The world has quite many great agile, spry and prudent 80-year-old and plus top-tier politicians still playing key, not cameo roles in national and international politics. Such a man in Lithuania is Antanas Vinkus, a lawmaker in the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas, also a prominent doctor, ex-Health minister, ex-mayor, former Ambassador to Estonia, Latvia and Russia who, at 81, still does not run out of steam. As Lithuania is looking forward to holding a referendum on dual citizenship in May next year, Mr Antanas has been one of the most vocal supporters of it. In 2020, the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) voted for his co-authored amendment to the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, which expanded granting Lithuanian citizenship to children of Lithuanian citizens who were born abroad and who were 18 by the time of adoption of the amendment.
The Baltic Times Magazine spoke to Antanas Vinkus.
You have always been actively engaged with Lithuanian emigre communities. You were the chairman of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania and the World Lithuanian Community Commission. Next year, a referendum on dual citizenship will be again (the first one of the kind was held in 2019 and failed to garner enough votes – L. J.) held together with the Presidential elections. How will you vote in it? Why?
I will vote for dual citizenship. Every Lithuanian is needed by Lithuania, and every Lithuanian needs Lithuania.
You are the oldest member of the Seimas, whose life experience is one of the greatest. What pleases you, surprises you, and what annoys you a little in this Seimas?
Indeed, I am, but, in my heart, I do not feel my age at all! Believe me or not! (Smiles).
Needless to say, working in the Seimas requires a lot of concentration, but I feel responsible for every word I say, every vote. I am happy that I find like-minded people in the Seimas, with whom we cherish the same values – sincere service to the people of Lithuania. My experience in politics has been going on for many years. It's hard to surprise me, let alone annoy me.
You are a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, of course, representing the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union. How do you assess the foreign policy of this Government? Especially relations with China?
We will see the value and consequences of these decisions in a longer period, it is too early to judge their harm or benefit.
Do you believe that the war in Ukraine will end in 2024? And what does the unrest in the East promise the world after Hamas attacked Israel?
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres has recently said, humanity has once again opened the gates of hell. We must make every effort to close them as soon as possible.
You are a member of the Seimas delegation in the Baltic Assembly. Do you wish for unity between the three states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?
There is never too much unity.
Politicians must seek the best solutions for the citizens of their country. We must respect those decisions. I am sure that joint action in certain areas, especially in defense, would best serve our hopes and the interests of our citizens.
What are the three biggest challenges for the future of Lithuania? Just security?
Creating security, further economic and social well-being, returning Lithuanians from emigration to their homeland.
Birth rates in Lithuania are poor. Do you believe this can change?
Yes, it can. We need to pay more attention to the well-being of young families.
Has Lithuania and the entire Christian world suffered a crisis of values - has individualism and hedonism taken over? Are you worried about it?
I see many sincere people working for the benefit of their communities. It's inspiring.
What is most important to you in life? And in politics?
The most important thing for me is to feel needed by the people of Lithuania and my family.
Will you seek a mandate in the Seimas in its 2024-2028 term? Why? After completing it, you would break the record - you would be the oldest member of the Seimas of all time...
I have not yet made up my mind about my decision. I still have the strength and enthusiasm for further political activity.