Dalia Grybauskaitė (Lithuanian pronunciation: [dɐˈlʲɛ ɡʲrʲiːbɐʊsˈkɐ̂ˑɪtʲeː]; born 1 March 1956) is a Lithuanian politician who served as the eighth president of Lithuania from 2009 to 2019. She is the first woman to hold the position and in 2014 she became the first President of Lithuania to be reelected for a second consecutive term.
Grybauskaitė has served as Minister of Finance, as well as European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget from 2004 to 2009. She is often referred to as the "Iron Lady" or the "Steel Magnolia".
Grybauskaitė was born on 1 March 1956 to a working-class family in Vilnius during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Her mother, Vitalija Korsakaitė (1922–1989), was born in the Biržai region and worked as a saleswoman. Her father, Polikarpas Grybauskas (1928–2008), was an electrician and driver. He also was a NKVD serviceman during the Second World War.[dubious ] Grybauskaitė attended Salomėja Nėris High School. She has two brothers, one living in Lithuania, and the other living in Colorado Springs, in the United States. She has described herself as not among the best students, receiving mostly fours in a system where five was the highest grade. Her favourite subjects were history, geography and physics.
Grybauskaitė began participating in sports at the age of eleven, and became a passionate basketball player. At the age of nineteen, she worked for a year at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society as a staff inspector. She then enrolled in A.A. Zhdanov State University in Leningrad, as a student of political economy. At the same time, she began working in a local factory in Leningrad. In 1983, Grybauskaitė graduated with a citation and returned to Vilnius, taking a secretarial position at the Academy of Sciences. Work in the Academy was scarce and so she moved to the Vilnius Communist Party High School, where she lectured in political economics and global finance. From 1983 to December 1989, she was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and after the Communist Party of Lithuania broke away from the CPSU in December 1989, she was member of the CPL until June 1990. In 1988, she defended her PhD thesis at Moscow (Academy of Social Sciences).
In 1990, soon after Lithuania reestablished its independence from the Soviet Union, Grybauskaitė continued her studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., in the Special Programme for senior executives.
Between 1991 and 1993, Grybauskaitė worked as Director of the European Department at the Ministry of International Economic Relations of the Republic of Lithuania. During 1993, she was employed in the Foreign Ministry as director of the Economic Relations Department, and represented Lithuania when it entered the European Union free trade agreements. She also chaired the Aid Coordination Committee (Phare and the G24). Soon afterwards, she was named Extraordinary Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister at the Lithuanian Mission to the EU. There, she worked as the deputy chief negotiator for the EU Europe Agreement and as a representative of the National Aid Co-ordination in Brussels.
In 1996, Grybauskaitė was appointed Plenipotentiary Minister in the United States' Lithuanian embassy. She held this position until 1999, when she was appointed deputy Minister of Finance. As part of this role, she led Lithuanian negotiations with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In 2000, Grybauskaitė became Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, going on in 2001 to become Minister of Finance in the Algirdas Brazauskas government. Lithuania joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, and Grybauskaitė was named a European Commissioner on the same day.
Grybauskaitė initially served as European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. She held this position until 11 November 2004, when she was named European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget within the José Manuel Barroso-led Commission.
In November 2005, Grybauskaitė was named "Commissioner of the Year" in the European Voice Europeans of the Year poll. She was nominated "for her unrelenting efforts to shift EU spending towards areas that would enhance competitiveness such as research and development." She commented:
I don't usually participate in contests, so this is a very pleasant surprise for me. I consider it a distinction not for me personally, but for all the new EU Member States, both small and large, as an acknowledgment of their bringing a new and fresh perspective to the EU. I think that it's also a prize for having the courage to speak the often difficult truth and to point out the real price of political rhetoric in Europe. As for results, we still have to wait for them. An agreement on the budget for 2007–2013, which Europe really needs, is most important.
As Financial and Budget Commissioner, she strongly criticized the EU budget, stating it was "not a budget for the 21st century." The majority of the EU budget was spent on agricultural programmes. Grybauskaitė presented a 2008 EU budget in which, for the first time in its history, spending on growth and employment constituted the highest share of the budget, exceeding that of agriculture and natural resources. She frequently criticised the Lithuanian Government, headed by Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, for its lack of response to the approaching financial crisis.
2009 presidential election
On 26 February 2009, Grybauskaitė officially announced her candidacy for the 2009 presidential election. In her declaration speech, she said:
I decided to return to Lithuania if the Lithuanian people decide I am needed there now. I think that we all long for the truth, transparency and responsibility for our country. We all want to live without fear, with confidence in ourselves, in each other, and in tomorrow. I can and I want to contribute with my experience, knowledge and skills to expel shadows from morality, politics, and economics to create a citizen-ruled Lithuania – a state of citizens. Therefore, I will run for the Lithuanian presidency.
