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Green Party takes root

  • 2014-11-05
  • Interview by Linas Jegelevicius

Lithuania’s Green Party has just re-elected its chairman Linas Balsys, who is also a member of the Lithuanian Parliament. Can the budding Green Party find its spot under the sun and, importantly, play an important fiddle in the country’s political orchestra? The Baltic Times sat down to talk to Linas Balsys.

How important to you is being re-elected? Where would you like to take the party to?
I really would not like to overestimate the fact of having been re-elected to lead the party for another two years. I most appreciate, perhaps, the open discussions we’ve had at our congress, as a matter of fact. Holding the chair and being at the same time a member of the Parliament is certainly a big bonus. Both positions provide a larger platform to preach the green ideas.

We definitely have to admit that green ideas in Europe are flying high now and are fodder for the media. Seeing this is very encouraging, especially that the ideas the green group activists have are transposed into electoral programs of other, non-green parties.
I really believe that the green movement in Europe and Lithuania has a big potential, be it economy, energy or politics. Just because it is spurring a new take on local economies and has proven to be working in boosting new jobs. Hence the impetus for local economies to take advantage of what green economy can offer us all.

To be able to transpose the green ideas into legislation is very important to have a strong footing in legislative chambers. How is the LGP preparing for the municipal council elections in March? How many mayoral and council seats are you aiming for?
Certainly, this is very important; I mean getting represented on all the tiers of power. But I’d like to remind everyone that our party is still very young- it was founded in 2011.
In reality, we started operating in a party-like fashion just after the parliamentary elections in 2012. Obviously, we’ve had very little time to get the party going, but, as of now, we have 24 party branches throughout the country, which is good.
The party will try to put for the upcoming election as many candidates as it can. But unlike the lists of other parties, our candidates on the party’s election list will be young and devout for the green ideology. Some of the people on the ballot will be, I reckon, already known to the public.

Can you be more specific as to how many municipal council seats and mayoral seats are you aiming for?
(Grins) I reckon it would be too irresponsible to mention any concrete numbers now. As I said, we are ready to do our best in reaching out the people out there. Possibly, if we strike a common chord, we might form some coalitions with other parties, but how the campaign will go still remains to be seen. In fact, it is still an early stage of it.
But unlike in parliamentary elections, coalition –forming on the municipal level is a common thing, and, on the level, a common ground can be found easier and with more parties than, for example, in Parliament election.

You have to admit LVZS has been more successful on the political arena lately, I mean the EP mandate they snatched at the elections past spring.
Yes, indeed, the party has Bronius Rope as their MEP in the European Parliament. Frankly, I’m happy for them that he has been admitted as an independent member to the EP faction of European Green Party. We’ll definitely be looking forward to working with him on a number of issues within the green agenda.

By the way, do you know more parties in Europe, like LVZS, uniting farmers and green activists? Or is it an exception?
Well, there aren’t many examples of that kind in Europe, but the closest example is the Latvians, where a political formation of peasants and greens had a successful election recently. The party is now participating in coalition-building talks, and many believe it will pave the way into it.

If you were to look across Europe, you’d find a very wide spectrum of green parties there- from really liberal ones, likes ours, to those in Scandinavia, where the greens are kind of pro- communist.
But as I said, we’re set to get along with all the parties and movements in the spectrum.

What sets you apart from LVZS?
Well, it usually comes in defense of the interests of large capital, i.e large entrepreneurs and large farmers.
It is not a secret to anyone. Because of that we, for example, do not work together on a range on questions, like, for instance, regarding legislation of fodder and fertilizers, a sector that some of the leaders of the party are involved in, in the capacity of stake-holders in that sort of enterprises.
The Lithuanian Green Party supports first of all small and ecologic farms. Still, I believe we can find a common ground with the Lithuanian Green and Peasants Party on some contested issues, like genetically modified crops, for example.
We agree on the issue, by the way, and I reckon both parties have to look for what unites them, not sets apart.I really believe we can work together.

If we were to go back to early 1990s, the green movement was budding quickly, but died soon though. What’s the explanation for that? How come that for over 20 years Lithuania hasn’t had a green party, just a bunch of public green movements targeting narrow, specific environmental issues?
​​It’s really hard to tell the reasons. I just perhaps can note that there are a lot of green activists from that era in our party ranks. I’d like to mention here Saulius Piksrys and Saulius Lapienis, who have been the stalwarts of the Lithuanian green movement. They started off with environment protection movements before Sajudis (national movement) and namely they, along with the other members of Atgaja, like Ruta Gajauskaite and Zigmas Vaisvila, led the efforts to the restoration of independence.

What is your take on the Visaginas NPP and shale gas pursuits?
Lithuania needs neither of them. Unfortunately, the Lithuanian President and the Government are giving up to the shale lobbyists. The nuclear project should be scrapped, as it is not very detrimental to Lithuania environment and security-wise, but also considering the fact we won’t get the support for it from the Estonians the Lithuanian Government is counting on. Lithuania just cannot do it on its own.

What do you miss in the state policies? Are​ they green​ enough,​ sufficiently environmentally-conscious?
First of all, I really miss a stronger backbone of the Office of Lithuanian President and the Government, especially when the European Commission was drawing up the environmental strategy until 2030. Regrettably, our president Dalia Grybauskaite has given to fossil-fuel lobbyists, as the plan the EC- and Grybauskaite- voted for is really ambition-less. I mean the European Union’s decision to cut the 28-member region’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent in 2030 and boost the share of renewables in energy consumption to 27 percent by 2030. I want Lithuania to get committed to stricter and harder-to-achieve environmental targets in the future.