British embassy in Lithuanian politics

Article published on Sept. 6, 2009
community published
Article published on Sept. 6, 2009
Should one country sponsor an institution with a political agenda and government links in another country?I think many Lithuanians are aware of the mouthpiece of market fundamentalism - the Lithuanian Free Market Institute.
It is a semi- (or pseudo-) academic institution which does some interesting work (collecting and publishing liberal thinkers' works and other related publications, sponsoring a students' essay competition, commenting on public politics from their point of view) along with free market propaganda. Their staff is professional and well-prepared and capable of writing well-argued pieces. On the other hand, if you read them more critically, it is easy to see that they use plenty of over-generalisations, overstretched analogies and ideological statements disguised as scientific. Well, on the other hand, who doesn't, so in that sense I don't have a fundamental problem with them.

What I'm concerned about is another thing. The former president of this Institute, Remigijus Simasius, is now the minister of justice, delegated by the Liberals. He was the one who endorsed this crazy idea that during the crisis "some parts" of the Labour Code may not be applied, if both sides agree on an exception (i.e., concrete employers and employees). With the more or less absence of labour unions and effective employee protection, he is completely OK with turning Lithuanian employees into serfs, but that's not surprising having in mind his ideological background. We know too well how "mutual agreements" work in Lithuanian businesses. With unemployment growing, there's no such thing as employee's opinion. Needless to say, this is obviously a huge step towards rule of law in Lithuania, isn't it?

So, here we have a think-tank slash ideological mouthpiece with strong links to the government. It influences Lithuanian politics through the minister, various working groups, and plenty of articles and commentaries in the media on every reform. What concerns me is their list of sponsors. Obviously, you find all major banks and business conglomerates, but, among "international funds and partners", you also see the BRITISH EMBASSY. I don't know what amounts they receive from the embassy. But clearly the British Embassy (if I remember correctly, the British Council was also among the donors previously) is donating British taxpayers' money to a political think tank with a very clear agenda and government links, defending the interests of big business.

A conspiracy-theory-type of explanation could be claiming that Britain has certain interests in promoting market fundamentalism in EU12 countries, but I'm not inviting you to believe this one. What I see as a more likely possibility is that the embassy believes it's sponsoring an academic institution, while in reality it's interfering into Lithuanian politics with its money. I think this has to stop as soon as possible.