Ten years of Grybauskaitė – what she criticised and praised

Dalia Grybauskaitė, DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

Ten years of Grybauskaitė will go in the Lithuanian history as an era of this president. Two terms as president, the head of state Dalia Grybauskaitė made nine annual addresses to Seimas and the public. In them, the president’s rhetoric and focus differed, varying from the government’s lack of attention to the common people, to one of the largest political scandals in Lithuania – the MG Baltic case, Monika Kasnikovskytė writes for TV3.lt

The tv3.lt news portal presents a review of the president’s nine annual addresses.

First address: attention to the common people

Ten years of Grybauskaitė began on July 12, 2009 when she was inaugurated as president. Grybauskaitė made her first annual address with almost a year passing since she was elected – on June 8, 2010.

The president immediately emphasised her ending the traditional annual address genre to review typical areas of life and present a list of problems, as was done by presidents Algirdas Brazauskas and Valdas Adamkus before her.

In her first address, D. Grybauskaitė noted that just good intentions and wishes are no longer helping and the resources of optimism and patience are drying up, faith is waning, thus Lithuania has matured for change. According to her, the most painful plague upon the public is the state losing its humanity.

“We have gotten stuck because we have lost our direction. […] We have forgotten the people,” the president said back then, adding that this primal value had been eclipsed by economism.

In 2010, Lithuania had just begun climbing out of the pit it fell into during the global economic crisis. D. Grybauskaitė conceded “the scale of the global financial upheaval,” but did not agree with unconditional supremacy of the economy, urging the government to turn back to the people.

“The people must become the priority and single criterion of evaluating work for all areas of the country’s politics,” the president said.

She stated that she disagrees with the chaotic raising of taxes and demanded to ensure a pension compensation mechanism. Among the priorities of D. Grybauskaitė back then were: Euro-integration, holistic strengthening of Lithuania’s security and constructive relations with our neighbours. Also, the president dedicated much attention in her speech to emigration scales, unemployment, competitive environment, low citizen activity, combatting corruption and the judicial system.

Second address: crisis sunset

To begin her speech in 2011, the president applauded the support of various officials for the main thoughts of the state’s lack of humanity expressed in the first address.

D. Grybauskaitė continued her thought from last year on clearer and more transparent legislative processes and combatting corruption, stating that the nation must know of not only its heroes, but also “its villains, fools and particularly – its sell-outs.”

She thanked the Seimas for hearing her address last year and launching a consistent, systematic fight against corruption, but added that over the year, she returned 12 legislative projects to Seimas for improvement.

D. Grybauskaitė once more turned to the judicial system, speaking about its “rigidity, professional degradation, and arrogance.” Nevertheless, the president stated that “the ice has shifted” in this area because significant legislation was changed, as well as the selection procedures for judges.

The president spoke about how for a time now, Lithuania had been celebrating that it managed to avoid a financial breakdown, the crisis was reined in and economic growth exceeded forecasts, thus, according to D. Grybauskaitė, economic optimism and hope started to emerge. As such, the president urged the ruling coalition to turn to those in most difficulty, consider the question of the minimum wage, restore pensions, aid business, resolve problems in the country’s heating infrastructure and launch constructions of the liquefied natural gas terminal.

D. Grybauskaitė also dedicated attention to culture, education, non-governmental activities, urging people to read books, visit museums, theatres, films, and concerts.

“I view humanisation as an important for the future – the education system must not only grant knowledge but also be sensitive to every individual, everyone’s individual abilities, it must nurture feelings of self-esteem, community and pride in one’s country,” the president said.

In foreign policy, she pointed to openness, transparency, and continuity as priorities. D. Grybauskaitė stressed that she supports the method of cooperating and holding dialogue with neighbours, however, refused to tolerate behaviour that breaches human rights and acts against democratic principles.

