- April 7, 2014
Polish-Lithuanian Academy: The problem of civil society concerns entire Lithuania, not only the Vilnius region
One of the organizers of the international meeting “Polish-Lithuanian Academy”, Mariusz Antonowicz believes the meeting needs to be judged positively since the Polish people learned more about Lithuania and the Lithuanian people discovered more about the Vilnius region.
„The meeting was beneficial for three reasons. Firstly, the Polish side learned more about Lithuania and the Lithuanian side discovered more about the border areas, that is about the Vilnius region. Secondly, both sides developed new contacts. Thirdly, Lithuania became a research object of some of the participants from the Polish side. Academic interest appeared” – M. Antonowicz explained to zw.lt. The meeting took place on April 3rd-6th.
Over a few days the discussions and the meetings with Lithuanian politicians and political scientists were held in the Vilnius region. Field trips were also organized. The conference participants visited the places like Šalčininkai or Bareikiškės. There was a wide range of the topics discussed, starting from the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty and ending with the Eastern Partnership and the current situation in Ukraine. One of the meetings was devoted to Józef Mackiewicz.
Nevertheless, most discussions boiled down to the problems connected with the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania. “I think it is normal since these issues are an obstacle to the cooperation between those two countries. It is about the issue of bilingual inscriptions or the Law on National Minorities. As long as these issues are not resolved, even minimally, it is hard to talk about the improvement of relations” – M. Antonowicz emphasized.
Lack of civil society
One of the last discussions was held in Šalčininkai and was devoted to civil society in the Vilnius region. The representatives of the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) as well as a lawyer and a blogger Aleksander Radczenko were supposed to take part in the discussion. Unfortunately, EFHR representatives were not able to arrive at the Saturday’s meeting in Šalčininkai. That is why A. Radczenko presented to the assembled guests his own vision concerning social activity in the Vilnius region and among the local Polish people.
According to the blogger, civil society should meet several conditions: a certain group of citizens who want to take actions to support their community acts within non-profit and social organizations as well as associations that are independent from the authorities. “So as I am saying that the Vilnius region lacks civil society, it is connected with the fact there are many Polish organizations in Lithuania but usually they are not independent. Currently there are several dozen such organizations. The biggest one is the Association of Poles in Lithuania that has 12,000 members and received the biggest income tax deductions. However, it does not mean that is a civil society organization because, just like most Polish organizations, it is dependent to some extent on the Polish party, that is the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. The members of the Electoral Action are mostly the members of the Association of Poles in Lithuania or other professional organizations, they are also employed in the local government” – A. Radczenko said. The journalist added that the Polish organizations obviously took positive actions that bore the marks of civil society, but “all of this functions within a certain political campaign”.
A. Radczenko also said that for some time we could notice certain initiatives that had the qualities of civil society. It is influenced by the Internet. For some time in different places in the Vilnius region (Eišiškės, Nemenčinė, Riešė) Internet initiatives have been undertaken in order to try to control the local authorities’ actions. According to the blogger, sometimes they are somehow successful. “Some sort of Polish-Lithuanian communities are being developed. Poles and Lithuanians form the groups which, in my view, create conditions for civil society that will develop in the Vilnius region sooner or later. The truth is that it does not matter if a person in power is a Pole, a Lithuanian or has some other nationality. What really matter is if a particular person is competent and supports local community” – A. Radczenko explained.
To recapitulate his mini-lecture, A. Radczenko emphasized that the problem of civil society concerned not only the Vilnius region, but entire Lithuania. Only 10% of the citizens are involved with non-profit organizations.
The international academic meeting was organized by the “RePublica” Students’ Association and the Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science. The patronage over the event has been taken by the Polish Institute in Vilnius. About 20 students from Poland and Lithuania took part in the meeting.
The Academy wants to stay involved and plans to organize next meetings. “Next fall we plan to organize a meeting in Cracow. If the Lithuanian side is concerned, a similar meeting will take place as soon as in the next academic year” – M. Antonowicz informed zw.lt .
Tłumaczenie by Martyna Kołtun w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Martyna Kołtun within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.