Valdas Adamkus yesterday took the oath of office for a five-year term as president of Lithuania. His is the first case of a political refugee from Communism to be elected president in the liberated native country. Born in Kaunas in 1926, at age 18 Adamkus joined a volunteer unit that fought the invading Red Army. He and his family became refugees and settled in the U.S. state of Illinois, where he trained as an engineer, was active in Lithuanian-American community affairs and rose to a senior post in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Adamkus ran for president of Lithuania as a non-party candidate and narrowly won the runoff on January 4, 1998 with the support of the conservative Fatherland Union, the Christian-Democrat Party, and the Center Union. A holder of dual U.S. and Lithuanian citizenship, Adamkus yesterday relinquished the former.
In yesterday’s inaugural address, Adamkus listed the four policy priorities of his presidency. First, securing Lithuania’s admission to NATO and the European Union by the end of his term of office. Second, fully developing the legal and regulatory framework of a free market economy. Third, reducing the size and cost of government while increasing its efficiency. And fourth, both combating crime and corruption, and addressing the societal problems bequeathed by the Soviet era. (BNS, February 23 through 27) (See Monitor, January 6)
Adamkus takes over from President Algirdas Brazauskas, who served in that post since February 1993 and chose not to seek reelection. The new president will be able to rely on a large and stable parliamentary majority of the two conservative parties, the FU and CDP. He is basically retaining the incumbent cabinet of ministers, headed by FU’s Gediminas Vagnorius and dominated by the same two parties. Adamkus has established an effective working relationship with the FU leader and Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, who ran for president unsuccessfully in the first round and supported Adamkus in the runoff.
Kuchma Prepared to Make Substantial Economic Concessions to Moscow.