- September 5, 2011
20th Anniversary of the Resumption of Polish-Lithuanian Diplomatic Relations
At the beginning of September 1991, the establishment (de jure) or rather the resumption of the diplomatic relations between Poland and Lithuania took place. Last Sunday, Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, paid a visit to Lithuania. However, his visit was not made in relation to the event of the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations, but due to the dramatic deterioration of the Polish-Lithuanian relations. Mainly, due to the discriminatory policy of the Lithuanian government against the Polish minority in Lithuania;
The relations between Poland and Lithuania can only be as good as the relations between Lithuanian state and the Polish minority – stated Prime Minister Donald Tusk after the Mass in St. Teresa Church at the Gate of Dawn in Lithuania.
On the other hand, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius, argued after the meeting with his Polish counterpart that the complaints of the Polish minority about the recently enacted Law on Education are unfounded. Meanwhile, the Polish side reminded “Lithuanian brothers” that on the anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations, after 20 years of “strategic partnership,” the problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania – concerning the rules of spelling Polish names, the return of property and the usage of Polish names in topographical names – are still waiting to be resolved and the new Law on Education only complements this waiting list.
”We are discontent that the promises on so irritating matters that have been made for so many years, such as the lack of a bill on writing of Polish names and still unreturned property have not been yet unfulfilled. Now, instead of resolving these matters, another problem – the Law on Education, which raised protests of the minority, has emerged,” said Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radoslaw Sikorski. He also stated that it was high time that after twenty years of a friendship offered by Poland, Lithuania makes a gesture of mutuality.
For 20 years, Poland has repeatedly demonstrated to the Lithuanian partners its friendship and support in Lithuania’s fight for independence at the beginning of the 1990’s, and later, during the process of Lithuania’s integration into the European Union and the NATO alliance.
The Polish declaration of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Lithuania signed on 26th August 1991 is the date that marked the beginning of official relations between Vilnius and Warsaw. After the failure of the August Putsch in Moscow, the then Polish Prime Minister, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, sent a letter to the Lithuanian Prime Minister, Gediminas Vagnorius, in which he informed that the Polish Council of Ministers decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Lithuania. This decision was the culmination of the process of cooperation between the two countries, which took on special dimension in the mid-1991 after the Soviet Special Forces had used violence against the independent Lithuania at the beginning of January. Then, the representatives of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, along with the Foreign Minister, Algirdas Saudargas, fled to Poland, where they had been granted authorisation to form an independent Lithuanian government in exile, in case the Lithuanian government had no possibility to function in Vilnius. At that time, the Minister and the Lithuanian delegation officiated at the Hotel “Zajazd Napoleoński” (“Napoleon’s Inn”) near Warsaw. In February 1991, the Information Bureau of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established in Warsaw at Ujazdowskie Avenue. On 5th September 1991, after both Lithuanian and Polish governments had exchanged the letters of accreditation in Vilnius, the Warsaw Bureau was transformed into the Lithuanian Embassy. And exactly there, after twenty years, the Polish ambassador to Lithuania, the Lithuanian ambassador to Poland as well as Polish and Lithuanian intellectuals gathered to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
However, one of the main topics discussed at this meeting were the problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania and the Vilnius’ official position on resolving them.
Twenty years ago, the official visit of the Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski to Lithuania, which took place on 12-14th January 1992, initiated the official Polish-Lithuanian cooperation. It was then that the Treaty “On Bilateral Relations and Good Neighbourly Cooperation” and the Consular Convention were signed, which allowed for the initiation of negotiations on the Treaty between the two countries. Until the signing of the Treaty on 26th April 1994, the Treatise had been the only bilateral document regulating the Polish-Lithuanian political relations.
Despite Poland’s political support, ever since the restoration of independence, Lithuania repeatedly mentioned Polish revanchism, as well as the possibility of Poland’s invasion on Lithuania. Lithuanian politicians not only demanded acts of good will from Poland, but they also insisted that Poland apologises for the “occupation” of Vilnius in 1920.
On the other hand, Polish demands for political rights for national minorities in Lithuania were treated as interference into the internal affairs of Lithuania. After twenty years of cooperation, Vilnius officially re-adopts its rhetoric from the beginning of the 1990s, in the relations with Warsaw and accuses the Polish minority in Lithuania of disloyalty towards Lithuania that in the opinion of the chief Lithuanian politicians, is inspired and supported by Warsaw. These claims have been voiced by the former Speaker of the Lithuanian Supreme Council, currently a Member of the European Parliament, Vytautas Landsbergis. In his extensive interview from last week for the Lithuanian portal DELFI, Landsbergis accused, among others, the Head of Polish diplomacy, Radosław Sikorski (who he described as “a man of tough and aggressive disposition”) of supporting the unfounded complaints against the Lithuanian authorities voiced by the Polish minority in Lithuania.
He also made accusations against Poland, claiming that it is Warsaw that it is not complying with the bilateral agreements, mainly meaning the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty.
“There are many lies in this propaganda – like arguing that it is us who do not comply with the agreements between Poland and Lithuania. First of all, unfortunately, it is Poland that does not comply with it, beginning with its first Article. Article 1 states that the national minorities living in the two countries have to be loyal towards these countries. Thus, a neighbouring country should not instigate to disloyalty. In the meantime, a noncompliance with the regulations of the agreement even if one considers it wrong or requiring some amendments, is still the first manifestation of disloyalty. Therefore, as long as the Act has not been changed, ignoring its regulations or stating that it is unacceptable, is considered to be an incitement to disloyalty. Lithuania does not do anything like that to make Sejny Lithuanians rebel against the Republic of Poland,” stated in the online interview Landsbergis.
Tłumaczenie: Eliza Łuszczewska, w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Czlowieka, www.efhr.eu Translation by Eliza Łuszczewska, as part of vocational training in The European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu