URBI ET ORBI: President Dalia Grybauskaite reads her first state of the nation address in the Lithuanian parliament.
VILNIUS - On June 8, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite gave her first state of the nation address in the Lithuanian parliament, to give an overview of the situation in internal and foreign politics of the state, as required by the Constitution. Her speech lasted only 26 minutes and was the shortest state of the nation address in the history of modern Lithuania. Grybauskaite’s speech provoked very different opinions. She accented the rights of the individual in her speech, while former presidents accented the interest of the state in their state of the nation addresses.
Grybauskaite has chosen not to read some usual boring analysis of each sector of the economy and politics as her predecessors have. Instead, she talked about the morals of the state and its citizens.
“After putting out volumes of strategies and programs adorned by hundreds of noble ideas, we have misplaced the ultimate priority. We have spurned the only true measure of our actions: we have forgotten the individual person,” she said, emphasizing that the government pays too much attention to the figures in the statistics in economics, forgetting simple humanism.
“As I reflect on the flow of emigration, I do not think about it as merely an economic phenomenon. It is rather a reflection of the relationship between an individual and the state. The decision to leave the homeland is a difficult one. However, the number of those who decide to take this step is growing, and more and more Lithuanians are contemplating this possibility. We console ourselves by saying that it is a natural consequence of the downturn. However, the countries where our fellow citizens emigrate are also challenged by the crisis, unemployment, social vulnerability and uncertainty. And it is not only those without a job who are leaving. So, let us look the reality in the face and admit that people are emigrating not only for economic reasons. They are moving abroad because they feel alien at home. Today’s political culture and morals make us question the possibility of working for the good of the Lithuanian people, not for the benefit of a political consortium or interest group,” Grybauskaite said.
“If we honestly seek to effect real changes in the state, we have to treat the individual as the highest value. We have to hold this principle as a guiding light for all,” she emphasized.
Grybauskaite talked about the people’s disappointment in political forces of all political colors. “They no longer believe that a change of political colors in parliament or the local municipality will bring about real change in the country or in their personal life. They no longer trust the rightists, leftists or political newcomers, who have also disappointed them. They have lost confidence in the government, politicians and politics. This sounds a serious warning bell for all political parties who have enclosed themselves in narrow party shells and forgot that their fate is in the hands of the voters, not the other way round,” she said.
Grybauskaite criticized the law and order institutions. “Last year alone, more than 700 pre-trial investigations into corruption were initiated. But only every second case reached the court. Only one person was actually sentenced for abuse of power. No one was convicted for bribes,” she said.
Although, according to the Constitution, one of the president’s main spheres of interest is foreign affairs, Grybauskaite was not very talkative about it. “The strategic direction is one and unquestionable. It is the representation of the interests of the people of Lithuania and their goals, the assertion of national dignity in the international arena. This must be achieved through active protection of Lithuania’s interests in the European Union, by guaranteeing national security by using to the maximum extent the opportunities offered by Euro-Atlantic cooperation, and through constructive relations with the neighboring countries, based on mutual respect and benefit,” she said. The only innovation in comparison with former President Valdas Adamkus’ state of the nation addresses was the fact that she did not mention the spread of democracy further eastwards and southwards to the post-Soviet area.
Kestutis Girnius, who used to be a rather Grybauskaite-friendly political analyst, stated that her piece on foreign policy was so empty that he would simply delete it if he were the editor of that text, because that piece says nothing at all. The entire speech was also rather empty, according to his comments on Lithuanian TV and radio. According to Vladimiras Laucius, the ruling Homeland Union-leaning (although with some dissident thoughts) editor-in-chief of the magazine IQ The Economist, this speech was probably the best of all state of the nation addresses in the history of modern Lithuania, and it was the correct criticism of the way of thinking of the center-right government of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius.
Opinions in the Lithuanian parliament during a break just after the Grybauskaite speech were also very different. Former President Adamkus, who attended the parliament to listen to the speech, spoke about his positive impression. “She spoke about the same problems about which I spoke. She just did it more sharply,” he said.
Arunas Valinskas, leader of the National Resurrection Party, who has tense personal relations with Grybauskaite, spoke ironically about the speech. “It was a speech of unknown genre. It was no state of the nation address,” Valinskas said.
Vytautas Gapsys, who is Labor Party MP and now holds the rotating post of the leader of the opposition in the parliament, stated that he understood the Grybauskaite speech as a call for Kubilius to resign.
Kubilius did not agree. “I didn’t notice some criticism, which would make me choke,” he said about Grybauskaite’s speech.