There were three women and four men as presidential candidates. Opinion polls taken in February 2009 showed that Grybauskaitė was the undisputed leader in the race. She ran as an independent, although she was supported by the dominant Christian Democrats as well as by NGOs, including Sąjūdis.
Her campaign was primarily focused on domestic issues. After years of strong economic growth, Lithuania faced a deep recession, with double-digit declines in economic indicators. The unemployment rate rose to 15.5% in March 2009, and a January street protest against the government's response to the recession turned violent. During the campaign, Grybauskaitė stressed the need to combat the financial troubles by protecting those with the lowest incomes, simplifying the Lithuanian bureaucratic apparatus, and reviewing the government's investment programme. She also promised a more balanced approach in conducting foreign policy, the primary constitutional role of the Lithuanian presidency.
The election was held on 17 May 2009. Grybauskaitė won in a landslide, receiving 69.1% of the valid vote. The 51.6% turnout was just above the threshold needed to avoid a runoff election. In winning the election, Grybauskaitė became not only the first female president of Lithuania, but won by the largest margin recorded for a free election in Lithuania.
Political analysts attributed the easy victory to Grybauskaitė's financial competence and her ability to avoid domestic scandals. The international press was quick to dub her the "Lithuanian Iron Lady" for her outspoken speech and her black belt in karate. Grybauskaitė, who speaks Lithuanian, English, Russian, French and Polish, has mentioned Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi as her political role models.
Grybauskaitė assumed presidential duties on 12 July 2009, and accepted half of her presidential salary (312,000 litas). Her first presidential visits abroad were made to Sweden and Latvia; in April 2011, she made a state visit to Norway. Grybauskaitė supported the NATO-led military intervention in Libya.
Style of leadership
According to Tapio Raunio and Thomas Sedelios, the office of President during Grybauskaitė's two terms was the strongest in Lithuanian history since 1990. Grybauskaitė took advantage of grey areas in the Constitution of Lithuania to accrue additional competences, such as a monopoly on Lithuania's representation in the European Council, and often made use of informal power, such as personal meetings between the Presidential office, Prime Ministers and individual ministers, to express positions on matters outside of the Presidency's competences.
During the campaign for the 2014 Lithuanian presidential election, Grybauskaitė was accused of "autocracy" and collusion with the Homeland Union. However, Grybauskaitė publicly stated that she does not support granting additional powers to the Presidency, instead stating that the existing Presidential powers should be "used more effectively".
Conflict with the Seimas in 2012
After the 2012 Lithuanian parliamentary election, Grybauskaitė declared that she will not accept any proposed cabinet which includes the Labour Party, which earned the second largest number of seats in the Seimas in the election. Labour, a populist political party led by Russian-born businessman and oligarch Viktor Uspaskich, was implicated in the so-called "dark accounting" case in 2006 and was also seen by the President as a pro-Russian party. However, Grybauskaitė was unable to prevent the formation of a coalition between Labour and the Social Democrats, which took office as the Butkevičius Cabinet.
Grybauskaitė remained influential during the rest of the term and vetted Labour-proposed minister candidates with various means, including testing ministerial candidates on their knowledge of English. After the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania left the coalition in 2014 and their minister Jarosław Niewierowicz resigned, the position of Minister of Energy officially fell to Labour, but Niewierowicz's replacement, Rokas Masiulis, was widely seen as Grybauskaitė's candidate.
Relations with Russia
At the beginning of her first term, Grybauskaitė tried to reset relations with Russia and check whether pragmatic relations with Russia were possible. In 2010, Grybauskaitė even met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. However, after this meeting, relations between Lithuania and Russia began to cool down.
On 19 December 2013, Grybauskaitė decided to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics together with other Western leaders, including German president Joachim Gauck, French president François Hollande, and the US president Barack Obama, due to Russia's human rights violations, attitudes and behaviour with Eastern partners and Lithuania. Relations with Russia markedly deteriorated during Grybauskaitė's second term in office, due in part to her hard line stance against Russian influence in Europe and the Baltics, especially after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War.
Following her reelection in May 2014, she said "Dignity, self-respect and mutual benefit, these are the principles that should set the basis for relations between countries and no doubt, knowing that this is our neighbor, we wish this country to democratize and cope with the arising economic challenges".
In June 2014, Grybauskaitė told the German news magazine Focus: "[Putin] uses nationality as a pretext to conquer territory with military means. That's exactly what Stalin and Hitler did." She also claimed that Russia and Putin were "characterised by aggressiveness, violence, and a willingness to overstep boundaries."
