- January 18, 2013
Too late? And then what?
Will EAPL’s success in the election and its participation in governance of the country benefit Poles in Lithuania? So far it seems that neither the larger representation in the Seimas nor the participation in the ruling coalition will better the lives of Poles in the country.
Since its initiation, EAPL has fought for rights of Poles in Lithuania. It was their motto and main objective. This is what they profited from on the political arena, which is nothing bad. EAPL was not alone – they received help from fellow Lithuanians. It can even be expressed that Lithuanian politicians and media, and strictly speaking conservatives, helped EAPL exceed the electoral threshold and appear in the Seimas in quite large numbers. It needs to be added, in all fairness, that it was not only them, for social democrats with big mouths also helped EAPL, since during their long reign they did not do anything for minorities.
Joy, satisfaction and hope accompanied EAPL when it entered the Seimas, and was even invited to the ruling coalition with seats for ministers and deputies, Deputy Marshal of the Seimas, plus committees and commissions, etc. as a bonus. And although EAPL hardly resembles the left-wing coalition, since its ideology is purely right-wing, it was nonetheless logical to use the opportunity and spread their wings rather than join the opposing “coalition” of the main oppressors – conservatives.
Seemingly, EAPL is not very powerful in the coalition, which was formed without it. The party is only useful when it comes to dismissing potential vetoes of the President. By the way, the President’s anger might again be concentrated only on Poles, since when a veto is dismissed, it is “always” by Polish votes, never Lithuanian! Of course, such reasoning is childish, but easy to assume when needed. The three parties which formed the coalition need Poles to show who the boss is in the country, to razzle dazzle the President, which in the current situation is very important in order for the government to survive until the end of the term. It seems that EAPL will serve as the proverbial scapegoat of the dismissed presidential vetoes. Has its “job” been rewarded only with positions and no real changes to laws which directly influence Poles in Lithuania?
Has EAPL used its position in the Seimas during negotiations? Almost all Lithuanian politicians have treated EAPL as a “leper” (nothing has changed since the last few months), so the fact that it was invited to the coalition meant nothing more than that it is a crucial coalition partner which supports the passing of current acts. So far, nothing indicates that EAPL will achieve anything. Currently, the most important and burning issue for the Polish in Lithuania, created by conservatives, is education. The problem raised opposition, protests and emotions thanks to which we saw the true Lithuanian “tolerance” and “justice”, but also bigotry, lies, impertinence, deceit and manipulation, plus many other negative traits which were “uncovered” after having been cunningly masked. After all this, Poles expected that by signing the coalition agreement EAPL would not only state their postulates, but also do everything to achieve their goals and change the status quo.
Beforehand, but after the election, Mr. Kwiatkowski (an advocate of Polish education, one would say) and the new Minister of Education, Tomaszunine (although Mr. Tomaszewski introduces her as Tomaszun – I do not know which one is correct) announced that it would be to the “advantage” of students to not file for change of the law on the new exam (which means that they do not want to bring back the old form of the Lithuanian language exam). Seemingly, they think that students have learnt so much from the “Steponavičius’ programme” that it would be to their disadvantage to take away the long-awaited “equal” and unified exam. In what way would a student be harmed by a facilitated exam when they prepared for a difficult one? On the contrary, if one studied for a harder exam, they would surely pass an easier one with flying colours.
But before members of EAPL entered the Seimas, this “care” for students had been a lot different: just, logical, reasonable. Will the perception change in the Seimas? “It is too late to change this year’s secondary school graduate exam in Lithuanian language, at least not fully” announced Deputy Minister of Education. It’s as if I was listening to conservatives.
“But we still can ensure that evaluation criteria and other elements of the exam are different.” Was it not what the last – severely criticised – Minister of Education, Steponavičius wanted? Does this mean that differentiated criteria of evaluation are not discriminating, but differentiated exams are? What used to be the logic of conservatives is now the logic of EAPL members.
And why is it too late? Amendments can be made in extraordinary proceedings – the Seimas has done it before. Anyway, why cannot students choose which exam to take? We would see the situation through their eyes.
Statistically, Polish secondary school graduates who take the new exam will be worse off because they do not have time nor chance to study the subject under the same programme as their colleagues who learn Lithuanian as their first language. They will also do worse in other exams, because they’ll have spent too much time on Lithuanian. Having worse grades on their diplomas, thanks to the moronic Lithuanian policy, they will have less chance of getting into universities (which was the objective of conservatives). Polish secondary school graduates and their younger colleagues already have problems with the Polish language, which has taken a strange shape, and now, when changes initiated by conservatives are widely implemented, Polish schools and nurseries will gradually Lithuanize themselves, as some of them already have. Notice boards, information, administrative talks, meetings – because it might be just – easier that way. And the youth? Proper Polish is a thing of the past. Students are not corrected, neither during lessons nor breaks.
Exam results of Polish students will be praised by the Lithuanian media and politicians as a great success of Poles, they will congratulate us, give a pat on the back and applaud. Giving false information about our lack of knowledge of the Lithuanian language was a large success of conservatives, and it will be the same now, although this time the exaggerated information will concern our success, not failure. Clearly, it won’t be ours. So whose?
And then what? There will be no need to change the policy with such a “success” and care for the Polish student, there will be no need for changes unless other subjects are also taught in Lithuanian, because when conservatives return, they will notice that our science, history and geographical terminology is extremely poor compared to Lithuanian students, which is discriminating and they won’t tolerate such discrimination of Poles in Lithuania.
It is not known what EAPL has achieved in negotiations with social democrats, but surely it will not be changes in the notorious and controversial education act. And I do not think that anything will ever change with the surnames, land or the use of Polish language. Such changes can only be made internally, through conscience, European values implemented over time or young generation’s liberal views, not by EAPL.
I could even understand that without Lithuanian consent EAPL will not achieve anything in education, surnames, land, signs and other issues, but it needs to be at least admitted that we have a problem and effort must be made to remedy the situation. This can be done by the growing power of EAPL and taking opportunities in the current favourable political framework, not by “caring” for Poles as conservatives used to care. Of course, there is still time and a lot can change in 4 years, but so far we screwed up, and as a Lithuanian proverb says – a good start is half of the work done.
Tłumaczenie Aleksandra Christ w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Aleksandra Christ within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.