- January 21, 2013
Haszczyński: new government in Vilnius and moderate optimism in Warsaw
A few weeks ago the new Lithuanian government announced that it wanted to improve relations with Poland. Thus the first official state visits of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs arouse great expectations.
Prime Minister, Algirdas Butkevičius is to arrive in Warsaw on 12of February and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius comes at the beginning of the next month. However, the Prime Minister was to arrive earlier and the media were informed that his visit had been scheduled for 20 or 21 of January. All the indications are that the Lithuanian politicians decided to postpone the visit as they are aware that it cannot end up just with a handshake and a smile.
Some serious statements must be made but they require some preparations. Poland expects to hear some obligations concerning Polish minority in Lithuania. Lithuanian diplomats, by means of private diplomatic channels used in the West, want to know what kind of gesture it would be appropriate to make. Lithuanians should take a stand on the issue of building a new atomic power station; according to the previous arrangements, Poland would be involved in its construction. Nevertheless, Lithuanians are not certain if they want to build it and become energetically independent of Russia. They do not know how they should respond to the negative result of the consultative referendum which was held in October, simultaneously with the parliamentary elections.
The fate of Poles in Lithuania is of utmost importance for Poland. Those unfavourable acts (especially the educational act) enacted a few years ago caused the Polish-Lithuanian relations to sour. The nationalistic attitude towards Polish minority prevailed in Lithuania, whereas Poland stopped turning a blind eye to legal means taken in Lithuania to render the situation of Polish Lithuanians worse. The dispute over the treatment of Polish minority has dominated the relations between the two countries, making cooperation in the fields that should unite them more difficult – European Union, countries’ defences or those connected with the post-Soviet East. Since the political elections in October public feelings have changed. Many kind words for a Warsaw ear have been said. First and foremost, the social-democrats and populists have formed the new government with a Polish party. The Electoral Action of Poles for the first time not only became a full coalition partner but it was also granted with important posts in the government and the Sejm, for instance, with the very influential ministerial portfolio of the Department of Energy.
“Educational issues and the problem of bilingual nomenclature can be solved quickly by reintroducing an old act on minorities from 1991. Only a few sessions of the Sejm are needed,” claims Waldemar Tomaszewski, the head of EAPL.
So far everything is limited to words. In the past, Lithuanian politicians would promise this or that and not fulfil their promises so this is why Warsaw shows moderate optimism before the visits of the new Lithuanian authorities. Especially due to the fact that we do not know whether the new opening is not going to be scuttled by the President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, who assumed the role of the main enemy of the Poles and does not yield to pressures from Warsaw.
Tłumaczenie Patrycja Olszówka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Patrycja Olszówkathe framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.