State of the Nation Address by H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania
Dear Fellow People - Citizens of Independent Lithuania,
Distinguished Members of the Seimas,
In recent days, the words freedom, independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and peace have taken on a new value.
After living for more than half a century in peace and concord - for which she received the Nobel Prize - Europe is facing aggression again.
War and occupation are no longer only historical terms used in textbooks; they have become a real threat on the continent of Europe.
As we live through what is happening in Ukraine, we realize once again just how fragile freedom is.
It is secure only to the extent that we are capable of protecting it and making it stronger.
For 24 years now, we have been able to build our country in a way that our freedom should not become hostage to one-day benefits, to political greed, to the propaganda of others, or to groupings that disregard our national interests.
So that nobody should ever doubt that our young democratic state is prepared to meet new challenges and that the freedom of Lithuania is in trustworthy hands.
Together, we have done a great deal to make our country stronger.
We have made the necessary decisions that are vital for our people to safely build a life for themselves and their children in Lithuania.
Today, as we review our economic and business achievements, the historic changes that have taken place in our country, the accomplishments in culture and sports, and the evaluations we receive from the international community, we can be proud of Lithuania.
We are self-standing and respected in the international community, we are walking with determination along the path of democracy and the rule of law.
A quarter of a century has not yet passed since we reestablished our statehood. Let us look and see where we are strong and where we are still vulnerable so that we can continue walking forward in quicker and longer strides - without rushing about and without giving in to the influence of others.
My Dear Fellow People,
The peaceful flight of Ally jet fighters on the day we celebrated March 11 symbolized ten years of our membership in NATO and the European Union - our timeline period of new values where freedom and security are intertwined.
The lesson of Ukraine commits us all to safeguard our freedom with all possible effort.
In the face of threat, we all revalued our values. And I have no doubt that in the hearts of each and every a strong sense of duty reawakened to those around us and to our Homeland.
To resist or to conform. This decision will have to be made by both the powerful of the world and by each individual person.
We have revalued not only the values. We took a new look at what we have been doing until now.
At this time of concern, as I fulfill my constitutional duty to review the situation in Lithuania and foreign policy matters, I invite us all to face up - fairly and honestly - to the real situation in our country and around us.
Let us evaluate what our concerted efforts have accomplished and what negligence or failure to make decisions may cost.
When the demonstration of power and provocative actions began close to Lithuania, we assessed our foreign policy performance.
We did it and we are no longer afraid, because we are not alone with our unpredictable neighborhood.
First of all, the Allies have stood by their word that the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Baltic countries is a continued concern of the United States and NATO. When necessity arose, we immediately received military and political reinforcement.
At this moment we have all the necessary military security guarantees.
The direct threat to regional security also highlighted the importance of neighborhood cooperation. Fully aware that the strength of the region is built on unity, together we - Lithuanians, Poles, Latvians, and Estonians - assessed the threats and joined our efforts to ensure security.
Over the past several years, Lithuania strengthened its ties with all the friends and allies in Europe and the world. We once again ascertained that our primary and most secure foreign policy course is partnership with the European Union countries, the United States and cooperation within the NB8 framework - where we are trusted and respected.
Our membership in the United Nations Security Council was supported by as many as 187 out of 193 UN countries.
Investing in regional cooperation has proved to be especially effective: we are now part of the Nordic-Baltic (NB8) region - the economically strongest and the most secure region in Europe.
This is a new geopolitical trajectory which is gaining increasingly more attention from the United States. It means that Lithuania is moving on to a new and broader level of strategic cooperation with the U.S.
Lithuania and Germany are bound by strong political and economic cooperation ties, and we have a strategic partnership agreement with France.
Membership in NATO and the European Union is our indisputable strength - which was confirmed by life itself. It gives our people not only military, political and economic security guarantees, but also signifies a relationship with other nations based on democratic values, mutual trust and respect.
The world trusts Lithuania, so let us also trust ourselves more.
First, we have to stand in unity and to work together in order to respond to new challenges.
It is necessary to renew without any delay the national agreement between all political parties on foreign and security policies, and also on adequate finances for defence. We have advanced to reach the two percent defence spending target in the next five years without hurting other economic areas and social groups.
There is no other way - until help arrives, we must be able to defend ourselves.
Lithuania and other countries are already subjected to an open information war.
NATO's contingency plans will not protect us from disseminators of disinformation, from lies and provocations.
