- March 14, 2018
Radchenko: It is impossible to sweep Polish postulates under the carpet
I must admit that with great satisfaction I look at everything that has happened recently in Polish-Lithuanian relations. So many visits of the highest rank Polish notables in Lithuania and Lithuanian in Poland have not been for a very long time. Perhaps it has never been. A month ago in Lithuania, President Andrzej Duda paid a visit, then the Chairman of the Lithuanian Perliament Viktoras Prancketis went to Warsaw and spoke about the Polish Parliament (Sejm) – Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki came and spoke on last Friday, on Sunday, on the Day of Regaining of the Republic of Lithuania Independence the Chairman of the Sejm, Marek Kuchciński paid visit for the second time in half a year! In a few days Vilnius will be visited by Stanisław Karczewski, the Marshall of the Senate. One can speak not about a thaw, but about a honeymoon between Poland and Lithuania.. .
Undoubtedly it pleases us. For the past seven years I have been writing and speaking about the fact that Poland needs Lithuania, Lithuania needs Poland, and Poles in Lithuania need good relations between our countries. Good Polish-Lithuanian relations are a guarantee of solving problems of Poles in Lithuania. For this reason I was constantly criticized by Lithuanian nationalists, Polish nationalists, activists of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance(AWPL-ZChR). On the Polish side, the people repeated the mantra, that Lieutenants must be pressed, screwed in, and sanctions applied. Even more ultimates, even more threats – and soften and meet all our demands. They did not meet our expectations.
On the Lithuanian side, the same amount people argued that Poles in Lithuania do not have any problems. Names – it’s not a problem but a whim, bilingual inscriptions – similarly. Let’s just give them more money, and they will become Lithuanians in the blink of an eye. They have not become so, but they are constantly raising the same issues, still the same postulates known for about 30 years. And what’s worse for the allies, they are starting to look around not into the west but the east. At last everyone came to their senses and stopped sweeping the problems under the carpet, naively thinking that the problems would solve themselves. The Lithuanian side made several conciliatory gestures, the Polish side responded similarly. I would warn you not to be too optimistic due to this.
I wrote and talked about it a hundred times – thus I can say it even many times more: Warsaw will not solve our problems for us. Regardless of how many ultimates it sends to Vilnius – solutions to the problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania will have to be sought here in Lithuania. What is needed is a dialogue between Lithuanian authorities and Lithuanian Poles. But the dialogue between Warsaw and Vilnius is necessary.
Today we witness that such a dialogue has begun and it starts to bring first fruit. The dispute between Orlen Lietuva and the Lithuanian state railways has been resolved: the transport rates have been reduced, the tracks to Latvia will be rebuilt by the end of 2019. Since May this year, four new Polish TV stations will be available in the Vilnius region (Prime Ministers Saulius Skvernelis and Mateusz Morawiecki announced that there will be five, because they have counted TV Polonia, which we have since 1994 and which nobody watches). The activity of the Polish-Lithuanian educational commission will be revived. The Lithuanian authorities have already reached for the educational meeting of Poles in Lithuania: last year the long-standing dispute over Polish gymnasiums in Vilnius (de facto all Polish-language schools that applied for it became junior high school) ended, this year issues with textbooks to learn Polish were raised. For the past 7 years of the “cold room” we have noticed only successive failures, “thaw” – according to my predictions – brings the first small successes.
However, the current thaw has very fragile bases. A real litmus test of changes in Polish-Lithuanian relations will be the issue of the Law on the spelling of names and surnames and the Act on National Minorities. Only the adoption of these symbolic laws will allow the party to be turned over and the Polish-Lithuanian strategic partnership restored. Unfortunately, I’m afraid Lithuania is still not yet ready for such turn. It is enough to listen to and read as a rightist, leftist and AWPL-ZChR attack the draft Act on National Minorities, reported a month ago by the Lithuanian Social Democrats. For some it is too conservative, for others it is too radical, for third parties it is a part of… the Kremlin hybrid war against Lithuania… Even worse, even among Lithuanian politicians sympathetic to Poland and Poles, there are voices that in the end no more gestures against Lithuanian Poles need to be done, because today Poland – due to the dispute with Brussels – needs Lithuania more than Lithuania Polish. It would be reprehensible and tragic if such moods prevailed. They are proof that the Lithuanian establishment does not understand the importance of Poland or the team that currently governs Poland.
We need Poland because of infrastructure projects that connect us with the rest of the Old Continent. We need Poland because of geopolitical threats from the east. Let us remember, however, that Warsaw can conduct subdued or more fierce rhetoric more, but Poles in Lithuania will always be a priority for it. That was the time of Wałęsa, Kwaśniewski and Komorowski. And so it is for President Duda. Who knows, if currently as part of the concept of “getting up from the knees” are not even a higher priority than ever before. Lithuanian support for Poland in a dispute with the European Commission is very important. It turns out that the “country of the size of the region” – as the Polish endeces spoke out yesterday about Lithuania – has a lot of appraisal in the case of a ten-fold country. This does not mean, however, that in exchange for such support Lithuania can count on the Polish carte blanche to ignore the demands of the Polish minority in Lithuania. There will be no such carte blanche. Problems – especially those, as rightly described during his visit to Vilnius, President Andrzej Duda, reasonable, – will have to be resolved. Everyone in Lithuania who counts now can return to the policy of sweeping these problems under the carpet – counts badly.
This commentary appeared (March 13) in the Polish broadcast of the Lithuanian public radio LRT Klasika
Translated by Katarzyna Widlas within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.