- July 7, 2016
Original Spelling of Names Already in Autumn? Little Chance
Perhaps in autumn, during the last session of the current term of office, the Seimas will consider the bills concerning the original spelling of first and last names. The chances, however, are slender, as in October the election to the Lithuanian parliament will take place.
Recently, Lithuanian courts and offices allowed the spelling of a surname with the letter “W” in official documents several times. It concerned primarily Lithuanian female citizens who had married foreigners. The parliamentarians, however, have doubts whether this issue can be tackled before the election.
“We want to consider the bill after 10th September, when the session begins. We did not prolong this process deliberately. So that’s why in September we’re planning to consider the bills. Though I’m not sure if we’ll manage to tackle this issue before the election or it will be the Seimas of the next term of office that will do this. We’re going to have too few meetings in autumn so I don’t want to forecast anything,” said Raimundas Paliukas, Chairman of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture functioning within the Seimas. The MP added that the committee wanted to hold a wide-ranging discussion with Lithuanian philologists and linguists once more.
Currently, three bills which allow the spelling of names with the letters “X”, “W”, and “Q” in official documents are registered in the Seimas. One of them allows such spelling on the first page of the passport, and the rest just on the following pages of identity documents.
Gediminas Kirkilas, who has been a supporter of the original spelling of first and last names legalisation for years, claims that the parliament cannot come to an agreement on this matter. “Of course, we’re dealing with artificial prolonging, although the court judgements, which prescribe that documents must be issued with the original spelling, have been already made. This issue doesn’t concern only representatives of national minorities but also people who’ve married foreigners. So theoretically, the act of legalisation was done,” Kirkilas pointed out. The MP criticised also the bill prepared by the civic intiative, “’Tłoka’ in Aid of the Lithuanian Language” [“tłoka” being the Slavic custom of neighbourly help in the countryside, which was followed up to the second half of the 20th century; translator’s note], which suggests the spelling in a non-Lithuanian language on the following pages of the passport rather than on the first one; moreover, representatives of this group seek to ensure that there is a note in the Act on the First and Last Names Spelling saying that the Lithuanian alphabet comprises of 32 letters. “This bill moves us away from reality even more. The process, from various reasons, is being prolonged,” said the Social Democrat.
Conservative Valentinas Stundys thinks that the process is being dragged out because of the ruling coalition. “The coalition members are afraid probably whether they will manage to gather a sufficient number of votes. It seems to me that the autumn will not be an appropriate time to adopt decisions of this kind,” Stundys explained his view.
Currently, there are three bills on the spelling of first and last names pending. One has been prepared by Social Democrats and allows the original spelling of Lithuanian citizens’ first and last names, including diacritics, in identity documents. Another one by Conservatives allows the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names, but only on the passport pages following the first one. The last act has been drafted by the civic initiative “Tłoka in Aid of the Lithuanian Language” and does not differ much from the Conservatives’ – the non-Lithuanian spelling is to be allowed on the following pages of the passport, moreover representatives of this group seek to ensure that there is a note in the Act on the first and last names spelling saying that the Lithuanian alphabet comprises of 32 letters.
Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.