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In defense of Polish schools in Lithuania

During the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on 6th October, ECR Group Bureau member, MEP Valdemar Tomaševski (EAPL-CFA Chairman) met with the Co-Chairs of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages, where he once again spoke of the problem of discrimination against Polish schools in Lithuania.

The Chairmen have assured Tomaševski that a special item on the agenda of the intergroup will be devoted to this matter during the November plenary session of the European Parliament. There will be 45 minutes dedicated for the subject, including 25 minutes for MEP Tomaševski to report on the subject. The meeting will be open and every member of the European Parliament will be able to take part in it.

The Polish minority in Lithuania has been experiencing discriminatory actions by the Lithuanian authorities for many years. This is especially true when speaking about the Polish education in this country. An attack on Polish schools in the Vilnius Region has started this year. Last March, the local government of the Trakai District decided to ‘reorganize’, or rather degrade, two Polish schools. The local government
began intensifying actions that were hostile towards Polishness and that were aimed at limiting the education of centuries-old traditions. The existence of Polish schools in the Trakai, Vilnius and Šalčininkai Districts is threatened. Moreover, the Lithuanian government is threatening the Šalčininkai District with financial restrictions for simply maintaining Polish schools.

Polish authorities, the Polish community abroad, and MEPs stood up in defense of Polish education in Lithuania, sending a letter of support to many thousands of people who took part in the rally of Poles that was organised in Vilnius. The co-chairmen of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages wrote:

“Dear President of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, Dear Members of the Polish national minority in Lithuania,

We, Co-Chairs of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages in the European Parliament, would like to express our solidarity with you at this difficult time, when you stand up for Polish schools in Lithuania, which are also schools with the status of national minority schools, and which are threatened with liquidation.

We have received disturbing information that the authorities of the Trakai District want to close two schools with Polish teaching language under the so-called school reform in Lithuania. Such action is not in line with the spirit of the European Community, whose motto is “United in diversity”. Traditional national and linguistic minorities, such as the Polish minority in Lithuania, are under special protection of international law, resulting from the provisions of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The language and education of national minorities, which guarantee the preservation of the identity of a given community, are also under special protection. The right to one’s own language and to the possibility to learn in the mother tongue is one of the fundamental and inalienable rights of every traditional national minority. Any actions aimed at Polish education in Lithuania are inconsistent with these principles and violate European standards in this field.

We hope that the responsible authorities will understand the seriousness of the problem and withdraw from actions that are contrary to international law and harm Polish education in Lithuania. It should especially be taken into account that these actions are opposed by the persons belonging to the Polish national minority and the organizations representing them. In such cases, the will of the local community should be respected and schools must be preserved for the benefit of children and their future.

We would like to express our solidarity with you and wish you perseverance in the fight for your rights.“

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