VILNIUS – Political bickering over who should represent Lithuania at the European Council runs counter to the state's interests and undermines its position in the bloc, President Gitanas Nauseda's chief foreign policy advisor said on Thursday.
"The president never opened [the discussion]. He has never been a supporter of such an ugly and anti-state squabble over who must go where," Asta Skaisgiryte told LRT Radio.
"We expect that in the wake of the Seimas Commission for Ethics and Procedures' explanation, these previous provisions will be changed in an effort to correct the mistakes that have been made," she added.
The row over who – Nauseda or Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte – should go to EU summits is being closely watched "not only by journalists and presidential advisors, but also by foreign embassies in Lithuania that are reporting to their capitals", according to Skaisgiryte.
This internal squabbling is weakening Lithuania's position in the EU, she noted.
The Commission for Ethics and Procedures ruled on Wednesday that the parliamentary committees on European and foreign affairs had exceeded their competence by submitting their recommendation on Lithuania's representation at the European Council.
The committees recommended that Nauseda represent Lithuania in the European Council's online meeting on March 25-26. A group of opposition MPs asked the ethics commission to look into the move.
The conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats began to raise the representation issue after winning last autumn's parliamentary election.
The conservatives are considering adopting a law to allow sending the prime minister to EU summits. too.
The initiators say the prime minister should go to EU summits because the bloc's leaders mostly discuss issues falling within the government's remit and because it cannot be ensured the president adheres to the mandate approved by the Seimas and the government. They also note that the president does not participate in European political parties' activities.
Critics maintain that the Homeland Union are using double standards in a bid to expand their influence, saying that the conservatives let President Dalia Grybauskaite take their place at the European Council and it is only now that they began to raise the issue.
Nauseda says he will continue to represent Lithuania in all summits.