• June 26, 2014
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Lithuanian political scientists: it is a bad time to adopt laws on national minorities

National minorities organize pickets again – the first protest in a long time took place on Wednesday outside the German Embassy. Meanwhile, adopting laws on national minorities and on spelling of surnames in the Seimas is still in deadlock. The laws are correct, but it is not a good time now to work on them – this is how most Lithuanian political scientists assess the issue.

„We waited patiently for authorities to solve our problems, but today we know that without mediating between countries we are not able to solve these problems which are very common in the European Union” – people protesting in defense of the rights of national minorities outside the German Embassy said yesterday.

Is there really no hope of reaching a settlement on the Lithuanian political scene? Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL), a party that holds a majority in the coalition and declares its support for adopting the laws important to national minorities, all of a sudden removes the draft law from agenda. What is that – a boycott, a betrayal, maneuvering between the opponents and supporters of the law? And maybe, as social democrats themselves claim, just waiting for a better time?

„There is some justification for all these versions as hypotheses and there is some truth in them. However, in these circumstances, that is before swearing-in the president and official dissolution of government social democrats probably decided that they should wait. On one hand they have to promise and declare, on the other hand, however, it is risky to adopt a law that the president wants to veto. It might lead to many complications during forming a government” – Antanas Kulakauskas, a historian, political scientist, lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas says.

Tomas Janeliūnas, a lecturer at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of the Vilnius University, journalist, editor of political periodicals takes similar stand on the issue.

„Backstage plots really show that the politicians who present the draft law do not strive to make other politicians read it as soon as possible. Perhaps it results from the fact that the draft will not now draw support in the Seimas that is necessary for adopting the law. Secondly, in a faction of social democrats itself there might be diverse opinions and it is, therefore, hard to find a common solution. That is why it is “safer” to postpone this issue until fall” – the political scientist indicates.

Lithuanian experts believe it is unlikely that social democrats “maliciously” strive to boycott the draft laws.

„It is theoretically possible that the politicians make promises they are not going to fulfill. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the social democrats – and at least most of them – who in various circumstances supported the laws that guarantee the rights of national minorities, will oppose them all of a sudden. It is more about the aspects of domestic policy. All the more that the issues which are supposed to be discussed by the Seimas are not so easy. It is likely that there will be other attempts at turning to the Constitutional Court. We also need more active discussions with society” – A. Kulakauskas says.

Meanwhile, last week the Seimas’ Human Rights Committee approved a draft Law on National Minorities submitted by the EAPL. However, a regulation on bilingual inscriptions was removed. Jarosław Narkiewicz, the vice-president of the Seimas said in the conversation with “Radio Znad Wilii” that social democrats yielded to pressure exerted by conservatives. According to stronger opinions the EAPL has even been “betrayed” and “deceived” by its coalition partners. Some people also show their impatience – what for does the Polish party remain in the coalition if it fails to achieve anything? Lithuanian political scientists take the same stand – after leaving the coalition there would be no opportunities to achieve its objectives.

„EAPL will certainly not hurry to leave the coalition. If they leave it, they will be all the more unable to achieve their objectives. Of course many people are outraged since the issue has been postponed for too long” – Tomas Janeliūnas stresses.

The word „party” itself contains a term “part”, “fragment”. It is obvious that the parties have some self-interest. Public interest is represented in a multi-party system. The main task of authorities is, therefore, to strive for agreement, to strive to achieve their objectives through negotiations. The parties being a part of the coalition stand a better chance of it” – A. Kulakauskas recaps.

Translated by Martyna Kołtun within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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