- February 17, 2014
Tusk: We are waiting for Lithuania’s decision
The polish-lithuanian idyllic relationship seems to be gone. The unofficial “non-agression pact” accepted unilaterally by the polish side for the time of Lithuania’s presidency in EU died out.
In Warsaw we can hear keener and keener words about the Vilnius power. Accusations and claims intensify also in the other way round, they were actually heard also during the lithuanian presidency. All of it was supposed to be different, because even in the beginning of February, after the meeting of the heads of the Baltic countries and Poland in Tallin governments, the lithuanian premier Algirdas Butkevičius said with unhidden optimism that he had got an invitation for the meeting from his polish colleague, the premier Donald Tusk.
Later on, from the Olympic Games opening in Sochi the premier Butkevičius said with the same enthusiasm that he looks forward to meet Tusk as soon as possible and that they check the premiers’ calendars so that the meeting can happen very soon.
The lithuanian premier’s optimism was abated by the words of the polish foreign affairs minister Radosław Sikorski.
“It’s very nice of the lithuanian premier to be willing to meet and talk but it would be even nicer if Lithuania could solve one of the 20-year-old problems”, minister Sikorski commented lithuanian premier’s expectations.
A few days later Sikorski was even keener in his speech.
“In Europe we talk to each other all the time. What is missing is lithuanian decision to treat the polish minority according to European standards” – said the head of the polish diplomacy on the air of the Polish Radio 1st Programme.
Lithuanian politicians and media didn’t care abut his words. They found it as an another attack of the disapproving towards Lithuania head of polish diplomacy.
But soon after that Vilnius power could see that the minister’s words are not only his private opinion. Lately we could hear similar speech of the Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who admitted that during the prime ministers’ summit in Tallin he talked to his lithuanian colleague about possibilities of the bilateral meeting. However, Tusk said that he had already been meeting and talking to various lithuanian premiers and its president earlier but these talks did not help to solve any problem of the polish minority in Lithuania.
“The meeting. I would like such a meeting and such a conversation, it will make sense when finally the other side will also show their will. Let’s not deceive ourselves: the presidential election is approaching. I don’t want to provide such an excuse: ‘prime ministers met, which means that everything is fine “, because it is not right” – said the head of the Polish government last week. He added also that the polish side will be waiting for decisions, or at least some signals that will convince that the prime ministers meeting will be the beginning of good changes when it comes to the situation of Poles in Lithuania, not just an attempt to show good will with no results from it. Tusk said that, in a diplomatic way, the polish government will ask its lithuanian colleagues whether the meeting will seriously become the beginning of positive changes, or it will be just another meeting, of which nothing will result. Such a statement of the polish Prime Minister may result not only from the position of the polish Foreign Affairs Ministry and its head, minister Radoslaw Sikorski, but also from Tusk’s own experience.
Almost a year ago, on the 12th of February 2013, his first meeting with the new lithuanian president, Algirdas Butkevičius, took place. He assured that his government was determined to solve the problems of the polish minority and declared that in the near future the Act of Minorities, on which a special group of people was working then, would be adopted.
“I was really impressed by the determination of the Prime Minister and his belief that the effects of the work of this team would be an essential step in solving these not always easy problems (…). It seems that the nearest future should be better for the polish-lithuanian relations than all these years that are behind us” – said the premier Tusk after the meeting with Butkevičius one year ago. Today he know that the optimism about the act was exaggerated, the situation of the polish minority is not better. What is more, the lithuanian courts have begun to use drastic restriction for the use of polish language.
For many observers, the latter situation in the polish-lithuanian relations mean a new branch of conflict, which may be intensified by the rhetoric of the forthcoming presidential elections in Lithuania and parliamentary elections in Poland in 2015.
Prof. Alvydas Jokubaitis, the head of the Theory and Policy Department of Vilnius University, a member of the polish-lithuanian the Jerzy Giedroyc Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation, admitts that the election period is a constant determinant of polish-lithuanian relations, but notices that this determinant does not change their current status. Also, our interlocutor does not treat the Sikorski’s and Tusk’s statements in the context of “deteriorating relationship”.
-It’s not a new situation cause the position of the polish side has been known for a long time. The expectations formulated in the media have also been known for a long time. The only unknown thing is still the position of the lithuanian side. Only when we have known it, we can judge what direction we are heading for – says the professor. According to him, the position of the Vilnius authorities about the polish demands remains a great unknown.
We still don’t know what we want and what we can do because the President’s Office says one thing and the government says another. Also the Sejm gives different opinions. That’s why we don’t know the position of the Lithuania about the national minorities – says our interlocutor. In his opinion, the situation may become clear only after the expected verdict of the Constitutional Court about writing names, but eventually the position of Lithuania will be known after the presidential elections.
The polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk does not share the optimism of his lithuanian colleague Algirdas Butkevičius that their meeting will solve the problems of lithuanian Poles by itself.
Tłumaczenie by Magdalena Kaczmarek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Magdalena Kaczmarek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.