The European Foundation of Human Rights has found a document in which Lithuania guarantees to maintain the current status of the Polish language as the language taught in the Polish minority schools in Lithuania. There are more rights guaranteed in the document.
Appointing the Polish-Lithuanian Panel of Education Experts and National Minorities Representatives, whose aim is to discuss the changes that the March amendment to the Education Act introduced, raised doubt whether such a body is needed. The Foundation got hold of a copy of the protocol from the inauguration session of the Polish-Lithuanian Commission for National Minority Problems of the Intergovernmental Council appointed on September 14th 1997 by the Council for Cooperation between the Polish and the Lithuanian Governments. During the session of the Commission on March 20th 1998, chaired by Mr Radosław Sikorski and Mr Remigius Motūzas (Mr Vincentas Lamanauskas – the Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Education and Science was another participant, among many others), both parties unanimously agreed on point I.1 that:
a) Lithuanian authorities will not allow for the status of Polish as the official language of teaching to be diminished;
b) Lithuanian authorities will also treat Polish and Lithuanian schools in minority-inhabited regions equally;
c) Lithuanian authorities will give more consideration to the course books needed in Polish minority schools in Lithuania.
It would seem that the ‘implementation’ of the first of the above resolutions took place ten years ago when the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania crossed out Polish of the lists of obligatory subjects for the Matura examination. To ‘fulfil’ the second promise, the Lithuanian Government gave funds, within the Programme of Social Development of East Lithuania, to open 17 schools with Lithuanian in the Vilnius region and 5 in the Šalčininkai district. Such schools exist only in those two regions in Lithuania. In the years 2009-2012 the government gave 43 million litas for that purpose only. As for the ‘implementation’ of the third resolution, for 15 years Lithuanian government has been impeding the publication of even one course book for Polish schools by failing to provide adequate funding.
Additionally, Lithuania has promised to intensify the reprivatisation of the land in the Vilnius region, so as to keep up with the rest of Lithuania. (point VI.10).
Interestingly, according to point. VII.11, Lithuania has promised to find means of support for Kurier Wileński, since it’s the only Polish daily in Lithuania. Bearing in mind the fact that the daily does not receive any financial support from the Republic of Lithuania, 14 years later, it seems that Lithuania has not made the slightest effort.
To the Foundation, such a meeting, comes as a great surprise after 14 years. The discussed issues were decided on the same political level long time ago. So it is not true that Lithuania did not make any binding commitments to Poland. No to mention the resolutions of the mutual Friendship Treaty in 1994 or the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities binding for Lithuania since 2000.
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Tłumaczenie Katarzyna Różańska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Katarzyna Różańska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.