Third address: challenge to parties

The Seimas elections were held in 2012, the importance of which D. Grybauskaitė brought up in her address. Namely because of the nearing elections, the head of state urged to ensure the continuity of the work that had been started, urged to not waver and agree on core tasks.

The president heaped praise on the then Andrius Kubilius government, which managed to contain the financial situation in the country despite losing its ratings and popularity. Despite the economic recovery, D. Grybauskaitė invited to continue financial discipline and not to return to the path of irresponsible expenses.

Nevertheless, the head of state proposed to align financial discipline with policies of economic encouragement, to come to an agreement on housing renovation, waste disposal, entrepreneurship, and innovation encouragement.

D. Grybauskaitė spoke positively of the then government’s work in the energy sphere, however, she urged politicians to seek joint agreement on key energy projects, so that they would have continuity despite changes to government. Also, the head of state reminded that the time has come to make changes in the heating infrastructure, social policy and move pension reform forward.

The president said that she most often hears the complaint from the people that “There is no justice,” because people appeal to the Presidential Palace, complaining over a law the work of the judiciary. Thus, D. Grybauskaitė emphasised the possibility to ensure the right to a fair, quick and impartial court, to combat corruption in the court system.

In 2012, a ban came into power that the president proposed, which prevented legal entities from supporting political parties, however, according to D. Grybauskaitė, “The parties have failed the transparency exam by retaining the exception of the public procurement.”

Speaking about the nearing Seimas elections, the head of state urged to cease “fidgeting and muddling about” and become the owners of our own country, which is something the nation must prove in the coming elections.

“In a few months, a decision awaits us, to whom we will trust the government of our country for the coming four years. We must agree on one thing here – that we will all go to the elections, not every third. That we will not leave it up to others, what our futures will be,” D. Grybauskaitė spoke.

Fourth address: fake news

D. Grybauskaitė started her annual address for 213 by marking the 25th anniversary of the Sąjūdis, urging citizens to continue creating their own state with their own hands and for others never again ruling over the country. The president also emphasised that “tiny Lithuania is becoming a country of exceptional abilities” due to its achievements in sports, science, and technology.

What is also important is that in 2013, Lithuania held the presidency of the Council of the European Union. The president reminded that the presidency will require wisdom and mediation, seeking the best solutions.

The president cast a stone at the new cabinet – urging to begin working more and faster. The government was urged to invest more in people’s abilities, to not shovel populist promises, make responsible decisions and to finally “cast off the shackles of energy dependency.”

For the first time, D. Grybauskaitė highlighted the lack of reliable information and the frequency of distorted news in the public sphere, which takes away “the people’s right to choose and decide on their own.” As such, the president urged to change attitudes to information quality and security.

According to the head of state, when talking about security, we must keep in mind cybersecurity as well, she also mentioned the first public attack against Lithuania’s internet space. D. Grybauskaitė described the attack as a manifestation of international terrorism.

The president applauded the increased difficulty of “buying judges” because the judges themselves no longer wish to be bought and also that the time for fundamental changes has arrived in the judiciary system.

In regard to combating corruption, the president noted that there are increasingly many doctors refusing bribes and urged to shed old habits and to establish new, modern management traditions in the healthcare system.

Fifth address: Ukraine – a duty for all

While the president’s annual address is traditionally made in June, D. Grybauskaitė made her fifth address in 2014 in March. The address was unique in that for the first time, the head of state launched her speech from foreign policy, beginning with the events in Ukraine.

“The lesson of Ukraine is a duty for us all to continue safeguarding our freedoms, no matter the cost. In the face of a threat, we all re-evaluated our values,” D. Grybauskaitė said.

The president noted that in the face of conflict in the neighbourhood, Lithuania did not stand alone and when the need emerged, the USA and NATO granted political and military reinforcements. Also, according to the president, over the year, Lithuania managed to strengthen relations with Germany and France. Also, the president urged the ruling coalition to renew the national agreement on adequate defence financing and to dedicate 2% of GDP to national defence.

