Lithuania becoming land of missed opportunities, president warns

  • 2007-04-25
  • By Arturas Racas

HARSH CRITIC: Adamkus blasted the government and Parliament's lack of progress and the slow pace of reforms.

VILNIUS - The year 2006 saw democracy tested in Lithuania, the country failed to start much-needed reforms and found itself on the verge of an identity crisis, president Valdas Adamkus stated in his annual report, which he presented to Parliament on April 19. In his report Lithuania's leader leveled criticism at the government and Parliament, but did not himself assume any responsibility for the nation's current problems.

"Democracy is impossible without simple but basic subjects such as belief in ideals and values, trust in fellow citizens and public institutions, and common efforts to build our state. When there is no place for values and ideas and their spread in public life, total distrust becomes entrenched. The past year was painful proof that the shortage of common goals, social partnership, and political and civic alienation brought Lithuania to a state of identity crisis," Adamkus said.

"Due to political ambitions, power struggles, amateurishness, intrigues, corruption and populism, we did not manage to drive any important economic or social reform. Neither membership in the European Union and NATO nor impressive financial assistance from EU structural funds pushed us to take on basic reforms. We are turning into a country of missed opportunities," the Lithuanian leader warned.
He noted that despite ongoing discussions, reforms in the education and health care systems have not yet started, and the court system also remains unreformed.
Acknowledging that it is not easy for the current minority government to take on these reforms, Adamkus nonetheless complained that the cabinet "concentrated more on its own survival than on reforms." At the same time he called upon political parties to assume more responsibility in relation to the government's stability, stressing that no important decisions are possible without Parliament's support.

"I hope that the current cabinet will have enough political will and determination to switch from promises to realization and action. Stability turning into stagnation is not, never was, and will never be acceptable to Lithuania," Adamkus said.
He called on the government to increase doctors' salaries, take action to stop emigration, fight poverty, boost investments into technologies and knowledge-based business, and to reform the education and court systems.
The president also urged the government to reduce bureaucracy and to start a real fight against corruption.
In order to attract more foreign investment, the president called for a review of tax reform, limits on payments to the state social security fund and a cut in the personal income tax rate from the current 27 percent to 20 percent starting from 2008.
"Lithuania's 17-year experience as an independent nation has shown that it is easier to restore independence than to free ourselves," Adamkus said.