• September 14, 2015
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Lithuanian government turns a deaf ear to Poland’s appeal

Last week was marked by significant engagement on the part of the Polish government with regard helping Polish schools and education in Lithuania.

The Sejm of the Republic of Poland voted in favour of the resolution on Polish education in Lithuania. Further, Polish Vice-Minister of Education Ewa Dudek came to talk with Lithuanian authorities.

Nevertheless, Lithuanians authorities seem disinterested by those actions. “We need to wait until the end of the elections in Poland,” said the Minister of Education of Lithuania, Audronė Pitrėnienė. She thinks that the Sejm’s resolution is just one element of the ongoing campaign for the Polish Parliament.

Of a similar opinion is Gediminas Kirkilas, the Vice Speaker of the Seimas of Lithuania and the Co-President of the Polish-Lithuanian Parliamentary Assembly. In his opinion, the Polish Ministers voted for the resolution without even knowing about the system of Polish Education in Lithuania. Kirkilas highlighted the lack of results stemming from the resolution and notes that little is said about reservations towards Lithuania. “Most probably the situation was not carefully examined, because there are no concrete signals that something is wrong,” said the Vice Speaker about the content of the Polish resolution. In his opinion, the statement made by the Government of Poland has no value and will not improve relations – which are already strained at the moment – between Poland and Lithuania. “Nothing special has changed because of that resolution. We will not see improved relations prior to the election of a new Parliament and the formation of a new Government, even if the trade and military activities endure.”

What is more, also difficult to understand was the intention of the Polish Vice Minister. On the one hand, she said that she worries about the Polish Education system in Lithuania – but on the other hand, she seemed to have “no reservations” in the eyes of her interlocutors.

“We worry about the situation of Polish society in Lithuania. Changes to Lithuania’s Education system brought about in 2011 made it difficult for graduates from Polish schools in Lithuania to continue their education at public universities,” said Ewa Dudek following a meeting with Lithuanian Vice Minister of Lithuania Genoveita Krasauskienė.

“As far as the unified Lithuanian language exam is concerned, there were some voices that expressed that it could be too difficult for Polish students who attend minority schools. However, when we presented  comparative exam analyses of Polish and Lithuanian students, the worries disappeared. There were no suggestions that we need to change something,” said Vice Minister Genoveita Krasauskienė to Lithuanian journalists.

During the meeting Ewa Duda asked Lithuanian contacts to re-establish researchers from a Polish-Lithuanian group of experts to assess the system of education for minorities. Those experts were called upon in 2011 when Donald Tusk intervened because of the problem concerning the system of education for minorities in Lithuania. At that time, the Lithuanian Seimas adopted an Education Act which successively made teaching in the mother tongue increasingly difficult.

Genoveita Krasauskienė responded that the Lithuanian department will discuss with minorities about the necessity to re-establish a group of experts.

The Lithuanian authorities have ignored Joanna Kluzik-Rostkwska’s concerns. On 2 September the Polish Minister of Education sent a letter to Audronė Pitrėnienė in which she asked Pitrėnienė to consider, once more, the pleas of Polish families in Lithuania. Kluzik-Rostkowska shared her concerns about the situation of Polish students in Lithuania.

“Polish students have a right to have the same rights as each minority in the European Union,” wrote the Polish Minister in her letter to her Lithuanian friend. In their replies to those requests the Lithuanian Education Authorities and Lithuanian government and Seimas representatives repeated that “no other country has as many Polish schools as Lithuania, excluding Poland of course” and that “in Lithuania, Poles can start their education in their mother tongue from nursery school and continue to university”. For that reason, Lithuania rejects the requests of the Polish minority representatives, marking that they do not agree with the statement that the number of Polish school in Lithuania has been reduced and that education in the mother tongue in those schools which still exist has become limited by law.

We would like to remind all that last week the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania adopted a separate law on the situation of the Polish Educational System in Lithuania – with 411 votes for and just 4 against.

“There have been some protests in the Polish schools in Lithuania in recent months. This is another dramatic manifestation of determination to save Polish culture and language. Poland and Lithuania share a long history. We must respect each other’s politics, society and culture. Both countries are members of the European Union and NATO. Those organizations uphold the state integrity and the rights of minorities, including rights concerned with ethnic identities, language, culture and education,” says the document.

Ministers of Poland appealed to ensure that the Polish minority has the possibility for education in their mother tongue.

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

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