Mister persistent

Physical fitness has brought Valdas Adamkus success at both ends of his life. In 1948, the 21-year-old Lithuanian won two gold and two silver medals at a track-and-field competition for refugees from east European nations that had been swallowed up by the Soviet occupation. Nearly six decades later in 2007, Adamkus pulled off another award-winning athletic feat: the 80-year-old Lithuanian president pounded up and down the stairs at a European Council meeting in Brussels in order to help rescue the EU’s reform treaty from what appeared to be a premature death.

Poland, led by President Lech Kaczynski, was refusing to sign the draft document – a stripped-down version of the EU constitutional treaty that French and Dutch referendums torpedoed in 2005 – because of proposed changes to the bloc’s voting system, even though the other 26 members were prepared to sign on. Late in the evening on 22 June German’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, together with Adamkus, tried to placate the surly Kaczynski, who a year earlier had shown his estrangement from Germany and France by backing out of a summit of the so-called Weimar Triangle.

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