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Lithuania - Political situation

Šimonytė Cabinet (2020-)
In November 24, 2020 Ingrida Šimonytė was appointed the Prime Minister of the 18th government of the Republic of Lithuania since the restoration of independence in 1990. The Government was formed after the elections to Seimas in October 2020 and the subsequent coalition agreement between the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), Liberal Movement (LRLS), and Freedom Party (LP). Almost half of the ministers, together with Šimonytė herself, are women.

Minister for Health is Arūnas Dulkys, an economist, PhD in Social Sciences and former State's Auditor General. Between 2011 and 2015 Dulkys was also a lecturer at the Department of Theoretical Economics of Faculty of Economics of Vilnius University.

Attempt to revise some alcohol policies
Even before officially forming the government, then prime minister candidate Ingrida Šimonytė said in October 2020 that the new government might revise some policies introduced by the current one, including in alcohol policy, however, there will be no overnight "revolution". 

Finally the government proposed the reduction of the legal age to 18 (from the current 20) years, allowing brands advertising in social media and delivery platforms, and prolonging retail time on Sundays. On January 18th 2022, the bill was voted on in the Lithuanian Parliament. MPs rejected individual proposals as well as the amendment bill, which was voted down 63 to 51. 
The vote results were obviously welcomed by Lithuanian health campaigners. NordAN board member, NTAKK president Nijole Gostautaite Midttun: "Just minutes ago, during the plenary of the Lithuanian Parliament, ALL suggested changes for Alcohol Control Law were rejected and the project thrown out for now. No support even for "further improvements" of the project. For some time policy is safe: same proposals can't be registered/discussed for half a year." The previous health minister Aurelijus Veryga posted on Facebook after the vote: "Common sense prevailed. The Seimas did not support any proposal to liberalize alcohol control policy. Thank you to all the colleagues who voted against liberalization."

Skvernelis Cabinet (2016-2020)

Former national police chief Saulius Skvernelis became prime minister after voter anger at the established political parties propelled his centrist Peasant and Green Union (LVZS) to a surprise victory in parliamentary elections in 2016.

Mr Skvernelis formed a coalition with the Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, which came third, and promised to curb social inequality, boost sluggish growth, limit emigration to Western Europe, and boost defence spending in the face of a resurgent Russia. (Source: BBC)

Currently 56 persons (not all are the members of the party) from 141 MPs are members of the LVZS political group in the Seimas. The political party is not new, but it is the first election, when this party wins more than one third seats in the Seimas. It also formed the Government of 2016-2020. The Speaker of the Seimas and the Prime Minister are representatives of the LVZS. The party emphasized that not only politicians, but also professionals from specific fields work with this party. Therefore, LVZS delegated not only politicians and party members to the cabinet of ministers. (EURYDICE)

Farmers and Greens Union

The Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (Lithuanian: Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga, LVŽS; also known as Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union, formerly Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union, Lithuanian: Lietuvos valstiečių liaudininkų sąjunga, LVLS) is a centre-right agrarian political party in Lithuania led by industrial farmer Ramūnas Karbauskis.

One of LVZS’s main pledges during the 2016 parliamentary election campaign was to combat alcoholism, which became the party’s first major reform after assuming power. A package of changes to the Law on Alcohol Control was adopted in June 2017. These changes included a complete ban on alcohol advertising, shortening times for retail trade of alcohol, and raising the minimum age to buy alcohol from 18 to 20 years.

Aurelijus Veryga - Minister of Health

The force behind alcohol policy developments is the current Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga. A former professor at the Kaunas University, Dr Veryga was an advisor to Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius on drug, alcohol and tobacco 2009-2012. Before entering politics in 2016, dr Aurelijus was also active in civil society advocacy work, being the leader of The National Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition and a board member of the Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network.

Presidential elections - May 2019

One of the candidates at the presidential elections was also Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who dropped out at the first round. “I really believed I would get to the runoff, but the result shows that my expectations were too high,” Skvernelis told supporters in Vilnius, according to Reuters. He confirmed he would resign as prime minister on July 12. "Skvernelis' candidacy was widely seen as a test for the government's policies, including its restrictive alcohol laws aimed at combatting the country's high consumption rates," Politico wrote after the first round of elections. In July 2019 Prime Minister Skvernelis said that he will remain in his post. 

“If there were other political forces (willing) to create a new coalition and a new government, it would have been easier for me, but today’s situation is that, with 1.5 years to go until the general election, no one wants to take the responsibility,” Skvernelis told reporters in Vilnius after meeting with newly elected President Gitanas Nauseda.

“The decision (to resign) was purely emotional, maybe I shouldn’t have said it right then, on election night.”

Comment from Freedom House report:

"Ever since the 2016 elections, the political party system has shown signs of growing instability. The governing LFGU struggled to remain popular, and traditional parties were also unable to make significant gains.

The signs of growing instability in the party system could influence further political developments, especially regarding national democratic governance. After the LSDP split, the governing coalition is de facto in the minority, and any small crisis could bring it down. However, the only viable alternative in such a scenario could be early elections, since the parliamentary opposition became even more fragmented in 2017 in terms of both sitting lawmakers and ideology. There is a low possibility that liberals, conservatives, social democrats, the populist Order and Justice (OJP), and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL) could present themselves as an alternative governing coalition."

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National Program for Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Control and Prevention 2018–2028

This strategic document outlines the country’s long-term goals, priorities, and commitment to applying a health-based approach to the use of psychoactive substances (drugs, tobacco, and alcohol) in order to help people protect or recover their health, well-being, and quality of life. The program’s strategic goal is to create a healthier and safer country where every person can receive help while avoiding or reducing alcohol, tobacco, or drug-related harm and where opportunities are provided to take care of one’s own health, social, and economic well-being as well as that of their family or community members.

  • The program is a strategic document outlining Lithuania’s long-term goals, priorities, and commitment to addressing the use of psychoactive substances (drugs, tobacco, and alcohol).

  • The program aims to help people protect or recover their health, well-being, and quality of life.

  • The strategic goal is to create a healthier and safer country where every person can receive help while avoiding or reducing alcohol, tobacco, or drug-related harm.

  • Opportunities are provided to take care of one’s own health, social, and economic well-being as well as that of their family or community members.

  • The program is based on a human-centered, integral, contextual policy development approach that relies on validated scientific and factual data.

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