- November 16, 2012
Radczenko: Is It the End of the Myths About “Bad” Lithuanians and “Bad” Poles?
It is almost a month since the elections finished. We know the composition of the future coalition government. The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania enters the Lithuanian government as an equal partner of the coalition. Moreover, its members have a historic opportunity to prove that they can not only criticise but also create and fulfil the election promises and solve the problems of national minorities and also those on the national level. It’s a historic opportunity to debunk certain myths about “bad” Lithuanians and “bad” Poles.
The coalition agreement which was signed yesterday by the Social Democrats, the Labour Party, the Order and Justice and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania ended nearly three-week period of political bargaining, during which it sometimes seemed that the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania is not eager to join the coalition and would prefer to stay in a more secure “constructive” opposition. This situation resulted from the fact that such a small fraction as the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania has not a very strong position.
Centre-left has 78 members in the Sejmas which is majority and they need the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania only for the balance of influence and for holding President Dalia Grybauskaitė in check (86 centre-left votes combined with the votes of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania are enough to remove President from the office by impeachment). The Electoral Action, therefore, had to give up the three or four ministers’ offices that were announced before. Throughout the political bargaining Algirdas Butkevičius was in favour of only one minister office for Poles – the Ministry of Culture.
The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania refused to accept this because they wanted as many offices as Rolandas Paksas’ Order and Justice that is a little bit more numerous and has two ministers’ offices. In the end, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania gave in and agreed to one office if only it will be a “serious” one. It is a bit paradoxical to hear from the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania’s leaders that the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for national minorities issues, is not a serious office but most probably it originates from the fact that that minorities problems are not political.
The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania got the Ministry of Energy. Undoubtedly more serious than the Ministry of Culture but also more problematic. It was created by conservatives in 2009 on the basis of several departments of the Ministry of Economy. The aim of it was to get rid of Anicetas Ignotas from the civil service. At the time he served as an undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Economy and was described as an omnipotent “tsar” of Lithuanian energy sector. The Ministry of Energy was thoroughly “cleaned” and staffed with officials who were sympathetic towards conservatives.
Undoubtedly, such a resort will be very difficult to manage and at the same time it will not give political profits to its chef because Lithuanian energy problems cannot be solved immediately and not even in four years. Probably this is why Waldemar Tomaszewski will remain a member of the European Parliament and Jarosław Niewierowicz will become the Minister of Energy. Firstly, he has the necessary experience because he is a head of the Polish-Lithuanian company LitPolLink which is responsible for the creation of an energy link with Poland. Secondly, he has political experience. In 2006-2008 he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania and before that he worked as a diplomat. Thirdly, he is a kind of guarantee of a flourishing cooperation with Poland when it comes to energy. Without this cooperation Lithuanian energy independence is just a fiction. Last but not least, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, for whom energy is the most important, and Lithuanian elite accept him as the Minister of Energy.
The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania will also get three deputy minister offices in other departments. In most of previous governments deputy ministers that did not belong to the party of the Minister were usually held back by giving them insignificant functions. That is why in 2008 the conservative-liberal coalition abandoned this practice. If having deputy ministers’ offices beyond prestige and sharing the responsibility with the coalition partners happens in the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania’s case, it won’t have a significant effect.
The division of the positions is an exciting matter. For politicians it is the most important issue, no matter what they are saying about programmes. For us more important is what we can expect from the new government when it comes to the Polish-Lithuanian relationships. Obviously, a lot of things will become clear when the coalition will present the new government’s programme. However, it seems to me that the mere fact that the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania entered the government creates good atmosphere for a “new beginning” in Polish-Lithuanian relationships.
During the coalition talks the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania did not make any proposals that would generate protests from other coalition partners. It is true that among those proposals, except the demand for adoption of the National Minorities Act, there was nothing that would directly concern national minorities rights. Nevertheless, I think that at least some of the demands of the Polish minority will be included in the new government programme in one form or another. All the parties that create the “3+1” coalition promise, for example, changes in the Education Reform introduced by Kubilius government. It is doubtful that the government would back out of teaching history and geography of Lithuania in Lithuanian language in Polish schools or of the standardized Lithuanian language test for both Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian schools but most likely there will be introduced a sufficiently long transition period when it comes to enacting the bill.
It has already been pre-agreed on the adoption of the National Minorities Act. Probably the Department of National Minorities will be recreated. Its existence has no major influence on the situation of national minorities, however, is a kind of a symbol that the government gives great importance to these issues. Probably. in the future government programme there will be some proposals concerning the spelling of names and reimbursement of the land.
Somebody would say that it is not much and that these issues would be resolved even without the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania in the government because each government would have to make some significant changes in those areas. However, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania entrance to the government is in a way a debunker of a certain myth. It will be impossible now to put down the lack of the positive changes in the situation of Poles in Lithuania on “bad” Lithuanians and not sufficiently large Polish representation in the Sejmas. And if the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania don’t fail this test on governing, it will be also a debunker of a myth about “bad” Poles.
Tłumaczenie Monika Rak w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Monika Rak the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.