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Dalia Grybauskaitė
EU Leaders Arrive at Sofia Airport Ahead of the EU – Western Balkans Summit (42146983351) (cropped).jpg
Grybauskaitė in 2018
8th President of Lithuania
In office
12 July 2009 – 12 July 2019
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius
Algirdas Butkevičius
Saulius Skvernelis
Preceded by Valdas Adamkus
Succeeded by Gitanas Nausėda
European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget
In office
22 November 2004 – 1 July 2009
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Michaele Schreyer
Markos Kyprianou (Budget)
Succeeded by Algirdas Šemeta
European Commissioner for Education and Culture
In office
1 May 2004 – 11 November 2004
Served with Viviane Reding
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Viviane Reding
Succeeded by Ján Figeľ (Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism)
Minister of Finance
In office
12 July 2001 – 1 May 2004
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas
Preceded by Jonas Lionginas
Succeeded by Algirdas Butkevičius
Personal details
Born (1956-03-01) 1 March 1956 (age 68)
Vilnius, Lithuania
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1983–1989)
Communist Party of Lithuania
Independent (1990–present)
Alma mater Saint Petersburg State University
Georgetown University

Dalia Grybauskaitė (Lithuanian pronunciation: ​[dɐˈlʲɛ ɡʲrʲiːbɐʊsˈkɐ̂ˑɪtʲeː]; born 1 March 1956) is a Lithuanian politician who served as the eighth president of Lithuania from 2009 to 2019. She is the first woman to hold the position and in 2014 she became the first President of Lithuania to be reelected for a second consecutive term.

Grybauskaitė has served as Minister of Finance, as well as European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget from 2004 to 2009. She is often referred to as the "Iron Lady" or the "Steel Magnolia".

Early years

Grybauskaitė was born on 1 March 1956 to a working-class family in Vilnius during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Her mother, Vitalija Korsakaitė (1922–1989), was born in the Biržai region and worked as a saleswoman. Her father, Polikarpas Grybauskas (1928–2008), was an electrician and driver. He also was a NKVD serviceman during the Second World War. Grybauskaitė attended Salomėja Nėris High School. She has two brothers, one living in Lithuania, and the other living in Colorado Springs, in the United States. She has described herself as not among the best students, receiving mostly fours in a system where five was the highest grade. Her favourite subjects were history, geography and physics.

Grybauskaitė began participating in sports at the age of eleven, and became a passionate basketball player. At the age of nineteen, she worked for a year at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society as a staff inspector. She then enrolled in A.A. Zhdanov State University in Leningrad, as a student of political economy. At the same time, she began working in a local factory in Leningrad. In 1983, Grybauskaitė graduated with a citation and returned to Vilnius, taking a secretarial position at the Academy of Sciences. Work in the Academy was scarce and so she moved to the Vilnius Communist Party High School, where she lectured in political economics and global finance. From 1983 to December 1989, she was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and after the Communist Party of Lithuania broke away from the CPSU in December 1989, she was member of the CPL until June 1990. In 1988, she defended her PhD thesis at Moscow (Academy of Social Sciences).

In 1990, soon after Lithuania reestablished its independence from the Soviet Union, Grybauskaitė continued her studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., in the Special Programme for senior executives.

Early career

Between 1991 and 1993, Grybauskaitė worked as Director of the European Department at the Ministry of International Economic Relations of the Republic of Lithuania. During 1993, she was employed in the Foreign Ministry as director of the Economic Relations Department, and represented Lithuania when it entered the European Union free trade agreements. She also chaired the Aid Coordination Committee (Phare and the G24). Soon afterwards, she was named Extraordinary Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister at the Lithuanian Mission to the EU. There, she worked as the deputy chief negotiator for the EU Europe Agreement and as a representative of the National Aid Co-ordination in Brussels.

In 1996, Grybauskaitė was appointed Plenipotentiary Minister in the United States' Lithuanian embassy. She held this position until 1999, when she was appointed deputy Minister of Finance. As part of this role, she led Lithuanian negotiations with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In 2000, Grybauskaitė became Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, going on in 2001 to become Minister of Finance in the Algirdas Brazauskas government. Lithuania joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, and Grybauskaitė was named a European Commissioner on the same day.

European Commission

Grybauskaitė initially served as European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. She held this position until 11 November 2004, when she was named European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget within the José Manuel Barroso-led Commission.

In November 2005, Grybauskaitė was named "Commissioner of the Year" in the European Voice Europeans of the Year poll. She was nominated "for her unrelenting efforts to shift EU spending towards areas that would enhance competitiveness such as research and development." She commented:

I don't usually participate in contests, so this is a very pleasant surprise for me. I consider it a distinction not for me personally, but for all the new EU Member States, both small and large, as an acknowledgment of their bringing a new and fresh perspective to the EU. I think that it's also a prize for having the courage to speak the often difficult truth and to point out the real price of political rhetoric in Europe. As for results, we still have to wait for them. An agreement on the budget for 2007–2013, which Europe really needs, is most important.

