VILNIUS - As she reviewed the results of her third year in office, President Dalia Grybauskaite underlined that Lithuania has brought the financial situation under control, ensuring economic growth and making real steps towards energy independence.
According to the President, political and economic stability is essential for Lithuania's further successful development and the general well-being of its people. So this will be a key challenge and a true test of political maturity for all political parties after the parliamentary elections are held in autumn.
"We are the fastest growing economy in the European Union, but it is yet too early to relax. Financial populism is unjustifiable in the face of a second wave of downturn. We have ratified the Fiscal Compact. We must comply with it and act responsibly when preparing the budget for the next year," the President said.
The President stressed that, now that the economy is recovering, we have to focus on the most vulnerable layers of the population, and this requires reforming the social welfare and pension system. More effective measures are needed to reduce unemployment. The minimum monthly wage will have to be increased again next year.
According to the President, we must ensure the continuity of energy projects during the forthcoming change of power: we have to construct a LNG terminal, to build electricity interconnections with Sweden and Latvia, and to implement the Visaginas nuclear power plant project so that people pay competitive - not monopolistic - prices for gas and electricity.
The introduction of competitiveness into the heating sector and its restructuring, the President said, is a key task for the present and new governments. The restructuring process must go on despite the opposition put up by interest groups and some local municipal administrations.
The President said that the restructuring of the courts of law also needs to continue. 159 new judges have been appointed in the course of the past three years. Thirty heads of court at different levels will be rotated this year. Pre-trial investigations have been initiated against four judges for corruption. The main challenge is not to stop the ongoing reforms and not to allow that the law enforcement institutions be politicized.
The President pointed out that real fight against corruption and illicit enrichment has started and that no exceptions are being made for either the ruling or the opposition parties. Ninety pre-trial investigations have been opened based on new legal instruments. Politicians, too, will be checked; therefore, the present Government will have to expand the list of persons included into the illicit enrichment risk group.
According to the President, foreign policy must continue serving and protecting the interests of the people of Lithuania. Concrete NATO security guarantees have been achieved: we now have contingency plans, a permanent air policing mission and a NATO-accredited energy security center. We also received EU's support to have the highest nuclear safety standards applied to all nuclear power plants and to eliminate our energy isolation. Lithuania's economic diplomacy has produced the shuttle container trains Saule and Viking.
The President said that new foreign policy challenges include the negotiations of the EU financial framework for 2014-2020 and Lithuania's presidency of the European Union in 2013, which may provide a good opportunity to prove our commitment and to implement our national projects, especially in the energy sector.
To make the political system more transparent, a new procedure for funding political parties has been introduced so that they compete on ideas, not on money, in the election process. The Supreme Electoral Commission must strengthen the control of party funding in order to preclude possible abuse and loopholes.
The President called on people to be active participants of the general election this coming autumn and to cast their votes responsibly.