President of the Republic of Lithuania

State of the Nation Address by H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania

2019-06-11

Dear Fellow People of Lithuania,

Distinguished Members of the Seimas, Guests and Diplomats,

Today I am very pleased to fulfil the constitutional requirement and deliver the annual report on the state of affairs in Lithuania and on Lithuania’s domestic and foreign policies – as required by Article 84 of the Constitution.

With one month to go before the transition of office to the new head of state, I would like to reflect on the maturity of our state, democracy, society, and politics that we have been all working together to deliver over the last decade.

As I look back at the past rather dramatic ten years, I dare to say that even though there had been conflicts, disagreements and some pushing around, generally speaking, all is well with the State of Lithuania.

We are learning fast to live in Freedom together.

Finding the remains of partisan leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas gave us back the unbreakable spirit of Lithuanian resistance.

Lithuania – like a mirror – reflects what we are. I see enormous sacrifice and people who truly care.

The maturity of our state is evidenced by international recognition. The name of Lithuania is pronounced with trust and respect.

Our voice has weight in the European Union and NATO. Lithuanian ideas help to build a more peaceful and modern world.

To have the world see the re-independent State of Lithuania this way is our huge achievement.

The ability to act responsibly, openly and honestly – not ingratiation – makes us visible on the geopolitical stage. A foreign policy based on values and trust – not fear or submissiveness – inspires respect for Lithuania.

The international order is changing, and we need to keep a strong backbone of values. Ultimately, it pays back better than trying to please someone. The world knows: Lithuania is not to be pushed around – Lithuania can be trusted.

However much the world changes, whatever the threats to Freedom, it is our political stand that will determine how ready we are to defend ourselves and stand up for fundamental values.

Immature political decisions and statements about cooperating with hostile countries can create creeping threats that will turn us into hostages when we have to choose between bad and very dangerous.

New challenges to security, world order, human rights, climate change, and trade require to reset the activities of international institutions.

In this context, Lithuania is not just a passive bystander – it is one the initiators of change.

We have to continue as the Bell of Freedom on the international political scene.

Unconditional support to the people of Ukraine and unconditional condemnation of aggression – be it Crimea, Kerch or chemical agents used in the United Kingdom – must remain our strategic posture.

We have been in the European Union for 15 years now.

A secure, competitive and influential Europe is our responsibility too.

Lithuania not only follows the European agenda, we are also shaping it because we have things to offer for the future of Europe.

Our ideas have advanced the development of the EU’s cybersecurity shield. Lithuanian initiatives – like the Demaskuok (debunk) project – help the European Union fight disinformation and hostile propaganda.

Lithuania’s experience in securing alternative gas supplies through its LNG terminal is being used by other world countries.

Our challenges are becoming a matter of concern for the whole of Europe because we are Europe.

We signed a political agreement with the European Commission on synchronizing the Baltic power grid with western European networks. Later on this month, we will sign a more detailed agreement in Brussels where I will be travelling for the European Council meeting. So let’s not look back to the East because we know very well that in addition to electricity Moscow dispatches political influence via the BRELL ring.

Just like it is with the Ostrovets nuclear power plant. Espoo Convention countries have concluded that it stands on an unsafe site. This is not about the safety of the plant – this is about its unsafe site. It means that no power station can operate there, and efforts to close the Ostrovets nuclear power plant must continue.

Let’s not look back – let’s keep our minds on Lithuania thirty years from now.

We live in good times. So let us not create problems only because of some desire or enthusiasm to do things differently or break them apart instead of creating.

The latest surveys reveal a disconcerting truth: there has been a significant drop in investor confidence in Lithuania’s economy over the last two years. Negative attitudes were primarily shaped by the government’s controversial decisions and statements.

Prohibitions and apocalyptic scenarios devised by some members of the ruling majority are raising concern not only among foreign investors.

It subjects the country to endless experiments with vouchers, pension schemes, education models, hospital “modifications”, and “mirror-style” ministries.

People are waiting for clarity and stability. Reform cannot continue for 25 years – and that’s how long it has been going on in the education system. When we experiment with our children, we put Lithuania’s future at stake.

We have a huge potential in bio, cyber and information technologies, industrial and service sectors. National pride in our Internet speed is second only to basketball. We are among the five best performing EU countries in e-services.

The financial technologies have become a distinctive feature of the Lithuanian economy over the last couple of years. Today Lithuania is home to more than 170 fintech companies – which has triggered an allergy in some, but the world is astonished and very proud of us. Presently, Lithuania has established itself as a regional leader.

