• February 10, 2016
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Lithuania and its new strategy concerning relationships with national minorities

Lithuania is planning to create a long-term strategy concerning the policy on national minorities. National minorities’ representatives are also going to take part in the process of drawing it up, Head of the Department of National Minorities Vida Montvydaitė proclaimed.

While creating this strategy, the Department wants to familiarise itself with other countries’ experiences. In order to do that, a conference called “The national minorities’ policy on the example of Estonia” has been organised. Estonian experts specialised in the field participated in it.

Estonia’s experience

“We are very happy that we have our guests from Estonia here. These are experts engaged in the issue of national minorities. Our department has been running for more than half a year now and we’re very interested in others’ experience in this field. Both we and our neighbours have had to deal with this issue and so it’s important to share experiences in order not to repeat the same solutions that may not work,” Montvydaitė said in an interview for zw.lt.

The strategy is to be developed within a few years. “We are determined to create a long-term strategy concerning the policy on national minorities. Currently – unlike Estonia – Lithuania does not have such a document. That’s why we want to familiarise ourselves with the way the strategy is carried out and how the practice looks like. Surely, we’ll not be able to transfer all the aspects to our state, as every country has its own peculiarity. For example, the national minorities in Estonia constitute 1/3 of the population; in Lithuania this number is smaller, but the national diversity is much more considerable. And so we want to draw up our own strategy, which would take into account our geopolitical situation as well,” the head of the Department proclaimed.

A meeting with our Polish fellows

Montvydaitė added that proper consultations with national minorities’ representatives would be carried out. “That’s why we’ve organised today’s meeting, which will not be just one event of this type. I hope we’ll manage to meet with our Polish fellows. Currently, I’m at the stage of studying experience of Georgia, which chose a very interesting strategy regarding Russian-speaking community after the conflict in Abkhazia,” the institution’s head pointed out.

Among the participants of the conference, which took place in the Artis hotel in Vilnius, were: Anne-Ly Reimaa, the Deputy Minister of Culture; Aleksandr Aidarov, the Advisor to the Minister of Culture; Artiom Tepliuk, a senior specialist of the Ministry of Culture; and Natalja Kitam, the head of the Foundation Our People.

Integration is a bilateral process

The Estonian Deputy Minister explained the national minorities’ situation in her country, where the Russian-speaking population amounts to 30% of the state inhabitants. Russians live either in big cities or in industrial regions in the east of the country mostly. Eighty four comma four percent of inhabitants hold citizenship, and 6,8% have the Russian one.

According to the Deputy Minister, lack of or poor knowledge of the state language is one of the primary integration problems, and it mainly relates to the elder people.

“In our opinion, society integration is when people of various nationalities, speaking various languages, identify with a particular country, want to work for it, have mutual goals. We believe that integration is a bi- or even multilateral process. It’s not just work with national minorities, but with the majority as well. People must be told what the multiculturalism consists in,” Anne-Ly Reimaa told the people gathered. The Deputy Minister highlighted that the reinforcement of such values as tolerance is something really important to be done in society.

The first state document on the national minorities’ integration was created in 1998. Three integration programmes emerged upon it. The last one is being carried out over the period of 2012-2020. Nineteen working parties have been formed within the project, each of which is engaged in a separate social life sphere, from education to social protection.

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

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