Powerlessness or aversion – UE attitude towards Polish people living in Lithuania

Despite the appeals for help, UE is unwilling to support Lithuanian Poles by providing them with basic rights to use their mother tongue, for example, in writing their surnames. Photo by Marian Paluszkiewicz

UE eagerly fights for human rights in Belarus, but at the same time passes over Lithuania in silence. The European Commission does not enforce the rights of national minorities guaranteed by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is responsible for the matter in which Poland and Lithuania are sides. Therefore, the best solution for both countries is to reach an agreement to keep to the rights of national minorities. Knut Vollebæk, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, offered his help and suggested that “both countries should reconsider the problem of national minorities, and simultaneously work on strengthening the mutual relationship, for instance, on the level of restoring the training of the expert groups.” These words briefly describe the European Commission’s statement on the petition number 0358/2011, submitted by Tomasz Snarski, who was concerned about Polish linguistic rights in Lithuania. The purpose of his announcement was to provide information for the Members of European Parliament Committee on Petitions. On the 3rd of December the Committee on Petitions is going to close the case on Snarski’s petition.

The author of the petition does not agree with the European Commission’s opinion as well as with the possible closing of the examination of his petition by Committee on Petitions. He declared that he would continue to fight. He wants the Committee on Petitions to re-examine his application and decide to defend the rights of Polish minority in Lithuania.

“If the European Parliament intervenes on the human rights in Belarus or Ukraine, why can’t it do anything in Lithuania. All the more so because a problematic situation occurs in a member state,” says Tomasz Snarski. He is indignant at the situation, as he has not been informed about the European Committee’s motion that was submitted on the 24th of October. Snarski claims that this motion is a repetition of the statement from the April this year. It was then that the Members of Committee on Petitions dismissed the side of the European Commission and decided to start examining the situation described in Snarski’s petition. “It is surprising that the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions proposed the closing of my case in the agenda,” says Snarski.

However, during the session on the 3rd of December, the European Parliament Committee on Petitions will not be able to close the case due to the protest filed by Jarosław Wałęsa, the Member of the European Parliament. “Registering a protest by the Member of the European Parliament obliges the Committee on Petitions to examine the petition on the forthcoming session. It can be done in January or February, so the case will definitely not be closed during the meeting on the 3rd of December,” says Magdalena Sągin from the MEP office.

The author of the petition is also soliciting for further examination, as he sent a letter to the European Parliament Committee on Petitions with the request to continue the investigation. Tomasz Snarski states in the letter that he would like to take a stance on the latest opinion of the European Commission. He draws attention to the fact that the Committee on Petitions has not formulated its official on his submitted formal motions, mainly on those concerning the motion of correctness of the petition’s topic which was wrongly defined by the European Commission. As a result, the meaning and content of the petition are distorted.

“The incorrect marking of my petition has not been corrected in the official documents. My petition concerns the adherence to human rights by all the member states by not only observing the rights to education but also those on the linguistic level. If the misleading topic remains in the documentation intended for the Members of the European Parliament, it will deprive me of my right to have my petition thoroughly investigated,” wrote Tomasz Snarski in his letter to the Committee of Petitions.

Let us remind you, that the Committee of Petitions had already dealt with Snarski’s petition in April. At that time, the Committee dismissed the stand of the European Commission, whose content is not very different from the stand taken on the 24th of October. The Committee had also dismissed the letter from the representatives of Lithuanian Government who wanted the closure of investigation, and ordered the examination of the case.

Snarski’s petition

In 2011, Tomasz Snarski, the assistant from Gdansk University, sent a petition “Lingual rights of Polish nationals living in Lithuania” to the European Parliament. Snarski mentioned there that the rights of Polish minority were not observed in Lithuania, including for example, writing surnames in mother tongue and names of places in both languages. The petition was supported by the European Foundation of Human Rights in Vilnius. A year had passed before the European Parliament decided to look into the petition during an open session. Despite the opposition of Lithuanian authorities, the Members of the Parliament resolved that the European institutions should conduct investigation into whether the rights of national minorities are violated in Lithuania.

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/11/28/niemoc-czy-niechec-ue-w-sprawie-polakow-na-litwie/

Tłumaczenie Patrycja Olszówka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Patrycja Olszówka the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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