We ourselves have to develop resistance to the propaganda machine. Otherwise, even a trivial song that glorifies the Soviet Union can become openly destructive.
For Lithuania, now under the fire of information attacks, openness and transparency is the most effective response.
In this regard, our best shield could be civil-minded and responsible media, which would take disrespect to our country as a personal challenge and which would ward off the arrows of lies spreading mistrust in Lithuania.
Therefore, I call on all media owners and managers, on every journalist and columnist personally to help our people distinguish lies from truths, to inform society very clearly about the intents directed against our state, and to counter the misinformation and the propaganda of hostile forces.
Time lost is the biggest adversary in information wars. It is therefore a crime that even after several cyber attacks were launched, the Law on the Security of Electronic Networks and Information was shelved at the Ministry of the Interior.
The protection of data and information in this age of digital technologies is a matter of our national security.
The information war has also tested the vigilance of our intelligence services.
The new Law on Intelligence, passed a year ago, imposes an obligation to ensure swift response to even the slightest of dangers which may affect the sovereignty of the state, the inviolability and integrity of its territory, the constitutional order, the interests of the state as well as its defence and economic power.
However, even open aggression close to Lithuanian borders does not make the State Security Department take effective preventive measures to eliminate risks, dangers and threats arising from abroad or at home.
Responsibility for the prevention of threats which is pushed around reduces Lithuania's political and economic resilience.
Delays, self-destruction and short-sightedness are worse than an unpredictable neighbor.
For more than 20 years we had delayed to seek real energy independence.
However, the symbol of our energy independence - a special vessel for the LNG terminal - will arrive to Lithuania this coming autumn after overcoming hostile storms and turbulences created by commissions and instigated by others.
This geopolitical project of cooperation between Lithuania, Norway and South Korea, the first in the Baltic region, is the result of historic changes in our energy system.
It is a crowning achievement by the efforts of the whole of Lithuania, making Russian gas - which poses an existential threat - simply needless for Lithuania.
In the course of only several years, Lithuania has managed to develop alternatives to both gas and electricity supplies. Next year, in 2015, a power bridge to Sweden will be built, linking Lithuania to Western Europe through electricity networks.
It means the end of energy isolation.
Energy independence is absolutely essential for national prosperity. It is not only about fair prices for electricity, gas and heating. It is about secure and competitive Lithuania.
However, the appetite of local energy oligarchs is even more damaging to the country than its disputes with Gazprom.
Today corrupt transactions are spread by front men in the ministries of energy and the environment, in local municipalities and apartment associations. Former Rubicon, now-turned-ICOR, has become a predator which controls municipal utilities from the collection of waste to the supply of water and heating.
This formation with its non-stop meters is robbing people just as hard as Gazprom whom we have already overpaid a total of 5 billion litas.
Curbing abuses by interest groups in the 12 billion litas energy sector would make Lithuania a competitive and prosperous European nation.
Resolute state policies are needed not only for future nuclear or shale energy, but also for the heating sector.
Even though the first independent heat producers have been established, heating and utilities have been segmented, and self-indulgent monopolists as well as their proxy apartment administrators have been reined in, the five-year-long efforts to reduce prices for heating and utilities are still insufficient.
In some districts, it is not the municipality that controls the producers of heat, but the heating oligarchs who set their conditions for local governments and residents.
Therefore, we should consider very seriously taking part of the heating systems in large cities into public ownership. A single national programme for the heating sector should be finally developed.
Helping Lithuania to become stronger economically and protect itself from grabbers is a matter of common interest for all of us.
The antidote developed against corruption is working and we are fighting corruption without reservation. Last year alone, court-imposed fines for corruption offences amounted to one million litas.
Thirty four criminal cases of illicit enrichment have been investigated with the total value of suspicious assets established at more than 11 million litas.
The result is that Lithuania has moved up on the Corruption Perception Index and now ranks 43rd among 177 countries.
The EU Anti-Corruption Report has assessed Lithuania's consistent fight against large-scale corruption in very positive terms. But we are still in the lowest position as regards petty corruption which widespread in health care, local municipalities and the police.
Corruption habits do not allow to organize work transparently and to use the available funds rationally.
Each year we allocate 5 billion litas for health care alone. Additional two billion are paid by people themselves. We have expensive and modern medical equipment in place.
