“Liberals have always consistently voted for solving the so-called Polish postulates concerning original transcription and bilingual inscriptions,” assured Eligijus Masiulis, Chairman of the Liberal Movement, at the meeting in the Polish Discussion Club (PKD) on Tuesday. Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Education and Sports of the Vilnius City Vytautas Mitalas, as well as Vilnius AWPL Councillors Edyta Tamošiūnaitė and Renata Cytacka also participated in the discussion.
At the beginning of the discussion the Liberal Movement Chairman emphasised that their party wanted to represent all Lithuania’s citizens, as the social and economic issues were important for all residents of the country. In his view, Lithuania, as opposed to its neighbours, still could not resolve its problems relating to demography and the investment climate.
Chairman of the Committee on Education Vytautas Mitalas assured on his part that Liberals wanted “teaching to be a prestigious profession again.” He also congratulated Edyta Tamošiūnaitė “for the cooperation in the Committee, which is generally excellent.” “We agree on a number of issues, but do not on a few, unfortunately,” the member of the local government pointed out.
However, AWPL Councillor Edyta Tamošiūnaitė did not agree with what the Committee Chairman said. She argued that the unified exam introduced by Minister-Liberal Gintaras Steponavičius had worsened the situation of Polish students drastically. Tamošiūnaitė pointed out that the reorganisation of Vilnius schools had been carried out at a blistering pace without the initial consultation with the school communities.
“The network of schools in Vilnius is unbalanced. In some schools there are more than a thousand students, in others – less than 160. I don’t think we can speak of a quality of teaching in this situation. […] The reorganisation concerns also the Lithuanian schools,” answered Mitalas. Having informed that the local government had adopted a four-year plan concerning reorganisation of the network of schools, he added that reforms in the educational field were usually palpable and painful.
Masiulis admitted that the education reform had had some defects: “The very idea was right. Perhaps a tactical mistake was made there. The plan was probably carried out too quickly. In my opinion, the idea of uniform requirements as for the knowledge checking is good.”
He bemoaned, however, that he could not meet with students in the Vilnius and Šalčininkai region. To this Councillor Tamošiūnaitė answered that school headmasters were statutorily prohibited from admitting politicians on school premises.
Shadow of autonomy
During the meeting the question “What can liberals offer local Poles?” was posed: “Liberals have always consistently voted for solving the so-called Polish postulates concerning original transcription and bilingual inscriptions, but, unfortunately, neither during the previous term of office nor during the current one have they managed to do this,” claimed Masiulis.
“The surname is a man’s property, not a country’s […]. Nor do I understand why the issue of bilingual inscriptions is so demonised. […] It’s a very common practice in Europe indeed. It’s just a normal form of showing respect towards one another. It concerns all the citizens. […] Those issues must be solved, because it’s a shame really. I think that Liberals have always consistently defended toleration for people with different views,” Liberals’ leader explained his view.
Masiulis claims that certain negative stereotypes emerged at the beginning of the 90s, when the idea of Polish autonomy appeared in the Vilnius region. Lithuanians felt a threat of separatism, and some of them still think in such a way, unfortunately.
“In Lithuania’s history there were both better and worse times, but, what’s important, a certain gene of multiculturalism has been developed,” the politician stated, referring to the fact that “it was not worth to be guided by historical issues when it came to the relations between the nations.”
Among the meeting participants were also Poles from Poland, who did not understand the policy pursued by Lithuania, thanks to which the Polish-Russian alliance was created, one which Putin, in the first place, benefits from.
“It’s a very interesting observation, as some decisions made by the authorities create a certain space for creating alliances between Russians and Poles. I come from Klaipėda, where Liberals have been ruling for a long time now. Here Russians’ alliance is our long-standing partner. I don’t understand why the Klaipėda model cannot be applied on the nationwide level,” Masiulis answered the question. “We must understand that if Lithuania is attacked by Russia, Poles will be the first to defend us. I’m sure that Lithuanians will do the same. Therefore, it’s high time to solve the problems that have occurred,” he added.
During the meeting the issue of saying mass in Polish in the cathedral was brought up. The current Vilnius mayor Šimašius promised Polish voters before the election that he would mention this issue in his talks with the Vilnius curia. “When I heard this statement of Šimašius’s, I almost fell from the chair. I called to Šimašius later and said that the matter was not within the city mayor’s competence. The church and state do not function together,” the party leader criticised his colleague’s promises.
Tłumaczenie by Karolina Katarzyńska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.