The Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) leader Ramūnas Karbauskis has become hostage to Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and if R. Karbauskis were to bicker against the latter, he will ruin the LVŽS Seimas group, MEP Viktor Uspaskich told LRT.lt during an interview. The politician notes that the “Peasants” have a majority and many tasks to accomplish, rather than use populism – national costumes or culture. LRT.lt reported.
Meanwhile the Labour Party (DP) which he led for a long time, must, according to Uspaskich, take up a clear position and decide what it wants to do next. He also did not spare the new party Chairwoman Živilė Pinskuvienė of criticism, albeit noting she has potential.
“On current, former and future party members you have to speak well or not at all. If you are talking of someone, you have to clearly name them. If you are speaking of former “Labourites”, but do not say who specifically, everyone immediately begins thinking of themselves,” V. Uspaskich told LRT.lt.
This was his reaction to Ž. Pinskuvienė‘s statements that the DP allowed “other political powers to gain strength at our expense because when we were very strong and had much in our hands, several people started feeling important and started to make use of all of our supposed good, but instead failed.”
- Mr. Uspaskich, how would you evaluate the beginning of the coalition government’s work? Prior to the elections the LVŽS spoke of great changes, many voters believed in them and the LVŽS received numerous Seimas mandates.
Change can happen if they try to accomplish something. But to my memory the LVŽS programme has little written about the economy. They can reform the social, cultural and education spheres as well as healthcare all they want, but the funds won’t fall from the sky. It is necessary to create an attractive investment environment in the country. The environment should be more appealing than in neighbouring countries, else it will all be for naught.
I have been saying this for ten years now – since the Andrius Kubilius government. In 2008 we entered the elections with such a programme. The state is falling further and further down, people are leaving. Work places will be created by businesses in the end. The government will not create jobs. And if favourable conditions are not created, it should not be expected that there will be businessmen flooding into Lithuania.
- So you are pessimistic regarding the coalition?
You see, they have power, but do not have ideas. Prime Minister S. Skvernelis is fairly decent, brave. He may not listen to others too much and implement good ideas. But I am not hearing what will be accomplished and that good business conditions will be established. I recall when I was Minister of Economy and visited Silicon Valley, I spoke with numerous companies. I asked what is needed for them to come to Lithuania. They listed 10 points, but the main factor – investment needs to be bought, it is necessary to create special conditions for them to arrive. This is, however, not being spoken about here.
- How may PM Skvernelis and LVŽS leader R. Karbauskis’ relations develop further? One’s ratings are on the rise, the other’s are falling. Sparks are appearing. Will they work together for the whole term?
If R. Karbauskis begins to bicker with the Prime Minister, he will ruin the group and it will definitely fracture. I doubt they will accomplish anything at all then. R. Karbauskis has to some extent become S. Skvernelis’ hostage. The PM has to take everything into his hands and they have to cease using populism – national costumes or culture, pensions from the sky.
- R. Karbauskis became S. Skvernelis’ hostage? But it was specifically R. Karbauskis who brought the latter in, listed him as number one in the LVŽS electoral roll. Then perhaps, to put it bluntly, R. Karbauskis screwed up? Accepting one of the most popular politicians into his ranks and now S. Skvernelis has become even more influential.
The situation is what it is. Political scientists said that S. Skvernelis made a mistake in criticising R. Karbauskis. But my intuition says that R. Karbauskis does not have unswerving support in his fraction. The majority or half of the LVŽS Seimas group supports S. Skvernelis. If R. Karbauskis states that the whole group has to lynch S. Skvernelis, it will not happen. Thus in this situation R. Karbauskis has become a hostage.
What difference does it make though? If there is an idealistic will to do something good for the country, then work together. It does not matter that one’s ratings are greater and the other’s lesser. What difference does it make? R. Karbauskis is not planning to occupy any posts, is not planning to participate in the presidential election. They have an absolute majority, so they can do much good for the country.
- How should R. Karbauskis have acted in the story of Greta Kildišienė?
I feel sorry for R. Karbauskis in this case. I would have withdrawn from this situation very quickly without big problems or sacrifice. Neither he, nor G. Kildišienė is guilty.
- How would you have withdrawn?
R. Karbauskis should not have gotten into debate. He should have acted very simply and said that if anyone’s interested – inquire, there are relevant institutions. I recall how Minister of Economy Eugenijus Maldeikis lost his post. We were on a business trip to Moscow, lived in the same hotel. Immediately on disembarking from the airplane journalists rushed in to ask where we slept, who paid, how much was paid. E. Maldeikis started explaining and ended up lying – perhaps unintentionally, perhaps he did not know something. He started explaining and discrepancies appeared and discrepancies are lies in politics. I was walking afterward and I told journalists it is none of their business. And everything ended.
R. Karbauskis lacked experience, he started explaining. I do not believe that R. Karbauskis is guilty in this situation. Perhaps there were some sort of relations, but what difference does it make? It’s their business. Why explain themselves to anyone? Present some sort of information and it will simply be fodder for the journalists.
- The Conservative party re-elected Gabrielius Landsbergis as their chairman. How do you view this and where will the party head?
I believe that G. Landsbergis has potential and prospects to rise up. But his actions should not follow his words. Actions have to come first. Do first, then talk about it. I believe that G. Landsbergis has good prospects; he is young and ambitious. He withdrew from the European Parliament and returned to lead the party. For now I do not see who could replace him. If there was a more notable figure, things would be different.
- Is the Labour Party a concluded stage?
