• June 12, 2015
  • 331

Members of European Parliament appeal to the Prime Minister of Lithuania about schools for minorities

Over the last decade, several dozen Polish schools in Lithuania have been closed. Currently, because of the education reform, 17 national minorities’ schools in Lithuania, including 10 Polish schools, are prone to become defunct or degraded.

On 1st June, which was the International Children’s Day, a piquet in defence of the education of national minorities took place outside the building of the Lithuanian Government, while on 3rd June in minorities’ schools a warning strike called “empty desks strike” came about.

On the other hand, a subsequent session of  The European Parliament Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages took place in Strasburg yesterday, on 11th June. The deliberations were devoted to issues concerning Polish education in Lithuania at the request of the co-chairmen of the Intergroup, Spanish MEP Jordi Sebastià, Nils Torvalds from Finland, and Kinga Gal from Hungary.

A member of the Intergroup, MEP Waldemar Tomaszewski, who also is the leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, presented the current problems concerning the attempts of limitations and liquidations of national minorities’ schools in Lithuania to the people present at the meeting.

In relation to the shocking situation which came into being as a result of the actions taken by the Lithuanian authorities, 60 MEPs from 13 European Union countries, who represent all political fractions of the European Parliament, submitted a firm protest to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania.

The content of the letter submitted to the Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius is published below.

“Algirdas Butkevičius

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania

Dear Prime Minister, as members of the European Parliament, who uphold the rights and freedoms of citizens, we are observing the situation which is taking place in Lithuania with great concern and we strongly object to the limitations of rights of national minorities, especially in terms of education, which should be particularly protected by national institutions. An attempt of liquidation of a dozen high schools which had classes taught in Polish, one of the languages of minorities, is unacceptable from the European point of view, and it is inconsistent with the spirit of the community law. The Treaty of Lisbon lays explicit emphasis on promoting multilingualism, multiculturalism, and multiethnicity. Moreover, The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages strongly support the matter of education of national minorities. As a member of the European Union, Lithuania should apply the European standards in the protection of national minorities’ laws area in the first place, and should cease the actions which bear all the hallmarks of discrimination. We appeal to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania to increase the legal protection of all national minorities and to cease the actions heading to the liquidation of schools teaching in Polish.

Since Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004, the situation of national minorities in the country, including the Polish minority, has gotten much worse. Not only is it about anti-Polish sentiment found in the media or in the statements of some politicians, but it also concerns legislative limitations on the rights of national minorities. Namely, in 2010 there was a huge regress in this field, as the national minorities’ law was revoked, and a new one has not yet been enforced.

Another part of restrictions on national minorities is the area of education. Back in 2011, despite multiple protests and against the will of 60 000 citizens who put their signatures, an amendment of the education law was implemented, and, as a result, it limited the rights of national minorities in terms of education in their mother tongue on a big scale. Apart from problems such as not printing course books in native languages or reducing the funding of school equipment for the pupils belonging to national minorities, the unification of the Lithuanian language exam was a heavy blow. Such discriminating amendment had been enforced in spite of the fact that the students attending schools for national minorities had 800 hours less of Lithuanian language classes than their peers from Lithuanian schools, and therefore the results of maturity exams taken by the Polish students were much worse.  Because of the notorious limitations on national minorities’ rights in the past ten years, several dozen Polish schools in Lithuania were either closed or degraded.

Currently, within the so-called school reorganisation, a dozen educational establishments providing tutelage for students belonging to national minorities’, attending classes 1-12, is prone to become defunct.  Parents and school communities adamantly object to this sort of actions. The authorities are lingering to accredit Polish schools, which initiates a lot of concern and disturbs in continuation of a normal educational process. Parents and students are indignant at the ensuing situation, which is why a warning strike has recently taken place, during which they demanded to accelerate the accreditation of schools for national minorities.

Dear Prime Minister, in the 21st century Europe caring for the respect of national minorities’ rights is the way to measure the level of democracy. Thus, we call the Government of the Republic of Lithuania to take greater care of the protection of minorities’ rights and to cease the liquidation process of schools against the will and vested interests about the Polish national minority in Lithuania.

Strasburg, 10.06.2015

2. Peter van DALEN
3. Bogusław LIBERADZKI
4. Elżbieta Katarzyna ŁUKACIJEWSKA
6. Mirosław PIOTROWSKI
9. Jarosław WAŁĘSA
10. Pál CSÁKY
11. Robert Jarosław IWASZKIEWICZ
12. György SCHÖPFLIN
13. Tatjana ŽDANOKA
14. László TŐKÉS
15. Liadh NÍ RIADA
16. Andrejs MAMIKINS
17. József NAGY
18. Yana TOOM
19. Josep-Maria TERRICABRAS
20. Andor DELI
21. Andrea BOCSKOR
22. Jordi SEBASTIÀ
23. Dariusz ROSATI
24. Jarosław KALINOWSKI
25. Bogdan Brunon WENTA
26. Stanisław OŻÓG
28. Marek JUREK
31. Krystyna ŁYBACKA
32. Janusz ZEMKE
33. Andrzej GRZYB
34. Bolesław G. PIECHA
35. Marek Józef GRÓBARCZYK
36. Zbigniew KUŹMIUK
37. Adam GIEREK
38. Krzysztof HETMAN
40. Czesław Adam SIEKIERSKI
42. Kazimierz Michał UJAZDOWSKI
43. Valdemar TOMAŠEVSKI
45. Csaba SÓGOR
49. Bogdan Andrzej ZDROJEWSKI
50. Jadwiga WIŚNIEWSKA
53. Dawid Bohdan JACKIEWICZ
54. Karol KARSKI
55. Ryszard CZARNECKI
56. Tomasz Piotr PORĘBA
57. Daniel DALTON
58. Anthea McINTYRE

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

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