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Dalia Grybauskaite

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Dalia Grybauskaite

Dalia Grybauskaitė
President of Lithuania
Incumbent
Assumed office
12 July 2009
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius
Algirdas Butkevičius
Preceded by Valdas Adamkus
European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget
In office
22 November 2004 – 1 July 2009
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Michaele Schreyer
Markos Kyprianou (Budget)
Succeeded by Algirdas Šemeta
European Commissioner for Education and Culture
In office
1 May 2004 – 11 November 2004
Served with Viviane Reding
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Viviane Reding
Succeeded by Ján Figeľ (Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism)
Personal details
Born (1956-03-01) 1 March 1956 (age 58)
Vilnius, Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union
(now Lithuania)
Alma mater Zhdanov University
Georgetown University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature

Dalia Grybauskaitė (IPA: [d̪ɐˈlʲɛ ɡʲrʲiːbɐʊsˈkɐ̂ˑɪt̪ʲeː], born 1 March 1956) is the President of Lithuania, inaugurated on 12 July 2009. She was Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance, also European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget from 2004 to 2009. Often referred to as the "Iron Lady" or the "Steel Magnolia", Grybauskaitė is Lithuania's first female head of state.

Early years

Grybauskaitė was born on 1 March 1956 in a working-class family in Vilnius. Her mother, Vitalija Korsakaitė (1922–1989), was born in the Biržai region and worked as a saleswoman; her father, Polikarpas Grybauskas (1928–2008), worked as an electrician and driver. Grybauskaitė attended Salomėja Nėris High School. She has described herself as not among the best of students, receiving mostly fours in a system where five was the highest grade. Her favourite subjects were history, geography and physics.[1]

Grybauskaitė began participating in sport at the age of eleven, and became a passionate basketball player.[1] At the age of nineteen, she worked for a year at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society as a staff inspector. She then enrolled in Saint Petersburg State University, then known as Zhdanov University, as a student of political economy.[2] At the same time, she began working in a local factory. 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, however, and she moved to the Vilnius Party High School, where she lectured in political economy and global finance.[2] 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 re-established its independence from the Soviet Union, Grybauskaitė continued her studies at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC, in the Special Programme for senior executives.[3]

Early career

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 Agreement. She also chaired the Aid Coordination Committee (PHARE and the G-24). Soon afterwards, she was named Extraordinary Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister at the Lithuanian Mission to the EU.[3] 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's 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.[2]

European Commission

Grybauskaitė initially served as European Commissioner for Education and Culture. 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:[4]
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."[5] 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.[6] She frequently criticised the Lithuanian Government, headed by Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, for its lack of response to the approaching financial crisis.[7]

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.[8]


Opinion polls taken in February 2009 showed that Grybauskaitė was the undisputed leader in the race.[9] She ran as an independent, although she was supported by the dominant Conservative Party as well as by NGOs, including Sąjūdis.[10][11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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. Dalia Grybauskaitė won in a landslide, receiving 68.18% of the vote.[14] The 51.6% turnout was just above the threshold needed to avoid a runoff election.[15] In winning the election, Grybauskaitė became not only the first female president of Lithuania, but won by the largest margin recorded in presidential elections.[16]

Political analysts attributed the easy victory to Grybauskaitė's financial competence and her ability to avoid domestic scandals.[15] The international press was quick to dub her the "Lithuanian Iron Lady" for her outspoken speech and her black belt in karate.[17][18] Grybauskaitė, who speaks Lithuanian, English, Russian, French and Polish,[17] has mentioned Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi as her political role models.[19]

Presidency (2009–present)

Grybauskaitė assumed presidential duties on 12 July 2009, and accepted half of her presidential salary (312,000 litas).[12] Her first presidential visits abroad were made to Sweden and Latvia;[20] in April 2011, she made a state visit to Norway.[21]

Personal life

Grybauskaitė is unmarried and has no children (the suffix -aitė on her surname is for unmarried Lithuanian women). Other than her native Lithuanian, she is fluent in English, Russian and Polish. Grybauskaitė possesses a black belt in karate.

Awards

Dalia Grybauskaitė has received the following national and international awards:

Year Award Issuer
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[22] Lithuania
2010 Glamour magazine Woman of the Year United States
2011 Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars[23] Latvia
2011 Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav[24][25] Norway
2011 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon[26] Iceland
2012 Grand Officer of the Order of Saint-Charles[27][28] Monaco
2013 Charlemagne Prize for 2013 Germany
2013 Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa from Georgetown University USA

Controversy

Grybauskaitė has been frequently accused of obfuscating her pre-official biography and altering sensitive details within her official one. In November 2012 the TV3 television unexpectedly censored an episode of "Paskutinė instancija", an investigative TV program, centering on the president's past hours before the scheduled broadcast. The program has subsequently been shut down and all staff fired. The presenter, Rūta Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė, published an investigative book, "Red Dalia", in May 2013. The book covers the president's family history and her career within the Soviet Communist Party.

References

External links

  • Official website of the President of the Republic of Lithuania
  • Lithuania set for energy rethink -interview with BBC. BBC World News
  • Lunch with the FT: Dalia Grybauskaite. Financial Times
  • Grybauskaitė run for the President (video)
Political offices
Preceded by
Position established
Lithuanian European Commissioner
2004–2009
Succeeded by
Algirdas Šemeta
Preceded by
Viviane Reding
European Commissioner for Education and Culture
2004
Served alongside: Viviane Reding
Succeeded by
Ján Figeľ
as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism
Preceded by
Michaele Schreyer
Marcos Kyprianou

as European Commissioner for the Budget
European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget
2004–2009
Succeeded by
Algirdas Šemeta
Preceded by
Valdas Adamkus
President of Lithuania
2009–present
Incumbent
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