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2019.08.14 14:02

Outgoing transport minister sees his dismissal as backlash for dismantling protectionism at state-run companies

BNS, LRT.lt2019.08.14 14:02

Lithuania's outgoing Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis says his replacement is the ruling party's revenge for sacking its people from key state-owned companies.

Masiulis, who is soon to be replaced by Jaroslav Narkevič at the helm of the Ministry of Communication and Transport, has said during a press conference on Wednesday that the ruling coalition leaders were particularly incensed by his move to sack the director of the Klaipėda State Seaport Authority, Arvydas Vaitkus, and weed out protectionism within the Lithuanian Railways.

Masiulis says he is aware of the circulating talks that some of the managers of state enterprises he has appointed might be replaced, including those of the country's state-run railway company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG).

“I hear those talks that executives might be replaced, but one needs arguments to replace an executive. And if there are objective argument, that is one thing. But the wish to simply dispose of them of is another thing,” Masiulis told a press conference on Wednesday.

Commenting on Vaitkus' chances of being reinstated as the Klaipėda port's CEO, Masiulis said it was hardly possible.

“It would be practically impossible speaking of the port of Klaipėda due to the existing court rulings and the conclusions of the ethics watchdog on public and private interests. And it's also impossible speaking of LG, as Vaitkus is involved in activity with people whose enterprises have interests in the railway business,” Masiulis said.

Vaitkus, who managed the port of Klaipėda since 2013, was dismissed from the post in March after Masiulis raised doubts whether Vaitkus could be impartial towards companies which backed him during the municipal and mayoral elections.

LRT reported in January that businesspeople doing business with Klaipėda Port had donated 44,000 euros for the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union's election campaign.

They reportedly included Igor Udovickij, a Klaipėda businessman dubbed “the king of Belarusian fertilizers”, and his wife. The party's other candidates who won seats on the Klaipėda council include Vidmantas Dambrauskas, the CEO of Birių Krovinių Terminalas (Bulk Cargo Terminal), and Arūnas Tuma, the owner of Kamineros Grupė. Both men made the maximum allowed donations of almost 8,800 euros each to the Farmers and Greens election campaign.

In March, Vaitkus was elected to Klaipėda's municipal council on the party's list, but lost the mayoral runoff.