was it perhaps a desire to move people?
Talking about the felled oak tree is a metaphor and an emphasis on the ecological approach to the environment, which came out very correctly.
Gabrielius Landsbergis said that Vėgėlė could also make such a speech. Is this another dig at Landsberg, or is there still some truth in what he said?
The speeches by Mr Landsbergis and Ms Šimonytė show that the right is reacting very sensitively to the President. They see in him a rival, they see someone who debates with them and disagrees with them on many things, and for that reason, he is worthy of criticism at any time and for anything. That is why I did not expect Landsbergis to say anything different about the President because the right wing sees the President as someone who does not agree with them.
The news portal tv3.lt reminds us that the President’s speech to Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė and Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis appeared to be similar to an election speech in preparation for next year’s presidential elections.
“The part that was devoted to domestic politics, in my understanding, shows one thing very clearly, it shows what kind of campaign line we can probably expect during the presidential election campaign,” Šimonytė told reporters at the Seimas on Tuesday.
“It seems that Excellency the President would intend to construct his election campaign on the basis of a certain opposition to the government or the ruling majority, criticism of everything,” she added.
Landsbergis told journalists that the President’s annual report smacked of “strong economic populism”.
“I would even have the impression that this speech, at least part of it, could have been given by someone like Ignas Vėgėlė,” the minister said.
“Obviously, this is already an election speech because this is the last speech the President will make before the presidential elections”, he said.
The presidential elections will take place in May next year. Mr Nausėda has not yet said whether he will seek a second term in office.
Some of the speech’s elements resemble those of an election campaign
Political analysts who commented on the President’s speech to the media described it as one of the best.
“The overall impression is not bad,” political analyst Ainius Lašas told LRT Radio.
“One of the more interesting speeches of the year. Some of the accents are not badly arranged. You can understand who the messages are being broadcast to,” political analyst Gabrielė Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili echoed.
According to Lašas, the President paid a lot of attention to education. The mention of the “cheques” scandal was intriguing, although it was obvious that Nausėda would mention it.
A more original idea was Lithuania as the most family-friendly country. Mr Lašas told LRT that he did not know exactly what the President had in mind. Although Nausėda mentioned support for families, friendliness can be expressed in other ways.
Ms Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili added that Mr Nausėda was not trying to crack down on the ruling party. The criticism in the speech was tactful, the political scientist said.
The President, who invited others to cooperate, made no effort to do so
Other political analysts missed the President’s own contribution to his proposals.
When you say that this government is the one that people already want to change very much when you say so many things that are even personalised, then to invite for dialogue, I think, is already difficult enough,” Rima Urbonaitė, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University, told the BNS news agency on Tuesday.
Speaking at the annual report on Tuesday, Nausėda said that “in fact, a part of the society is looking forward to the possibility of replacing the government that has not been accepted in the next elections”.
However, Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, a professor at Vilnius University’s University of International Relations and Political Science, said he believed that the President was referring to Prime Minister Ingrid Šimonytė’s earlier remark that those who do not like the current government will be able to elect another one in the next elections.
“It seems to me that this is a biting reminder of what the prime minister said,” the political analyst said. – And at the same time, again, support and criticism of that tension between the President and the ruling party.”
“Which, in turn, also raises the question, to what extent is the President himself inclined to behave in the way he urges others to behave, that is, to stand side by side and work jointly with the ruling coalition in the Seimas and its government to achieve the important goals for Lithuania identified in this annual report?” – he wondered.
In his annual address, the President said that “our choice is to put sticks in each other’s wheels or to stand side by side”.
According to political experts, while Nausėda followed the usual style of annual addresses and combined issues of importance to both the public and international politics, he also took the opportunity to address the city’s shadow in his history, and when proposing an increase in spending, he did not explicitly say where he would get the money from.
Nausėda’s annual speech in brief
Mr Nausėda pointed out that Lithuania does not have a long-term plan to support Ukraine. “A number of countries have already planned and declared multiannual programmes of military, economic and financial support, thus demonstrating the continuity of their political commitment to Ukraine’s victory. We in Lithuania have to take the appropriate decisions for the short term”, the President said. Mr Nausėda said that he was grateful to Lithuanian NGOs, municipalities and businesses for the support they send to Ukraine and for the assistance they provide here in Lithuania.
