Lithuania has improved relations with Poland in recent years, with much of this is owing to Saulius Skvernelis, who has been the head of Lithuania’s government for over three years.
Skvernelis stepped forward with the idea of bestowing Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński with the Order of Vytautas the Great, Lithuania’s most important distinction, for “a unique contribution” in bilateral relations and supporting Lithuania and the Baltic States in matters of security.
He also called Kaczyński a “true friend of Lithuania.”
The Lithuanian government announced its desire to award Kaczyński on Oct. 9, 2019, four days before the Polish general elections but then went silent on the issue of the award.
The issue resurfaced when Vilnius media asked why Kaczyński wasn’t present at the ceremony on occasion of Lithuania’s national holiday on Feb. 16.
Some suggested that it was the result of a conflict between Skvernelis and President Gitanas Nauseda.
Andrzej Pukszto, a political scientist from the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, pointed out that Kaczyński is a controversial politician in Lithuania.
Skvernelis represents the populist mainstream, whereas Nauseda tries to lead the liberal elites, said the political scientist, adding that the Lithuanian president still emphasizes his good relations with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and ignores comments from liberals who criticize the rule of law in Poland.
It turns out that Kaczyński had not received the honor from Lithuania not due to conflict among Lithuanian authorities. Instead, it was because he has a rule that as an acting politician, he refuses to accept any medals.
Both sides informed Rzeczpospolita of this anonymously, as the issue is diplomatically delicate.
PiS explained that Kaczyński had discretely suggested that he does not accept medals and Lithuania stated that they understood that “everyone has their principles”.
Both sides agreed that the matter is now closed.
Medal from Saakashvili
Jarosław Kaczyński has accepted only one medal: the Georgian Order of Saint George in 2013. It was an exception as the medal was given by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was a friend of former President Lech Kaczyński who died in the 2010 Smolensk air disaster in Russia.
Saakashvili was one of the few presidents to travel to Kaczyński’s funeral in April 2010 when a cloud of volcanic ash restricted air travel over Europe.
Presidents Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Duda both received the Order of Vytautas the Great, the latter was awarded by president Dalia Grybauskaite. Given that the ten years of Grybauskaite’s rule were a bad period in Polish-Lithuanian relations, this was seen as surprising at the time
Nauseda, who won the elections in 2019, made his first foreign visit to Warsaw. He also stood by Poland’s side in the conflict with Vladimir Putin and his distortions of Second World War history.