On 19 December 2013, Dalia Grybauskaitė, the President of Lithuania, spoke in Brussels about the attempt to ‘reinstate’ the national minorities law which expired in 2009. A draft law, currently awaiting its second reading in the Lithuanian Seimas, is the latest effort to close the legal loophole in the area of protection of national minorities in Lithuania.
President Dalia Grybauskaitė claimed that the reinstatement of the 1989 National Minorities Law would violate the 1992 Constitution of Lithuania; and be nothing other but a return to the post-Soviet era, or even the post-Soviet order.
According to the President, another threat posed by the project is legalization of multilingualism in Lithuania, including the legalization of Russian. “And if we are ever to experience, for instance, an influx of labor force from distant countries, then that could also mean legalization of Chinese”, she pointed out.
In the opinion of the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR), the President’s arguments are ungrounded and aim at inspiring the society with the reluctance to regulate the situation of national minorities. The law mentioned above expired with the beginning of 2010, which means that it had been in operation for almost 20 years since Lithuania proclaimed its independence. In all that time, no institution (including the Seimas and the Constitutional Court) had ever questioned its constitutionality.
Furthermore, one should notice the President’s misunderstanding of basic terms associated with the protection of national minorities’ rights, which certainly breeds distrust. In Lithuania, the rights of migrants, and the rights of refugees, are all protected by other acts, so the National Minorities Law does not (or will not) apply to these groups.
The EFHR would like to once again remind the Lithuanian President that the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, ratified by Lithuania in 2000 with no objections raised, is binding. This is an international treaty which has to be respected by every new law, particularly if it touches upon the issue of national minorities. On accepting her presidential duties, Dalia Grybauskaitė promised to represent the entire nation and state of Lithuania. In her public speeches, she now intentionally leads her listeners astray, refusing to respect all international treaties. This provokes conflicts between two opposing camps that cherish completely different values. But it also exposes Lithuania on the international arena as a country that does not respect fundamental European values, and whose head is unable to comply with the conditions that bind her.
Accordingly, the EFHR wishes to once again make its statement clear: the Lithuanian Seimas should introduce a proper national minorities law as soon as possible.
Translated by Natalia Kosecka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.