• July 12, 2016
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Names Spelling Issue Will Be Passed to the Next Seimas

Contrary to the announcements of the Social Democrats co-ruling in Lithuania that they were ready to pass the bill on the foreign first and last names spelling during the spring parliamentary session (which has already finished), it was not even introduced into the agenda to be debated.

The Social Democrats blame it on the co-ruling Labour Party, whose representative Loreta Graužinienė holds the position of the Chairman of the Seimas.

Kirkilas: Labour Party is to blame

“It’s the Labour Party that, despite our efforts, did not introduce the bill on the first and last names spelling into the agenda, saying that they run out of time, that there were other important matters,” said Deputy Chairman of the Seimas Gediminas Kirkilas, a member of the Social Democratic Party, when interviewed by the Polish radio in Vilnius Znad Willi.

However, according to the leader of the opposition, former premier and chairman of a conservative party, MP Andrius Kubilius, “the ruling coalition simply lacked the will to pass that bill.”

Kubilius: No to serious discussions before the election

Kirkilas does not see any obstacles for the bill on names spelling, which has been discussed in the Seimas for years, to be passed during the next, autumn session. Kubilius, however, dismisses such a possibility.

“The autumn session will last virtually just for a month, September, as on 9th October the parliamentary election is taking place,” Kubilius told PAP, stressing that “nobody will start any serious discussions a month before the election.” In his view, the names spelling issue will be passed to the next Seimas.

For decades the bill on the non-Lithuanian – including Polish – names spelling in the Lithuanian passport has been like a hot potato thrown by Lithuanian politicians from one session to the next and from one term of office to the next.

Pukszto: Lithuanian politicians are simply afraid of this topic

“Lithuanian politicians are simply afraid of this topic,” the political scientist of the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas Andrzej Pukszto says in an interview for PAP. He points out that in Lithuania, among politicians and society, specific dictatorship of the official language and State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, which guards its purity, dominates. “There are not many countries in the world in which the language commission has such power,” says the scientist.

Nevertheless, Andrzej Pukszto sees a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to this case. According to him, the fact that Lithuanian courts have recently given positive rulings several times, allowing the surname spelling in the passport with the letter “w”, arouses hope. It concerned the last names of the Lithuanian women who had married foreigners.

“What’s also positive is that Lithuanian intellectuals, scientists start to be openly ironic when talking about the language policy of our country,” said the political scientist Andrzej Pukszto.

“W” vs. “V”

Currently, the Lithuanian law presupposes that foreign first and last names are also spelled in the Lithuanian version, so, among others, without Polish diacritics and the letter “w”, instead of which “v” is used.

There are two alternative bills concerning the spelling of names in the Seimas. One has been proposed by co-ruling Social Democrats, the other one by Conservatives. Both bills were accepted in the first reading.

The Social Democrats suggest legalisation of the spelling of the non-Lithuanian names written with the Latin alphabet in the original version. The Conservatives proposed a bill allowing the spelling of the non-Lithuanian surnames, including the Polish ones, in the original version, but only on the passport pages following the first one. On the first one, then, the name written in the Lithuanian version would remain. This is what Lithuanian Poles do not agree with, because, in their view, it will not solve the problem.

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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