- April 17, 2013
Repressions in Lithuania appal Brussels
More and more of disturbing information about the treatment of the Polish minority in Lithuania reaches Brussels. The treatment is incompatible with European standards. After all, the philosophy of the EU is the slogan “United in diversity”.
The Lithuanian approach to multi-ethnicity is so outdated, so full of prejudice and hang-up, and smelling of chauvinism that some of European Parliament members intend to take official measures in that matter. The situation in Lithuania is even more disturbing if one thinks about the fact that on July 1 Lithuania takes over the leadership of the EU for six months.
Striking violation of rights of the Polish national minority still goes on in Lithuania. Apart from the attack on the Polish education system in the Vilnius Region and the prohibition against writing last names using the original spelling, there appeared more violent actions against the Polish community in communes, where the Polish minority makes up 90% of all the inhabitants. I will only mention that in the Šalčininkai region Poles make up 80% of all the inhabitants and in the Vilnius region – 60%. Both self-governments are managed by regional civil servants belonging to the Polish national minority in Lithuania.
Recently, administrative and executive measures that are incompatible with European standards were taken against the managers of both regions. High fines were imposed on them for not removing bilingual street names notices, hanging on private houses of inhabitants (sic!). Ms Lucyna Kotłowska, the manager of the Vilnius Region, has been fined many times and the fines imposed by the Administrative Court were up to the sum of a thousand litas. And it was all done on request of a representative of the Lithuanian government. Presently, as a result of actions taken by an attorney-in-fact of the Lithuanian government and a debt collector, the administrative court demanded from Ms Kotłowska an information about her financial and material situation, in order to impose a fine of a thousand litas for each day (!) of delay in fulfilling the order to remove bilingual street names notices from houses of inhabitants of the region. The fine is to be enforced from the private property of the director of the Vilnius Region. The situation is getting dramatic, since it is a kind of repression and threatening the Polish community; it is also an attempt to destroy financially the people serving in the self-government. Similar administrative measures were taken against Mr Bolesław Daszkiewicz, manager of the Šalčininkai region.
This situation, which is extraordinary in the European Union, violates European standards in the area of protection of national minorities’ rights included, for instance, in the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities, The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Polish-Lithuanian treaty. It is also a blatant example of national discrimination. I will remind you that Lithuanian minority in Poland enjoys many freedoms, including the right to have bilingual names of cities. It shows the proper attitude of Poland to matters of national minorities. On the Lithuanian side we still miss mutuality.
In corridors of the European Parliament the opinion that the matter should be discussed during the Lithuanian presidency becomes popular. Does a country that violates minorities’ rights and does not follow European standards have the moral right to lead the whole EU? I am sure that this matter will be discussed in the Parliament. I am also positive that the harm done to Polish self-government members will unite people of good will around them, who will support them spiritually and financially until the time comes when discrimination ends and morality begins in Lithuania.
Dr. Bogusław Rogalski, political scientist
Advisor of the European Conservatists and Reformers Gropu for International Matters.
Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.