'People Have To Be Safe In Their Country'

  • 2005-03-30
It is only natural that there is great interest in young people who come to civil service. Mr. Gintaras Furmanavicius, Minister of the Interior, is representing the Labour Party, which is also fresh and new. The Minister states to be well aware of responsibility befallen him and will endeavour for his work to live up to the trust bestowed on him.

- What was the Ministry like when you took over the leadership? What were the first impressions as you entered this sphere, which is quite novel and unexplored for you?

- I have to admit that upon coming to the Ministry I was surprised by the number of young and competent people working there. During the week before the New Year I tried to meet as many employees as possible. Before I did that I had had a totally incorrect understanding of the Ministry and its activities, probably like most people of Lithuania had. Somehow many people think of the Ministry of the Interior primarily as linked with the police, but this is far from being the true situation.

- Could you please identify the underlying and the less important spheres of activity of the Ministry?

- During my presentation of the strategic action plan of the Ministry of the Interior to the media I have stressed that the main directions for activity include serving the society, increasing safety of people, improving public administration by implementing information technologies and providing conditions for coherent and balanced regional development.

I would like to stress that this year the Ministry of the Interior will focus on all spheres that are currently topical for the society, however all shall be based on a single cornerstone. People have to be safe in their country. If we fail to achieve that then all other priorities however beautiful they might be will loose their meaning. After all, statistical surveys indicate that two thirds of the Lithuanian populace felt unsafe and the confidence in the police is mediocre at best. Therefore one of my first meetings in the capacity of a Minister was the meeting with Mr. Vytautas Grigaravicius, the Commissioner General of the Police. I can confidently say that I have an excellent professional relationship with him and certainly there is no tension between the Ministry and the Police Department.

I could point out implementation of the programme of Schengen measures as one of the most important objectives for the Ministry. Lithuania has already been granted 49.58 million euros to that end. Another important investment project is titled "Rural IT Access Points". Upon completion of this project 300 public Internet access points will be functional all around the country.

Moreover, there are plans to establish a single institution responsible for providing assistance to people in extreme or emergency situations. This reform is planned to be expanded on the level of counties and municipalities. The Ministry foresees that newly established municipalities would have fire rescue brigades this year.

- The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for public safety in the country. What problems could you identify in this sphere? How are you going to tackle them?

- Problems abound and regrettably we cannot be satisfied with public safety in the country so far. Official statistics of registered acts of crime indicates that in recent years the number of serious health disorders, rapes, thefts, robberies has been increasing, and Lithuania has the highest number in Europe of car accident casualties per million of residents.

I would like to stress that in my opinion certain public safety problems have to receive more attention. By this I mean juvenile delinquency and drug-related acts of crime. If we are not going to appropriately tackle these problems then they will cause serious irreparable damage to the society and its safety. It goes without saying that the problem of organised crime, in particular relating to grey economy and trafficking in human beings, is still present in Lithuania, though its negative effects may not be very obvious to the Lithuanian common folk.

On the other hand, serious problems are present in our services as well 's corruption and other serious offences of law and discipline are frequent among officers.

In my opinion, problems of public security should be dealt with firstly by modernising public safety institutions subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, by improving their management and methods of activity, in particular focusing on preventive action.

Pursuant to the Law on the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, the Government is in charge of state security and public order. This objective is being implemented through the Ministry of the Interior. Internal Regulations of the Ministry approved by the Government contain one of the most important objectives 's to develop strategy for implementation of the national policy on public safety and to make arrangements necessary for its implementation. The Ministry is implementing these objectives through statutory institutions subordinate to it: the Police Department, the State Border Guard Service and others. Moreover, the Ministry of the Interior arranges for criminal intelligence action, investigation of crimes and other offences. In my opinion the Ministry has not been fully implementing this objective and has not taken all measures necessary to co-ordinate activities of subjects of criminal intelligence subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, consequently the society has been discussing the scope and legitimacy of activities in a number of times. I believe that the Ministry of the Interior will be more active in this area by co-ordinating activities of statutory institutions and by finding agreement on such actions with the Prosecutor General's Office.

- Could you give an assessment of the police work? How should its activities be improved?

