- January 28, 2013
The government has changed, however, problems of Poles remain unsolved
The administration of Šalčininkai region Municipality is obliged to remove Polish street signs form private houses within one month. It is a decision of Vilnius Regional Administrative Court. The Cabinet representative in Vilnius Municipality filed a lawsuit to court concerning this issue.
During the interview with “Kurier”, the Director of Administration in Šalčininkai region Municipality, Bolesław Daszkiewicz, said that he was going to use his right of appeal and within the specified period (14 days) he would appeal against the verdict of the regional court, “Without a shadow of doubt, we will appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Director did not want to comment on the verdict, however, in his opinion, if he accepted the decision and started to remove the street signs, the house owners would file a lawsuit against him. Daszkiewicz said that the local government did not have legal authority to remove the street signs. According to him, it would be possible if the Cabinet or the Seimas would accept a law obliging the private house owners to conform to the decision of the local administration.
“The street signs were made to order and paid by particular residents. It was their initiative so the administration do not possess authority to remove them, according to the decision of the court”, explained Daszkiewicz.
Meanwhile, the court obliged the local authorities to remove Polish street signs from 50 streets and 14 towns of the region, including Šalčininkai and Eišiškės. The yesterday decision of Vilnius Regional Administrative Court is another of several hits against the right of residents to bilingual street signs. Poles constitute about 80% of all residents.
The dispute over Polish street signs in the region has continued for several years. The Director of Administration has already been sentenced to a fine because he refused to remove Polish street signs.
The fight over the street signs escalated especially during the term of the previous centre-right coalition led by the conservatives, however, the Cabinet representative in Vilnius Municipality was a left-wing politician, Jurgis Jurkevičius. At end of the previous year he was replaced by a conservative, Audrius Skaistys, who now represents the interests of the centre-left Cabinet led by social democrats. The yesterday decision can serve as a proof that the change of the government has not influenced the Cabinet’s attitude towards the bilingual street sings in regions where substantial Polish communities reside.
Let us remind you that the administration of Vilnius region Municipality (Poles constitute about 60% of all residents here) is pursued by the court because of Polish street signs. The residents of the region fix the street signs on their houses as a sign of protest against the authorities that limit their right to use their native language.
Algirdas Butkevičius, the current Prime Minister, said that his Cabinet, which include representatives of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania [Polish: Akcja Wyborcza Polaków na Litwie; AWPL], guaranteed Poles the right to bilingual street signs. This issue is supposed to be regulated by the Law on National Minorities which is being prepared in the Ministry of Culture.
At the beginning of the year 2013 the Vice-Minister of Culture and a representative of AWPL, Edward Trusewicz, said that the right to the bilingual streets sings and original spelling of Polish surnames would be a priority of his work. This statement was criticized by the Prime Minister who described it as premature and reminded the Vice-Minister that his duty was to work on the Cabinet policy.
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.