Nevertheless, quality health care services are still available to many people only after an extra payment is made.
Studies show that as many as 79 percent of people in Lithuania think that bribes help to solve problems.
Until we learn how to be born, get a job, build a house and grow old without giving a bribe, we are vulnerable because we can be bought.
Only when we are no longer entangled by corrupt relations, nobody will be able to either buy or sell Lithuania.
The tightening of laws on corruption has reduced the possibilities for monopoly abuse and has put a stop to unfair practices. The total sum of fines imposed by the Competition Council in the last years amounts to 80 million litas - which is two times as much as over its entire lifetime - bringing a benefit of 186 million litas to consumers due to deterrence.
More transparency in public procurement has resulted in more money for the good of the people. Openness and visibility in this 14 billion litas sector has cut the number of abuses by half. However, there are still a lot of non-transparent procurements, especially on the fields of biofuels and waste management.
If the State Tax Inspectorate were just as vigilant with respect to millions in profit as it is with respect to small-sized business, we would have a state treasury that is at least half a billion larger.
Transparent, competitive and innovative businesses, driven by people with personal initiative, also serve to strengthen Lithuania's resilience.
The White Wave is sweeping across the Lithuanian business landscape, spreading the culture of honest tax payments, transparent salaries and public procurements, fair competition, as well as ethical and responsible culture of business.
There are more and more dynamic and innovative business gazelles that quickly adjust to changes in international markets and produce competitive quality goods.
Social business, which aims to have a positive impact on society rather than only to generate profits, is becoming increasingly popular, especially among young people. Social enterprises provide jobs for socially vulnerable people, create green businesses and offer services that people need.
Helping honest and civil-minded business people establish themselves across the whole country is not only a matter of concern for "Lithuania without Shadows" or "Line of Transparency" - it is also the direct duty of the Government.
Namely such business is a source of strength to the state economy, serving as a counterbalance to corrupt transactions, shadow payments and double book-keeping.
Responsible and transparent business will not allow demeaning or blackmailing Lithuania.
The profit margin is often equal to the risk margin. Therefore, it is high time to start searching for the right place to do business so that there is no need to live in fear or to sell Lithuania for butter.
All the more so that many successful efforts were made in the past years to find reliable markets, increase Lithuania's visibility, expand economic ties, and establish new contacts.
Lithuania has been invited to start negotiations on membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - the club of economically strong and reliable countries.
During its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Lithuania's diplomatic horizons expanded greatly. We became visible, heard and respected. Lithuania became known as a hard-working, reliable and innovative country with rich cultural and modern business traditions.
So let us not scatter this input, let us use it.
Lithuania's international recognition must be turned into nationally useful projects.
Today, more than 75 percent of all Lithuanian-made goods are exported to EU countries. The export routes of Lithuanian lasers extend to all the continents of the world.
EU member states' investments account for 82.5 percent of all investment in Lithuania. The Nordic countries alone have invested almost 17 billion litas in our country.
Promoting transparent investments and attracting them to all the regions of Lithuania is vitally important.
For this purpose, we need concerted action by our diplomatic corps, the government and the business community.
Last year, the agency Invest in Lithuania helped to develop 22 greenfield projects in different regions of Lithuania. In the course of four years, 9570 persons were employed.
However, investments seem to totally elude the municipalities of Rietavas, Šilalė, Marijampolė, Pagėgiai, Šalčininkai, Lazdijai, Jurbarko, Birštonas, and Rokiškis.
Bringing in investments must become the direct responsibility of local governments. It depends on the efforts and ingenuity of each and every local mayor and elder to make Lithuania a country of strong attraction for capital, technologies, and innovation; a country that provides good conditions for working and earning.
In some municipalities, only a third of the local population has jobs. Therefore, social exclusion is becoming a threat to the security of our state.
Only employment will make our people feel invulnerable and secure in their country.
Our human resources are truly unique. Even foreign investors admit that workers in Lithuania are very highly qualified. Lithuania is among the first six countries in the European Union in terms of the education level of its workforce.
We send Lithuanian greetings from outer space, our patented inventions compete on global markets, we are the fastest Internet country, we are developing as many as five business and science valleys, and our laboratories are of the highest level.
Lithuania that is globally competitive in terms of work quality and inventions is a reality, not a future vision. It gives a new momentum to the country's economy and its modernization.
