Virginijus Sinkevičius is a member of the Farmers and Greens party, and keeps a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat on his desk.
Lithuania has proposed its 28-year-old acting minister of economy and innovation, a member of the Farmers and Greens party, as a European commissioner.
The minister, Virginijus Sinkevičius, met with Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Tuesday, and his selection was formally announced in Vilnius on Wednesday by President Gitanas Nausėda.
“Yesterday’s meeting, as far as I know from an interview with Ms. von der Leyen, was a great success,” Nausėda told reporters, according to Vakaru Ekspresas, a Lithuanian daily newspaper. “Virginijus presented himself very well,” Nausėda said. The president said that Sinkevičius was in line for a “significant” portfolio but did not offer any specifics.
Speculation has swirled for several weeks that Sinkevičius would be nominated for von der Leyen’s Commission — making him potentially the sole Greens-affiliated commissioner in the new College. But Nausėda said a decision was only reached last week in a deal agreed by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS).
LVŽS has two members of the European Parliament who sit among the Greens/European Free Alliance group, but the party is not a member of the umbrella political family, the European Greens Party.
Because LVŽS espouses economic and social policies decidedly to the right of other Green parties, there is some debate over the party’s green credentials. And it is unclear that mainstream Greens officials will embrace Sinkevičius, who is known for keeping a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” hat in his office, as their representative in the Commission.
Still, the selection of Sinkevičius shows continuing effort by von der Leyen to reach out to the Greens, despite the party’s decision to oppose her nomination for Commission president in the European Parliament last month.
The Greens have repeatedly called for having a member of the College of Commissioners, but the traditional left-leaning Green parties do not lead the government of any other EU member state. LVŽS is a centrist, agrarian party that has held the most seats in the Seimas, Lithuania’s unicameral parliament, since 2016.
(Greens are also in government coalitions in Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden. Luxembourg and Finland have nominated social democrats to be their commissioners, and Sweden is expected to do the same.)
In Lithuania, some critics of Sinkevičius have complained that he’s too young and inexperienced.
While the designation of a Green candidate could help von der Leyen in her relations with environmentalists in the European Parliament, Lithuania’s choice does not bring her closer to her goal of an equal number of men and women around the College table.
So far, EU countries have nominated seven women for the Commission, which means von der Leyen is still five short of her goal — presuming she counts herself and that the U.K.’s refusal to name a commissioner allows her to declare parity even if there are 13 women and 14 men.
Von der Leyen held initial meet-and-greet sessions in Brussels on Tuesday with five other Commission nominees: Jutta Urpilainen of Finland, Margaritis Schinasof Greece; Kadri Simson of Estonia; Stella Kyriakides of Cyprus; and Helena Dalli of Malta.
Her meeting with Sinkevičius was apparently not disclosed in order to allow Nausėda to announce the nomination following government approval on Wednesday.
Von der Leyen on Wednesday continued her meetings with nominees, including the Hungarian candidate, László Trócsányi; the Polish candidate, Krzysztof Szczerski; the Slovenian nominee, Janez Lenarčič; and two returning commissioners, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič of Slovakia, and Věra Jourová, of the Czech Republic.