• October 12, 2011
  • 255

Web of Lithuanian Authorities’ Lies Debunked

It appears that both déjà vu and amnesia in Polish-Lithuanian relations have been devouring Lithuanian politicians’ minds, who promise a lot only to revoke the given word so that they can make a promise anew of what had been promised but unfulfilled. Complicated? No doubt! Similarly, Lithuanian politicians’ maneuvers concerning the relations with the Polish minority in Lithuania and reportedly strategic partners are complicated as well.

Accordingly, it is perplexing how long will the Polish minority in Lithuania, and above all, Poles in Warsaw be fooled by these unfulfilled promises made by Lithuanian government as part of meeting their own obligations made many a time. Those obligations concerning Polish minority were made for the first time (and perhaps the last time) most clearly visible on the part of Lithuania under Polish-Lithuanian Treaty in April 1994. However, they were never met anyway. Additionally, Lithuanian politicians said that those commitments were never to be fulfilled because, as suggested by Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, they had been made wrongfully. Moreover, it was not clear who exactly had made these promises despite the fact that there were specific names signing the document made not only on the Polish part.

Also two other signatures, namely Polish and Lithuanian ones were in some other document which was tracked down by the European Foundation for Human Rights. It was the Protocol from the Inaugural Meeting of Polish-Lithuanian Commission for the Problems of National Minorities of Intergovernmental Council appointed on 14th Sept 1997 by the Council for Cooperation between Polish and Lithuanian Governments. This document itemized some protocol resolutions that were essential for the Polish minority in Lithuania as regards implementing the rights included in the Treaty. As shown, this Committee was appointed by both the Polish and Lithuanian because the Treaty commitments regarding legal guarantees for the Polish minority in Lithuania had not been met by Lithuanian authorities. However, this document is not essential for this matter exclusively. More importantly, this document points to the lies made by Lithuanian politicians as well as the Lithuanian media that Poland only recently “has begun” to pick on its Lithuanian partners because they had failed to fulfill their promises and that this picking on is a mere part of the election campaign in Poland.

Not so long ago (14 years), Poland reminded Lithuania (point II.4) that: “in the process of changing Lithuanian legislation, the situation of minorities should not deteriorate.” Further it stated that: “Poland expressed a deep concern regarding the possible restriction of using Polish by the Polish minority in public life which is being threatened by an amendment to the National Minorities Act. Poland expressed an interest in the solution that would not restrict the Polish minority’s rights resulting from the legal order to date and existing bilateral and multilateral agreements.”

At this point, it should be acknowledged that Lithuania did come up to Polish’s expectations and in fact has never passed an amendment to the National Minorities Bill because the restrictions regarding the right to use Polish by the Polish minority in public life were addressed in the State Language Bill. All of this means that the more advantageous to minorities and their languages National Minorities Bill was ignored by Lithuania.

In protocol resolutions dating back to 1997, Lithuania also promised (for one more time) to respect the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania. Point I.1 of the Protocol maintains that due to the mutual agreement between both parts:  the Lithuanian authorities would not allow for the restriction of the use of Polish as the language of instruction in Polish schools in Lithuania; the Lithuanian authorities would treat Polish and Lithuanian schools equally in the areas inhabited by the Polish minority; Lithuanian authorities would pay more attention to providing textbooks used in Polish schools in Lithuania.

”Implementing” the first of these commitments, as early as two years after the resolution had been agreed upon, Lithuania did away with obligatory school-leaving examinations in Polish. Additionally, ten years later due to the passing of a new Education Bill the number of subjects with Polish as a language of instruction was limited. Also having failed to standardize curriculum before, Lithuania unified a school-leaving exam in Lithuanian for both minority and Lithuanian schools.

Lithuania clearly ”met” the second commitment for as established by the European Foundation for Human Rights, the Lithuanian government had founded government  schools (17 in Vilnus region and five in Soleczniki region) with Lithuanian as a language of instruction as part of Social Program for Eastern Lithuania Development. Such schools were established only in the so-called Polish inhabited areas. Also the government spared no expense to the maintenance of these schools as between 2009-2012 only they received the subsidy which amounts to 43 million litas. Additionally, having been obliged to treat Polish and Lithuanian-speaking schools equally in areas inhabited by the Polish minority, by passing the new Education Bill in March  this year, Lithuania left a substantial gap between these schools for even if a Lithuanian school runs out of students, it is the Polish school that gets closed. As for the third commitment regarding textbooks, over last decade or so this problem became so common in Polish schools that their authorities simply accepted it and started using textbooks and workbooks in Lithuanian (a side note: what with the commitment of not reducing the use of Polish in schools?).

The European Foundation for Human Rights stressed that Lithuania also had made a commitment to step up the pace of land re-privatization in the Vilnus area so as to enable it to catch up with other Lithuanian regions (point VI.10).

The establishment of a governmental work group a year ago that was to work out measures leading to the intensified pace of land re-privatization in the Vilnus area best shows how the Lithuanian government met the aforementioned commitment.

Interestingly, according to Protocol point VII.11 Lithuania promised to: “try to find means to support The Kurier Wileński, the only Polish daily in Lithuania,” which indicates utterly lying nature of the Lithuanian government.

“Given that The Kurier Wileński has not received financial support from the Lithuanian government, it seems that after 14 years Lithuania did not even try to find means to help the Polish newspaper” remarks the Foundation. The Foundation also questions the appointment of the Polish-Lithuanian Educational and The Representatives of National Minorities Expert Committee which aimed to discuss amendments introduced to the Education Bill in March while the issues that it addresses were agreed upon 14 years ago at the same political level. ”The re-appointment of the similar Committee after 14 years is surprising” the Foundation observed. Moreover, it pointed that Lithuania did not make any binding promises to Poland as evidenced by the 14-year-old protocol, not to mention the 1994 Treaty or the Framework Convention on The Protection of National Minorities in effect since 2000.

One more lie and slander is that exacerbated Polish-Lithuanian relations against a backdrop of deteriorating situation of the Polish minority in Lithuania is fueled by the ambitions of Radosław Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Poland. Many Lithuanian politicians and high-rank officials, not to mention the Lithuanian media, put the blame on Sikorski’s ambitions. Interestingly, it was Radosław Sikorski, the-then undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who signed the protocol 14 years ago as the head of Polish delegation of The Polish-Lithuanian Commission for the Problems of National Minorities of Intergovernmental Council. However, Lithuania had never fulfilled its promises as stated in the protocol. On the contrary, Lithuania made a whole array of decisions against the commitments that it had taken on. Therefore the Minister Sikorski’s current position is contingent on nothing other than perseverance in executing the promises made by Lithuania. Even if he is ambition-driven, it does not necessarily mean that it is of political nature. Instead, those are personal ambitions of a man who has been repeatedly lied to by a strategic partner. In turn, those ambitions are widely understood and shared among the Polish minority that has been lied to by the Lithuanian government for many years.


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