VILNIUS - Newly elected Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite confirmed on June 15 that Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta is the leading Lithuanian candidate for the post of European Commission member for finance and budgeting.
When asked at a press conference whether Semeta was selected as the best person for the post, Grybauskaite replied "it [the candidature] did not seem the best, it seemed purposeful, so that Lithuania can have the chance to retain the European budget mandate. For Lithuania, as a small country, this kind of responsibility is very useful. I suggested the government look for a person who can take over this mandate."
Asked whether Semeta will do a good job, Grybauskaite said it was too early to tell.
"The future will show how he manages. You can never plan anything in advance, even when talking about yourself. Everything will depend on many circumstances," the newly elected president said.
She said she has already discussed possible substitutes for the finance minister, implying Ministry Undersecretary Ingrida Simonyte could be one of them.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius refused to reveal who is the official candidate discussed with Jose Manuel Barroso.
"I talked with Mr. Barosso on Thursday [June 11] and... discussed the candidature of the prospective commissioner. Under European Union legislation, the EC president makes the decision regarding a commissioner. What I talked with Mr. Barosso, only me and him know. I have agreed with Mr. Barosso that this information is confidential" said Kubilius on June 15.
The prime minister plans to attend the meeting of the European Council on June 17, notably accompanied by Semeta 's though Kubilius had previously maintained that Semeta is needed more in Vilnius than in Brussels.
"My position on this is clear 's it would be a pity to lend Semeta to Europe. He is really needed in Lithuania" said Kubilius at the beginning of June. Semeta refuses to comment, saying it is the prerogative of the prime minister to adopt decisions and talk on the issue.
The candidature of the prospective member of the European Commission has to be approved by the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) before the EC president gets a chance to decide.
Despite support from Kubilius, Semeta is disliked by many members of the Seimas. In the middle of May, Semeta faced interpellation, initiated by Lithuanian Social Democrats, backed up by the Labor Party and the Order and Justice Party.
The interpellation was based on reproaches regarding harsh tax reform, which causes civil unrest, forces businesses to practice tax evasion and increases unemployment.
The Social Democrats will think hard about whether to support Semeta's nomination for EC member, still blaming the minister for mistakes in tax reform. However, Algirdas Butkevicius, the head of the Social Democrats, commented on June 15 that "it is easiest to appoint a member of the commission. Especially considering that he will not work for long 's till autumn."
There are four months remaining for the current European Commission. Some politicians have commented that it is still not clear whether a post as a member of the EC is in fact a promotion or an exile.
"It is a common case in politics 's disposal by the way of promotion" joked Arturas Zuokas, the head of Liberal and Center Union. Despite the comment, Zuokas evaluated Semeta as a professional person and said there are no doubts he can do the job. He also referred to Simonyte as a probable new minister.