• December 10, 2016
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Linkevičius: we have a new government and the issue of national minorities can be considered again

After the parliamentary elections in Lithuania, Vilnius and Warsaw can again consider the bilateral relations, says the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius. The head of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski said that “all keys to the improvement of the relation between Poland and Lithuania are in Vilnius”.

“I do not agree with the statement that the situation of Polish national minority in Lithuania is very dramatic. Of course, relations with Poland are not as close and warm as we wish them to be, but it is not bad. There are problems, issues regarding the spelling of names in passports. But we have a new government and these issues can be considered once again. If it was up to me, I assure you, this problem would have been solved long ago. I agree it takes too much time and these problems should have been solved by now. I accept the criticism”, told “Kurier” Linas Linkevičius.

The Lithuanian Foreign Minister admitted, however, that problems of national minorities spoil Polish-Lithuanian relations, which leads to giving up mutual visits and representatives of Poland and Lithuania meet only during international gatherings.

“The situation of Poles in Lithuania is not so dramatic and it is not necessary to refrain from dialogue and further cooperation. Many issues of the Polish minority have already managed to be solved. Almost all Polish schools have received accreditation. We have also solved the publicized problem of Lelewel’s Polish School. The Polish community should be happy about that. Fortunately, the problem of signs in private possessions has been solved as well. As far as I know, now it is not prohibited by law. Also returning of the land is in progress, statistically there is no difference between the Vilnius region and the rest of Lithuania”, noted Linas Linkevičius.

On December, 6 in Brussels Linkevičius and Waszczykowski participated in a meeting of foreign ministers of the NATO countries. As Linas Linkevičius reported, bilateral discussions mostly applied to safety issues. It was mutually agreed that Poland and Lithuania needed to cooperate more not only in security matters, but also in issues concerning the Polish minority in Lithuania and that the representative of the countries must meet more often.

“We also agreed that we will maintain intensive contacts, I invited Witold Waszczykowski to Vilnius once again – we will see if he would be able to manage his time. Taking into account the fact that our new government starts working, there is will to look at the relations once again and to make use of every opportunity. I think we will find more possibilities of improving relations of Poland and Lithuania. We have to focus on tasks that unite us, which are common to us, for example issues of security and energy production, common transport projects which, unfortunately, are progressing slower than we have expected. We also have to come back to methods which were successfully practiced many years ago, when groups of experts from Poland and Lithuania, eg. education experts or others, used to meet and discuss and look for the solution. It will surely help in improving our relations”, stressed the head of the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania.

During the meeting, both foreign ministers agreed that they will maintain contact.

“When it comes to relations with Russia and deployment of NATO forces on the territory of both countries, Polish and Lithuanian affairs are convergent. We discuss our positions, they are the same. We do not want to destroy well established safety construction o Europe”, said Linkevičius.

Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski assessed that the talk with his Lithuanian colleague “was not binding”, but rather survey-like, so details cannot be discussed yet. Forn now, Poland is waiting for the formal swearing-in of the new Lithuanian government. “We hope that the new government will start implementing decisions, standards and norms which are a part of the European common acquis”, said Waszczykowski, asked about what Warsaw was expecting from Vilnius. He added that this applied to eg. issue of the Polish minority in Lithuania. “All keys necessary to the improvement of Polish-Lithuanian relations are in Vilnius”, said Waszczykowski.

The cooperation between NATO and the European Union was one of the main topics during the first day of NATO foreign ministers meeting. Ministers approved a batch of documents implementing the Joint Declaration of the NATO-European Union, which was adopted during the summit in Warsaw. “We talk about how to implement this declaration, it is mostly about fighting against blended and cyber-threats and joint operations”, said the Minister Witold Waszczykowski. The head of Polish diploamcy stressed that NATO and the European Union should join forces to not compete with each other and not double up.

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

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