European Commissioner Andriukatis announced candidacy to become Lithuania’s president

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European Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis Friday announced his candidacy to become Lithuania’s president.

Andriukaitis will take unpaid leave from the European Commission ahead of the May 12 presidential election, which comes as the Juncker Commission is trying to wrap up its priorities before the change-over in the fall.

He joins several other Commission officials on the campaign trail for national and EU positions, including Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, who is on unpaid leave as he runs for president of Slovakia.

Lithuania’s Social Democratic Party asked Andriukaitis, who has been at the Commission since 2014, to run. He was the founder of the party in 1989 following Lithuania’s independence from the Soviet Union.

He previously said he was unsure whether to accept the invitation ahead of Monday’s deadline. “I have to admit that it has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” Andriukaitis told a press conference today in Vilnius.

He said he would work to ensure “the name of Lithuania would be associated with a country which does not tolerate high levels of inequality, injustice, which respects every person and their views.” He mentioned democratic values, science and the protection of human rights as some of his campaign priorities.

A doctor by training, Andriukaitis previously served as a member of the Lithuanian parliament, deputy speaker, Social Democratic Party leader and minister for health.

His candidacy is expected to be largely symbolic, with his party struggling to recover politically after being torn apart by infighting.

Andriukaitis made two failed bids for president in 1997 and 2002, according to Delfi.

 

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