Butkevičius, Algirdas (Lithuania)
As leader of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP), Algirdas Butkevičius became prime minister in Dec. 2012 at the head of a coalition government. He remained in office until 2016.
Born on 19 Nov. 1958 in Paežeriai in Radviliškis district, Butkevičius graduated in engineering economics from the Vilnius Civil Engineering Institute in 1984 and worked in the Vilkaviškis district for the industrial association žemūktechnika from 1982–85. From 1985–90 he was an architect and inspector for the state construction and architecture unit. In 1991 he gained a diploma in technical management from the Lithuanian Management Academy and in 1995 was awarded a master’s degree in management from the Kaunas University of Technology.
After serving as deputy governor of Vilkaviškis district from 1991–95, Butkevičius spent a year as director of research and marketing for the private company, AB Vilkauta. He joined the LSDP in 1992 and was chairman of the party’s Vilkaviškis branch from 1995–97. He sat on the Vilkaviškis municipal council from 1990–97 and again from 2000–02. Elected to parliament in 1996, he chaired its budget and finance committee from 2001–04. In 2004 he was appointed finance minister, serving for 5 months in the administration of Prime Minister Brazauskas. He resigned in April 2005 in protest at government proposals to introduce a corporate turnover tax. From 2006–08 he was minister for transport and communications under Prime Minister Kirkilas, overseeing Lithuania’s participation in the ‘east-west corridor’ project to develop a transport network from Sweden to Vilnius.
After the LSDP lost power in 2008, Butkevičius was elected party chairman in March 2009 and unsuccessfully contested the presidency later that year. After 4 years of stringent austerity by the government of Andrius Kubilius, Butkevičius campaigned ahead of the 2012 parliamentary election on a platform of observing fiscal discipline and keeping the budget deficit under control while relaxing wage restraints to boost the economy. In Oct. 2012 the LSDP became the biggest party in parliament and entered negotiations to form a coalition government.
Butkevičius took office on 13 Dec. 2012 at the head of a four-party centre-left coalition after prolonged disagreement with President Grybauskaitė, who opposed the inclusion in the coalition of Labour Party members facing allegations of misconduct.
On the economic front Butkevičius had to combat high unemployment and low economic growth, while keeping to agreed borrowing targets.
In foreign affairs he initially signalled his intention to build better relations with Russia, although Moscow’s perceived aggression towards Ukraine from 2014 raised concerns over the long-term security of the Baltic states and prompted the reinforcement of NATO’s military presence in the region. Butkevičius also encouraged closer integration with the European Union. In July 2013 Lithuania took over the rotating 6 month EU presidency for the first time since its accession in 2004. Then, on 1 Jan. 2015, having earlier gained the agreement of his coalition partners to target accession to the eurozone, he oversaw Lithuania’s adoption of the single currency. He left office after his party came only third in the general election of Nov. 2016.