Continuing on the fake news topic from last year, D. Grybauskaitė called upon the news media, asking it to aid the people to discern lies from truth.

In regard to energy independence, the president celebrated a historic step – the liquefied natural gas terminal and the electricity connection to Sweden, which would begin operating in 2015.

Beyond the topics escalated so far – reforming the heating infrastructure, combatting corruption and bribes, opaque public procurements and court system reform, D. Grybauskaitė also discussed the nearing presidential elections. She expressed concern that barely half of those with the right to vote come to do so, with the youth being the most passive.

“This is when foreign money elects our government. The country’s politicians become accountable to them and not to the voters. The political security and maturity of Lithuania begin at the ballot boxes,” D. Grybauskaitė said.

Sixth address: duty to defend the country

Re-elected President D. Grybauskaitė congratulated Lithuania in her 2015 address with the 25th anniversary of recreated independence and urged her countrymen to take responsibility for their country’s future.

“We have united and risen for the main duty – today it is the defence of the homeland. Not just from the aggressive external neighbourhood, but also from that, which breaks down Lithuania from within,” the president said.
Mandatory military service was reinstated in Lithuania in 2015. However, according to D. Grybauskaitė, the country’s defensive power is strengthened not only by the military but also by what each of us does in our daily work. With tensions rising in the world due to ISIS and the war in Ukraine, the president emphasised that “the duty for peace to everyone is only increasing.”

She dedicated much attention in her speech to social questions – orphanages, lonely elderly people, pensions, medicine and heating prices, volunteering, which according to the president is needed everywhere, not just in the military.

The head of state highlighted Lithuania’s demographic condition and youth emigration as massive problems, urging to seek specific solutions, how to help nationals living abroad retain their citizenship.

Just as every year, D. Grybauskaitė urged the government to focus on work related to economic growth, business investment attraction, and a more flexible jobs market, as well as combatting corruption.

The most important point in the address was urging to unite regarding social exclusion, find homes for orphans, encourage guardianship and adoption, to increase the availability of psychological aid so that it would be easier to combat bullying and suicides.

Seventh address: attention to social issues

D. Grybauskaitė started her 2016 address with celebrating Lithuania’s achievements in economy and defence, however she broadcast concern from citizens to the ruling coalition of “why the results of economic growth are not evident in their lives.”

“The country is losing its strategic direction – we are dithering in place in many areas and drowning in everyday routine. Increasingly little time and energy are being dedicated for future Lithuania, for strategic decisions and conclusive structural reforms,” the president said.

D. Grybauskaitė expressed discontent with the ministries’ and ruling majority’s inactivity, spoke of “strategic disability” and reminded of problems she speaks of every year that simply does not get resolved: poverty, exclusion, pensions, demographic issues, tax collection, labour relations, lack of innovations, teaching quality and healthcare sector optimisation.

The president remarked on education quality in Lithuania, stressing that “we risk to become an illiterate country with higher education” and urged to reform the country’s education system.

For the first time, in her speech D. Grybauskaitė remarked on the problem of domestic violence, people suffering from addiction, as well as continuing the topic of encouraging guardianship and adoption.

A stone cast at the Algirdas Butkevičius government – the fiasco consolidation plan, with 30 thousand euro spent, but no results achieved.

Since the Seimas elections were to be held in Lithuania in 2016, D. Grybauskaitė once more urged voters to vote responsibly, so that “later, when appointing to office, we would not need to choose from the 3 least bad ones.”

Eighth address: slamming “political newcomers”

With Lithuania preparing for the centenary of restored statehood, in 2017, D. Grybauskaitė celebrated professor Liudas Mažylis’ discovery of the original Act of Independence and described the professor’s persistence as a reminder “of the power of personal decision and initiative.”

In her eighth address, D. Grybauskaitė continued from the previous year the topic of low-quality education, adding that “low-quality education is becoming a question of national security,” which spurs on emigration, social exclusion, and corruption.

