By Tomasz Snarski
The Lithuania Tribune’s article “EC has not found any violations in Education Law” does not reflect the entire course of proceedings in the European Parliament and is misleading regarding the actual opinion of the European Commission. EC has proposed during the Committee Meeting to replenish its opinion (see the video of the meeting, the issue is being adressed in the time lapse between 16:41 and 17:50).
In my view the most important information is that The Committee on Petitions decided to put forward the petition nr 358/2011 (Linguistic rights of Poles in Lithuania) for further consideration. This decision clearly signifies importance that is attached by the European Parliament to the question of Polish minority in Lithuania.
The problem presented in my petition is the matter of great concern, it relates to the fundamental values the European Union is based upon — the human rights, including the rights of the national minorities (especially indigenous minorities). The questions that have been raised in the above mentioned petition are now left to be considered by the European Parliament because they concern European Citizens. It should be taken into account that Lithuania as a member state of the EU, has trespassed against one of the basic values that form the basis of the European Union.
Actual situation of Polish minority in Lithuania could be perceived as a missed opportunity for developing support for cultural diversity, and the fact that no solution seems possible is worrying. Poles are banned from using their names and surnames in their mother tongue and from using place names in their mother tongue. There are no domestic law regulations regarding the protection of minorities in Lithuania. Consequently, inspired solely by the wish to ensure that the rights of all citizens are guaranteed equally across the territory of the entire European Union, I asked the European Parliament to consider the situation of Poles in Lithuania, and to adopt a resolution on the matter if appropriate. Account should be taken of the need to guarantee all European citizens their linguistic rights as enshrined in international and European systems for the protection of human rights. My petition reminds that the EU is not only the common market but the common values as well.
The decision made by the Committee on Petitions is that the European Parliament does not agree with the conclusions that the European Commission has come to. In these conclusions, the European Commission has presented a reserved approach towards the issues raised and also it did not make a reply to the majority of accusations made in the petition. EC didn’t reply inter alia on question about surnames in native language. It should be underlined that the reply from EC, dated 16.12.2011 (which is cited in article), is too narrow, therefore does not cover the subject of my petition (0358/2011) sufficiently. The subject of my petition is the problem of linguistic rights of Polish minority in Lithuania, including the right to write names and the surnames in their original Polish form. While my petition relates to the problem of all the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania, including the so-called minority language and the EU law, the article published by The Lithuania Tribune mentioned that the petition concerns only the outcome of Education Law and limitations of the school subjects taught in Polish.
My petition (0358/2011) very strongly underlines the superior problem of the way the human rights are respected by Lithuania as the European Union member state, especially the linguistic rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania. Discrimination of Polish minority violates the EU Treaties: art. 2, art. 3, art. 4 par. 3, art. 6, art. 9 the Treaty on EU, and art. 20, art. 45 the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, and the directive 2000/43/WE. Discrimination is in contradiction to the general principles of the EU law, including the principle of the democratic state and the European standard of the Human Rights. In my opinion, actual case is in contradiction to following EU rules: respecting human rights, solidarity and cooperation between EU states, supporting EU objectives as defined in the Treaty by the EU members, respecting rights of European Citizens, anti-discrimination of cultural dissimilarity, respecting free movement of workers in the EU area. Those are the most important aspects not mentioned in the written answer from the European Commission.
The European Citizens rights are also affected, free movement of persons are restrained. The petition underlines the fundamental values on which the European Union is founded, including the principle of democracy, non-discrimination, equality under the law. All these arguments were neglected by the European Commission and omitted in the article.
The emphasis should be put on that the European Commission opinion is only taken as an advice for the EU Parliament members to decide whether the petition will be carried forward to be considered further, as the problems mentioned in the petition are the ones that cannot be left unnoticed and are of the value to the whole European Union.
Despite the fact that the Lithuanians have appealed for the petition to be closed, the MEPs voted against that appeal, it means that the petition will indeed be carried forward for consideration. Representatives from Romania, the UK, Denmark and other member states supported the need of further investigation into the problem. In addition, members of the Committee requested the issue of discrimination of Poles to be examined by the Agency for Fundamental Rights, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Depending on the circumstances, the Committee on Petitions may inter alia refer the petition to other European Parliament committees for information or further action, in some exceptional cases prepare and submit a full report for the Parliament to vote upon in a plenary, conduct a fact-finding visit to the country or region concerned and issue a Committee report containing its observations and recommendations. The Petitions Committee of the European Parliament may seek to cooperate with national or local authorities in Member States to resolve an issue raised by a petitioner.