- February 12, 2013
Polish-Lithuanian tension as Butkevičius visits Warsaw
Before the yesterday’s (February 12th) visit of Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius to Poland, the Ministry of Education and Science announced that the Minister of Education would sign a regulation facilitating the Lithuanian language matura exam for this year’s Polish graduates in Lithuania.
The standardised exam for both Lithuanian and minority schools was implemented by the infamous education act of 2011. The regulation (provided that it is signed) would constitute the first step of the new government towards realising the demands of the Polish minority in Lithuania. The first, but by far not the last, for the Polish list of demands includes a lot more important issues in the area of national minority rights, public finances and energy. This list of demands was discussed on Monday evening at the Political Council of the ruling coalition.
Prime Minister Butkevičius left the meeting of the Council quite content with the notion that a compromise concerning all the issues in question, including those presented by EAPL, had been reached.
Soon, however, during a press briefing, the Prime Minister was proved wrong. The leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Waldemar Tomaszewski, accused his coalition partners (the Labour Party and the Order and Justice) of not realising their previous promises.
“I do not see why we should stay in such a coalition,” stated Waldemar Tomaszewski last Monday. He announced that the party would soon decide whether EAPL remains in the coalition. Although last Monday Prime Minister Butkevičius was visibly taken aback by the announcement, yesterday he tried to calm down the public by asserting that Tomaszewski’s statement was only a PR move.
“It was said that some postulates had not been realised, but I believe that those postulates simply could not be realised in such a short period of time, which is two months. It is not a wishing well, but a government programme which needs to be consequently implemented. During the discussion (of the Political Council – editor’s note) the atmosphere was normal, but afterwards I was really surprised by his (Tomaszewski’s – editor’s note) speech addressed to journalists. I think it was more of a PR move,” asserted Algirdas Butkevičius during a yesterday’s interview. The prime minister also noticed that this “move” would generate talk about the leader of the Polish party before the meeting of Lithuanian and Polish prime ministers.
The meeting between Butkevičius and Donald Tusk was held yesterday evening. Even before the departure of the Lithuanian Prime Minister to the Polish capital, there were signs that in its relationship with Lithuania, Poland awaits a new beginning, but at the same time would not be dazzled by empty promises.
“Today I am host to the Prime Minister of Lithuania and a Pole, the Lithuanian Minister of Energy. A chance for greater synergy. So I hope,” tweeted Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radosław Sikorski, after analysing a previous visit of the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevičius, expressed that Poland anticipated specific actions on the part of Lithuania.
“I consider the visit of my Lithuanian friend in Warsaw satisfactory. We delineated what Poland can do for Lithuania, but we also enumerated what Lithuania can do for its Polish citizens,” said Sikorski. He emphasised, however, that a breakthrough in relations with Lithuania would come only if the planned programme “is implemented.” The Polish Foreign Minister stated that the Lithuanian Parliament had made an error by rejecting a compromising bill concerning the spelling of Polish surnames, for which Linkevičius already apologised to Poles. Sikorski pointed out that the next step after apologising should have been resolving the problem.
Meanwhile, the new Lithuanian government is not specific about when – or if – those errors will be fixed. So far, it was announced that the Lithuanian language exam for the Polish minority students would be easier. The Polish take this solution only as temporary because in the long-term perspective they want the education act of 2011 to be cancelled and the differentiated exam to be restored. Nonetheless, yesterday the Minister of Education, Dainius Pavalkis, said that the facilitations are implemented only for this year and that they will be withdrawn if this year’s graduates of minority schools pass the standardised exam with ease. According to the minister, there are no plans for cancelling the education act.
But the Polish minority is not only concerned with the exam, but also with the discriminating statement in the act which favours Lithuanian schools over minority ones.
Tłumaczenie Aleksandra Christ w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Aleksandra Christ the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.