As Financial and Budget Commissioner, she strongly criticized the EU budget, stating it was "not a budget for the 21st century." The majority of the EU budget was spent on agricultural programmes. Grybauskaitė presented a 2008 EU budget in which, for the first time in its history, spending on growth and employment constituted the highest share of the budget, exceeding that of agriculture and natural resources. She frequently criticised the Lithuanian Government, headed by Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, for its lack of response to the approaching financial crisis.

2009 presidential election

On 26 February 2009, Grybauskaitė officially announced her candidacy for the 2009 presidential election. In her declaration speech, she said:

I decided to return to Lithuania if the Lithuanian people decide I am needed there now. I think that we all long for the truth, transparency and responsibility for our country. We all want to live without fear, with confidence in ourselves, in each other, and in tomorrow. I can and I want to contribute with my experience, knowledge and skills to expel shadows from morality, politics, and economics to create a citizen-ruled Lithuania – a state of citizens. Therefore, I will run for the Lithuanian presidency.

2009 m. Respublikos Prezidento rinkimai Dalia Grybauskaitė 0
Grybauskaitė giving an interview during her 2009 presidential campaign.

There were three women and four men as presidential candidates. Opinion polls taken in February 2009 showed that Grybauskaitė was the undisputed leader in the race. She ran as an independent, although she was supported by the dominant Christian Democrats as well as by NGOs, including Sąjūdis.

Her campaign was primarily focused on domestic issues. After years of strong economic growth, Lithuania faced a deep recession, with double-digit declines in economic indicators. The unemployment rate rose to 15.5% in March 2009, and a January street protest against the government's response to the recession turned violent. During the campaign, Grybauskaitė stressed the need to combat the financial troubles by protecting those with the lowest incomes, simplifying the Lithuanian bureaucratic apparatus, and reviewing the government's investment programme. She also promised a more balanced approach in conducting foreign policy, the primary constitutional role of the Lithuanian presidency.

2009 m. Respublikos Prezidento rinkimai Dalia grybauskaitė 2
Grybauskaitė celebrating her landslide victory in 2009.

The election was held on 17 May 2009. Grybauskaitė won in a landslide, receiving 69.1% of the valid vote. The 51.6% turnout was just above the threshold needed to avoid a runoff election. In winning the election, Grybauskaitė became not only the first female president of Lithuania, but won by the largest margin recorded for a free election in Lithuania.

Political analysts attributed the easy victory to Grybauskaitė's financial competence and her ability to avoid domestic scandals. The international press was quick to dub her the "Lithuanian Iron Lady" for her outspoken speech and her black belt in karate. Grybauskaitė, who speaks Lithuanian, English, Russian, French and Polish, has mentioned Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi as her political role models.

Presidency (2009–2019)

Lithuanian army commander Arvydas Pocius Presidential Inauguration 2
Grybauskaitė inaugurating Arvydas Pocius as the commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces on 28 July 2009.
Secretary Kerry Meets With Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė (2)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Grybauskaitė in Vilnius, 7 September 2013
Pocius and Grybauskaite
Grybauskaitė and Chief of Defence of Lithuania Arvydas Pocius.

Grybauskaitė assumed presidential duties on 12 July 2009, and accepted half of her presidential salary (312,000 litas). Her first presidential visits abroad were made to Sweden and Latvia; in April 2011, she made a state visit to Norway. Grybauskaitė supported the NATO-led military intervention in Libya.

In 2014, Grybauskaitė was reelected President. She received 46% of the vote in the first round, and defeated Zigmantas Balčytis of the Social Democratic Party in the run-off with 58% of the vote.

Domestic policy

Style of leadership

According to Tapio Raunio and Thomas Sedelios, the office of President during Grybauskaitė's two terms was the strongest in Lithuanian history since 1990. Grybauskaitė took advantage of grey areas in the Constitution of Lithuania to accrue additional competences, such as a monopoly on Lithuania's representation in the European Council, and often made use of informal power, such as personal meetings between the Presidential office, Prime Ministers and individual ministers, to express positions on matters outside of the Presidency's competences.

During the campaign for the 2014 Lithuanian presidential election, Grybauskaitė was accused of "autocracy" and collusion with the Homeland Union. However, Grybauskaitė publicly stated that she does not support granting additional powers to the Presidency, instead stating that the existing Presidential powers should be "used more effectively".

Grybauskaitė is generally seen as a President friendly to the Homeland Union, and polls most strongly with conservative and liberal voters.

Conflict with the Seimas in 2012

After the 2012 Lithuanian parliamentary election, Grybauskaitė declared that she will not accept any proposed cabinet which includes the Labour Party, which earned the second largest number of seats in the Seimas in the election. Labour, a populist political party led by Russian-born businessman and oligarch Viktor Uspaskich, was implicated in the so-called "dark accounting" case in 2006 and was also seen by the President as a pro-Russian party. However, Grybauskaitė was unable to prevent the formation of a coalition between Labour and the Social Democrats, which took office as the Butkevičius Cabinet.

