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Will Lithuania respect the new EC president’s wish on gender balance?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Already former Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė came empty-handed from the top Brussels jobs division in early July, but can the Steel Magnolia (that’s how Grybauskaitė was dubbed by foreign press) end up being again in Brussels in a position she had once held?

As much as preposterous the idea sounds, some Lithuanian politicians discussing who can be Lithuania’s new EC commissioner in Brussels just do not rule out it 100 per cent.

Principle of gender balance accentuated

For now, the high-profile EU job is still up for grabs, and Lithuanian politicians and analysts alike mention many names the job. Likewise, in the division of key EU posts, the principle of gender balance in selecting EU member states’ commissioners has again been emphasised. Not by Lithuanian politicians, however – the exhortation came from the lips of the new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who, following her approval in the new-term European Parliament, promised to ensure «full gender equality» in her team of EU commissioners.

As of date, only Estonia of three Baltic states approved a female EU commissioner, Kadri Simson. Meanwhile, Latvia entrusted Valdis Dombrovskis, who during 2014-2019 served as vice-president of the Commission, with EC commissioner’s job throughout 2019-2024. It remains to be seen which EC Commissioner’s portfolio he will be given.

Lithuania occupied with the Cabinet reshuffle

Lithuania, meanwhile, has not yet had much time to discuss its candidates due to the ongoing reshuffle of the Lithuanian Cabinet. Complying with the Constitution, Government had to return its powers and seek approval of a new President. Gitanas Nausėda has just given oath as Lithuania’s new head of state.

 Lithuanian politicians and analysts mention a number of A-tier politicians they believe could suit the EC commissioner job.  At least two names of women are mentioned, but if the principle of gender balance will be respected by the Government is in question.

«Indeed, Lithuania has quite a few suitable candidatures for the post, notably women candidates, like the former presidential candidate Ingrida Šimonytė – I personally believe she would be best for the post – former europarliamentarian Laima Liucija Andrikienė and – this is something from the realm of fantasy to some – I cannot rule out 100 per cent that Dalia Grybauskaitė, who just finished her two terms as Lithuania’s president, might consider going back to Brussels, where she has already worked as commissioner before entering the presidential race in 2009,» Arvydas Anušauskas, a Conservative Lithuanian parliamentarian, told BNN.

Some big shots eye EC job

But since Lithuanian government decides on the candidacy, the MP hesitated if the ruling Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) will respect the wish of the new EC President, Ursula von der Leyen, to have a balanced, gender-wise, Cabinet.

«The Farmers have shown non-partisanship when appointing my fellow lawmaker Andrius Kubilius as Lithuania’s candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Council of Europe. But it was a different story. I really doubt if the Government will want to have other party’s man in the European Commission. Especially that after the reshuffle of the Cabinet (at least three ministers are thought to be replaced in the coming days – L. J.) some big LFGU heavyweights will be searching for a job soon. I cannot rule out that, for example, Aurelijus Veryga, who now serves as Health minister, will be proposed the EC commissioner job if forced to leave the ministerial job,» Anušauskas said.

«I just frankly do not see many top-tier LFGU women suitable for the job. I believe that the ruling Coalition will approve a man for the job,» he added. According to him, Lithuania, unlike Estonia and Latvia, clearly does not «rush» with the appointment, which is understandable – the formation of a significantly renewed Cabinet matters most now.

But for Petras Auštrevičius, a Lithuanian europarliamentarian, the procrastination with appointing EC commissioner is «inexcusable».

«Let’s be honest with ourselves:  as much as all the commissioner jobs are important on the whole, some of them, nevertheless, are more important due to the real impact some of the commissioners can make,» he told BNN. «I just disagree that we are not late yet with nominating our candidate. As everywhere, the early bird catches the worm, so I am afraid that a Lithuanian commissioner will get what is left on the table,» the MEP underscored.

Auštrevičius is very sceptic that the PM Skvernelis-led LFGU Government will send a woman to Brussels.

«Look, we do not have any woman in the Cabinet and Skvernelis has never been very eager to include women in his Cabinet,» he said.

«We can come up with an impressive line-up of candidates for the post, and, certainly, the afore-mentioned names of Šimonytė and Andrikienė are some of the candidates,» he added.

Skvernelis has mentioned that he wants to see Lithuania’s EC Commissioner being in charge of economics or security fields.

Analyst: much depends on informal agreements

Meanwhile, Linas Kojala, Director at Eastern Europe Studies Centre in Vilnius, does not chastise the Government for the drag.

«Look, its formation is underway, so you just cannot expect other things be first,» he underscored to BNN.

Enquired if Lithuania will turn ear to the new EC President’s request on women candidates for EC Commissioners’ jobs, the analyst pondered that it depends on informal and then formal talks and agreements on the candidature.

«As we first need to get a formal nodding from the new EC President, there will be need for many informal talks to come up with a candidate suitable for both sides,» Kojala accentuated.

He did not dare to say if the ruling party will embrace a candidate for the EC post from outside.

«As I said, there is much to be discussed yet, especially with the formation of an effectively new Cabinet. So the outcome can unpredictable effectively,» he said.

Kojala, however, ruled out the possibility of Grybauskaitė making her way back to Brussels.

«I am sure that she, as a former head-of-state, has different plans,» he underlined.

Of 183 commissioners 35 were women

Europe’s leaders have awarded earlier the summer two of the top four European Union jobs to women, but Dalia Grybauskaitė was not between them. Officially, her nonpartisanship along with some of her personal traits, like assertiveness, left her without a top EU job.

Since 1958 there have been 183 commissioners, of whom 35 were women. The new Commission will have 26 commissioners, excluding von der Leyen herself.


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