• August 28, 2015
  • 160

Radczenko: Towards normality

Few weeks ago the Vilnius City Council introduced petitioner service in four languages: Lithuanian, English, Russian and Polish. It is something that the co-governing group EAPL could not do during six years of their ten year tenure.

At the very beginning of the process, a petitioner can choose in which language he wishes to receive information by selecting an appropriate country flag displayed on the terminal’s monitor. Names of the provided services are also translated, and on the table of every employee there is an informational label with appropriate flag indicating which language a certain worker speaks. Today (the 26th of August) the Lithuanian government legalised this practice, ultimately changing the Rules of Petitioner Service in Public Institutions approved through the government’s resolution number 875 from the 22nd of August 2007. From now, every Lithuanian public institution is free to choose the language in which it will provide service, with the consideration of its own needs and capabilities.

Obviously, the fundamental standards remain unchanged – the service of petitioners occurs in Lithuanian, but the amended Rules predict series of exceptions that were not considered until now. For example, the paragraph 21 of the document states that verbal petitions, complaints and requests can be submitted in a language that is understandable for the petitioner and for the office worker. If the petitioner does not know the state’s language and the institution does not have an employee that knows the petitioner’s language then the interested party should provide a translator unless he is provided by the institution. The paragraph 24 of the Rules states that, considering the functions of the institution and language capabilities of its employees, the institution’s director can decide that such petitions, complaints and requests will be accepted when filed in a language other than the official one (before, this exception was applied only to mail). Communication between Lithuanian institutions and the foreign ones can also be conducted in a foreign language, like it was before.

The initial project of the amendment prepared by the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania assumed even more “pro-minority” solutions. For example, written petitions not in Lithuanian were to be considered and translated into Lithuanian at the state’s or local-government’s expense in every institution, provided that they were written in a minority’s language that constituted no less than 5% of the overall Lithuanian citizens. Eventually, more compromising and less expensive model was picked. The one that would not require from the local-government in Telšiai to employ a Polish or a Russian language translator and, at the same time, to use not only Polish and Russian when communicating with petitioners. Anyway, multilingualism is being very slowly, but still, introduced to the Lithuanian public sphere.

Another good sign is the change of the Ministry of Justice’s position regarding dual citizenship. “The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania believes that the recently proposed question about dual citizenship which would be asked to the Lithuanian citizens during the upcoming referendum is too broad. The Ministry thinks that the dual citizenship should be available only to the people of the Lithuanian ethnicity”, one of the local Polish internet sites warned a few months ago, and the local nationalists claimed that this is of course #Radczenko’sFault (#winaRadczenki), even though he has not been working in the Ministry of Justice for years.

In reality, the Ministry stated in its opinion regarding the Seimas’ resolution project about the referendum that the dual citizenship should be reserved for citizens of Lithuanian ethnicity and others mentioned in the resolution (therefore not only Lithuanians). However, this opinion was named by the government’s lawyers and the Ministry of the Interior as a contradictory with the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania’s doctrine. Ultimately, a week ago (the 20th of August), the Lithuanian government accepted the corrected opinion of the Ministry of Justice and proposed to give dual citizenship to every citizen of the Republic of Lithuania by origin (that is those who got Lithuanian citizenship by birth and those who acquired it independently from ethnic origin) and – in a way of an exception – other people provided for in the resolution. As one can see, by discussing things with the use of arguments, not empty words, the most satisfying for everyone solution can be found. The solution that brings us closer, even if only a step, to normality.

Author: Aleksander Radczenko, rojsty.blox.pl/

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

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