Finance minister steps down

  • 2007-03-28
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - Lithuanian Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis handed in his resignation on March 27, stating he was doing so to prevent speculations related to his son's involvement in the mishandling of European Union funds. "I resign as I do not want to give any grounds for speculation and interpretation related to my son, despite the fact that the court's decision was in his favor, as I always believed it would be," Balcytis said in a statement.

"My family and my children are very important to me. I have worked honestly as a minister for six years and now I want to... release my family from the tension that's been lingering over the past few years. I made the decision based on my conscience and beliefs," he added.

The Vilnius court on March 26 cleared the minister's son, Donatas Balcytis, of involvement in the falsification of official documents and of abusing his position, although it acknowledged that he had forged some technical documents.
Donatas Balcytis worked in the Lithuanian Business Support Agency (Verslo Paramos Agentura), which is controlled by the Finance Ministry and is responsible for evaluation of projects under consideration for EU financial assistance.
The minister's son and three of his colleagues were accused of forging documents that helped the agricultural company Panevezio Melioracija obtain some 1 million litas (289,600 euros) in EU funding.

Prosecutors demanded that Balcytis be fined 10,000 litas and banned from working in the public sector for four years, but the court decided that Balcytis had not committed a crime, as the documents he forged were technical papers and not official documents.

Two of Donatas Balcytis' colleagues were also cleared, while the third was found guilty and banned from working in public institutions for two years.
The finance minister, who is also a member of Parliament, said in his statement that he would not leave politics, prompting speculation that the move was a bid to replace former president and prime minister Algirdas Brazauskas as chairman of the ruling Social Democrats at the party's congress scheduled for May. Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas is also seen as a potential candidate for the position.

At a briefing on March 26 Balcytis also stressed that his resignation was not related to his direct duties or criticism voiced by EU Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite, who has bashed the government for being slow to utilize the EU's financial assistance and has said publicly that the government's 2010 target for introducing the euro is not realistic.
The minister said that he is not the only person responsible for the failures with the euro, which Lithuania had planned to introduce at the beginning of 2007.
"It is also foreign policy. The commissioner herself said that there was not enough support from other countries," Balcytis said.
"I personally did everything that was in my power," he added.
Balcytis refused to speculate on possible candidates for his replacement saying it is not in his competence to discuss potential ministers.

Under the Lithuanian constitution, ministers are appointed by the president after being nominated by the prime minister.
Balcytis has been working in the government since 2001. He served twice as transport minister and was named as a candidate for prime minister in June 2006, but Parliament rejected his candidacy.