Bridging the gap between science and business, upgrading the management of studies, and adjusting professional training to market needs will make Lithuania competitive not only on qualified workforce, but also with respect to productivity and technologies.
Investing in specialists will increase the growth potential of the whole economy and ensure Lithuania's economic stability.
We intend to allocate more than 400 million litas to youth employment by the year 2020. If we use the funds smartly for active projects, we will ensure that our graduates do not have to go to the labor exchange as their first place of employment.
Growing economy must provide jobs and decent, dignified income so that people feel safe today and secure for the future of their family.
Our economy is sustainable; our macroeconomic indicators are solid.
We have the potential for an even more rapid economic growth.
We did everything to increase the level of EU financial support to Lithuania by almost 10 percent - which will amount to a total of 44.5 billion litas over the next seven years.
Farmers and rural residents will receive almost half of this amount - as much as 17.24 billion litas.
However, there are still 500 thousand hectares of abandoned and fallow land in Lithuania. It has been estimated that if agricultural crops were planted on this land, it would bring us an additional billion litas.
Let us work on our land and we will not have to be afraid that others will buy it up.
European support is not forever, it will be gradually reduced. In ten years of EU membership, our standard of living has already reached 72 percent of the EU average.
At the present moment, EU financial support adds up to almost one-fourth of Lithuania's annual budget. Therefore, we have to invest soundly and responsibly these funds into the future and to ensure that economic wellbeing reaches every person and does not fill the pockets of corrupt groupings.
The possibility that the funds we negotiated so hard in Brussels may be simply plundered is one of the biggest threats today.
As we fought the downturn and worked to save our country from bankruptcy, we saw very clearly that the shortage of funds is not Lithuania's biggest problem. It is the corrupt interest groups and irresponsible overspending that are making us all poorer.
Lithuania can become a country of possibilities for honest people, if we do not allow cheats and fraudsters to usurp it.
At the start of a new stage in the allocation of European support, we also see that an artificial rotation of chief officials has been set off - attempts are made to have party figures in high positions in the European Social Fund Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Paying Agency and even as directors of disabled children's homes, vocational schools, libraries, and cultural community centers.
The ruling majority, fighting for financial interest zones, has no time to deal with the long-standing problems that people face.
Disregard for the fact that pensions have not been compensated as yet and salaries have not been restored leads to the resurgence of pre-crisis party appetites and irresponsible populist promises. They can plunge the country back into financial chaos.
Only if we have a responsible financial policy can we withstand any challenge.
The introduction of the euro will curb political and financial populism and will protect the state from irresponsible political behavior. The euro will certainly provide a strong impetus to our economy as well.
If we use public funds prudently and make investments with the highest level of economic and social return, we are going to make our country even stronger.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lithuania's independent law enforcement is ever more resolute to protect national and honest individual interests.
Through principled approach, enhanced selection criteria and rotation, the legal community is cleansing itself from corrupt and random people. Professional and civil minded corps is taking shape and stands ready to protect the interests of the state at home and on the international arena.
The judge's gown has again taken on the symbolic meaning of highly esteemed judicial power and is no longer a cover-up for impunity.
In five years, there was an 86 percent change among heads of court; 115 new judges were appointed.
The courts of law are modernizing: the allocation of cases has been computerized, e-cases have made a successful start, and traditional minutes are replaced by digital records. Faster proceedings should be introduced for criminal cases as well.
The inclusion of public representatives into the process of judge selection and evaluation has opened up the formerly closed circle of judges.
Public trust in justice is also coming back. Five years ago, only one in five citizens had confidence in the courts of law. The percentage of those who trust the judicial system has now risen from 24 to 51 percent.
Today, 69 percent of the residents of Lithuania trust the police, while the police immunity service has become a model of fighting inside corruption effectively for the entire law enforcement.
The process of modernization is the slowest in local prosecutor's offices. Senior prosecutors continue to wield strong influence; there are few new arrivals to the system; and the approach to human rights has not changed. Investments into professional development are inadequate and insufficient; European and global practices are not analyzed; it is hard for new ideas to get through.
The rotation of chief prosecutors is showing some results, however it is evident that rotating incompetence produces nothing but incompetence that cannot identify real threats to the state.
Therefore, the Soviet-style prosecution of crimes is still popular at the local level, even though the legal system was transformed many years ago, and defense based on force has become unacceptable. Actions that violate human rights have received negative international response.
