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Saturday 19.08.2017 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta
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Upcoming Lithuanian PM to put emigration curbing on top of agenda

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Saulius Skvernelis

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

With the signatures of the leaders of the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS) and the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP)  inked on a ruling coalition agreement, both parties look forward to the next week, when Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is expected to submit a candidacy of the country’s new Prime Minister to the new-term legislature.

Few doubt that Saulius Skvernelis, the former Interior minister and the number 1 on the LVŽS electoral list, will take over the reins.

Readying to the stint, Skvernelis has provided some hints this week as to what kind of premiership to expect from him.

«The priorities are already laid out in the draft of the Coalition’s Programme of Action. On top of it are social issues, reduction of social seclusion and economy growth. We aim to see as many as possible inhabitants experiencing it. It’s urgent that peoplestart feeling that they live in a state with an improving economy. The feeling would prevent them from looking at the foreign labour markets,» Skvernelis told Lithuanian media after the signing.

Naglis Puteikis, a Lithuanian MP, believes the goals are «doable.»

«Look, it is the first ruling coalition in many years that has very clearly named the country’s most acute issues. Considering that LVŽS has nearly an absolute majority in the Parliament, pursuing the objectives will be a whole lot easier. The former coalition would not turn ear to my insistent proposal to hike non-taxable income and this one has already enshrined it in its programme. This is a promising start,» the legislator told BNN.

Another urgent task the new Government is determined to address is Lithuania’s record-high emigration. Among the other poignant issues are the fields of education, healthcare and social insurance.

«It is essential to carry out structural changes in our education, healthcare and social care as it would help us address many issues, including emigration and the demographic situation. We strive to create conditions where families want to raise children. For that, a stable social background under the feet is needed,» the future PM emphasised.

Asked what he expects himself from a new Lithuanian government, Skvernelis expressed will that it will be more «determined, robust, modern, honest and more transparent.»

«I really want it to have a clear vision and be able to acquaint all the people with it. That would allow us to strike a dialogue with different social groups and help us implement the vision,» Skvernelis said.

Reminded of the quite rocky relations with the President’s Office as the minister of Interior Affairs, Skvernelis expressed hope that they now will be «constructive» and called previous disagreements with the head-of-state «episodic.»

Skvernelis ended up being in hot waters at the end of last year, when a suspect escaped from a police car with a Kalashnikov rifle and he was not available to the Seimas chairwoman for explanations.

Grybauskaitė has called the situation «deplorable.»

Now, Skvernelis claims all fences with the head-of-state have been mended.

«I really see our dialogue as very good-hearted. I assure all I will hear the President and we will talk a language of arguments. I am very interested in having relations between the Seimas, Government and President’s Office as business-like as possible,» he underscored.

Echoing, LVŽS leader Ramūnas Karbauskis reiterated the key tasks for this coalition would include curbing emigration, solution of demographic problems, reduction of social exclusion and special focus on education.

«Curbing emigration, settlement of the demographic problem, reduction of social exclusion and special focus on education, which will be a priority. Speaking about solutions, there are very many of them, the program is very broad, and the most important thing is that it will be implemented,» Karbauskis said at the signing ceremony.

The outgoing PM, Algirdas Butkevičius, the leader of the Social Democrats, said projects having to do with energy system reforms shall be continued.

«This includes incorporation of gas pipeline links in Eastern and Central European networks, the so-called GIPL project, study of electricity synchronization and the possibility to launch the project, other important energy issues, such as construction of thermal power plants in Vilnius and Kaunas,»  Butkevičius told BNS.

According to the document, the Peasant and Green Union will propose candidates for prime minister and parliamentary speaker, while posts in the Seimas and the government will be distributed in accordance to the number of parliamentary mandates.

The agreement lists the ministries to be headed by each specific party.

In negotiations, the two parties agreed that LVŽS would propose candidates to head 11 ministries, while the Social Democrats will propose candidates for the posts of foreign, justice and economy ministers in the new government.

The coalition agreement also envisages that the partners would decide on values individually, with the possibility of searching other allies in the Seimas.

The document stipulates establishment of an advisory board to coordinate settlement of various issues and include four representatives of each of the two parties.

In the October elections, LVŽS won 56 mandates in Lithuania’s 141-seat parliament, while the Social Democrats secured 17.

Meanwhile, the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), the Liberal Movement and the Party of Order and Justice will stay in the opposition and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (LRA-KŠS) has not made up its mind whether or not to support the new ruling majority in the parliament.

The two biggest opposition parties – the Conservatives and the Liberals – have already said that they will seek to head the Committee on Audit and the Anticorruption Commission and, possibly, the Commission for Ethics and Procedures in the incoming Seimas.

Karbauskis has confirmed that the posts of heads of the Anticorruption Commission and the Commission for Ethics and Procedures, as well as that of a deputy chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee, will be given to the parliamentary minority.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, the TS-LKD leader, believes that these positions should be given to the Liberals and the Conservatives.

«The true opposition – the Homeland Union and the Liberals – will seek the top positions in the three watchdog panels. Whether we succeed is another question. This is a litmus test for the new government of whether they will only imitate democracy or will truly play by the Western rules,» he said.

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