- February 6, 2013
Experts: Not only words, smiles and handshakes are needed for a breakthrough (About the visit of the minister of foreign affairs of Lithuania in Poland)
February may turn out to be a critical month in Polish-Lithuanian relations. Today the visit of the minister of foreign affairs Linas Linkevičius in Poland begins, and a new Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius is visiting Warsaw next week.
Publicists and political scientists are rather moderate in their opinions, as far as the results of these visits are concerned. “What do I expect? I think that it is going to be an ice-breaking visit, all the more that the Lithuanian media failed to fully unravel the programme of the meeting and discussed issues” – told PL DELFI Jacek Jan Komar, a well-known Polish publicist in Lithuania.
The will of the relations’ improvement and new opening
However, experts emphasize that the will of the relations’ improvement is clearly visible on both sides. “There has not been such a month rich in Polish-Lithuanian meetings at the top level for a very long time. On 7th February the minister Linas Linkevičius is going to Warsaw, on 12th February – the Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, and on 16th February the president Bronisław Komorowski is arriving in Vilnius. It seems that the real will of warming up the previous run-of-the-mill relations between Poland and Lithuania exists on both sides. The meeting of ministers Linkevičius and Sikorski generally may be regarded as a historical one if the previous meeting of Polish and Lithuanian ministers of foreign affairs took place 4 years ago” – Aleksander Radczenko, a blogger and publicist explained his view to PL DELFI.
Andrzej Pukszto, a political scientist and the manager of the Politology Department at Vytanas Magnus University in Kaunas has a similar point of view. “So far there has not been even a handshake. It was especially visible in relations between ministers. Maybe this visit will not be something critical but one can speak about a new opening” – told PL DELFI Pukszto.
The end of “the cold war”?
Political scientists notice that after the first meeting the breakthrough is difficult to expect. “I think that the minister will repeat the words of the Prime Minister that the present government will do everything to improve these relations and declare the will to solve Polish minority’s problems. Moreover, Lithuania still hopes on the active participation of Poland in energetic and infrastructural projects. Anyway, taking into account what Polish politicians declared, these words are expected in Warsaw” – thinks Komar.
“I do not expect any breakthrough after this visit, because not only words, smiles and handshakes are needed for a breakthrough but, first of all, actions. The authorities of Lithuania should start solving the so-called Polish problems, particularly because it is the best time to do it. The Prime Minister’s rating is very high, EAPL is in the ruling coalition and it tries not to intensify any issue without cause. Such a political situation may not repeat any more. However, after the meeting of Linkevičius with Sikorski I expect a firm declaration that Polish-Lithuanian “cold war” is finished and both sides are ready to talk with each other and jointly look for ways of understanding”- adds Aleksander Radczenko.
“One can speak about a new opening. If there will be any new big steps? Maybe it is not worth counting on the quantum leap. However, if the “step by step” rule is applied something will change for sure” – thinks a political scientist Andrzej Pukszto.
Problems with relations
For years the Polish side has accused the Lithuanian one of not meeting its obligations. The double naming of streets and places and the original spelling of non-Lithuanian surnames are still not legalized in Lithuania. Poland also reminds that the process of the return of the land has not been completed, especially in the Vilnius Region and Vilnius where local Poles were the owners of real estates nationalized by Soviets. Warsaw and local Poles also protest against the amendment of Education Act which introduces the so-called unified Lithuanian language exam in all schools in Lithuania.
“We are for the withdrawal the articles of Education Act of 17th March 2011 concerning the unified Lithuanian language exam and conducting lectures in history, geography and civic education in Lithuanian in national minorities’ schools. We, the parents of Polish schools’ students, are convinced that neither from the pedagogical point of view nor common sense the unification is possible” – Forum of Parents from the Polish Schools in Lithuania has recently written in a special statement. “We are determined to fight for respectful treatment of our children and we will not allow to hurt them. We organized strikes and mass-meetings which we will organize with double force in the case if our requests are ignored” – it was written in the statement.
Next, recently Lithuanians living in Poland have accused the Polish state that Lithuanian schools are closed in Poland and students have to learn from Polish handbooks”. We want to tell the minister about our problems. In Sejny the situation with education is bad, it is deteriorating in Puńsk as well. This is connected with both decreasing number of students and faulty financing” – told the agency BNS the president of Lithuanian Community in Poland Jonas Vydra.
Problems with coalition members
Andrzej Pukszto thinks that Social Democrats really want the improvement of relations with Poland and local Poles. This was one of pillars of their election programme. According to the political scientist, the entrance of EAPL into the government shows it. “It means that the ruling party will have to take steps towards the improvement of Polish-Lithuanian relations” – thinks Pukszto.
How far the political scientist has rather no doubts concerning Social Democrats’ intentions in this matter, he is anxious of two other coalition members: “Order and Justice” (Tvarka ir teisingumas) and “Labour Party” (Darbo partija ).
The leader of Labour Party Wiktor Uspaskich stated before elections that he did not see any problems in education, while the party of Rolandas Paksas “flirted” with nationalistic environments many times. During the last parliamentary term of office the party “Order and Justice” organized a protest in front of the headquarters of the Self-Government of the Vilnius District Municipality against the discrimination of Lithuanians in this region. It is worth noticing that in the last term of office three EAPL’s members of parliament belonged to the parliamentary fraction of “Order and Justice”.
Tłumaczenie Barbara Szydłowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Barbara Szydłowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.