- January 28, 2016
The Subcommittee on Polish Minority in Lithuania to be formed in the Polish Parliament
Establishing of a long-term programme of students exchange between Lithuanian and Polish schools, supporting Polish schools in Lithuania in their efforts to gain accreditation and establishing the Subcommittee on Poles in Lithuania are the decisions made at the Committee on Connection with Poles Abroad meeting held today in the Polish Parliament. The condition of Polish education in Lithuania was the main concern of the meeting.
“For us, Polish education in Lithuania is a very important issue. Being a vice minister of Foreign Affairs, I am responsible for the Polish family abroad. I have visited Poles in Lithuania two times during the 2 months of holding office. For us, the issue of education is the priority, we will not give up. It is one of the rights granted for all of the EU citizens, for all inhabitants of the Council of Europe member-states, these are also the rights acknowledged in the treaty between Poland and Lithuania of 1994,” said the vice minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Dziedziczak.
“There is a vision, a strategy and willingness to act. We won`t give up the issue of Polish education in Lithuania. Poles in Lithuania should expect a confident assistance on the part of Poland,” highlighted Dziedziczak.
Representatives of different political parties of the Polish parliament, non-government organizations, and Polish media in Lithuania took part in the meeting.
“Representatives of different formations: the coalitiona, the ruling majority, and the opposition expressed their opinions. We listen to those voices and with great attention realize the Government`s policy, which is constituted by the ruling majority of the Law and Order party. I think that the formation is well acknowledged by the Poles in Lithuania and I would like to note that during the holding the office of the Prime Minister in Poland by Jarosław Kaczyński many important issues for the Poles in Lithuania were solved; not to mention that the condition of Polish education in Lithuania was much better. There were successes, such as the establishment of the subsidiary of the Białystok University in Vilnius, which educates future leaders, the introduction of the Polish Card (Karta Polaka) or the purchase of the Pac Palace for the purpose of being the official Polish Embassy building in Vilnius,” summarized minister Dziedziczak.
We discussed the most urgent issues concerning Polish education in Lithuania, which condition has been getting worse since 2011. It is not a matter to be solved throughout one day, month, or one committee meeting; however, there is a possibility to take certain actions so as to direct our support. We decided that we will petition to the Ministry of National Education and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for establishing long-term programmes of students exchange between Polish-language Lithuanian schools and Polish Schools. Each Polish school in Lithuania should have its partner school in Poland. It will both support the formation of Polish identity in Lithuania and the contact with peers in Poland helping to extend the knowledge about the Polish minority in Lithuania – its problems and successes – among Polish students,” said Michał Dworczyk, the chairman of the Committee on Connection with Poles Abroad.
“The second matter we will petition for to both departments is the issue of the strongest possible support of the fight for gaining the accreditation of seven Polish schools in Lithuania: four in Vilnius and three in neighboring regions. According to us, it is one of the most urgent issues. These matters should be closed by 2017. I know that three cases has already been brought to court, whereas the rest of the cases are adjudicated by the Lithuanian administration. We think that the schools should be supported by our diplomacy and the Ministry of National Education,” Dawidowczyk pointed out.
“The third issue: we decided at and petitioned to the Presidium of the Sejm for forming a subcommittee on Polish minority in Lithuania: permanent for this term of Parliament. The subcommittee is going to consist of seven members. It will work up to the end of this term. It will focus on cooperation with the Polish minority in Lithuania, support the Polish Government`s policy supporting the Poles in the Vilnius Region, and will be engaged in a dialogue with Lithuanian politicians so as to persuade them to respect the European standards in respect to the Poles in Lithuania,” – said parliamentary representative, Michał Dworczyk.
In the committee meeting took part Grzegorz Chorąży, a vice president of the Strategy and International Relations Department of the Ministry of National Education.
“The Polish environments in Lithuania suggest that the turning point in the policy was the Education Act of 2011. It was a distressing step for the Polish minority in Lithuania. Our compatriots claim that the changes are discriminatory, conflicting with the idea of equal educational opportunities,” Chorąży pointed out.
A representative of the Ministry of National Education informed about the help given to the Polish schools in Lithuania by the department. It includes, among others, creating opportunities for obtaining higher qualifications by teachers, organizing summer camps for students or equipping Polish schools with books.
At the meeting representatives of the Polish media were given a voice.
“I am very glad that the Polish Government and Parliament from the very beginning actively supported the Polish minority in Lithuania interests. The issue of Polish education is fundamental also for us, representing the media. If Polish schools disappear, we will neither have readers nor listeners nor watchers. We are in the state of permanent fight therefore it is nothing extraordinary that some parents choose the schools that are not in the state of siege: endangered by reorganization or liquidation. We have gone through different phases of Polish policy concerning Polish-Lithuanian relations, I am glad that the current government has already seen to the issue at the beginning of its office. The key to success is, however, on the Lithuanian side,” pointed out the chief editor of Kurier Wileński, Robert Mickiewicz.
The general president of the Znad Wilii Radio, Mirosław Juchniewicz, suggested, on the other hand, that it is important to work out a long-term strategy for the progress of Polish education in Lithuania, taking into consideration the low birth rate and decline in the number of Poles in Lithuania.
“Maybe establishing a higher number of pre-school groups in schools would be a right solution for encouraging to choose Polish schools. Thanks to it, Polish pupils would automatically attend the first grade in a Polish school after their pre-schooling,” said Juchniewicz, quoting the unfavorable numbers – Polish pre-school groups in Vilnius attend currently 498 children, whereas Russian – 918 children.
Translated by Julia Siepak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.