• November 2, 2010
  • 24

The right to “W”

740 companies registered in Lithuania have non-Lithuanian letters in their names. 250.000 inhabitants of Lithuania who have Polish nationality are not allowed to have such letters in their identity cards. Thereby, non-Lithuanian names are distorted in Lithuanian documents. Is this a sparse situation in the European Union? How do the deeds of Europe control this situation? How to seek one’s rights? Which institutions might be approached?

At the end of October, the first part of the lectures about the human rights in international law was held. The series of lectures was started by Doctor Łukasz Wardyn. The lectures in Vilnius are organized at the initiative of the Association of Polish Lawyers in Lithuania and the European Foundation of Human Rights.

Doctor Łukasz Wardyn used to deliver lectures on international law at Kozminski University. In 2009 he carried out research projects in the United States at Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow (postdoctoral scholarship).

During his first lecture in Vilnius, he has discussed the issue of the spelling of surnames, European legislation connected with it, and the most important rulings of international tribunal on the points at issue. He devoted attention to the situation of Lithuania. He knows it not only as a scientist interested in the rights of minorities but also as a man who has a case going on in the European Court of Justice. Doctor Wardyn’s wife is a citizen of Lithuania and after their wedding, by the Lithuanian law, her surname was spelled as Vardyn. According to the Wardyns family, the Lithuanian version of the surname is offensive and humiliating because that is not the real surname but a creature of Lithuanian administration. The verdict regarding the Wardyn-Vardyn case will be known in March 2011.

Meanwhile, Łukasz Wardyn has discovered that there are hundreds of companies in Lithuania which names include “non-constitutional letters”. One example is the biggest bank of Lithuania – Swedbank. And there are plenty of such examples.

“I think that Lithuania’s actions are not consistent. If we consider using non-Lithuanian letters as a violation of the constitution, then we should be consistent and prohibit everything what might breach the national language. As the State Commission of Language claims itself, something that is not a part of the language cannot be treated as its violation. That is strange that the first and last name should be a constituent part of the Lithuanian language even if it is not Lithuanian” says Doctor Ł. Wardyn.

According to Doctor Wardyn the people should be given a choice.

“There are some people who will feel good with a Polish version of the name and there are some who will prefer the Lithuanian version. There should not be any obstacles in this situation, everyone should have a choice” – adds the scientists.

The initiator of the lectures was the European Foundation of Human Rights, which is just starting its activity. Beata Naniewicz, a member of the foundation, says that the new organization will be raising awareness among the Poles in Lithuania about their rights and the possible ways to claim them.

“Those will not be anti-Lithuanian actions, but pro-Lithuanian ones. We want Lithuania to take a worthy place among the European countries” – says B. Naniewicz.

The lectures are a part of the project “Perfecting The Competencies Regarding The Human Rights In International and The European Union’s Law.” Within the planned lectures, which will be taking place till the end of the year, the problems of human rights and the rights of the minorities will be explained closely.

Translated by Weronika Cysdorf within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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