VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus walked a tightrope on March 28 when he delivered one of the most delicate "state of the republic" addresses of his presidency. The president bemoaned the current state of affairs in Lithuanian political life while managing not to criticize the ruling coalition too harshly.
Over the past two years the president has not concealed his disappointment in the government. At his most potent, Adamkus described Lithuania as "choking on examples of officials and politicians who have acted without decency, confused public and private interests, slipped past being condemned publicly and still claim they only recognize legal responsibility." The president criticized the overall attitude in the country and even suggested that Lithuanians should fear themselves more than their neighbors. "We have been building an independent state for sixteen years, but are forced to admit that public disappointment in this nation is increasing, while patriotism wanes. Sometimes we have to stop and think that we, rather than external enemies, pose a threat to our statehood," the president said.
Lithuania has been racked by an endless chain of scandals since the coalition of the Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Laborites came to power at the end of 2004. In the eyes of many analysts the coalition has achieved precious little save for filling the airwaves with accusations and speculation. Adamkus called for a rebirth of morality in politics. "We can only watch in surprise how the lines dividing decent and immoral behavior of a politician or an official are gradually being deleted. This is a dangerous situation, and so it must be stated clearly that moral politics has to be a value, and political or personal goals can not be sought by breaching the law or common decency," the president said.
Adamkus accentuated that laws "are often drafted and proposed hastily and without consideration of economic and social consequences."
The president also stressed the significance of moral politics.
Adamkus also touched on Lithuania's foreign policy, saying that Lithuania needed to continue to play an active role in NATO by helping restore peace in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also commended the nation for its efforts to develop democracy in neighboring countries. "Only by following this path, can Lithuania remain a reliable and solid partner in the world and the Baltic and Black Sea region," Adamkus said.
Politicians largely hailed the speech, and even Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas admitted that Adamkus' veiled criticism of the government was "well-grounded."
"Criticism is always useful in cases when it is just and weighed. Without doubt, there are many problems with the government's approach to certain reforms, which do not go as planned or are costly - such as the health care system," Brazauskas said.
He pointed out that Adamkus had critiqued the government's health care reform, saying it had been "stalling for just as many years as being conducted."
As Adamkus said in his speech, "Funding is constantly being put into this field, with new technologies and an increase in medical wages. But society remains critical of Lithuania's health care sector, and sees it as the most corrupt area."
Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas said he hoped the thoughts expressed by Adamkus would encourage politicians to solve "stalled" problems.
"The president brought up urgent matters, a part of which are being solved by working groups and draft proposals. Some issues, however, remain stalled. I hope the president's address encourages politicians to make well-thought decisions, and motivates leaders to support politicians in their efforts," Paulauskas said.
Andrius Kubilius, head of the opposition Homeland Union, said the speech was "a good one 'sjust like all annual addresses made by Adamkus."
"The president brought up many important problems, while raising several initiatives and ambitions. However, it is obvious that such goals cannot be achieved with the current government and ruling majority," said Kubilius.
At the same time Kubilius, who is the harshest critic of the ruling coalition, said, "The president is clearly avoiding an assessment of the government's current work because, as we can understand, a sharp and impartial evaluation would have a painful effect on the stability of this coalition."
Adamkus also pledged to personally monitor the use of EU funds, insuring that the money is fairly distributed among all areas of strategic importance, rather than into separate interest groups. This, he emphasized, was among the country's most important tasks. "It has been sad to watch the ruling coalition partners' hustle to distribute the funds," Adamkus said.