The concept of restorative justice is gaining popularity in the world - which includes peace negotiations and agreements. In Lithuania, meanwhile, everything is investigated and punishment is always sought.
This allows political whims - such as to replace heads of law enforcement institutions or to have the law enforcement as an instrument for squaring accounts - to reemerge during each election.
The situation can be changed only through personal responsibility, courage and dedication demonstrated by lawyers who are not afraid of new challenges and obstacles.
Principled and effective protection of the state and human rights - and not indiscriminate protection of own regalia - should be the ultimate goal and mission of the five thousand strong community of lawyers.
Only by using civilized national and international legal instruments can we consistently walk down the path of the rule of law.
Only then we will be able to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and respect for law.
Law enforcement and law-making will no longer be used to serve narrow political interests. Politics will not become a business to deal with personal matters.
Today Lithuania's political security is in a trap that we have set ourselves by voting irresponsibly or by not going to the polls.
The future of the nation is shaped primarily by political will.
We are approaching the sixth free presidential election. Almost 79 percent of Lithuanian residents having the right to vote took part in the first election of 1993.
Recently, however, barely half of those entitled to vote come to the polls.
As many as 450 thousand young people between 20 and 40 years of age demonstrated indifference to the future of their country and did not vote.
And the government is then elected with the money supplied by others, making politicians accountable to them - not to the voters.
Lithuania's political security and maturity make a start at the ballot box.
We have already started to disentangle from the web of political corruption, while political parties are learning to survive without money from businesses.
The old nomenklatura is being replaced by dynamic and educated youth, born in a free and democratic world. In several years, they will stand at the helm of the state. Let us help them keep their faith in Lithuania strong.
Today, when the rattling of arms against Lithuania is heard in Karaliaučius - the cradle of our literature - the letters by Kristijonas Donelaitis kept in the Tolminkiemis museum acquire a new meaning. Their guiding light has helped Lithuania to survive.
They are a living reminder to contemporary Lithuanian writers and poets - the followers of Donelaitis, Maironis and Marcinkevičius - as well as to the outstanding men and women of our arts, culture and sports, to the intellectual community, the clergy, the academia, and the national prize winners.
We need you on the frontline, not offstage.
The contribution of prominent figures to developing a mature society, national culture, historical memory, and respect to each other is exceptionally important.
The Culture Council of Lithuania has started work this year - which means that allocations for culture have been depoliticized. The artists themselves will now decide which projects should receive state support and can strengthen the spirit of the nation.
We have a duty to cherish and respect the Lithuanian language - which is not only the concern of the State Language Commission, but is also our individual commitment.
It is the language that is the primary source of citizenship and responsibility for our country, the main driver of national identity, culture and interaction between communities worldwide.
The ideas of assisting Lithuania and each other are born at world Lithuanian youth meetings and business forums, in missions that foster historical memory. Local non-governmental organizations, which now number more than ten thousand, place a special focus on the wellbeing of the Lithuanian people across various fields.
The project Global Lithuania is emerging as a unique state-consolidating phenomenon.
Wherever we might be, let us return to Lithuania, bringing back our knowledge, ideas, investment, and experience. No one should be left standing on the wayside of Lithuania's progress.
If we break up and walk away, our place will be taken by those who do not see Lithuania as their homeland.
My Dear Fellow People,
Lithuania is the most beautiful and the very best country in the world. And it will become our home of prosperity and wellbeing, if we have faith in Lithuania.
The defenders of January 13 gave us a unique opportunity to build the state ourselves - not to sell it or give it away to others.
Therefore, we need to do more than to carry a forget-me-not lapel pin in order to remember the price of freedom.
Each of us must consolidate freedom through our life and work.
Just like you, I want to see Lithuania independent, transparent, democratic, respected in the world, and fair to all.
Let us be proud of our unique country and let us work to make it even stronger wherever we might be.
Today, we must all stand together - different generations from post-war years, Soviet times, transformation periods, and the age of independence. We must all stand in unity - the best minds, responsible business people and transparent political forces.
If we have faith in Lithuania and act together, we will continue to be successful.
Faith in Lithuania is our common strength which was tested by concentration camps, deportations, occupations, blockades, and downturns.
I say thank-you to all who believe in Lithuania and work for its freedom!
Last updated: 2014-03-27 16:30
The President visits Klaipėda to attend the Sea Feast events