Old new Lithuanian commissioner

  • 2009-10-21
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

Algirdas Semeta, Lithuanian member of the European Commission.

VILNIUS - On Oct. 15, the Lithuanian parliament confirmed the candidacy of Algirdas Semeta to occupy a post in the European Commission. The decision was approved by the votes of the ruling center-right majority in the parliament - 64 MPs supported his candidacy and 28 MPs voted against, while 21 MPs abstained.
Semeta will be kind of an old new commissioner because, since July, he has been working as commissioner in charge of budgeting and financial programming after replacing Dalia Grybauskaite, who was elected Lithuanian president.

At the end of last year, Semeta was finance minister in the center-right government of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius. He was responsible for the controversial increase in taxation which was chosen instead of devaluation of the litas. A majority of analysts believe that the tax increase hit business and deepened the economic crisis. It would have been better for the economy if Kubilius and Semeta would have done nothing at all, according to Gediminas Vagnorius, former prime minister and former Kubilius' party colleague.
During the parliamentary debates, the tax raise was brought up by the opposition Social Democrat MPs while former activities of Semeta were said to be a reason for Julius Veselka, Euroskeptic MP of the opposition Order and Justice faction, to vote in favor of Semeta's candidacy. "He did enough to spoil our finance system. In case he will do the same job there, it will be bad also for the EU," Veselka explained.

However, Prime Minister Kubilius believes that Semeta did a perfect job in Lithuania and he will be a good commissioner. Speaking in the Lithuanian parliament on Oct. 13, Kubilius expressed hope that Semeta will keep either the same post, or some other economics-related portfolio in the European Commission.
At the end of October, newly re-elected European Commission President Jose Barroso will decide what kind of portfolio Semeta will be given. During the next five years, the new European Commission will need to pave the way to implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which after the recent Irish referendum seems to be rather unavoidable and keeps the spirit of euroenthusiasts high.

Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and current leader of the Liberal faction in the European Parliament, described the name of the European Commission as "ridiculous." It should be called by its real name, the European government, according to him. At present more than 50 percent of legislation passed by EU member states' national parliaments is just a transfer of EU laws initiated by the European Commission. The percentage will grow after the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which overcame the Irish barrier.

"The Lisbon Treaty is a new engine of the EU ship which took on board 12 new passengers after the EU big enlargement. The old engine - the Treaty of Nice, was hardly able to move the ship successfully, especially in the stormy waters of crisis. Therefore, I am very glad that the citizens of Ireland made the right choice - useful for both Ireland and all the EU's 27 countries," Justas Paleckis, Lithuanian member of the Socialist faction in the European Parliament, told The Baltic Times.