The president urged to quickly change the teacher training system, children’s education, and studies programmes, financing models, to reconstruct the education institution network. D. Grybauskaitė expressed discontent that instead of promised reforms, there was simply a ten-day extension to the school year and building redistribution plans.

Returning to the topic of justice, the president urged to increase fines for the property of suspect origins, to legalise individual constitutional appeals and cease delaying illegal profiting investigations.

Children’s security and domestic violence also came up once again, with the president urging the Seimas to approve children’s rights protection system reform without delay. For the first time, D. Grybauskaitė spoke of combatting alcoholism in her speech, stressing that prohibitions are “a primitive and simple way, however, it only leads into the shadows and underground.”

The president described the ruling coalition’s plans for six structural reforms as “mania for unprepared reforms,” which could “turn into a parody of long-awaited changes.” The victors of the 2016 Seimas elections, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union also faced further censure. According to D. Grybauskaitė, “political newcomer is no longer an excuse,” and “insignificant decisions instead of appropriate and effective reform are demotivating and raising people’s disappointment and discontent.”

The president urged to invest in party quality and party members because “it is now that a period of new opportunities has emerged for the political system,” and parties have the opportunity to renew themselves.

As a final accent to her speech, D. Grybauskaitė spoke of the problem of emigration, stressing that Lithuania must regain those, who departed because “every second of our emigrants are interested in returning.”

Ninth address: a new era

The so far latest address by D. Grybauskaitė is the longest and spanning most topics so far. In the 2018 address, the president reminded Lithuania, which just recently celebrated the centenary of restored statehood, of the path it had taken to freedom, mentioning Jonas Basanavičius, the partisans, Sąjūdis, January 13 and added that the coming century will bring new challenges.

One of the main accents of the speech was the MG Baltic corruption case, which reached courts in 2018. Without specifically naming the group, the president spoke ironically how “with the top waters of political corruption being stirred, “unseen Lithuania” has opened up before us, even if we all suspected its existence.”

D. Grybauskaitė expressed her thanks to the country’s intelligence agencies, law enforcement institutions and investigative journalism for ever-improving work. In her criticism of the country’s political parties, the head of state compared domestic politics with the mending of the Gediminas Hill, which “often fails to withstand – breaks apart and falls.”

The president noted with regret that containing corruption required two terms and law enforcement took this long in order to access evidence needed by the courts. However, she expressed hope that together with three historic political corruption cases, the new history of Lithuania’s transparency has begun.

The Seimas also faced criticism in the speech. According to the president, the Seimas “is becoming a firing range for attempts on the people’s freedoms and democracy, from where you only hear sounds of prohibition and punishment.”

In regard to social exclusion, D. Grybauskaitė emphasised that it shouldn’t just be combatted with one-time grants, but with long term decisions. Furthermore, according to her, exclusion is not just financial insufficiency, it is also “how the people feel in the country,” because people in the regions feel like no one cares about them.

In 2018, various trade unions spoke loudly and a number of times about unsuitable conditions in the workplace. In her speech, D. Grybauskaitė encourages such activity and celebrated that their voice “became audible.” Also, the president once more urged the government to reform teacher training, stressing that “quality new education would be a national centenary victory.”

In her review of foreign policy, D. Grybauskaitė stated that antagonization in international relations is equally dangerous to that within a country and that the situation surrounding us is murky.

“In the breaking apart world of today, security becomes manifold, thus the means must also be holistic. We can no longer expect that others will protect us,” the president said.

D. Grybauskaitė ended her speech by stating that “the transformation of the century is definitely happening and we are its witnesses.”

“So that Lithuania would sound magnificent and reliable, we need a critical mass of dedicated people everywhere. Who else will choose Lithuania, if not ourselves? Who else if not ourselves will love our people and our homeland?” the president asked.

The final annual address by President Dalia Grybauskaitė was done on June 11. The head of state will end her term on July 12, when Gitanas Nausėda will be inaugurated.

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