As artificial intelligence spreads across the world, Lithuania is emerging as an excellent place for innovative investment. We have agreed in Davos this year to establish CERN business incubation centers in Vilnius and Kaunas – which offers Lithuania a historic opportunity to become a leading-edge technological innovation hub in the whole of Northern Europe.

Artificial intelligence solutions developed by Lithuanian students and the robotic skills of our school undergraduates are well-known across Europe. They return as prize winners to Lithuania. The world is waiting for innovative solutions to fight diseases, fake news and climate change.

Our scientists are able to come up with inventions needed not only for the national economy but also for global security. This can change Lithuania’s economic structure and lead to a stronger drive for rapid development when we see an economic slowdown.

It is brains and data that are the new fuel of today.

The longer we keep circling round open data policies, tolerating the state-run data business which charges non-transparent prices and does not control information flows, the more we will lag behind the global pace.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In mature democracies, the transition of power is effected smoothly, in a civilized way and without disrupting the continuity of work.

Pre-set conditions of professional approach and transparency have protected us from governance crises we faced during the first decades of independence when as many as 14 governments changed in 19 years.

In the last ten years, with a more stable situation, we have managed to reach decisions of strategic national importance in:

  • making the judiciary and law enforcement more transparent;
  • fighting political and oligarchic corruption;
  • strengthening Lithuania’s energy and economic self-independence;
  • ensuring military security;
  • implementing a foreign policy based on national interests and national dignity;
  • improving social security, even though we did not eliminate social exclusion.

Nevertheless, 64 percent of the population are still dissatisfied with how democracy works and have no confidence in political parties, the Seimas and the Government.

Political deafness, disrespect for human rights, the principles of democracy and the rule of law, power-based decision making, the desire to control the media, law enforcement and independent institutions, disregard of the Constitution, and assertive arrogance lead to national destruction.

When politics is degraded to primitive harassment of critics, when political culture is replaced by muscle flexing, when people are ignored and opponents blackmailed, constructive work is no longer possible.

Disrespect for people, their rights and freedoms demonstrated at the highest level does not add to trust in democracy or the state.

Distrust creates miscommunication.

If we stop looking down on others, if we learn to listen and work together, we will be much stronger.

Bickering and political rudeness cannot become a tradition in Lithuanian parliamentarism, leaving no room for serious discussion and in-depth analysis.

In this respect, the actual number of seats in the Seimas will not affect the quality of parliamentary work.

Only through personal transformation and development can we make a real difference in Lithuania, Europe and the world.

Parliamentary parties that have opened the door to young people are moving forward to a qualitatively new stage in their development.

Election-tested traditional parties inspire hope that a more stable political system is emerging – cleaner, open to new members and learning to stand on its own feet.

We see an ongoing change of generations and values on the political scene.

Trust and confidence in our elected politicians and their decisions are vitally important.

Even though our democracy is not perfect and we still need to catch up with Nordic countries, the world treats us as a democratic European country governed by the rule of law and it sees our cities as modern and cosmopolitan.

We received the Westphalia Peace Prize in recognition of an exceptional model of democratic development and contribution to peace in Europe.

During the Pope’s visit to Lithuania, the world got to know us as a land of young, ambitious, dignified, sensitive, and very strong people.

The spirit of hope emanating from Lithuania is recognized as a true value around the world.

We elected a new President and members of the European Parliament, putting to test once again our values and freedom index. We have learned to think for ourselves and the choices we make are no longer shaped by oligarchic pressure or cheap populist promises.

And even though some politicians still dream about a silent and non-objecting president who does no obstruct their “work”, people want to have a leader who protects their interests, constitutional rights and human values. I hope that the newly elected President will meet the expectations of the Lithuanian people. I genuinely wish him success.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have left many countries behind on the path of consolidating the fundamental principles of a law-governed state: the primacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. However, Lithuania’s judicial system still faces and will continue to face many challenges.

Fighting the Constitution is becoming more popular than fighting corruption.

We saw an unprecedented attack against Chapter I of the Constitution, which enshrines the fundamental national values of language, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

There were many attempts to rewrite the Constitution or undermine constitutional values, tailoring them to the needs of a single specific group – from unlimited construction in woodlands, nomenklatura-type privileges and restriction of free speech to challenging the procedure of appointing the Prosecutor General and lowering the threshold for referendums.

Last year, 33 appeals against allegedly anti-constitutional legal acts were submitted to the Constitutional Court.

Now that individual constitutional appeals have been finally legalized, the workload of the Constitutional Court will increase even more. However, this is good because in many cases the Constitutional Court is the last resort to stop the self-will of our politicians.

