- April 4, 2014
Will “w” appear not only at signboards but also in passports of Poles?
Any day now, it will be allowed to use Polish “w” not only at the signboards, but also when writing Polish surnames in Lithuanian passports.
It is promised by a bill whose project was proposed in Sejm not by governing coalition but rather by a standing at its front The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania. This week, both the leader of Lithuanian social democrats and premier Algirdas Butkevičius promised the acceptance of the bill. During the meeting in Brussels with Polish colleague, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, he reassured that the Surnames Spelling Act would be accepted soon.
“Two days ago the bill of the original surnames spelling was registered in Sejm and I think that it will be accepted in this, or next month at the farthest” – Butkevičius informed.
Premier Tusk answered that, he is a “careful optimist” towards those guarantees, because as he has noticed, similar guarantees he has been hearing for six years, but until now Lithuanian side have not done much to achieve those promises.
“Time alone will tell,” said the representative Rita Tamašunienė, starost of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania fraction.
Careful optimism of her and premier Tusk has its argumentation, because four years ago similar project was already in Sejm and there were also guarantees that it would be accepted for sure, due to the fact that it was a constitutive initiative of a governing at that time conservative-liberal coalition, and project in parliament was presented by contemporary premier Andrius Kubilius. Nevertheless, the project was rejected already in the first reading, in the day when president Lech Kaczyński came to Vilnius. That was the last external visit of the tragically deceased president. Opponents of the project argued that it was in conflict with the Constitution.
Today, after four years of disputes and explanations, including the explanations of the Constitutional Court, that non-Lithuanian surnames spelling is not an assassination of the Constitution rules, opponents of the original Polish surnames spelling in Lithuanian identity cards have only political arguments. They explain that permission to allow Polish spelling threatens Lithuanian language, and even Lithuanian national interest. It seems though, that their arguments are being destroyed by a political will demonstrated by the majority of parliament, because some of the opposition grouping and particular opposition representatives are following this project of the bill.
Natheless, Lithuanian Poles have a huge distance to the optimism concerning surnames. They do remember not only affront of parliament when Kaczyński was in Lithuania, but also the previous ones, as for example, several years ago when Algirdas Brazauskas, a contemporary, deceased premier and as well, the leader of the social democrats, cancelled his mission to Warsaw, where it was supposed to be signed an agreement concerning the permission for the original spelling of Polish surnames in Lithuanian documents and in Polish identity cards.
At that time, Brazauskas declared that Lithuanian society would not accept such agreement, so he abandoned the idea of meeting in Warsaw. Later, there were also attempts of those who were ruling to validate original Polish surnames spelling in Lithuania. Those attempts, often initiated before elections, always ended up with a disaster or were simply forgotten after the elections.
This-year initiative of social democrats was timed to coincide with an ongoing presidential campaign and the campain to the European Parliament, what only intensifies the belief of Lithuanian Poles that for now, it is too early for optimism. They say though, that if the bill was accepted, it would be the first step to normalise the Polish-Lithuanian relations in not only Lithuania but also in the international dimension, however, it is the acceptance of Ethnic Minorities Act that is the main aim of Polish minority in Lithuania. This act would ration many debatable affairs, like using double topographic names, for what Lithuanian Poles are currently punished with the horrendous fines.
Representative Rita Tamašunienė commends the project of the Surnames Spelling Act, but she is afraid, that political will of those who govern may end on it.
“Surnames Spelling Act is a good initiative, but may it not end on it. We most care for Ethnic Minorities Act, but it still does not exist”, Rita Tamašunienė noticed during the interview in “Kurier”.
“There are guarantees of those who govern that this bill will be soon, meaning during this parliament session, accepted.
It was promised by chairwoman of Lithuanian Sejm, Loreta Graužinienė, during the visitation of the vice-marshalof the Polish Sejm, Cezary Grabarczyk, last week in Vilnius.
Then, during the meeting in Brussels, premier Butkevičius reassured Polish colleague that Ethnic Minorities Act would be prepared already in this month.
Accepted in 1989 and amended in early 1991, Ethnic Minorities Act was in force until 2010. Governing at that time, the conservative-liberal majority annonced the acceptance of a new bill, which is the reason why the operations of an old bill were not prolonged. New one has not been accepted until today. Representatives of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania want to “reanimate” the old bill until a project of a new rationing will be prepared and accepted.
Conservative-liberal opposition group objects it, supported by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.
President declared recently that this old bill accepted before 1993 (1993 being the time of enacting the present Constitution) is not possible to be accepted. However, neither president nor the right, which supports her, is not concerned with the fact that a bill which is non-sympathetic to Polish minority surnames spelling is also accepted before 1993.
Surnames Spelling Act is from 1991.
Tłumaczenie by Beata Kanadys w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Beata Kanadys within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.