Feature

Lithuania: Where offices are awash in booze

At noon, just about every bureaucrat in Lithuania has a bottle in his hand, said Saulius Pocius at Vilniaus Diena.

Saulius PociusVilniaus Diena

No wonder the Lithuanian government gets nothing done—our civil servants “spend much of their time drunk,” said Saulius Pocius. Last week, a camera crew doing a report on a transportation agency caught the bureaucrats partying during working hours. While it was pretty funny to watch some of the workers “dive for the bushes” and others hastily hide their martini glasses under their desks, the spectacle came as a surprise to nobody. At noon, just about every bureaucrat in Lithuania has a bottle in his hand. “It’s like a law.” The office culture of our bureaucracy is built on alcohol. Every time two officials meet, it’s “deemed to be good manners” to offer not coffee but “something a little stronger.” Gintautas Predkelis, the director of the office that was caught on film, defended his staff, saying, “Over lunch, everyone drinks. In Brussels, the European Commission members drink, so of course we drink here too.” But his comparison doesn’t hold up. In no other European country is it the norm for most officials to be impaired most of the time. Only here are “the individual interests and rituals of the bureaucrats more important than the business of the state.”

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