Skvernelis continues to receive proposals to create a new Seimas group

Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

“There are such proposals, there are talks, but I believe that it is currently premature. <…> There are numerous group members, not just single members and not tens, who want to see the results we promised to the people. I am glad there are such members of Seimas because I am result-oriented, not process-oriented,” Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said when asked if his supporters have not proposed to create a Seimas group of his own. In the end, if political will to achieve the goals set out was insufficient, Skvernelis says he does not dismiss the possibility for a new coalition to emerge during this term. This and other matters of political life were discussed with the Prime Minister on the Dėmesio Centre talk show.

Skvernelis explains that intensive and difficult work is continuing within the Farmer and Greens Seimas group. He admits there are certain tensions in the group, but stresses that lacking a clash of opinions and debate, a group is as good as dead. Instead, he notes, it would be better to change models of communication to allow group members better access to discussions between the group leaders, namely him and group prefect Ramūnas Karbauskis.

According to Prime Minister Skvernelis, there are failures in communication which lead to debacles such as the recent one in the Committee of Education and Science. Skvernelis also adds that group members have to distance themselves from personal interests and experiences, even if they are not always negative. He calls for members to rise above personal ambitions and regional or district boundaries in making the decisions the country needs, even if it may be difficult.

The Prime Minister goes on to reiterate that the current communication model between cabinet and Seimas is not fully functional, with the shift away from a single individual making decisions in a party to the current, more democratic circumstances where a greater number of parliamentarians are involved. He stresses that he strives to maintain as much contact with Seimas as possible and to keep members of his cabinet maintaining just as much contact and that they have good working relationships with all committees, with the exception of the Committee of Science and Education where a misunderstanding occurred in the committee’s role, as part of Seimas – a part of the legislative, not executive, branch of government.

Regarding the Committee of Science and Education Chairman Eugenijus Jovaiša, Skvernelis reiterates that he feels the decision was motivated by Jovaiša having worked in the Lithuanian Educology University (LEU) for an extensive period of time; without the Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) – LEU merger, there have been talks of the LEU being abolished. The Prime Minister explains that while the committee chairman is not the only one voting in the committee, the ruling was made thanks to the votes of his group members in the committee.

The situation puts the cabinet is a peculiar position where its vision for higher education is to be presented on April 28th. Skvernelis explains that the current circumstances are untenable, with excessive funding being directed into administrative expenses rather than teaching, research and wages for academic staff. He stresses that university autonomy could be upheld if the institutions were not funded from the budget, but where they are, there is a need to double down on duplicate programmes and ineffective approaches. Skvernelis goes on to note that certain universities that can expect downsizing still have important programmes that have to be upheld, but at the same time they may have a number of redundant or ineffective programmes that bring little tangible benefit to the university.

Skvernelis points out that education reform will require much deliberation within Seimas, once the cabinet presents its vision and future plans, but he is certain that he and his team can convince parliamentarians to go ahead with this essential reform. The politician reiterates that current funding is targeted inadequately, taking the recent example where the professor who discovered the 1918 Lithuanian Act of Independence travelled to Germany by coach due to a lack of funding.

When asked if perhaps the cabinet is living a separate existence to the Seimas, with little support in parliament for cabinet proposed reform, Skvernelis denies this. He highlights that in the end the fact is that for example the forestry reform project passed and work is continuing in relevant committees. Similarly Skvernelis is certain that reforms such as higher education will also proceed, even if it may take some time.

Overall Skvernelis points out that the main ambition of the Seimas spring session will be state owned enterprise reform, while the other projects will have to be implemented as time goes on. The Prime Minister notes he is an optimist and is only concerned that the needed resolve may fade away in the long run.

PM Skvernelis admits he has received proposals to build his own Seimas group, but stresses it is still premature to consider, with Seimas only in its fourth month. Nevertheless, he also points out that “There are numerous group members, not just single members and not tens, who want to see the results we promised to the people. I am glad there are such members of Seimas because I am result-oriented, not process-oriented.”

The politician denies any specific discussions with Conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis on a future coalition and explains that their meetings are typically concerned with specific issues such as state owned enterprise reform or education reform. Skvernelis points out that he also has meetings with the mayor of Vilnius and the Liberal Movement chairman to discuss national projects and reforms. The PM stresses that where the goal is greater than partisan concerns, he has come to agreement with the opposition parties. In the end while Skvernelis reiterates that it is too early to consider a new coalition, he admits that if there is a lack of political will to achieve the tasks that are currently set out, then such processes could begin. Nevertheless he concludes that currently all that is needed to implement reforms is in place.

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