- July 26, 2012
Europe’s concern over the rights of Poles in Lithuania
The activities of the present Lithuanian authorities and its institutions relegate the country to the category of the Third World where the human rights’ issues are anxiously observed by European and International institutions. High Representative of National Minorities of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been negotiating for several months in a dispute between Poland and Lithuania over obeying the rights of Lithuanian minority in Poland and Polish minority in Lithuania.
On 26-28 June, there was in Lithuania another mission of OSCE – the mission of Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) which assessed the situation of obeying the human rights in the context of the upcoming parliamentary election.
The representatives of the mission – Robert Krimmer and Raul Muresan emphasized in their report published 23rd July that on account of “political pluralism, diverse media environment and reliable law regulations” there is no need to organize the mission of a permanent observation of OSCE in Lithuania.
“Nevertheless, the mission assessing the needs of OSCE/ ODIHR said that new law regulations concerning an electoral campaign financing, the participation in an electoral campaign of media, issues related to the participation in a parliamentary elections of national minorities along with issues concerning the equal share of votes between constituencies may be a subject to further analysis” – stated in the report of OSCE/ ODIHR mission.
In that case, the authors of the report advise that the international observers should be sent to the Lithuanian parliamentary elections on 14 October.
In the mission’s report, it is stated that the national law does not provide for such a possibility that the parliamentary elections should be observed by non-governmental and international observers. Yet, the Lithuanian authorities ensured the mission’s representatives that the lack of such regulations will not restrict their observatory activities during parliamentary elections in the autumn.
In the report, the change of constituencies’ borders where mainly Polish minorities live is brought into focus.
As we have already informed, Central Electoral Office (CEO) made a decision on 10 July about the exclusion of two electoral districts from the so-called Polish constituencies and transferring them to the constituencies in which Polish minority constitutes a scanty percentage of voters. Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL) regarded the activities of CEO as deliberate, the aim of which is to disperse the so-called Polish electorate. AWPL states that the present division of Vilnius Region into separate constituencies was unfavorable for this political party and the change in the constituencies’ borders worsens the situation even more.
„(…) CEO has fundamentally created a new constituency by separating two electoral districts of Vilnius Region and transferring them to Švenčionys and Molėtai district municipalities. This decision is particularly unfavorable for local Poles. For example, two electoral districts where the residents of Polish descent constitute 80 per cent of all residents were connected to Molėtai district municipality and now the votes of Poles “disappear” because Poles constitute only 6% of all residents in Molėtai district municipality!” – stated in AWPL’ announcement.
The situation of constituencies’ transfer has negatively influenced the relations between Poland and Lithuania which have already been weak. Polish side has regarded the decision of CEO as a next provocation of Lithuanian side which will not contribute to the regeneration of mutual trust.
– Well, it is really something, which one of the political parties in Lithuania protest against. I hope that it will raise awareness that problems between Poland and Lithuania do not result from any prejudice from Polish site. Yet problems result from what Lithuanian site does or what does not do – the Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski expressing these words in an interview for Polish Radio referred to the constituencies’ shift in Vilnius Region. He also emphasized that Poland is “prepared at any given time for a new phase” in relations with Lithuania.
– But since 20 years we have been waiting patiently for fulfilling the decisions of a treaty and this has to be a part of a reset – added Sikorski. He also reminded that the situation of Polish minority in Lithuania is constantly getting worse and expressed his hope that Lithuania will comply with suggestions from High Representative of National Minorities (OSCE) who has presented the authorities in Vilnius and Warsaw his recommendations.
– Poland is prepared to implement these recommendations and we hope that Lithuania as a European country will also show its determination in the treatment of national minority in a civilized way – stated Sikorski.
In the meantime, both the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Lithuania Audronius Ažubalis and the Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius stated earlier that Lithuania would implement only those recommendations which are not against the Lithuanian law.
In this context, it is crucial to remind of the earlier declarations of the Lithuanian authority representatives who claimed that Lithuania could not meet demands of Polish minority because they were against the Lithuanian law.
Tłumaczenie Alicja Leśniak w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Alicja Leśniak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.