An electoral trip of the Prime Minister to Vilnius

Czesław Ryszka

Elections are coming soon and, therefore, the governing people are trying to make up for what they haven't remembered before. The Polish Prime Minister remembered the Polish minority in Lithuania on 4 September 2011. Two days before in Polish schools in Vilnius there was a strike announced against a new education Act discriminating Poles. The announcement of the strike in Polish schools had wide repercussions in the EU countries, and probably, because of that Prime Minister Donald Tusk went to Lithuania to meet Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius. Their several-hour talk resulted in appointing a team for education composed of vice-ministers of both countries as well as experts and also representatives of Polish and Lithuanian minorities.
The appointed team is to evaluate the Educational Act of the Lithuanian Parliament from March this year which imposes teaching of particular subjects in the national language on the minority schools, beginning from nurseries and early-years education. Moreover, the new law implies that from 2013 in Lithuanian and the minority schools the matriculation examination of the Lithuanian language will be unified although the education program differs a lot in both cases. From this year in the minority outposts History and Geography lessons as well as the World Studies partly concerning Lithuania are to be taught only in Lithuanian. Furthermore, a subject called: the basis of patriotic education is to be taught in Lithuanian as well. In addition, a number of Polish schools are to be reduced by half because of financial reasons; there are 80 Polish schools now.
I do not have to add that the implementation of the aforementioned Education Act has drastically worsened the standard of Polish education. Therefore, I do not understand why Donald Tusk's visit in Lithuania was called in Poland as a breakthrough. Not only hasn't the Polish Prime Minister done anything but, on the following day, he learnt that the Prime Minister of Lithuania said on the Lithuanian television that the Education Act, being the reason for the conflict, would not be changed.
In fact, in order to change this act, neither the opinions of the appointed committee nor the both Prime Ministers' declaration are enough. All changes must be voted by the Lithuanian Parliament. Its majority has got quite an unpleasant political option for Poland. It is shown in the statement by one of the Lithuanian members of Parliament who said from the Parliament rostrum: 'During 20 years we have done order with Poles in Kowno, so we will do it in Vilnius as well'. I will add that there used to be 40% Poles living in Kowno, and 10 communities near Kowno were inhabited by 80% Poles. Today only a slight number of Poles live there. What to think about it? My friend from Vilnius - Stanisław Pieszko, a vice President of the Union of Poles in Lithuania and a chairman of the Foundation 'Self-determination' thinks that Prime Minister Tusk shouldn't agree on appointing a new committee but he should demand to complete Polish and Lithuanian Treaty from 26 April 1994 on friendly terms and neighbourly cooperation where the 14th and 15th paragraphs guarantee Poles their right to learn in their own language, beginning from nursery to secondary education, including. As the Education Act infringes the provisions of this treaty, it should be changed or withdrawn. Therefore, according to Pieszko, appointing the committee is an attempt to temporize: the committee will not do anything but we will see that after the elections in Poland. The Polish minority in Lithuania is afraid of this scenario, and, therefore, the strike was not cancelled but only suspended.
When treating the issue seriously, it must be stated that improved relations with Lithuania and solved problems of Poles living there require an essential revision of the Polish foreign policy.
We should stop telling stories about ideas in a kind of the triangle Berlin-Warsaw-Moscow but come back to the policy of the late Lech Kaczynski, that is, strengthen the relations among countries in the region of the Middle Europe to free them from the Moscow political and economical influences.
Summing up, I think we'll see soon that Prime Minister Donald Tusk's stay in Vilnius was only an electoral trip whose aim was to show us how much he cares about the Polish minority in Lithuania. My pessimism towards the effectiveness of this visit comes from the fact that the polish Prime Minister appeared in Lithuania only when protesting Poles living in that country went out onto the streets of Vilnius to protest and announce a strike in Polish schools. But where was Prime Minister Tusk when that Draconian law in the Lithuanian Parliament was being prepared? What did he do when the representatives of the Polish minority were sending dramatic appeals for help and support to Warsaw? Why didn't he react with his similar semblance of firmness? Will everything, like in the case of the shipyards, turn out to be clear after the elections?


"Niedziela" 38/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: