- July 24, 2013
Warsaw calls on Vilnius to uphold rights of Polish minority
Poland expects that the Lithuanian government will fulfil the obligations relating to the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania. The list of unsolved cases invariably includes the Polish spelling of proper names, the school system, and the restitution of land, said Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania.
Deputy Minister Mościcka-Dendys spoke to the MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Sejmas about the information gathered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and concerning Polish-Lithuanian relations.
According to Mościcka-Dendys, last year’s parliamentary election in Lithuania, which resulted in the coalition of Social Democrats and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, “have substantially changed the perspective“ of Polish-Lithuanian relations.
“After a series of meetings that took place at the beginning of this year among the heads of governments and among foreign affairs ministers, we expect that Algirdas Butkevičius’s government will fulfil the obligations concerning the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania undertaken during his electoral campaign and repeated during the February visits in Poland,” she stressed.
“The list of cases that remain unsolved has not changed since the signing of the Polish-Lithuanian Friendship and Cooperation Treaty in 1994,” emphasized the Deputy Foreign Minister. She also mentioned the issues such as the spelling of Polish surnames and topographical names, the school system, and the restitution of land to Polish people.
As the Deputy Minister stated, she has an impression that Butkevičius’s cabinet “is constructive in its attitude towards the Polish minority.” What is more, “in Lithuania, to put it midnly, there is an anti-Polish atmosphere,” she noticed.
The Deputy Minister also stressed that the government of the Republic of Lithuania and President Dalia Grybauskaitė use “a different rhetoric” in relation to Polish-Lithuanian relations.
According to Mościcka-Dendys, Polish-Lithuanian economic relations are very significant for Poland and have an influence on the mutual perception of both countries. “The data is impressive. Poland is one of the biggest investors in Lithuania. There are a lot of Polish economic entities in Lithuania. The most significant investment is the one made by PKN Orlen in Mažeikiai. “Orlen Lietuvos” is the biggest taxpayer for the Lithuanian budget,” she said.
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs also talked about the important role of Lithuania – which is presently holding presidency over the European Union – in the context of the November Eastern Partnership Summit, which will be held in Vilnius. Poland counts on signing the EU Treaty of Accession of Ukraine and sealing accession treaties with the countries that are presently pursuing negotiations with the EU.
Polish people in Lithuania have been grappling with the same problems for many years: they do not have the possibility of using bilingual – Polish and Lithuanian – names of streets and towns in the regions in which they live and of using the original spelling of Polish surnames in Lithuanian documents. They have problems with the Polish school system and the restitution of land in the city of Vilnius and in towns near Vilnius, whose rightful owners were predominantly our fellow countrymen. In the last weeks one could have noticed various gestures proving that some attempts for some improvement in the relations have already been made.
The programme of the new, centre-left Lithuanian government, in which one of the coalition members is the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, plans the legalisation of bilingual – both Polish and Lithuanian – names of towns and streets that are densely populated by the Polish national minority and the original spelling of Polish names in documents, as well as the re-viewing of some principles of the education act criticised by Polish people.
Polish Press Agency (PAP)
Tłumaczenie by Elwira Łykus w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Elwira Łykus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.