In December 2018, Grybauskaitė told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Lithuania would increase military assistance to Ukraine: "We will additionally supply more ammunition, send more military instructors and cyber security experts to help repel hybrid attacks, especially during the elections."
Relations with the EU and United States
Regarding British Prime Minister Theresa May's comments on acting as a "bridge" between the European Union and the United States, Grybauskaitė said that "I don't think there is a necessity for a bridge. We communicate with the Americans on Twitter." In March 2017, Grybauskaitė criticized the government of Poland and Prime Minister Beata Szydło for not endorsing Donald Tusk again for the President of the European Council.
In March 2020, Grybauskaitė was appointed by the President of the United Nations General Assembly and the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council as one of the two co-chairs of the High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel).
Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Grybauskaitė publicly supported a direct NATO military confrontation with Russia believing the diplomatic negotiations had failed and more sanctions won't deter Russia from pursuing its military goals. "War can be only stopped by a war, which has already started," Grybauskaitė wrote on Facebook. "I'm ashamed to hear that leaders and officials of NATO states are muttering about not being able to involve in the conflict but being fine with it in the case of Syria, Libya, Africa, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan?" she added.
Former President Dalia Grybauskaitė is often praised by supporters for her strength of leadership, while in office, she was presented as a dutiful politician who fights corruption and seeks to establish order in the country. Opponents would often characterise Grybauskaitė's style of leadership as authoritarian-like.
Relationship with the foreign press
In 2015, Grybauskaitė received some backlash in Latvia as well as Lithuania after an interview for Latvian Television. The conversation took a different turn after journalist Gundars Rēders asked about the possibility of legalisation of same-sex marriages in Lithuania. The President of Lithuania responded by saying that there are no discussions regarding this question and added: "I think we did not agree on these questions. We agreed on questions and you don't try to drag me on for 40 minutes. If you're finished with your questions, we're finished." Grybauskaitė demanded that the latter segment of the interview would be cut out and turned down any further questions, saying: "You cannot ask non-agreed questions for the President. I don't give such kind of interviews."
Latvians, especially the journalist community, expressed their dismay on social media towards the Lithuanian President. Latvian journalist Inga Spriņģe reacted to the interview on Twitter, by saying: "Hmm, if Grybauskaitė demanded so fiercely to cut out the questions that were not agreed upon beforehand, I have a feeling that for Lithuanian journalists it is the norm."
Dalia Grybauskaitė herself had repeatedly denied having any ties with the Soviet intelligence services. Lithuanian investigative journalist Rūta Janutienė made an episode on Grybauskaitė showcasing various documents about her possible ties with the KGB but this episode never officially aired on TV3. In 2015, politician Zigmas Vaišvila had appealed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia as well as the Embassy of Russia in Lithuania for them to disclose the information about whether or not Grybauskaitė worked for the USSR Embassy in the US in 1991. Russian institutions had refused to provide any insight on the matter stating: "According to the Article 7 on Personal Data of the Federal Law, operators and inner employees who have access to personal data are obligated not to disclose any information to a third party or share any personal information without the consent of the subject to whom it belongs." EUvsDisinfo has documented the accusations as disinformation spread by the pro-Kremlin media whereas The Insider has claimed the ex-KGB agent allegations about Grybauskaitė being false noting that the letters allegedly written in 1982 contain inaccuracies and suspicious formulations.
During an interview, the creator of the documentary The Secret of the State about Grybauskaitė, Donatas Ulvydas, claimed she did went to a KGB school. According to Ulvydas, she stated: "Yes, I was studying there and there's nothing here more to talk about." Despite Ulvydas' explanation that his former claim was lapsus linguae on Facebook, politician Naglis Puteikis attempted to launch an investigation in the Lithuanian Seimas, but the initiative did not get enough support.
"Tulip post" controversy
In September 2019, Grybauskaitė found herself at the centre of the "tulip post" corruption scandal, which was one of the greatest blows to her political career. Emails from 2014 to 2016 suggested that the President possibly knew about the unlawful relations between politician Eligijus Masiulis and the business group MG Baltic. She had also allegedly pressured Masiulis into following her orders such as convincing the then-ruling Social Democratic Party, to prevent Saulius Skvernelis from getting a post "if he goes to a party that is not aiming for a coalition". The scandal had significantly affected the President's ratings with the polls indicating a drop of almost 11% of support from the general public. The per cent of people having a negative opinion about Grybauskaitė rose from 18.5% to 27.5%. The President stated that she cannot confirm the authenticity of these emails but confirmed her correspondence with politicians.