- I could not treat the police work simply by saying it is good or bad. There is a number of excellent, industrious, professional officers who we can proud of in front of our foreign counterparts. Yet there is number of shortcomings. In particular this applies to officer-to-person direct communication. After all, there is a reason behind public surveys indicating that the majority of the Lithuanian residents are distrusting the police. I am aware of statistical analysis of criminal situation during the past several years. The evaluation cannot be one-sided. On the one hand, crime investigation rate is quite stable 's ca. 40 percent. Yet dynamics of crimes that hit the headlines, serious and very serious crimes 's robberies, murders, car thefts 's is not delighting. I am especially disturbed by the increase of robberies not only in bigger cities but also in regions of Jonava, Kedainiai, Ukmerge. Number of murders is decreasing, rate of disclosure is good yet many of them are committed during outbursts of family violence in particular in countryside were unemployment is staggering. If the police could allocate more of its capacity to preventive action it is likely that the number of robberies and murders would decrease, and workload for investigators would decrease as well.

Therefore the police action should be more oriented towards the society, its interests and expectations. For a long time priority of the police action was disclosure of crimes thus it was focused on the improvement of this sphere and most of resources were allocated to that. Role of the police in modern countries is changing. This institution does not only apply force and legislation, the police is becoming assistant to the society, maintainer of public order and defender of lawful interests of residents. Therefore more attention should be allocated to such activities of the police.

Such a provision has been embedded in the Programme of the Government: "not administrative and punitive measures, but social services and preventive functions should be the priority of the police action, providing funding necessary for it".

By the way, in order to improve work of the police it is necessary to change the existing system of training of the police officers and other officers of the internal service. It should be done in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of Internal Service regulating the EU-conform procedure for vocational training and enrolment into the interior service of officers. There is a sufficient amount of arguments in the concept paper on qualification requirements, selection, vocational training and qualification improvement of officers of the System of the Interior Service, which was approved last year. We have to establish a vocational training system, because during the recent years there has been a lack of qualified experts in the police system. Territorial police units are especially lacking middle tier officers. Taking this into account the Ministry of the Interior in the beginning of this year requested the University of Mykolas Riomeris to consider an option to arrange non-academic vocational studies to train middle tier police officers, in addition to existing undergraduate and graduate studies. Within the proposals concerning improvement of training of the police officers the University has included an option to arrange such studies.

- The State's image in Europe will be greatly affected by how the EU funds are managed. The Programme of the Government stipulates that combat against financial crimes relating to management of such funds should be strengthened. Are there plans to expand institutions controlling the management of the EU funds?

- Firs of all, transparency of all tenders and procurement is the key in ensuring control of disbursement of all these funds. All documentation has to be public and publicly accessible as provided for by the legislation, while the level playing field has to be ensured for all the bidders.

The Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS) is subordinate to the Ministry and is now facing a serious task of ensuring lawful and legitimate disbursement of the EU funds. For example last year the FCIS carried out inspections of 130 commercial entities and initiated 13 pre-trial investigations. This way attempts to embezzle ca. 13 million LTL were intercepted. Administrative and technical capacity of this institution should really be strengthened since flow of the EU funds is increasing. Therefore a separate unit will be established within the FCIS to investigate acts of crime and other offences relating to appropriation of the EU funds, to carry out preventive action, to accumulate and analyse information.

We will have to make our best effort in this area since it is within the interests not only of Lithuania but also of other Member States. The new unit of the FCIS is going to co-ordinate activities of all Lithuanian authorities relating to transparent management of the EU funds. It is also going to closely co-operate with counterpart European authorities.

- The first hundred days of the Government has already passed. What were the main activities carried out in the sphere of interior?

- While implementing the 2nd stage of reform of the system of fire prevention, civil safety and extreme situations, the Fire Prevention and Rescue Department under the MoI and the Civil Safety Department under the MoI were merged together. This merger resulted in a single institution responsible for civil safety, fire prevention and rescue activities. The last stage of the reform is underway.

A decision was made regarding strategy for reorganisation of the Regiments of Internal Forces of the MoI and in order to provide legal grounds a Draft Law amending and supplementing the Law on Basics of National Security, Penalty Enforcement Code, and Law on the Police Action was prepared and registered in the Seimas.

Moreover, the Ministry of the Interior has drafted a strategy of the Lithuanian Regional Policy until 2013. The strategy has been drafted in order to harmonise functioning of the Lithuanian regional police mechanism with the EU regional policy mechanism. The strategic aim, priority, objectives the Lithuanian regional policy until 2013 and their implementation have been defined by taking into account the long-term goal of the regional policy, conditions present in the State and the strategic analysis. A national programme for reduction of economic and social development disparities among the regions and their development shall be drafted basing on this strategy.

- Thank you for the interview.