Plates with non-Lithuanian street names in Vilnius are lawful, as stated by the Regional Administrative Court of Vilnius.
The judge Violeta Petkevičienė said that multilingual signs were unveiled during official ceremonies, with the presence of representatives of national minorities, and they should be treated as decorative elements and architectural accents of the city that highlight bonds between the city and other communities and states.
“The court held that these plates are not official. They do not coincide with Lithuanian street names. All of them are individual and different so they cannot be regarded as spread of inscriptions in another language. (…) The plates are not aimed at disseminating information in non-state language or being in competition with Lithuanian language. They were not put in order to enable people using another language to speak in their native language” – stated judge V. Petkevičienė.
According to the Press Office of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA) the court’s ruling on bilingual street names in Vilnius is logical and results from the previous judicial decision.
“The issue of double names was resolved a few years ago. Multilingual street names are legal and there are more and more of them. A major breakthrough took place three years ago, when exorbitant financial penalties were imposed on heads of the local governments of the Vilnius region and the Šalčininkai region. However, national minorities joined forces and managed to retain the right to use bilingual names as courts ruled that bilingual signs were legal. It could not have been otherwise since it is a EU standard. This right was also included in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities that was fully ratified by Lithuania in 2000” – reads the statement issued by the Press Office of the EAPL-CFA today.
According to the Press Office of the EAPL-CFA, the issue of non-Lithuanian street names in Vilnius is a PR strategy of the current Vilnius authorities that is aimed at repairing its image undermined chiefly by corruption scandals.
“The issue of bilingual signs, which is front-page news again, is an example of PR strategy of the current Vilnius authorities that is aimed at repairing its reputation damaged by corruption scandals, in particular. And these window-dressing activities in the media should be seen as PR actions of Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, who wants to endear himself to national minorities as his party loses support, especcially as a result of corruption scandals. That reflects cynicism and hypocrisy. Some specific actions were taken by liberal-conservative authorities in Vilnius, and national minorities now can see that these authorities are unfriendly towards them as they get tempted to take the most important thing – education. 4 schools of national minorities were relegated in Vilnius: A. Puszkin school, Saulėtekio school, a school in Lazdynai, and Sz. Konarski school. Under the leadership of R. Šimašius a Polish school in Jeruzalė and Centro school were closed, and students were expelled from the school in Antakalnis, which is a well-known case. Now, authorities intend to close a school in Senamiesčio as well. This is the attitude of the Mayor R. Šimašiusa towards national minorities. And the aim of this street-name PR is to condemn national minorities’ education to oblivion. Long ago, national minorities opened their eyes and now they will not be taken in by the cheap PR moves made by R. Šimašius with the help of certain media. As regards the use of native language, the European Union and aforementioned Framework Convention guarantee the right of national minorities to use it in the public life” – stated the Office.
We recently reported that bilingual names were challenged before the court by the government plenipotentiary in the Vilnius district.
Currently, there are 9 bilingual plates in Vilnius, including a plate with the incription “Waszawska” which was removed at the end of the last year.
Tłumaczenie by Grzegorz Gaura w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Grzegorz Gaura within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.