Grybauskaitė has received the following national and international awards:
|2003||The Commander's Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas||Lithuania|
|2009||The Order of Vytautas the Great with the Golden Chain||Lithuania|
|2011||Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars||Latvia|
|2011||Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav||Norway|
|2011||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon||Iceland|
|2012||Member of Xirka Ġieħ ir-Repubblika||Malta|
|2012||Grand Officer of the Order of Saint-Charles||Monaco|
|2013||Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose of Finland||Finland|
|2013||Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana||Estonia|
|2013||Gran Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany||Germany|
|2013||Charlemagne Prize for 2013||Aachen|
|2015||Order of the Republic||Moldova|
|2015||Collar of the Order pro merito Melitensi||SMOM|
|2015||Knight of the Order of the Seraphim||Sweden|
|2016||Order for Exceptional Merits||Slovenia|
|2016||Collar of the Order of the Star of Romania||Romania|
|2018||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion||Netherlands|
|2018||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic with Collar||Italy|
|2018||Member of the Order of Liberty||Ukraine|
|2019||Knight of the Order of the White Eagle||Poland|
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Aš apsisprendžiau, kad sutinku grįžti į ietuvą, jei Lietuvos žmonės nuspręs, kad esu reikalinga dabar Lietuvoje. Manau, kad visi esame pasiilgę tiesos, skaidrumo ir atsakomybės už savo šalį. Norime visi gyventi be baimės, pasitikėdami savimi, vienas kitu ir rytojumi. Galiu ir noriu skirti savo patirtį, žinias bei gebėjimus tam, kad išguitume šešėlius iš moralės, politikos, ekonomikos ir sukurtume tokią piliečių Lietuvą, piliečių valstybę. Todėl dalyvausiu Lietuvos prezidento rinkimuose.[dead link]
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- STEBLYNA, N., DVORAK, J.(2021). Reflections on the Independent Mass Media of Post‑Soviet Countries and Political Competitiveness. POLITICS IN CENTRAL EUROPE Vol.17, No.3
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- "Lithuanian leader says Western powers naive about Russia: report". Radio Poland. 20 June 2018.
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- Boffey, Daniel (3 February 2017). "François Hollande leads attacks on Donald Trump at EU summit". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
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- "Lithuanian president: No-deal Brexit better than 'chaos' of delay". 24 January 2019.
- "FACTI Panel Complete". 31 March 2022.
- "Prezidentė Dalia Grybauskaitė: "Karą sustabdyti gali tik karas, kuris jau prasidėjo"" [President Dalia Grybauskaitė: "War can be only stopped by a war, which has already started"]. Voruta (in Lithuanian). 2 March 2022.
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- Ignatavičius, Tadas (7 December 2021). "Latvių žurnalistą glumino D. Grybauskaitės reakcija per interviu" [The Latvian journalist was baffled by D. Grybauskaitė's reaction during the interview]. LRT (in Lithuanian). Archived from the original on 10 January 2019.
- "Soctīklotāji 'aizsvilstas' par Lietuvas prezidentes rīcību intervijas laikā" [Social netizens are "suffocated" by the behavior of the Lithuanian president during the interview]. Delfi (in Latvian). Archived from the original on 22 May 2015.
- "Latviams ir estams D.Grybauskaitė – ir principinga, ir arogantiška lyderė" [For Latvians and Estonians, D. Grybauskaitė is both a principled and arrogant leader]. 15 min (in Lithuanian). 7 December 2021. Archived from the original on 2 November 2021.
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- "Фейк программы «Время»: президент Литвы была агентом КГБ" [The fake on programme Vremya: the President of Lithuania was a KGB agent]. The Insider (in Russian). Archived from the original on 18 January 2018.
- ""Esu nepagydomas romantikas" – Donatas Ulvydas" ["I'm an incurable romantic" – Donatas Ulvydas]. YouTube (in Lithuanian). Archived from the original on 8 December 2021.
- "Seime inicijuojamas prezidentės D. Grybauskaitės ir KGB ryšių tyrimas? (nuotraukos, video)" [The Seimas initiates an investigation into the connections between President D. Grybauskaitė and the KGB? (photos, video)]. alkas.lt (in Lithuanian). Archived from the original on 7 February 2020.
- "N.Puteikis Seimą stumia tirti jau paneigtus D.Ulvydo žodžius apie D.Grybauskaitę" [N. Puteikis pushes the Seimas to investigate the already denied words of D. Ulvydas about D. Grybauskaitė]. 15 min (in Lithuanian). Archived from the original on 7 February 2020.
- "Tulpių pašto viršininkės D. Grybauskaitės tarnus paklupdė teisėjai" [The servants of Tulip postmaster D. Grybauskaitė were tripped up by the judges]. lrytas.lt (in Lithuanian). 17 April 2020.
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