• December 11, 2015
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Deputy Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland Maria Koc visited Vilnius County Municipality

On Friday 11 December, a meeting attended by Deputy Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland Maria Koc, her delegation and leaders of the Polish community in Lithuania took place. The gathering was organized in the residence of Vilnius County Municipality.

The guests were greeted by the Mayor of Vilnius County Municipality Maria Rekść, who briefly introduced the local government.

The visit to Lithuania is the first official foreign  trip for M. Koc as a Deputy Marshal. She emphasised the importance of this visit which, according to her, enables her to meet Poles in Lithuania.

“We, in the Senate, are perfectly aware of the situation of Poles in Lithuania. We are very thankful to you for preserving Polishness, the Polish language, caring for Polish schools and your enormous activity” – said the Deputy Marshal, who also assured that more visits from representatives of Polish authorities in Lithuania are being planned. She also guaranteed that the problems of the Polish minority are going to be mentioned during those meetings. The Deputy Marshal M. Koc announced that the new authorities in Poland are ready to support the actions of Polish communities which aim to solve the problems for Poles.

The leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Member of the European Parliament Waldemar Tomaszewski stressed that Poles constitute a majority in 40 districts in Lithuania. He enumerated basic problems that the Polish minority deals with and emphasized that the Polish community does not have easy conditions. Still, despite hard conditions, the community is successful in many ways, its activity creates a belief that Poles are trendy: the EAPL has their own 8-person parliamentary club in the Parliament of the Republic of Poland as well as a ruling majority in the Municipalities of Vilnius County and Šalčininkai County, 10 people in the Vilnius City Council.

“We are trying to cooperate with other national minorities, but Poles are the leaders of this minority movement” – said W. Tomaszewski. He also added that EAPL is not an ethnic but a regional movement which is trying to represent the whole region.

Tomaszewski stressed that the stronger the position of the Poles, the bigger the attempts to counter their success. Nevertheless, Poles in Lithuania have successfully been setting a good example for the Poles living in other countries outside Poland.

During the meeting, the topic of the endangered Polish education in Lithuania was mentioned. A hope for the defence of Polish education was expressed. “I believe that together, and with the support of Poland, we will be able to solve those problems. We are grateful for the foregoing help and support in protecting Polish schools” – said the leader of EAPL.

In connection with the proposal to restore the care, including finances, of Poles abroad to the Senate of the Republic of Poland, the leader of EAPL said: “The Senate has always cared about Poles in Lithuania, I hope the tradition of the Senate taking care of Poles abroad will be continued.”

“A great success” – said the Deputy Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland Maria Koc about the series of successes of the Polish minority including the fact that Mayor Maria Rekść has been chosen for the position of Mayor of Vilnius County four times in a row by direct election. “Poles both in Lithuania and in Poland can be proud that the Polish community in Lithuania has such great leaders” – said the Deputy Marshal M. Koc and declared that the contacts, visits and cooperation between the Polish authorities and Poles in Lithuania will become stronger. “You will have the support” – assured the Deputy Marshal.

The meeting was organized on the initiative of the Deputy Marshal of the Republic of Poland and was meaningful in terms of contacting Poles in Lithuania and the willingness of the Municipality to include Vilnius County in the promotion of the Great Lithuanian Highroad Warsaw-Vilnius. “This project can be important for cooperation between Poland and Lithuania and the regions of Masovia, Podlachia and Vilnius” – emphasized M. Koc, who is one of the main advocates for the reopening of the trail.

The Great Lithuanian Highroad goes partly though Vilnius County. A number of people and organizations in Poland have been working on the reactivation of the trail for a number of years. They want to invite the administration of the Vilnius County Municipality and local groups to participate in the project.

The main idea is to restore the significance of the trail, increase touristic development in the regions located along the trail and strengthen the cooperation between the two nations and local communities.

The member of the management of the Local Touristic Agency Great Lithuanian Highroad Barbara Tekieli stressed that cuisine unites people and spoke about the promotion of the trail by organizing a Taste Tournament at Liw Castle, which could be a culinary journey on the trail of the Great Lithuanian Highroad. She pointed out the educational and cultural factors of this project and emphasized the importance of engaging teenagers in the project and promoting the trail via the internet and by using social media.

The leader of the EAPL in the Polish Parliament Rita Tamašunienė who, before becoming a MP, used to work as a Deputy Headmaster of the Vilnius County Municipality and specialized in culture and tourism, pointed out that there are many possibilities for cooperation within the framework of the project as there are many institutions which could cooperate with their equivalents in Poland and promote the trail.

The meeting was attended by: Deputy Mayor of Vilnius County Municipality Czesław Olszewski, councilman Antoni Feliks Stankiewicz, Chief of Administration Lucyna Kotłowska, the leader of the Local Group of Action of the Vilnius County Wioleta Jankauskiene.

Members of the delegation which arrived with the Deputy Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland: Deputy Mayor of Węgrowo Leszek Radosz, Mayor of the Dobre County Tadeusz Gałązka, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Union of the Senate of the Republic of Poland Arkadiusz Bereza.

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

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