• July 3, 2023
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The Lithuanian Language Inspectorate demands the removal of Polish inscriptions in the villages of Bieliszki and Orzełówka

The authorities of the Vilnius region do not agree to remove bilingual signs in the villages of Bieliszki and Orzełówka, as demanded by the Lithuanian Language Inspectorate – reports BNS agency.

In May, the local government administration received information from the Inspectorate that there are inscriptions in Lithuanian and Polish in the villages of Bieliszki and Orzełówka on the territory of the Vilnius region.

According to the Lithuanian Language Inspectorate, this is contrary to the provisions of the law, according to which “the official language is obligatory for all seals, stamps, document forms, signs, office premises and other inscriptions of Lithuanian companies, institutions and organisations, as well as for the names and descriptions of Lithuanian products and services”.

Head of the Lithuanian Language Inspectorate Audrius Valotka told BNS that the institution has received complaints about the Polish names of the towns. He indicated that the local government is engaged in legal nihilism.

– (…) There was a precedent quite recently.  When Mrs Maria Rekść was mayor, we received a complaint that there was a Polish inscription in Ławaryszki. We issued an order to remove it, but the Vilnius district’s local government went to court and lost all the cases, and now again refuses to remove the sign in a completely identical case – he said.

– This is legal nihilism and a waste of local government resources, as judicial proceedings cost money – the head of the Inspectorate noted.

Inspectorate instructed the mayor of the region, Robert Duchiewicz, that the inscriptions in Polish should be removed by 1 July.

The local government filed a complaint with the Lithuanian Administrative Disputes Commission last week.

According to Kęstutis Butvydas, an advisor to the mayor, the complaint indicated that the villages are mostly inhabited by the Polish minority, and therefore there is a need for inscriptions in Polish alongside those in the state language. He stressed that the relevant provisions in this regard are contained in Article 11(3) of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Volotka, on the other hand, argues that the Convention has no meaning in this case. – Although it has been ratified, its provisions have not been incorporated into Lithuanian legislation, and the Supreme Court has already clarified its position – he said.

– According to the mayor, the preservation of the identity of national minorities, continuity of culture and national self-expression, which the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania has also stated in its interpretation, should be interpreted as the right of national minorities to have (…) traditional place names, streets and other topographical inscriptions in territories where national minorities are in the majority – Butvydas said.

He added that this issue was also presented last week to Violeta Meiliūnaitė, chairwoman of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, who said she would look into the situation and possibly make recommendations.

The Commission will investigate a question on 18 July.

According to Butvydas, in the event of an adverse decision, the local government will consider appealing to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court.

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

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