When I created the structure, it was the best structure among all the other parties. Our example was followed by other parties. I created the structure based on the American Republicans. I visited Washington, the central headquarters of the Republican Party. I was taught many things. Our political structure was the strongest in Lithuania. Today it still persists and to not make use of it would be absurd. If the management manages to do so – great, if not – they will drown it completely.
I withdrew from the post of party chairman three years ago. In 2012 when we won the elections I said that if we do not raise the minimum monthly wage within a year – I will resign. After a year I resigned and no-one observed it. I fulfilled my promise, did not lead for three years though of course I maintained interest in the party’s actions even after withdrawing. But after doing so I definitely did not meddle with its activities. There were all sorts of talks in the party that Viktor is dictating something. There was neither will, nor did I actually participate. Nor am I doing so now.
- The new Labour Party Chairwoman Ž. Pinskuvienė recently stated that “Recently we allowed other political powers to gain strength at our expense because when we were very strong and had much in our hands, several people started feeling important and started to make use of all of our supposed good, but instead failed. And when it all vanished, they started fleeing. Well then, they should not be here anyway.” Is Ž. Pinskuvienė speaking of the other former Labour leaders – Valentinas Mazuronis and Vytautas Gapšys?
I believe that she has others in mind, those who are still in the party that they wanted to appoint as deputies, but none agreed. Individuals such as Kęstutis Daukšys, Artūras Paulauskas, Vydas Gedvilas, perhaps Virginija Baltraitienė. It was likely them in mind, that they urged Ž. Pinskuvienė to run for office, but none agreed to act as their deputy.
Ž. Pinskuvienė declared that she will ask V. Gapšys to resign while his court case is proceeding. I suspect the case was intentionally manufactured. What could V. Mazuronis make use of? He did not really make use of anything. He entered the party as the 3rd – 4th in popularity in the country. The party itself started to shake when he became chairman. They did not manage to leverage his popularity. They had to help V. Mazuronis lead the party, but instead turned against him as if he was alien. But R. Karbauskis leveraged attracting S. Skvernelis well.
On current, former and future members you should speak well or not at all. If you are talking about someone, you have to name them. If you do not do so, no-one will understand anything. When you mention someone, but do not identify them, everyone begins thinking of themselves. When I led, I spoke clearly and understandable. I did not have any limits in expressing my opinion on the president or the prime minister, be it Algirdas Brazauskas, Valdas Adamkus or Dalia Grybauskaitė. I did not restrain myself because you have to say what you think. Then the public and the voters can see you are not confused.
- What should the Labour Party do to be visible again – join something, seek new leaders? Ž. Pinskuvienė stated that “We have to take an absolutely clear place as an opposition party. We do not have the right to relax, comfortably sitting on benches in government or near it. We cannot roll our eyes and stay silent.
If you want to take the place of opposition, your members of Seimas have to be in the opposition. There is no need to talk about opposition if your members of Seimas are in the majority. You have to clearly declare whether you are in the opposition or in the majority. Of course having an attractive leader would be good. Ž. Pinskuvienė has potential. How she will manage to attract the public, it is hard to say.
- Will you ever return to Lithuanian politics?
I definitely do not have any such thoughts for now. I am currently enjoying the life I have. I am adhering to a different philosophy, I read and write much. I am invited to lectures, I have to prepare. I am currently working in the EP, during this term I was entrusted with a number of reports. There is no large distance from politics. I would very much like to see the situation in Lithuania improving and the government making use of all opportunities.
- Do you not regret becoming a politician overall? You could have calmly continued to develop your business. You have once mentioned that politics gave you nothing and that you lost much.
I definitely entered politics with idealism, with great trust in the people and my team. But it was necessary to realistically reflect that in a team you have more fellow travellers and not team members. If their path coincides with yours at the time – they are with you, if not – they turn away immediately and can even kick you. You have to think that there are no friends, just fellow travellers. As much as they benefit is how long they will remain in politics and the team. And it’s the same in all parties, not just ours.
I was just greatly burnt because I invested much of my own money; no other leader invested this much. For this I also had to go to courts for 10 years as well. It would be different if I took it for myself. The prosecutor and judges admitted that V. Uspaskich had no personal benefit, it is written in the ruling. But there is another thing – I did not do anything good for the state, I did not create anything tangible. Yes, I participated in politics, but everyone participates, travel downstream.
- What will you do after your term in European Parliament?
For now I have no plans, I will think of nothing for another year. This year I am defending a thesis, all sorts of other things. After a year I will think what to do. In the near future there are no elections either.
- How do you view current political events in Lithuania, being only a member of the European Parliament, but not participating in domestic politics?
As things were 5 or 10 years ago, so they are now. My philosophy has changed now, my understanding of international events is also different. In the end I am not inclined to escalate militarism. It matters not whether it is a large or small state, but you have to talk, how to find points of contact so that we would create good relations with our neighbours and not how to raise your military capacities which will definitely be of little use if something happens.
I believe that it is an expression of populism – it is popular, people think that it will be possible to defend on our own. To some extent it is possible, but we still need to seek points of contact. I am convinced that when Vladimir Putin departs the arena, D. Grybauskaitė and other people will start seeking points of contact. Why wait then?
- You believe relations with Russia should be improved?
The government has to put in maximum effort in improving relations. We are and will continue to be neighbours, it is inevitable. You want to increase your military capacity – do so, but do not boast and celebrate it. All the articles talk about signals to Russia. No-one pays attention to this signal. You have to think how to sit at one table, to invite V. Putin as a guest. The word “susitaikymas” [reconciliation] does not mean surrender. Susitaikymas is composed of two words “su” and “taika” [“with” and “peace”]. You have to look at life and the future with peace. I would very much like it if anyone in power could raise military capacities, but that in everyone’s actions there would be reconciliation.