- January 23, 2017
Foreign ministers of Lithuania and Poland discussed the issues of geopolitical situation and national minorities
“Regional security and geopolitical issues faced by Poland and Lithuania should not be an excuse to leave our bilateral problems unresolved, especially issues related to the status of Poles living in Lithuania – emphasized Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski during Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius’s visit to Warsaw. “We want to make a reset in our relations with Poland. We share common interests in so many areas that our relations may not be bad because of minority issues, which are not as dramatic as presented in Poland” – said Ukrainian Foreign Minister.
Bilateral cooperation, regional security, eastern issues and joint energy and infrastructure projects were the topics discussed by the chiefs of Polish and Lithuanian diplomacy. “There are a number of bilateral issues which until now have not been resolved as both countries have intended. We are talking about this. Of course, we are also discussing current issues, including developments in Europe, the European Union and NATO” – said Minister Witold Waszczykowski at a joint press conference with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius.
The Ministers emphasized the importance of Polish-Lithuanian cooperation and agreed that in the complex international environment Vilnius and Warsaw need to speak with one voice.
Minister Witold Waszczykowski drew attention to the situation of Poles in Lithuania, especially the problems faced by the Polish education system. He said he hoped that the new government of the Republic of Lithuania would open dialogue with the Polish community in Lithuania, helping to solve its problems.
Linas Linkevičius stated that in Lithuania there are over 70 schools with Polish as the medium of instruction.
“I was surprised to see that the situation of Polish education system in Lithuania is said to be dramatic in Poland. That is simply not true, especially in the light of many positive changes made in recent years. Please note that 20 million people make up the Polish Community Abroad and only 1 percent of them are in Lithuania. By contrast, 20 percent of all Polish schools abroad are situated in Lithuania, from kindergartens to high schools. Budget expenses on Polish schools, calculated per student, are one fifth higher than expenses on public schools. The renowned Joachim Lelewel School in Vilnius has recently been given 2.2 million euro for refurbishment. Suffice it to say that all 71 schools have undergone the reform process successfully. Obviously, there is still much to be done in the same vein. But it refers to our community in Sejny and Puńsk as well. In the last three years no single Polish school has been closed, even though a dramatic decrease in the number of students has been observed. Conversely, though, 8 out of 12 Lithuanian schools have been closed in Poland and problems with schoolbooks have arised, along with the expenses on national minorities that have decreased by 30 percent. But there is no point in dramatising. We have to be positive about that and simply fix that. Blowing up that problem would be a huge mistake as we are all in the same boat and share many interests, not only in the field of security, but also infrastructure, for instance” – said Linkevičius in the interview for the portal wp.pl.
The chief of Lithuanian diplomacy proposed to reestablish bilateral commissions: “I would wish to see that we maintain a sober perspective on the status of our mutual relations, i.e. restore our experts’ meetings, possibly on a regular basis. I suggest resuming the activity of the commissions on culture and education as well as security and defence, for instance.” Linkevičius reminded that the last meeting of culture and education commission was held in 2009 and the last meeting of security commission – in 2014.
The visit of Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius in Warsaw was his first bilateral visit to Poland since the new government in Lithuania took office in December 2016.
Translated by Grzegorz Gaura within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.