A Constitution “suited for specific needs” can change the face of a law-governed state beyond recognition and take it back to the times of purchased justice and legal nihilism.

As we adapted to international legal norms and European legal values, as we reformed our law enforcement institutions, the courts and the prosecutor’s office, as we perfected our codes and passed more advanced laws, we have created a truly Western legal system.

In the European Union, we are commended for a transparent and strict judge selection procedure. New-generation judges and prosecutors are doing away with clan restraints, political dependency and old corrupt habits.

It took many years for the law enforcement to overcome their fear to displease, to ignore phone-call instructions and to stop covering up for their own.

We have seen many high-profile cases. We are getting rid of impunity: as much as 92 percent of those indicted for corruption are convicted in courts of first instance.

Perceived independence of the justice system is rated as good in Lithuania. Still, people say that interference by politicians and governmental institutions in the work of courts as well as the pressure exerted by business and other interest groups pose a serious threat.

There have been many attempts to involve law enforcement into the political process, such as election campaigns or fighting the opponents.

Independent law enforcement is a major achievement that must be protected and maintained.

The urge to control the media keeps re-emerging. In the last three years, ten proposals were brought forward to constrain journalistic work. Anti-constitutional efforts were even made to politicize the independent national broadcaster, Lithuanian Radio and Television.

Freedom of expression is FREEDOM. It is a matter of national security for all of us and the state.

A government that is intolerant to criticism would gladly muzzle not only the media but also those decent creators whose open and encouraging words foster the national spirit, promote critical thinking and enhance mutual trust.

Against the background of arts, music, cinema, and literature responsive to national and global challenges, masterpieces, like Gloria Lietuvai, are created. During last year’s Centennial celebrations, when I stood with foreign dignitaries and presidents of neighboring countries – all of whom admired Gloria Lietuvai – I was filled with pride because I knew that only Lithuania could produce an artistic gem that instills respect for our past history, consolidates national values, inspires compassion and patriotism, and builds up the feeling of responsibility for the future of our homeland.

We can be justly proud of our culture and arts.

International opera awards, biennale golden lions and the world’s most talented “batons” have made the name of Lithuania known all over the world.

Long museum nights, street music days, springs of poetry, outdoor film festivals, smart libraries, unexpected spaces – these are no longer distant foreign events. They are happening here and reflect Lithuania’s frameless cultural landscape and artistic independence.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are free only to the extent that we recognize the freedom of others.

People want to live in dignity and security wherever they are in the world and they expect to be treated with respect and compassion.

A simple, human approach can work miracles in both political and everyday life.

An overseer’s whip and instructions what to eat, when to drink, where to get medical treatment, and whom to be friends with will never create a free and harmonious society.

Respect for those who think, live and look differently, who are less advantaged or who have achieved more, equal opportunities, protection of privacy, and freedom of choice – that’s what makes Lithuania attractive to us and to others.

Changes in our society are fast moving: public awareness has far exceeded the maturity of politics and politicians.

International experts see a great potential of social capital in Lithuania and predict good prospects for the future if only we learn to work and act together towards common goals.

Therefore, the national social security campaign “For A Safe Lithuania” is endless. I strongly hope that the new President and his team will continue it. Over the last three years, nearly one thousand initiatives were launched to reduce poverty, addictions, suicidal tendencies, to promote foster parenting and adoption. The movement has already been joined by all 60 local municipalities, non-governmental organizations, over 70 responsible business companies, diplomatic representations, international organizations, and media outlets. Well-known public figures are acting as ambassadors for the campaign.

No statistics can tell the actual number of advice given by Parent Hotline as an alternative to spanking. No statistics can describe what goes on in a child’s head when they leave a care home for a family or when a street kid gets to attend a day center. What emotions fill a child at the first-ever sight of the sea? What kind of confidence shines in the eyes of a woman who broke free from domestic violence?

Only by building bridges among ourselves can we become a force that shapes the future of Lithuania and stands up to internal and external challenges.

Only a responsive and open society based on mutual trust can come together to make effective national decisions. This is key to building a Lithuania of success. 

 

Dear Fellow People of Lithuania,

It was your trust that gave me strength throughout the past ten years.

Belief in Lithuania and belief in you were the driving force behind my quest for nationally important solutions.

Thank you all who joined me on this path as like-minded partners and associates.

Thank you to those who offered critical remarks. You helped and advised me each and every day.

It was a huge challenge and immense privilege to serve the State of Lithuania and her people.

Thank you all.

Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Last updated 2019.06.11 13:17

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