MEPs defend schools of national minorities in Lithuania
On 10 June 2015, 60 MEPs from 13 member states of the European Union representing all political fractions signed a protest letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Algidras Butkevičius. The letter was a form of protest against worsening of the situation of national minorities in Lithuania, especially in terms of protection of their educational laws.
Additionally, on 11 June 2015 the session of Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages was devoted to the matters of education of national minorities in Lithuania.
In the aforementioned protest letter, MEPs touched upon the problems of schools of national minorities caused by, amongst other things, the process of reorganisation and optimisation of the school network. The authors indicated that “an attempt to liquidate several high schools in which Polish is the language of instruction is unacceptable from the European point of view and inconsistent with the spirit of community law. Treaty of Lisbon puts a strong emphasis on promoting multilingualism, multiculturalism and multiethnicity.” They also appealed for increasing the legal protection for representatives of all minorities living in Lithuania.
According to the 60 MEPs, nullifying National Minorities Act in 2010 was Lithuania’s big mistake. Until now, the Seimas has not able to enact an act which would regulate minority issues, including matters of educations, and be consistent with international law.
Apart from such issues as not printing course books in mother tongue or diminishing financing for a single student of a national minority school, the most painful blow was standardising the Lithuanian language exam – in such way MEPs described educational practice followed by the national authorities. They found Lithuanian actions in this field discriminating against part of the citizens of the country.
In the last part of the letter, the authors are persuading the Lithuanian government “to strengthen the protection of rights of national minorities and to stop the liquidation of schools against the will and interest of Polish national minority in Lithuania”.
European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) has voiced the problems of national minorities in terms of education or the lack of adequate law regulations multiple times. EFHR is pleased with the fact that these problems got the attention of a large group of MEPs who issued an official note to the Prime Minister of Lithuania. The Foundation hopes that international pressure is going to contribute to the betterment of the situation of national minorities inhabiting the Lithuanian territory. Information on previous remarks and indicated problems concerning protection of laws of national minorities is available i.a. here.