On 25 April 2014 a discussion concerning the spelling of names and surnames was held in the Institute of the Lithuanian Language. Linguists, lawyers and cultural activists participated in the discussion. During the conclusion to the discussion the opinion of one linguist’s opinion was heard. This linguist expressed his disagreement to changing the way in which surnames are spelled in Lithuanian identity documents.
The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) reminds all that the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania could change the rules concerning the spelling of names and surnames in passports only after obligatory consultations with linguists. The major consultative role in this issue, according to the verdict of the Constitutional Court from 27 February 2014, has to be provided by linguists from the Commission of the Lithuanian Language (Valstybinė lietuvių kalbos komisija, VLKK).
According to the view of people discussing this matter, names and surnames of Lithuanian citizens are Lithuanian language fact. Non-Lithuanian letters while writing names and surnames in identity documents would be a change of alphabet because names and surnames belong to the system of language. Introducing such letters would create problems in writing those surnames.
The main assumption from the discussion was “there are no rights to change the currently existing law concerning the spelling of names and surnames in Lithuanian identity documents of the Republic of Lithuania. Exceptions can be created only for the needs of people who marry a citizen of a different country and their children, but those exceptions do not have to ruin the whole structure of Lithuanian language spelling. Any group of citizens, favoured because of their nationality, cannot have any additional privileges in this matter of using language.
Most of the linguists taking part in the discussion think that if there is a will to do so, the spelling of names and surnames using non-Lithuanian letters could be included on an additional page of the document. However, such an entry would not solve the problem of the spelling of names and surnames of the representatives of the national minorities. We have previously written about it.
EFHR reminds all that according to the verdict of the Constitutional Court from 27 February 2014 the spelling of names and surnames in passports of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania is, first of all, a linguistic issue.
What is more, the Constitutional Court adjudged that non-Lithuanian names and surnames can be written only using Lithuanian letters. However, the other symbols of the Latin alphabet, which are consentient with the tradition of the Lithuanian language and do not violate the identity of the language of the state, can be used as well. The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania can change the rules of spelling names and surnames in passports only after obligatory consultations with linguists from the Commission of the Lithuanian Language, which plays a major role in this issue.
The thoughts from the discussion will be presented in writing to the Parliament and Commission, as it was proposed by the participants of the discussion. The foundation hopes that submitting the paper, which summarizes the discussion, to the Commission will not change the existing position of the Commission from 14 January 2008, in which it is stated, for example, that foreign surnames do not belong to the system of Lithuanian language. More about this statement can be found here.
EFHR supports the position of the Commission and hopes that this statement will be taken into consideration during the process of discussing the next draft laws concerning the spelling of names and surnames. EFHR believes that only the law that concerns the spelling of names and surnames in the identity documents of Lithuanian citizens and takes into consideration the problems and needs of national minorities as well as mixed marriages can ensure the proper regulation of the protection of human rights.
Tłumaczenie by Beata Kanadys w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Beata Kanadys within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.