VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania’s new centre-right government assumed office on Friday, led by Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte who has appointed the most gender-balanced cabinet in the eastern European Union.
Simonyte, the only woman currently serving as prime minister in the bloc’s eastern states, named seven women and eight men as ministers.
Bulgaria is the eastern EU state with the next highest proportion of women in its cabinet, with seven women among its 19 ministers. Poland has the worst gender parity record, with only one woman in its cabinet of 20.
Both junior partners of Simonyte’s coalition, which won the October general election, are led by young female politicians, and nine ministers in the cabinet are in their 30s.
“When you know what you need, it’s easy”, Simonyte told reporters after taking the oath, in reference to the gender balance in her cabinet, a first for Lithuania.
Lithuania became the second-worst hit country by coronavirus in the European Union, behind Luxemburg, on the day Simonyte took office, and she went directly from the oath to a meeting to discuss additional measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Simonyte, 46, was the finance minister during the 2009-2010 crisis, when she oversaw cutting retirees pensions to avoid currency devaluation. In 2019, the self-professed Metallica fan made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
For a period lasting several months in 2019, the Lithuanian government included no women at all, with the then prime minister, Saulius Skvernelis, saying that personal “qualities, competence and professionalism” were more important than gender parity.
“We love women and we nurture them towards equality”, he said in 2019.
Elsewhere in the European Union, Belgium, France and Spain have same number of men as women in their cabinets, while Austria, Finland and Sweden have a female majority.
Simonyte will join premiers of Denmark, Finland and Germany as the only female heads of the government in the bloc.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)