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Dalia Grybauskaitė

Dalia Grybauskaitė President of Lithuania from 2009

President of Lithuania from 2009
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro President of Lithuania from 2009
A.K.A. Dalia Grybauskaite
Countries Lithuania Russia
Occupations Politician Diplomat Economist Professor Educator
Type Academia Finance Politics
Gender female
Birth 1 March 1956 (Vilnius)
Star sign PiscesPisces
Politics Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Family
Mother: Vitalija Korsakaitė
Father: Polikarpas Grybauskas
Education faculté d'économie de l'université d'État de Saint-Pétersbourg
Dalia Grybauskaitė
The details
Biography

Dalia Grybauskaitė (Lithuanian pronunciation: ​[dɐˈlʲɛ ɡʲrʲiːbɐʊsˈkɐ̂ˑɪtʲeː], born 1 March 1956) is a Lithuanian politician serving as the fifth and current President of Lithuania since 2009. She is the first woman to hold the position and became in 2014 the first President of Lithuania to be reelected for a second consecutive term.

She was Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance, also 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".

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), was an electrician and driver. Grybauskaitė attended Salomėja Nėris High School. She has two brothers, one living in Lithuania, and the other living in Colorado Springs, The United States of America. 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 Saint Petersburg State University, then known as Leningrad A.A. Zhdanov State University, as a student of political economy. At the same time, she began working in a local factory in Saint Petersburg. 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 Communist Party High School, where she lectured in political economy 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.

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 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'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.

European Commission

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.

Grybauskaitė giving an interview during her 2009 presidential campaign.

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 Conservative Party 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.

Grybauskaitė celebrating her landslide victory in 2009.

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 in presidential elections.

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.

Presidency (2009–present)

Grybauskaitė inaugurating Arvydas Pocius as the commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces on 28 July 2009.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Grybauskaitė in Vilnius, 7 September 2013
Grybauskaitė and Chief of Defence of Lithuania Arvydas Pocius.

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.

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.

In 2014, Grybauskaitė was reelected President. She received 46% of the vote in the first round, and defeated Zigmantas Balčytis of the Social Democratic Party in the run-off with 58% of the vote.

Foreign policy

Relations with Russia

Grybauskaitė and Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Ukraine
Grybauskaitė during the 53rd Munich Security Conference 2017

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."

On 20 November 2014, Grybauskaitė, commenting on the conflict in Ukraine, characterized Russia as "a terrorist state which carries out an open aggression against its neighbors".

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.

Personal life

Grybauskaitė is not married and has no children. In addition to her native Lithuanian, she is fluent in English, Russian and Polish, and also speaks French. Grybauskaitė has a black belt in karate.

Awards

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 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 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 SNOM
2015 Knight of the Order of the Seraphim Sweden
2016 Order for Exceptional Merits Slovenia
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
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References
http://Klaip%C4%97da.diena.lt/dienrastis/lietuva/masliu-akiu-mergaite-205469
http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2005455_2005458_2005462,00.html
http://ec.europa.eu/archives/commission_2004-2009/grybauskaite/profile/profile_en.htm
http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/grybauskaite/news/news2005_en.htm
http://en.ria.ru/world/20140526/190146535/Re-Elected-Lithuanian-President-Hopes-for-Friendly-Relations.html
http://falkadb.forseti.is/orduskra/fal03.php?term=Grybauskaite,+Dalia&sub=Leita
http://isni.org/isni/0000000385962112
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8054053.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8057526.stm
http://tv.delfi.lt/video/ZMtE1WJR/
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/06/22/ukraine-crisis-lithuania-idUKL6N0P30FB20140622
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