The President said that with the current defence funding, creating an army division in Lithuania will not be possible. “The decision to create a division in Lithuania has already been taken at the National Defence Council. We need to acquire the necessary weapons and equipment as soon as possible and expand our infrastructure. We will not be able to do all this with the current funding,” the Head of State said.
According to the President, Lithuania not only needs to be confident but also to convince partners and potential adversaries that “we will be brave and decisive at the decisive moment, and that we will be able to defend ourselves”. He pointed out that he had discussed with allied leaders “many times” the need to respond more quickly to the changing security situation.
The President hoped that NATO’s Vilnius Summit in July would be able to confirm agreement not only on a rotational air defence model but also on new detailed regional defence plans. Among other things, Mr Nausėda said that the Allies would be able to find a common understanding on closer ties between Ukraine and NATO.
In order to achieve a German brigade in Lithuania, Mr Nausėda urges politicians to put national security interests before personal political interests. “I understand that there may be differences of opinion on the methods and means to achieve the goal more quickly,” the Head of State told the Seimas. – However, I feel obliged to once again call on all Lithuanian politicians to refrain from the temptation to put personal political interests above national security objectives.”
Gitanas Nausėda says it is time for state institutions to make concrete proposals on measures to prevent the Belarusian Astravas nuclear power plant from posing a threat to Lithuania. He stressed that the smooth and united work of the country’s institutions is essential to ensure national security.
President Gitanas Nausėda said that despite the ongoing recession in Lithuania, it is necessary to continue reducing social exclusion and income inequality. He said that the welfare state is gradually becoming part of the political agenda, and efforts to mitigate the impact of the energy price and interest rate shocks on Lithuanian businesses should also bear fruit.
The President said that the government’s tax reform package is a step towards greater fairness, but there are still fundamental flaws that need to be corrected as soon as possible. He highlighted weaknesses in the changes to the taxation of self-employment, which would adversely affect low- and middle-income earners. He identified the proposal to tax high incomes according to their size rather than the form of activity as an important step towards greater tax fairness.
According to the Head of State, the overall situation of the health system is unsatisfactory, and healthcare reform is becoming a curse. According to the President, the promises of fundamental change have been left hanging in the air since the Seimas adopted health care legislation last summer. “We are still waiting for reduced queues, better access to health services, more prompt assistance and transparency”, said Nausėda. The President stressed that there is no more time to make mistakes in the reform of health care, and people must feel the benefits of the reform.
Solving the demographic challenges is not enough with individual initiatives, but family policy, which is currently in second place, needs to be strengthened, President Nausėda said. “We only remember families on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, maybe even on child protection holidays. Why not set a truly ambitious goal – for example, to become the most family-friendly country in the European Union?” – He added.
According to the Head of State, equal access to quality education has a significant impact on regional development. “However, the commercialisation of education, which is not only not being stopped, but is being further promoted, is only further increasing social exclusion and programming new problems for the future,” said Nausėda. He proposed to assess the interim results of the Millennium Schools Programme by checking the content of the progress plans against the declared objectives to identify shortcomings in time and to address them.
Mr Nausėda recalled the story of the century-old oak tree cut down in the centre of Vilnius. According to the President, this must not happen again. According to the Head of State, this story has left people disillusioned with the state.
President Gitanas Nausėda says that what annoys people most about the “cheque scandal” is probably not the abundance of cards or the impressive sums of money wasted but the strange explanations and blind denial of responsibility. This is how he commented on the “Skaidrinam” initiative by public activist Andrius Tapinas, which aims to check whether local government politicians have been transparent in their use of so-called “office expenses”.
Gitanas Nausėda says that part of the public is “eagerly awaiting” new elections to have the opportunity to change the current government. However, he said he believes that it is still “not too late to show the Lithuanian people the respect they deserve”. “It is not too late to base decisions in Lithuania on the goals of the public and not on the goals of the party, to continue to build a modern welfare state, to overcome all kinds of exclusion and injustice, alienation of the state and the people,” said the President.