• September 8, 2016
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Vilnius region and Poles in PKD: national and economic problems

Discussing, in Polish Discussion Club (PKD), on problems concerning Vilnius region and Polish diaspora in Lithuania invited politicians, unfortunately mainly focused on social-economic sphere. The guests of yesterday’s discussion, which was held in the Institute of Political Science and International Relations of University of Vilnius, were Andrius Kubilius, Algirdas Sysas, Saulius Skvernelis, Remigijus Šimašius and Waldemar Tomaszewski.

„Possibly we will manage, to speed the election campaign up, because for now, at least in Vilnius, it is a bit slow” – said, at the beginning of the discussion one of  moderators Mariusz Antonowicz. The second moderator was Mažvydas Jastramskis from the Institute of International Relations.

Sysas: The discussion can last 4-10 years

“ When we were presenting in this room our manifesto, only a few people were present. Therefore, we are very happy that PKD managed to gather so many people”- at the beginning, praised the organizers, a representative of social democrats Algirdas Sysas, who stressed, that he is ”a man of Vilnius state”, because he was born in Grygajcie and grew up in Nowa Wilejka.

The politician emphasized that his party does not divide people in terms of nationality or faith, and first of all it takes care of material prosperity as well as social status of citizens. “It does not matter whether he is Pole, Lithuanian or Belorussian, if the quality of his life is poor” – said parliamentarian, adding that the biggest unemployment is where, within a longer period, rules the same party, and it is not important “whether they call themselves social democrats or AWPL”.

Sysas admitted, that within four years, the demands concerning national minorities, which are in the government programme, weren’t executed. One of the most significant reason was lack of agreement within the ruling coalition. The politician added, that parliament of a new coalition should, once more, discuss whether the state needs a separate act of law concerning national minorities and how it should work. “Sometimes the discussion can last even 4-10 years. Of course, we would like to make this process faster, however it is not always possible” – explained social democrat.

Sysas pointed out that after the election his party, in the first place, will handle with the budget, not the national minority issues. In a new parliament social democrats are ready to cooperate with all political options. “Even with liberals, if the prime minister will allow” – deputy joked.

Kubilius: Polish TV and free economic zone

A former premier and one of conservative leader Andrius Kubilius stated, that the Vilnius region and national minorities are neglected by the state, because there is lack of clear politics in this course. Therefore, the conservative decided to stand in the Solecznicki region. “I have not done it for a result. I want to show other parties, that this region cannot be left without any attention” –  the conservative explained his decision.

The politician headlined, that the low standard of life in this part of Lithuania, has repercussions in cultural, social and in some ways democratic development.

The politician informed gathered people that his party has prepared very lengthy manifesto concerning the Vilnius region and national minorities. “A part of suggestions included in the manifesto can be executed before the end of this years, for instance, we can deal with the translation of Polish television in Lithuania, take into account points from Polish language exam during the process of getting into an university and to create free economic zone in the Vilnius region (Wojdaty, Pogiry, Czarny Bór)” – mentioned the politician.

Three Polish parties?

Kubilius also suggested to liquidate the election threshold for national minorities, since according to his opinion, such settlement is necessary to fight monopoly of one party on representing Polish national minority. “We think, that there can be more parties responsible for representing Poles. (…). We will suggest such project, but its form depends on the discussion” –explained to all gathered a party politician.

Sysas did not approved Kubilius’ suggestion. “I do not agree that we must have three or four Polish parties. We have already had liberals, conservatives, social democrats. The same situation is among Poles. I am glad that in our party there are Poles, Russians, Tatars. I think, that national minorities can execute their postulates within Lithuanian nationwide parties” –stressed social democrat.

Kubilius did not want to say with who they will conclude postelection coalition, though his words indicated, that their ideas are the closest to liberals. “For sure we will never be in coalition with a party, which leader, parade on Maidan with “gierorijew ribbon” –declared conservative.

