"In the rule of law, it is normal that violations committed by an individual are not established by the president but law-enforcement institutions. The checks have been launched, and it is a normal practice to wait for the results before making any decision. I am the head of the government. I realize the responsibility that I have in connection to the members of the team, I am not dodging it, however, I will not yield to pressure from the president or anyone else. It will be my decision, and I will feel consequences myself," the prime minister said in a comment to BNS.
In response to the criticism stated by the president earlier on Wednesday about the prime minister's lack of dependence and principles, Skvernelis said it was unacceptable for him to see presidential advisers "ordering ministers to resign."
In his words, it is unacceptable when decisions are made "unilaterally, without going into details and without hearing."
The prime minister said he respected the Constitution and the country's laws, emphasizing that the breach committed by Markauskas was "not of corrupt character and not abuse of office."
"The situation evolved before he became the minister and it is not wide-spread, even former ministers of agriculture admit using such practice. Integrity is resisting pressure or not fearing criticism. Integrity is about making possibly unpopular but fair decisions. This is exactly the decision I will make," said Skvernelis.
Earlier on Wednesday, Grybauskaitė stated that the prime minister had showed he was dependent and incapable of making independent decisions after pledging integrity. The president said last week she did not deem it possible for Markauskas to continue working in the government, while the prime minister then said that it would be difficult but possible for the minister to work.
Skvernelis pledged to make a principled decision after meeting with the minister. After the conversation with Markauskas on Tuesday, the prime minister announced the minister would stay in the post until the law-enforcement checks the circumstances of his family's farming before making the final decision.
15min.lt news portal has reported that Markauskas' family had been using several plots of land in the district of Klaipėda without the landowners' permission for five to six years and that she has been receiving payments from the National Paying Agency for that land. The minister dismissed this as an unintentional mistake.
He said he had concluded a verbal agreement with the landowner, adding this could be confirmed by two witnesses. Meanwhile, the landowner maintains he had not allowed the minister's family to do farming on his land.
If the minister stays on, the opposition does not rule out interpellation. Removing the minister requires at least 71 votes in Lithuania's 141-seat parliament.
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