The Lithuanian president has attracted criticism after making a personal stop during an official visit to Japan. Although the president's team insist that Gitanas Nausėda and his wife paid for the detour to Seoul to visit their daughter with their personal funds, analysts say it reeks of a clash of interests.
Lithuania's first couple were invited to attend the enthronement ceremony of Japan's new Emperor Naruhito last week. The visit lasted five days and coincided with several high-profile developments back in Lithuania.
A massive fire in a tire warehouse in the town of Alytus sparked one of the biggest environmental hazards in the country's recent history, while the parliament was embroiled in unsuccessful attempts to topple the speaker.
The president's absence during these developments has attracted some criticism. It now emerged that Nausėda and his wife made an unannounced stop in South Korea where their daughter is studying media communications.
“Last weekend, on their return from the visit to Japan which ended on Friday, the president with Madam Diana [Nausėdienė] visited their daughter who is studying in South Korea and congratulated her on her birthday,” the president's communication team is quoted by BNS. “The president returned to Vilnius on Sunday evening. Their flight from Japan to Vilnius via Seoul, and hotel and other travel expenses of both the president and Madam Diana were paid for by the president's family.”
Political Scientist Virgis Valentinavičius of Mykolas Romeris University tells LRT.lt that the whole Japan visit was much too long and pretty pointless. It seemed like “a vacation on taxpayers' money”, an impression that the stop in Seoul only reinforced.
“It clearly reeks of a clash of interest, especially since the delegation and the security detail had to change their route. [The president] probably didn't cover security expenses from his own pocket,” Valentinavičius tells LRT.lt.
Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, a professor at Vilnius University and formerly an adviser to ex-President Valdas Adamkus, says that personal trips during official visits raise many questions and should be avoided.
“I think that the president should refrain from actions that can raise questions or ambiguities about how they agree with interests of the state and ethical norms,” Vilpišauskas says.