Skvernelis: Neither assimilation, nor ghettos

The discussion followed that, Peasant Association and The Greens have the most negative attitude towards Polish demands. A former minister of the interior and general commissioner Saulius Skvernelis, who for years has been living in the Vilnius region,  focused mainly on economic problems. “We can talk about national or linguistic differences. However,  the biggest problem pose economic issues”- said a former police general commandant. According to him, one of the most important problem in the Vilnius region is unemployment and underground economy.

The politician headlined, that Polish-Lithuanian relations need fast improvement. Expressing the party’s position, Skvernelis stated, that his group support the original way of writing surnames in passport only in further pages of the papers, whereas the names of streets and places can be only in a national language.

Skvernelis, neither see a problem, that on his party list, there is Eugenijus Jovaisa, who is well-known for his nationalistic outlooks and is a member of Tłoka for national Lithuanian language.  “I suppose, that every man, every group has got the right to express his opinions. Regarding national minorities, we do not either support an absolute assimilation, nor the creation of ghettos” – said a former minister and added that it was not allowed to make election promises to national minorities and partners in Warsaw, which are not possible to be fulfilled. In the end the former police officer said, that personally he does not see a problem in writing names and surnames in the original way..

Regarding partial assumptions, the politician  informed. That the party is going to cooperate both with the right and the left political sides.

Šimašius: National issues cannot be avoided

The mayor of Vilnius and the president of Liberal Movement Remigijus Šimašius agreed with his previous speaker claiming that a man, in Vilnius or Taurage region, has more or less the same requests: fair remuneration and safe and friendly surrounding. “Talking about the Vilnius region, national issues cannot be avoided. First of all, Polish, partly Russian and Belorussian”-  said Šimašius..

The president of liberal party stressed that his party has supported and still is going to support, so-called polish postules. According to the politician, Vilnius authorities lead a friendly politics towards national minorities. As the proof can serve, among others: the website in Polish language and symbolic street names in Polish, Russian and Icelandic. Also the topic of Polish education in Vilnius was discusses. Waldemar Tomaszewski accused current Vilnius authorities of  “blackmailing and extortion” in the issue of Joachim Lelewel School. Present,  MEP’s colleague Danuta Narbut, categorically assured the mayor, that students will not leave the school’s walls in Antakol.

Šimašius answered, that after the redecoration, Joachim Lelewel School will be one of the modernest school in a city, and AWPL is putting pressure on the director and school society. “ Looking in director’s eyes (Edyta Zubel-editorial note) I noticed, that I cannot demand anything, because she is under severe pressure. I would like this “soviety” finally disappear from Vilnius”- stated the mayor.

The president of liberal party added that, as a member of catholic church, still does not understand why in a cathedral there is not a mess conducted in Polish. The politician  promised  that during meetings with church’s heads he will touch on this issue.

Šimašius emphasized, that his party cannot imagine a coalition only with “Paleckis’ nationalists and socialists”.

Tomaszewski: Let’s do not make up a wheel

MEP  and a headman of AWPL-ZChR Waldemar Tomaszewski, said that in the issues of national minorities there is no point in making up a wheel again, there should only be abided international acts, which Lithuania has agreed  to follow.

Talking about the Vilnius region’s problems Tomaszewski stated  that “ we cannot solve the Vilnius region’s problems without comprehensive solutions on the basic level”. According to the politician a council budget amount only 13 % of the entire budget: “It is one of the lowest rate in the Europe”.

Tomaszewski was asked a question concerning education, mainly why in 1 April 2015, AWPL councillors in the council of Vilnius voted not  to create the classes number 11 in Szymon Konarski School, what led to school degradation.. “Regarding 1 September, the project was outvoted  in great numbers, and  it was not possible to single out one school” – explained the politician.

The chairman of AWPL-ZChR stated  that after the election he can cooperate with every party, on condition that it is not involved  in any corrupt scandal. Tomaszewski’s words indicated that in Lithuania, there are only two  parties “with clear conscience”, AWPL-ZChR, Peasant Association and The Greens.

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

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