“The principle of non-discrimination in the context of equal opportunities is fully understood by experts, partially by office workers but the politicians do not understand it at all” – in an interview for zw.lt said dr. Elżbieta Kuzborska in the Institute of the Lithuanian Language where yesterday (the 20th of May) the Ministry of Culture and Institute organised a seminar on non-discrimination by nationality, ethnicity and language.
The seminar was a part of interinstitutional action plan implemented by Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The action plan included promoting non-discrimination, which estimates the gradual decrease of any signs of this negative phenomenon in society.
Discrimination of Lithuanians in Vilnius Region?
“Repressed man is hostile and mistrustful, with such man we will never achieve a common goal” – declared in her foreword Deputy Minister of Culture, Patricija Poderytė, who pointed out that we should already talk about discrimination in kindergartens, schools and families. The vice-president of institute, prof. Grasila Blažienė emphasized the meaning of social sensitivity to any signs of discrimination.
Associate Professor Kazimieras Garšva in his speech mentioned his “favourite topics”. On the one hand he referred to the issue of spelling of Polish surnames which he thinks it should be written in Lithuanian language. On the other hand he spoke about discrimination of Lithuanians in Vilnius Region.
The potential of Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Dr. Grigorijus Potašenko made an interesting speech about the role of country in the process of increasing the awareness of discrimination in the society. “The country should build a better sense of security and trust, since the discrimination is a form of conflict and moral deed that depreciates a man. We have to remember and use the potential of multicultural and multinational Grand Duchy of Lithuania” – stated Potašenko.
The scientist referred to the Constitution of 3 May 1791, which brought our society closer to the principle of equal treatment between all citizens. He also appealed to politicians for a greater moral sensitivity to the issues of protection of minorities in the country.
“Include” the minorities in public life
On the other hand, Dr. Elżbieta Kuzborska spoke about the necessity of finding a balance between promoting and developing the official language and the protection of minority languages. According to her, the country should show the attitude of “including” the minorities in public life of a country by allowing to use minority languages in the main areas of national activity – in contact of residents with local authorities, health care, social welfare, election campaign etc.
According to analysis of Treaties and judicial decisions of International Tribunals, Kuzborska stated that the principle of non-discrimination by language is one of the standard principles of International Human Rights Law. Where it is justified by practical considerations, reasonable and justified, the country should adress the citizens in language they are speaking.
Common historical memory
Professor Alvydas Nikžentaitis emphasised in his speech that the Lithuanian language is given too much significance. For the nation in the modern sense, common historical memory is sometimes much more important than the language (“together we once gave somebody a hard time”) and broadly defined common cultural tradition. These words caused discontent among the guests with national radical views.
Formal and substantive discrimination
After finishing seminar, Elżbieta Kuzborska in an interview for zw.lt said that such seminars make sense because “it is worth speaking about discrimination at least in terms of equal opportunities”. “Unfortunately, and it is not only my opinion, the principle of non-discrimination in the context of equal opportunities is fully understood by experts, partially by office workers but the politicians do not understand it at all” – stated sadly. Kuzborska pointed out that in Lithuania many people still can’t see the difference between formal and substantive equality. “Therefore it is worth to tell the society that equality does not only mean treating everyone equally and formal equality can lead to discriminational consequences. However, exercising the principle of substantive equality and non-discrimination include using minority languages in public sphere of the country, in contact with residents. Language is a tool which authority can use to exclude a significant parts of society from public life, and to deprive of exercising their own rights. Therefore it is so important to be aware of the fact that integration does not refer to a situation where everyone speaks the same language but when minorities are drawn into public, social and decisional processes in the country” – Kuzborska explained her point of view.
Tłumaczenie by Adam Adamowicz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Adam Adamowicz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.