- June 4, 2014
Grybauskaitė: The issue of bilingual street signs is delicate in the Russian context
The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė said in the interview to the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that the issue of bilingual street signs brought up by the Polish minority in Lithuania was “too delicate” in view of the Russian minority in Lithuania and in the Baltic states.
„As for the street names, I would like to remind that that is a very delicate issue not only in view of the Polish minority, but also the Russian one. In these circumstances we would also have to introduce the Russian language in some of the districts, so imagine the situation in Latvia and Estonia. Would Polish people like it if half of the inhabitants of Riga spoke Russian? (…) I want your politicians and the Polish society to understand that this issue is still too delicate. It is not about the Polish minority, but about the protection of our language and territories against some of our neighbors, especially now – against a neighbor who is quite nasty and unpredictable” – Grybauskaitė said to PAP on Wednesday.
Commenting on the opinion poll conducted in Lithuania on June 2nd which showed that almost 27 per cent of citizens consider Poland to be an unfriendly country, the President said it was a consequence of what happened over the last several years. “The pressure exerted on us by some of the Polish politicians and one of the leaders of the Polish party in Lithuania probably became too strong and that might influence public opinion” – she said.
At the same time she added that “many politicians on both sides acted irresponsible”. When asked what kind of actions she mean, she said that “there were many wrong assessments and demands voiced by the radicals on both sides”.
The Lithuanian President was persuading that the situation of the Polish minority in her country has not changed over the last years. When asked about the demand for legalizing the spelling of non-Lithuanian surnames, including Polish surnames, in original form in official documents, she stressed that the authorities are waiting for the decision of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, and that decision will settle the issue.
She declared that one of the aims of the Lithuanian government was to provide the Vilnius Region with economic support. The President also announced that during her second term of office which begins in July this year, she was going to visit the regions inhabited by the Polish minority.
The Lithuanian President strongly criticized the leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL) Waldemar Tomaszewski. She accused him of being “pro-Kremlin”, supporting the Russian President Wladimir Putin and the Russian occupation of the Crimea. She also said that the EAPL itself was a party “based on nationalism”. At the same time she conceded that a parliamentary faction of the EAPL was necessary for functioning of the current governmental coalition.
The Lithuanian President has been invited to Warsaw to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first free elections in Poland in 1989. On May 25th Grybauskaitė won the second round of presidential election in Lithuania and was re-elected for a second term as a head of the country.
Translated by Martyna Kołtun within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.