Grybauskaitė remained influential during the rest of the term and vetted Labour-proposed minister candidates with various means, including testing ministerial candidates on their knowledge of English. After the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania left the coalition in 2014 and their minister Jarosław Niewierowicz resigned, the position of Minister of Energy officially fell to Labour, but Niewierowicz's replacement, Rokas Masiulis, was widely seen as Grybauskaitė's candidate.

Foreign policy

Relations with Russia

Petro Poroshenko and Dalia Grybauskaitė in Kiev, December 2016
Grybauskaitė and Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv, Ukraine, December 2016
Dalia Grybauskaitė MSC 2017
Grybauskaitė during the 53rd Munich Security Conference 2017
Volodymyr Zelensky 2019 presidential inauguration 35
Grybauskaitė with Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena in May 2019

At the beginning of her first term, Grybauskaitė tried to reset relations with Russia and check whether pragmatic relations with Russia were possible. In 2010, Grybauskaitė even met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. However, after this meeting, relations between Lithuania and Russia began to cool down.

On 19 December 2013, Grybauskaitė decided to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics together with other Western leaders, including German president Joachim Gauck, French president François Hollande, and the US president Barack Obama, due to Russia's human rights violations, attitudes and behaviour with Eastern partners and Lithuania. Relations with Russia markedly deteriorated during Grybauskaitė's second term in office, due in part to her hard line stance against Russian influence in Europe and the Baltics, especially after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

In May 2014, Grybauskaitė called the dependence on Russian gas an "existential threat" to Lithuania.

Following her reelection in May 2014, she said "Dignity, self-respect and mutual benefit, these are the principles that should set the basis for relations between countries and no doubt, knowing that this is our neighbor, we wish this country to democratize and cope with the arising economic challenges".

In June 2014, Grybauskaitė told the German news magazine Focus: "[Putin] uses nationality as a pretext to conquer territory with military means. That's exactly what Stalin and Hitler did." She also claimed that Russia and Putin were "characterised by aggressiveness, violence, and a willingness to overstep boundaries."

On 20 November 2014, Grybauskaitė, commenting on the conflict in Ukraine, characterized Russia as "a terrorist state which carries out an open aggression against its neighbors".

In June 2018, Grybauskaitė said that Lithuania should be ready for Russian invasion. She also said that Western states will "wake up" only "when they have been attacked" by Russia.

In December 2018, Grybauskaitė told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Lithuania would increase military assistance to Ukraine: "We will additionally supply more ammunition, send more military instructors and cyber security experts to help repel hybrid attacks, especially during the elections."

Relations with the EU and United States

In December 2014, Grybauskaitė said that Lithuania will have to take the responsibility for the secret CIA-operated prison in Lithuania.

Regarding British Prime Minister Theresa May's comments on acting as a "bridge" between the European Union and the United States, Grybauskaitė said that "I don't think there is a necessity for a bridge. We communicate with the Americans on Twitter." In March 2017, Grybauskaitė criticized the government of Poland and Prime Minister Beata Szydło for not endorsing Donald Tusk again for the President of the European Council.


In January 2019, Grybauskaitė said a "no-deal Brexit" would be better than delaying Brexit. She said the EU would negotiate mini or sectoral arrangements to mitigate a no-deal scenario.

Post-presidency (2019–present)

In March 2020, Grybauskaitė was appointed by the President of the United Nations General Assembly and the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council as one of the two co-chairs of the High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel).

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Grybauskaitė publicly supported a direct NATO military confrontation with Russia believing the diplomatic negotiations had failed and more sanctions won't deter Russia from pursuing its military goals. "War can be only stopped by a war, which has already started," Grybauskaitė wrote on Facebook. "I'm ashamed to hear that leaders and officials of NATO states are muttering about not being able to involve in the conflict but being fine with it in the case of Syria, Libya, Africa, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan?" she added.

Personal life

In addition to her native Lithuanian, she is fluent in English, Russian and Polish, and also speaks French. Grybauskaitė has a black belt in karate.


Grybauskaitė has received the following national and international awards:

Year Award Issuer
2003 The Commander's Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas Lithuania
2009 The Order of Vytautas the Great with the Golden Chain Lithuania
2011 Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars Latvia
2011 Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav Norway
2011 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon Iceland
2012 Member of Xirka Ġieħ ir-Repubblika Malta
2012 Grand Officer of the Order of Saint-Charles Monaco
2013 Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose of Finland Finland
2013 Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana Estonia
2013 Gran Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany Germany
2013 Charlemagne Prize for 2013 Aachen
2015 Order of the Republic Moldova
2015 Collar of the Order pro merito Melitensi SMOM
2015 Knight of the Order of the Seraphim Sweden
2016 Order for Exceptional Merits Slovenia
2016 Collar of the Order of the Star of Romania Romania
2018 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion Netherlands
2018 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic with Collar Italy
2018 Member of the Order of Liberty Ukraine
2019 Knight of the Order of the White Eagle Poland

See also

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