• December 6, 2018
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Vision 2024: More attention to languages, education and culture of national minorities

For many years I have been writing about the need for creation of the vision of promotion and development of Polishness in Lithuania. The vision that would exceed the political divisions and that would be calculated not for one parliamentary or local government term, but for a longer period. This year the idea slowly starts to be implemented.

In June 2018 in Glitiškės there was the first summit of Polish activists from Vilnius region, that started working on the strategic vision “Vilnius region 2040”. The final version of the vision is scheduled to come forth until 2020 and then will be presented to all important Lithuanian political parties, in order to involve its postulates into their party and electoral programmes. Because, as folk wisdom says, in order to win you have to be on each side of the barricade.

However, I was not expecting that before 2020 we would receive an opportunity to implement our postulates into the Lithuanian political agenda. In July 2018, The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP) asked me for support in the preparation of “Lithuanian Social Democratic Vision 2024”, as Social Democrats, as one of the first national parties in Lithuania, decided to create their own vision of Lithuania’s development. A vision aimed not at specific elections, but at a longer period of time, until 2024. Of course, I was happy to accept this proposal. We created a working group composed of me, a councilman from Vilnius region Robert Duchniewicz and sociologist Karolis Dambrauskas, and we wrote a part of Vision 2024 devoted to national minorities. A week ago the LPSD meeting approved the vision, so today I would like to briefly present how the problems of national minorities were described in it.

What is the most important, Social Democrats announce that their national minorities policy will differ both from the liberal and conservative policies. Liberals are standing for granting national minorities with certain individual rights (e.g. the right to the original spelling of names), but they are generally opposed to the active participation of the state in the protection of minorities. They believe that problems should be solved by an “Invisible Hand”. Their position is something like an indifferent one: do what you want, be who you want to be, we won’t disturb you, but you don’t care about us either.

Conservatives, on the other hand, are more committed, ready to solve the problems of minorities with the help of the state. However, the devil, as always, is in the detail, because it turns out that the Conservatives know better than the minorities themselves what they need. In practical terms, therefore, their proposals generally come down only to solving social and economic problems: more investment, more money, more jobs. The motivation stems not from respect for the multinational and multicultural Lithuanian reality, but from the fear of threats from third countries which could be used by minorities to destabilise the current situation.

“Our, Lithuanian Social Democrats, the policy of overcoming differences and integrating minorities will be neither indifferent, nor paternalistic, nor frightened, nor will it leave solving problems to market forces. We want to solve not problems invented by politicians, but those that are important for the excluded and discriminated inhabitants of the country. And the ways of solving these problems are to be political, not economic. (…) We are striving to build a Republic of Lithuania which will include and represent not only the national majority but which will include and represent national minorities that participate in state life too marginally. Those conditions will be visible and audible, and current policies will be formulated in close cooperation with their communities” – announced the creators of the Social Democratic Vision for Lithuania 2024.

What does it practically mean?

Well, the Social Democratic Vision for Lithuania 2024 contains three “pillars” on which the new social democratic national policy will be based.

Firstly, more attention to minority languages in a public life. The original spelling of non-Lithuanian names will be legalised. In counties densely inhabited by national minorities, there will be official inscriptions, plaques with names of streets and towns in the languages of national minorities. Representatives of national minorities will be able to address state and local government institutions and obtain an answer in their mother tongue.

Secondly, more attention to the education of national minorities. No Polish, Russian, Belarusian, German, Jewish school will be closed, and where necessary, new schools for national minorities will be opened. These schools will reinforce not only the teaching of the Lithuanian language but also the mother tongue. In schools with the Lithuanian language, students will be able to learn not only the Russian language but also other languages of national minorities, densely inhabited in the region where such a school is located. The problem of coursebooks in minority languages will be solved, if necessary the coursebooks will be imported from other European Union countries. Students for the secondary school-leaving exam in their mother tongue will receive additional points when recruiting to study at Lithuanian universities.

Thirdly, the state will significantly increase funding for cultural projects of national minorities, for mass media in national minority languages, for joint projects of the Lithuanian community with national minority communities. There will be supported initiatives aimed at mutual acquaintance of different national groups, internal tourism, youth exchanges.

On 13th of  November 2006, the Constitutional Court of The Republic of Lithuania decided in its ruling that the mentioned in the Constitution of Lithuania “nation is made up of all citizens, regardless of whether they belong to a titular nation (they are Lithuanians) or to a national minority” and that “all citizens of the Republic of Lithuania, regardless of ethnic origin, are equal according to the Constitution”. Unfortunately, the practical implementation of this notation still varies in Lithuania. I hope that the Social Democratic Vision for Lithuania 2024 is the first swallow announcing the emergence of a Lithuanian civil nation.

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

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