Despite the fact that the topic of national minorities in Lithuania is raised very often, no measures are yet accepted to solve the legal issues related to this. The lack of law on national minorities causes confusion in the political arena and also creates a number of legal problems.
During a visit to Warsaw, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of elections in Poland, Mrs. President Dalia Grybauskaitė, in an interview for a Polish newspaper claimed that the situation of the Polish minority in her country has not changed in recent years. In turn, European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) paid attention to the fact that the amount of violations of rights of national minorities in Lithuania has been increasing since 2010.
Unfortunately, it is not the first time the president has said something to this effect, which does not really correspond with the reality, which we have written about. What is more, in 2000 Lithuania unreservedly ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, regulations which must be adhered to.
EFHR also reminds all that the Law on national minorities in Lithuania, accepted in 2010, is the only document which had been regulating the status of the most vulnerable social groups, as well as guaranteeing legal protection of minorities, since the beginning of the independence of Lithuania. The termination of the law brought about numerous legal problems, such as the imposition of enormous fines for bilingual signs on territories where the largest amount of national minorities live. What is more, these tables were placed in these places in the period of validity of the Law on national minorities. Now the dual street signs in the Lithuanian Republic are said to be contrary to the national law. Very interesting is the fact that after a more detailed analysis of the situation, you can easily find loopholes in the existing system of justice. The proof of this is the fact that the names of streets in the English language seem to be in harmony with the laws of the Lithuanian Republic.
Problems also arise in the education system. According to EFHR, Lithuania does not comply with international standards, and the best example of this is the law regarding Education which is in conflict with the Directive of the European Union 2000/43/WE. The Directive requires equal treatment for all, regardless of race or ethnic origin. Another problem is the standardization of the native language exam (that means identical exam is made both for Lithuanians and for the representatives of national minorities), which was established without specifying an appropriate transitional period to allow children to get used to the new programme. Such a change in the education system could be considered as discriminatory, as it is disadvantageous for children who attend schools of national minorities.
The Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe, in their resolution related to Lithuania, stated that there are no actions to make for the decree of the document (resolution nr. CM/of ResCMN (2012)19). The Lithuanian government have not yet taken measures which would fully correspond with the standards of defense of the national minorities enshrined in the Convention. For this reason, improvement of the situation of minorities remains the main task of internal policy of the state.
Some politicians suggest a return to old laws on national minorities. However, President Dalia Grybauskaite refuses such a possibility, referring to the fact that this law violates the current Constitution of Lithuania. The present project prepared by a working group under the leadership of the vice-minister of culture allows bilingual signs in places where not less than 25 percent of the community are representatives of a minority group. Negative reviews about the project were expressed not only by the president, but also by the Commission of the Lithuanian Language. The political council of the ruling coalition stated that the Law on national minorities would be approved until the end of the spring session. However, the working group responsible for this project have not yet met.
EFHR wrote about the urgent need for adopting a law on national minorities. EFHR hopes that the government will satisfy the provision of European rights and provide all citizens of the state, including members of national minorities, with an appropriate legal defense. That, in turn, would considerably improve the position of Lithuania in the international arena.