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2020.01.20 16:00

‘Ethnic discrimination’ might be behind criticism of transport minister, PM suggests

BNS 2020.01.20 16:00

“A background of ethnic discrimination” can be behind the president's criticism of Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevič, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has suggested.

President Gitanas Nausėda has harshly criticised Narkevič, delegated to the post by the Electoral Action of Poles party, and called for his resignation, but the ruling coalition has insisted on keeping him in the post.

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“I am not saying this about the president and I am definitely not accusing him [of ethnic prejudice] but we see the existing background and it is getting more and more similar to ethnic discrimination,” Skvernelis said in an interview for Delfi.lt.

Narkevič was appointed transport minister last August. He has attracted criticism for, among other things, sacking the board of the Lithuanian Post and directing funds towards road upgrades in his own constituency and near the prime minister's residence.

Representing the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, Prime Minister Skvernelis also said he saw attempts to push the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, whose electoral base is the country's Polish-speaking minority, out of the ruling coalition.

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“The biggest problem I see is that we are moving towards possible ethnic discrimination,” Skvernelis said, adding he did not have any specific institutions in mind.

He suggested that the Electoral Action of Poles was subjected to too much criticism, which was “a short-sighted attitude, since this political force has been integrating into the Lithuanian public and state life rapidly”.

The party's participation in the ruling coalition is also a factor in Lithuanian–Polish relations, according to Skvernelis. “Our fellow Polish politicians understand that and see the movement in the right direction,” he said.

The Electoral Action of Poles joined the ruling coalition last year. Before that, the party was in government in 2012–2014 and in 2000–2001.

Skvernelis said the party would not leave the coalition and were “trusted political partners that have responsibility”.

The party's leader Valdemar Tomaševski has previously been criticised for his ties with Russia. According to Skvernelis, however, the party is moving away from this affiliation.

“That political power has long been associated with the Eastern neighbour [Russia], [but] those ties are have been cut or are at least in the process of being cut,” he said.

He added that ostracising the party only pushed it closer to Russia, which was “definitely not beneficial for our state”.