• August 7, 2014
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One more postponement of the Law on Minorities and Surnames

Yesterday, July 10, the Parliament again postponed examining of the projects of the Law on national minorities and Law on spelling non-Lithuanian surnames.

Both projects and also alternative project of the Law on writing surnames by conservative Valentinas Stundys, the Parliament had to examine in the first reading during the morning meeting. However, earlier voting for other laws postponed the process of legislation important for national minorities. During the morning meeting deputies managed to adopt a few unfavorable for minorities suggestions by conservative deputies. To discussion of the projects the Parliament had to return during the afternoon reading but the majority voted for crossing out laws not examined during the morning meeting.

The first try of examining projects of laws that respond to the expectations of the national minorities the Parliament gave on last Tuesday. But then deputies also ‘ran out of time’ and did not discuss and vote. Work on updates was moved to Thursday meeting, but this time because of the lack of time deputies again did not manage to vote. Yesterday projects were excluded from the list of things to be examined on the meeting mainly by votes of conservatives – Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (pl. Związek Ojczyzny – Litewscy Chrześcijańscy Demokraci) and the Liberal Movement in Lithuania (pl. Ruch Liberalny Republiki Litewskiej). Both groups strongly opposed the approval of the laws guaranteeing the rights of national minorities, mainly in the use of double names in localities inhabited mainly by national minorities and spelling of Polish names in Lithuanian documents in their native language.

The Lithuanian Law on National Minorities was valid till 2010, when thank to efforts of the ruling conservative-liberal coalition was canceled. Then the government of Andrius Kubilius promised to prepare and adopt a new Law on Minorities and the Law Regulating Spelling of Polish Names. The first law never went out of the frame of constituted governmental working group; the second one – governmental – was rejected by the Parliament on April 8, 2011- the day of the last foreign visit in Vilnius in memory of the president Lech Kaczyński. New, central-left coalition that consists also of the members of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, EAPL (pl. Akcja Wyborcza Polaków na Litwie, AWPL) has not only given the promise of the previous government, but also included the acceptance of necessary for minorities laws to the governmental program that was approved by the majority in the Parliament at the end of 2012. However, since that time, parliamentary majority cannot find the majority to fulfill the promise and execute the resolutions of the governmental program.

Postponed yesterday project of the Law on National Minorities written by members of EAPL reflects legal regulation that was valid till 2010 and was accepted by the majority of conservative deputies. Today, conservatives are the largest opponents of that ‘duplicate’ of their law. They claim that it is contrary to the Constitution and suggest an alternative project which is sarcastically called among minorities ‘the project on limiting rights of national minorities’. Currently, oppositional conservatives together with liberals but not without the help of individual members of the ruling coalition are successfully scuttling the Lawon spelling non-Lithuanian surnames in Lithuanian passports.

Previously, their main argument was that the spelling of surnames in original language may be contrary to the Constitution. After the last explanation of the Constitutional Court that the spelling of the non-Lithuanian surnames is rationed not by the Constitution but by the Law that reflects the opinion of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, conservatives do not give up, suggesting instead of the original spelling of surnames on first page, the Polish spelling on further pages of the passport. According to the explanations of the Constitutional Court, such a record would not have any legal value and thus it can only be a decoration for passport.

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

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