• February 11, 2017
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The Seimas is still going to defer the adoption of a law on national minorities

Yesterday Viktoras Pranckietis, the Speaker of the Seimas met with representatives of the National Communities Council of Lithuania. The meeting discussed the issues of non-Lithuanian names spelling in documents and the need to adopt a law on national minorities.

Both the representatives of a council and the Speaker have positively assessed the discussions. Nevertheless, after the meeting Pranckietis was still not able to state whether the Seimas is going to consider a new law on national minorities this year.

Grzegorz Sakson, the chairman of the Polish Lawyers Association in Lithuania, Vilnius City Councellor as a representative of the EAPL-CFA and member of the National Communities Council of Lithuania said in an interview with “Kurier Wileński” that he hoped this was the first, but not last meeting with the Speaker of the Seimas.

– Rather than taking specific decisions, such meetings are aimed at holding discussions between parties in order to reach an agreement. Everyone was allowed to indicate their current problems. Discussion and dialogue are always necessary. Of course, we do not expect decisions to be taken immediately. We noted that a serious problem is the lack of a law on national minorities. Everyone admitted that the adoption of such a law is an important aspect that would help solve many problems – said Sakson.

When Lithuania gained independence, a liberal law on national minorities was in force for 20 years. It ceased to be binding in 2010. Lithuanian authorities has deferred the adoption of a new law for a few years, which is the cause of increased social tension. The problem has not been ignored by Polish authorities. They often stress that the important factor in the improvement of relations between Poland and Lithuania is Lithuanian policy towards Polish national minority. In Thursday exposé, the Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski also mentioned this problem. “Our aim is to develop a substantive cooperation with Lithuanian government, though it highly depends on the good will of our partners. Above all, it concerns the implementation of Polish rights in Lithuania” – said the chief of Polish diplomacy.

The ruling party of the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union also stressed the importance of making a “reset” in relations with Poland. In November last year Ramūnas Karbauskis, the party leader emphasized that the project of non-Lithuanian names spelling in documents is being considered in a given context. It is proposed to put two versions of a surname, both in Lithuanian and original spelling, next to each other on the main page of a passport. However, it is stated that in official registers only the Lithuanian version could be used.

Yesterday Pranckietis said that the proposal has not been discussed with lawyers yet. He claimed that another option of names spelling might be also taken into account. It would be in line with so called plastic identity card. The Speaker of the Seimas said that the original version of a surname could be written on the back side of the card.

Beside names spelling and law on national minorities, the issues of land restitution, Polish education and Lithuanian language examination were raised at the Friday meeting.

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

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