- November 28, 2012
Impotence or Unwillingness – the EU on Poles in Lithuania
The EU willingly fights for the human rights in Belarus but not in Lithuania. The European Commission does not enforce the rights of national minorities guaranteed in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe.
This issue is within the competence of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in which Poland and Lithuania are the parties. It would be the best if the countries reached the compromise on the protection of the national minorities’ rights. Knut Vollebæk, the current OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, wants to help them and “insists that the governments of both countries should deal with the issue of national minorities in their countries and simultaneously improve their relationship through restoring mechanisms such as joint education of expert groups.” This statement can be treated as a summary of the European Commission’s notice on the petition 0358/2011 submitted by Tomasz Snarski from Poland which concerns the language rights of Poles in Lithuania. The notice has an informative character for members of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament. Therefore, during the session planned on December 3 the Committee on Petitions is going to close the issue of Snarski’s petition.
The author of the petition does not agree with the opinion of the European Commission nor the potential close of the proceedings concerning his issue by the Committee on Petitions and is going to continue his fight. He wants the Committee on Petitions to consider his case and make a decision in order to protect the rights of Polish minority in Lithuania.
“The European Parliament intervenes in the case of the breach of human rights in Belarus so why it cannot deal with Lithuania. Especially, when we talk about the situation in one of the member countries of the EU.” noticed Tomasz Snarski. The author of the petition is outraged that he has not been informed about the decision of the European Commission that accepted its document on October 24. According to Snarski, the decision repeats the position of the European Commission form last April. Then, the members of the Committee on Petitions dismissed the position of the European Commission and decided to investigate the situation described in Snarski’s petition. “It is surprising that this time the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions proposed the close of the investigation of my petition.” said Snarski.
According to our information, during the session planned on December 3 the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament will not be able to end the investigation of Snarski’s petition because Jarosław Wałęsa, a member of the European Parliament, submitted an official complaint on this case. “The complaint of a member of the Parliament forces the Committee on Petitions to continue the consideration of the petition on a following session. It may occur in January or February but certainly the case will not be closed during the session planned on December 3.” This information was provided by Magdalena Sągin form the office of Jarosław Wałęsa.
The author of the petition himself insists on the continuation of the investigation. Yesterday he sent a formal request for the continuation of the consideration of his petition to the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament. In his request Tomasz Snarski emphasizes that he would like to express his opinion about the last decision of the European Commission. The author of the petition also points out that the Committee on Petitions has not yet given its opinion on the formal motions submitted by him, especially the motion concerning the correction of the topic of the petition that was wrongly specified by the European Commission itself and consequently distorts its sense and content.
“The mistake in the marking of the topic of my petition in official documents has not been corrected. My petition concerns the issues of respecting the human rights by member countries, including the language rights, not only the educational rights. Leaving the misleading and incorrect topic of my petition in documents for the members of the European Parliament deprives me of my right to the thorough investigation of my case.” – Tomasz Snarski wrote in his request to the Committee on Petitions.
It is worth noting that last April the Committee on Petition considered the case of Snarski’s petition. Then, the committee dismissed the proposal of the European Parliament which content did not differ much form the content of the proposal form October 24. The Committee on Petitions also dismissed the request of the representatives of the Lithuanian government concerning the close of the consideration of the petition and decided to investigate the case.
In 2011 Tomasz Snarski, an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Gdańsk, sent a petition addressed to the European Parliament titled “Language Rights of Poles in Lithuania”. According to Snarski, Lithuania breaches the rights of Polish national minority concerning, for example, the spelling of surnames in the native language and the bilingual street signs. The petition was supported by the European Foundation of Human Rights in Vilnius. After one year the European Parliament decided to discuss the petition during a public session. Despite the protest of Lithuanian authorities, the members of the European Parliament decided that the European institutions would investigate the issue of the potential breach of the human rights in Lithuania.
Tłumaczenie Karolina Rolka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Rolka the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.