Seimas’ secret: what is the Kubilius commission actually for?

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Andrius Kubilius
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Tensions remain high in the Seimas this week, with the opposition settling its accounts and dependencies with the majority. This time there was an effort to prove positions via ad hoc investigative commissions, according to LRT.

The opposition proposed to investigate the situation in agriculture when it turned out that “Farmer” leader Ramūnas KarbauskisAgrokoncernas has been making use of land belonging to the politician’s relatives. The opposition suspects that this is a circumvention of legislation limiting personal ownership of agricultural land in excess of 500 hectares.

Meanwhile the majority and its supporters are demanding for a parliamentary investigation, which would explain whether during the global financial crisis the Conservative government of Andrius Kubilius did not harm the state by borrowing from commercial banks rather than the IMF. The demand is to investigate the then Finance Minister Ingrida Šimonytė and Andrius Kubilius’ personal responsibility.

So far neither case is complete, two committees – that of agricultural affairs and budget and finance, have to offer solutions, whether two new commissions are to appear.

The clashes going on in parliament are viewed negatively by both social democrat Gediminas Kirkilas, as well as Andrius Kubilius, who took over state leadership on the eve of the financial crisis.

“I do not really believe that this sort of, I would say archaeological, work is suited to Seimas, looking at what happened 10 years ago and especially when it requires very specific knowledge,” 2008-2012 Prime Minister A. Kubilius said.

“I am against these commissions in general. They are purely based on propaganda: to clash, to talk, but the result…” 2006-2008 Prime Minister G. Kirkilas spoke.

Incumbent Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis is critical of the questions formulated for the parliamentary investigation on state borrowing under Andrius Kubilius’ government.

“There can be no “Kubilius commission.” There can be no personal attacks, investigations or evaluations. We have to find and uncover the reasons which potentially influenced the crisis and its consequences so that we could later avoid them,” S. Skvernelis said.

The idea of such a commission has been around for the past 4 months and this week the Seimas managed to appoint the Budget and Finance Committee to present a ruling to the Seimas if such a commission is needed.

Committee chairman Stasys Jakeliūnas has said earlier that the investigation would be superfluous because the Budget and Finance Committee has already tasked National Audit Office to review state borrowing in 2009-2010. Despite this, the so-called Kubilius-Šimonytė investigation is being pushed forward.

The opposition is convinced that this commission is a response to their demand to forma a commission and investigate “unsettling circumstances in the agricultural sector.” The main topic of the investigation is to uncover those, who hold more than half a thousand hectares of agricultural land in Lithuania. The opposition has presented almost 30 questions linked to land appropriation, usage of promissory notes in agriculture and the sale of fertilisers imported to Lithuania from third countries.

However, such an investigation was not agreed to by the “Farmer” led Seimas legal and rural affairs committees.

“A whole slew of investigations have been initiated, thus I believe that to evaluate a member of Seimas or companies related to him, we should first wait for those investigations to conclude. And then we can make relevant conclusions,” Legal Affairs Committee chairwoman Agnė Širinskienė said.

The necessity for such a commission has been left to the Rural Affairs Committee to rule on and it has recommended not proceeding with it. Opposition representatives threaten to complain to the Seimas ethics watchdogs.

“The absolute majority of the Rural Affairs Committee is comprised of “Farmer” representatives, that’s one matter. Another matter is that the Rural Affairs Committee chairman A. Stančikas was previously the chairman of the Chamber of Agriculture, B. Markauskas was also the chairman of the same chamber, plus the Rural Affairs Committee is filled with farmers, who own agricultural companies and other companies selling fertiliser, machinery, tractors, grain and seeds. Thus, we are left questioning, how can the “Farmers” investigate their own activities. Where have you seen that in a normal democracy?” Seimas Order and Justice group member Remigijus Žemaitaitis noted.

“It will be reviewed by people, who understand a bit about what they are talking of, the farmers understand not just a bit, they understand it well,” Farmer and Greens Union prefect Ramūnas Karbauskis stated.

Social Democrat Party member, political scientist Liutauras Gudžinskas says that in their electoral bid, the “Farmers” pledge to pursue completely new politics, demonstrate new standards of professionalism, enact reform and such efforts did occur at the start of their term. However, the political scientist points out, this is only possible with opposition backing. As such, the antagonism, using ad hoc commissions, promises nothing good for future tasks.

“If the parliament, parliamentary committees are dealing not with the implementation of specific laws, but say retrospective investigations of agriculture formation and development and only up to 2016, that is to say up to the “Farmer” election, but analysing non-contemporary events and what to do so that those laws would actually be implemented, then it is truly a failure of parliamentary work,” VU TSPMI docent dr. L. Gudžinskas said.

According to former advisor to A. Kubilius, Conservative member Virginijus Valentinavičius, the situation in agriculture should have been reviewed by the parliament a long time ago and is a major debt of politicians to minor farmers being left impoverished in rural areas. It is not normal that 5% of the major landowners receive the lion’s share – almost 90% of EU support.

“It is a powerful interest group, which has managed for a slew of years to bend legislation to its favour and create for itself a privileged situation in terms of taxation and influencing politicians. As such the majority has all the opportunities to block this commission or turn it into caricature, in other terms, to turn it into a commission of how Landsbergis took down the Soviet collective farms. Another obstacle I can see is the limited opportunities for the opposition to articulate serious commission goals. As the episode regarding the snap elections revealed, Homeland Union leader G. Landsbergis lacks the most basic ability to articulate, why those elections are needed,” M. Romeris University Policy and Management Department dean, doc. Dr. V. Valentinavičius said.

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