VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus marked the second anniversary of his second term as head of state by lashing out in all directions, saying he would no longer answer questions about his campaign financing and criticizing a high-ranking EU official for an unwillingness to come to Vilnius "and look the president in the eye," apparently a reference to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Speaking at a press conference on July 20, Adamkus suggested that a high-ranking EU official had postponed his visit to Lithuania because he was "unwilling to look into Adamkus' eyes." Given that Barroso has twice cancelled travel plans to Lithuania, few doubted that it was none other than the EC president to whom the Lithuanian president was referring.
Adamkus even went to lengths to explain the source of the apparent umbrage. During a European Council meeting in Brussels in mid-June, he had been forced "to act undiplomatically" and interrupt the presiding official to make a statement on Lithuania's preparedness for introducing the euro. In his speech, the president urged the European Commission to take into consideration global processes and apply euro introduction criteria realistically.
"And some great leaders of Europe got very angry that I dared to state this in the presence of all European leaders and have even found a reason to cancel a visit to Lithuania, most probably to avoid looking me in the eye," the president told reporters.
During the European Council meeting in Brussels, Lithuania intended to present a resolution on the expansion of the eurozone. The document, which stated that Lithuania met convergence criteria and could be admitted to the eurozone, was to be supported by the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Latvia.
However, after the meeting Barroso told a press conference that the resolution had been withdrawn.
Barroso was due to come to Vilnius in May and later in June. The latter trip was cancelled due to the EC president's "busy agenda." To be sure, Barroso also scratched a planned visit to Latvia.
Also, during a telephone conversation with the new prime minister, Gediminas Kirkilas, on July 20, Barroso accepted his invitation to come to Lithuania this fall.
Regarding campaign finance, Adamkus stated that he would answer no more baseless rumors about his debts.
"Once again, and for the last time, I can say that I have not asked the said person [former Labor Party's leader Viktor Uspaskich] for a single centas, and I have not received anything. I have paid off those election debts using my wife's and my personal money. I am not in debt to anybody either physically or morally. I will not comment on this issue, as it is being escalated... Whatever I say, it is repeated again and again," the president said.
There have been media reports alleging that Uspaskich, who has resigned as Labor Party's chairman and is hiding in Russia, might have paid off Adamkus' debts, which totalled some 300,000 litas (87,000 euros) after the successful 2004 campaign.
As the president explained, he did not take care of financial issues either during the first or the second election campaign and had set the only condition for the persons charged with it 's fair and transparent management of finances.
Adamkus also announced he would reshuffle his team, which has also been touched by scandal. "I had planned to reshuffle my team by the end of the second year of my term of office. It is common in Western democracies to reorganize the staff after a certain period of time," Adamkus said.
The president did not specify future changes and did not reveal the names of the persons to be invited. The president intends to give the most attention and make the biggest changes in his law and domestic policy groups. The latter group is headed by Darius Gudelis. According to media reports, the president is dissatisfied with Gudelis' work.
Adamkus' team has been criticized by political analysts, who say that it is weaker than the one during Adamkus' first term from 1998 's 2003. As analysts explained, the president's advisers generate no new ideas and lack experience, and there is no strong leader among the advisers.