Lithuania has grappled and, the majority would say, weathered quite well some epochal crises recently – the hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants flooding from Belarus, the COVID pandemic and, most recently, war in Ukraine. Yet Mindaugas Skritulskas, a Lithuanian parliamentarian of the ruling Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), believes that the biggest challenge ahead may lie elsewhere. “In future, the biggest one I see is in the field of energy,” the lawmaker told The Baltic Times Magazine.
As a member of the ruling Homeland Union and as a member of its faction in the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, do you feel elated that, despite the crises, your party, until very recently, in the middle of the four-year term, was at the top of the party popularity polls? How do you explain that?
It is not the first time that fate puts our party at the helm of the state in a period of crises, which usually are caused by external circumstances. Most likely, the Lithuanian people have already begun to value not only who says what, but concrete actions. Especially, the ability to deal with very challenging problems, like those Lithuania has dealt or is still dealing with. For not only reducing their negative consequences, for example, compensating businesses for high energy price-caused business costs, lost income, but at the same time, the ability to increase social support, increase pensions, salaries for public sector workers, for persons with the lowest incomes.
How did COVID and especially the war change the agenda of the Seimas? Maybe you counted how many laws, their amendments and resolutions related to the crises were passed in the Seimas? Did you initiate any legislative amendments?
During the quarantine period, there were a lot of heated discussions about necessary, but ambiguously evaluated decisions, for example, about mandatory vaccinations, which in many cases were dominated by diametrically different points of view, often based on prejudice. As a result of the war in Ukraine, a number of resolutions were adopted condemning Russian aggression, including recognizing the aggressor as a terrorist state. I was one of the initiators of almost all these resolutions.
Do you see Ukraine war fatigue in Western Europe? What are the signs that tell you this?
War fatigue affects everyone as it affects the economy, prices. The negative, tragic news about the war especially that from the front lines, also affects negatively, accordingly. It is inevitable. On the other hand, I still see the opposite trend: despite the fatigue, there is increasing awareness that Russia must be "brought to its knees" without any compromises. No partial victory for Ukraine will ensure lasting peace, it will only mean a new war in the future. In the near future, I’d say. It should be understood that the reasons for the war in Ukraine lie in 300 years of history, so, in a way, the emergence of this war was, perhaps, inevitable. Therefore, only the complete victory of Ukraine and the repentance of the Russians, which will be like a terrible hangover, can put an end to the history of complicated relations between Ukrainians and Russians.
You visited Ukraine already after the war started and continue to communicate with representatives of the Ukrainian Rada. Are the Ukrainians only asking for more weapons?
Ukrainians are not asking us, I mean Lithuanian lawmakers, for more weapons, but for assistance in their legislative process. They ask to share our success story, say, due to certain reforms, like those related to public procurement, creating free economic zones, providing social support and so on. They are already thinking about how they will manage the country and live after the war is over. And they will live in a European way.
Do you believe that Ukraine can regain the territories occupied in 2014, Crimea? Some analysts say that these would be the "red lines" for Russia, crossing which there would be a risk of a nuclear attack?
I believe Ukraine will do that – sooner or later. If it does not do this, there will be no complete victory for Ukraine, and without it, as I mentioned, there will be no lasting peace.
We see that, amid the war, and consequently, ultra-right political forces came in power in Sweden, then Italy, meanwhile the Germans are picketing demanding "an easier life." So, has Russia not partially achieved its goals already – sow confusion in the political life of Western countries?
Indeed, unfortunately, that is happening. Russia traditionally tries to muddle through its political interests and agenda through extreme right or left parties in the West. They hoped that Italy's new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, who became Italy's first female prime minister of the most right-wing government since WWII, and who had been relatively moderate on Russia before the election, will be more favourable to Russia than the former prime minister, Mario Draghi. But now we see that Mrs Meloni takes a rather firm position towards Russia, apparently in response to the attitude of the greater part of Italians. The resolution of the European Parliament regarding the recognition of Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, the resolution of the United Nations, the resolution regarding reparations for Ukraine or the statements of the G20, in all of which Italy took the pro-Ukrainian stance, show the opposite trend. And this trend is triggered by Russia's own cynical actions, like the barbaric destruction of Ukraine's civil infrastructure. So, I tend to think that most of Western society is increasingly understanding the real reasons for their deteriorating life, and the actions of their governments, like giving up Russia's energy resources. In a word, it shows a clear direction not in Russia's favour.
What do you miss in the Lithuanian Parliament? Overall? And in the legislative process?
Speed. Like many other of my colleagues, I want the adoption of legislation to be faster. However, you can't always hurry, you often have to look for consensus, compatibility of opinions, iron out corners, which sometimes causes the draft law to lose its original shape, sometimes even at a cost of essential things. But that's what democracy is all about – with all its advantages and disadvantages.
What legislative experience of other countries do you think is worth paying attention to?
It seems to me that the principles of legislation in democratic countries are similar. Well, maybe it is more fundamentally different in those countries where there are two-chamber parliaments, like, say, in the United Kingdom, where the House of Lords is a kind of historical rudiment. I am more interested in the differences in government formation processes. Let's say in the same United Kingdom, where the candidates for prime minister first of all fight for favour not in the parliament, but within their own party, trying to secure the largest support of their fellow party members. In this way, the most genuine parliamentarism is expressed, as well as the interaction of the government with the parliament.
What do you believe are Lithuania's biggest challenges? Now and in the future? Does Lithuania have a plan of actions to overcome them?
The biggest challenges are in the field of energy. Now Lithuania produces only about a third of its electricity needs, the rest is imported, which is relatively more expensive. By 2030, Lithuania has ambitious plans to become an electricity exporting country while increasing significantly the volume of renewable electricity. This will enable Lithuania to become a more competitive country, to create an even greater gross domestic product. Another challenge lies in improving our education and science. These aspects are essential for any country, creating higher productivity, higher added value. These are very important things for the prosperity of our country.
What do you expect from 2023?
One thing – peace!