- The current version of the Education Act needs to be changed back to the old version
- Lithuanian language is threatened not by national minorities, but by the passive policy causing a great wave of emigration
- Chairman of ECR Group M. Callanan met with the management of EAPL
- Broad legislative EAPL initiatives approved
- Lithuanian Seimas supported the draft law on the protection of unborn children that was raised by EAPL
|Valdemar Tomaševski: Lithuania Lacks European Standards|
The protest action in support of education in ones' native language, which took place in the capital on 17th March, showed that Lithuania has not expressed its protests in such united efforts for a long time. Not only representatives of traditional national minorities, but also people of various nationalities have gathered in the Square of Kudirka.
The today's guest of "Litovskij Kurjer" - Member of the European Parliament, Leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuanian (EAPL), Valdemar Tomaševski - speaks about a new quality of the actions of his party, not only theoretical quality, but practical as well.
- For a long time we have called on all people of good will to unite against the governmental actions, which are directed against its citizens. The protest has shown that these are not just appeals, but our real activities.
The EAPL leader states, that there were far more participants of the protest action. "It can be seen from the record on the YouTube website. There were at least 7 thousand people instead of official number of 5 thousand", V. Tomaševski underlines.
- Protests, marches, pickets - Lithuania is literally a wave of discontent. What does that mean? Is this the beginning of the crisis of authorities?
- The thing that is going on can be called the crisis of authorities, but then we need to specify which particular authorities we have in mind. Mentioning all the authorities may be inappropriate and superficial as there are people who very honestly perform their duties, e.g. the local government of the Vilnius Region. It was able to allocate 6 million litas of subsidies for heating and 1 million litas for cold water. During this difficult heating season people are paying 30-40% less both for heating and water. Therefore, when there is a will to help people, there are results also.
Thus we cannot talk about authorities vaguely - everything depends on people, on the way they are - honest or not, thinking about common people or about their own problems. It is even worse, when they are thinking only about their own personal interests. For example, recent studies have shown that only two parties in Lithuania have not been involved in corruption scandals; this is our party and the People's party. Indeed, we are not talking about the need to fight corruption, but we started the fight from ourselves. We are the only parliamentary party which did not take any money from businesses while other parties have been taking millions of litas.
- EAPL is the only political force that defends the interests of national minorities. What do you think about the fact that also other Lithuanian political parties have started talking about the problems of national minorities? Is this a pre-election PR step?
- We are a Lithuanian party also. The only thing is that we have evolved from the regional party at the initial stage into the republic-wide one. We do not only defend the interests of national minorities - this is one of the strengths of our activities. In addition, we have a good economic programme, we are making a lot in the area of agriculture too. There are honest and competent people working in our team. If there are more of such people in Seimas, we will be able to resolve more problems.
Lots of problems are resolved really simply when speaking about the protection of the interests of national minorities. It is sufficient to implement European standards in Lithuania. Another thing is that not everybody wants to deal with it, while others, as you have pointed out right, will be stressing this topic before the elections. I think it is even a good thing - let them stress it. The publicity around the issue is an important moment. And even if the aim of the publicity is not clear enough, whether it is done in order to gain votes or just in order to help us, the results of the action remain to be the most important.
- By the way, you political opponents have been caviling about your association with the Russian, they say it is illogical, even though their goals are the same, but the means to reach them are different.
- Firstly, our party is joined by people of good will, thus it is inappropriate to divide people due to their nationality. Secondly, even according to its statute EAPL is not only a Polish party. The composition of our party is multinational; during the last elections to the local governments 10% of electoral roll was made up of Lithuanians, and in such towns as Molėtai or Druskininkai it amounted even to 50%. That is why we cannot be called simply a Polish party, although, as it happened historically in the Vilnius Region, Poles make the majority of all the population there. And our association with public and political Russian organisations only proves that we actually are united by common goals. I think that the name of the party will evolve in the future, such talks are already underway. But bearing in mind the achievements and authority which has been formed in the party, there is no point in changing the name of the party before the elections, it has some disadvantages. This is a long process and, of course, such important decisions as name change are not made in one day.
- Could you please tell how many votes is your party planning to gain during the autumn elections to the Seimas?
- Statements that we unite people just in order to gain more votes began to appear in Lithuanian media more often in relation to the forthcoming elections. I want to say, that votes and power are not our aim, only a mean to accomplish our aims. Our goal is simple - work for people, serve people, and help people in all spheres, i.e. economic, social, and national. Improve the atmosphere in the society in order to prevent people looking at each other maliciously. Of course, not everything depends on power, but a lot does. We do not seek power at any cost. Quality is the most important for us, not quantity.
We can feel the increasing support of voters. If we get 7-10% of votes, what according to the present day is attainable, and win in four or five single-seat constituencies, what is attainable too, then we could get 13-16 seats in the Seimas. And this is what a lot of politicians do not like. Therefore we understand that provocations, pressure, drawing out scandals, even imaginary ones, are possible. The party is working honestly, but a lot can be concocted nowadays.
- Coming back to the amendments to the Law on Education - why did all the attempts to reach a dialogue with authorities reach a wall of misunderstanding or is it just the lack of will to understand?
- The results of a dialogue are more important than the dialogue itself. For the time being our politicians make decisions without consulting an interested group of people. This is a so-called 'tripartite board', which is popular in Western countries. The 'tripartite board' is when trade unions, employers, governments agree together on an issue. All important decisions, including those on national minorities, should be made on the basis of the above mentioned system. More than 60 thousand signatures were collected for the protection of education in ones' native language. This means, that the amendments to the Law could not be adopted. This is exactly the case, when an unwritten right of veto is applied and which indicates a high culture of politicians and a high level of democracy
Now we need to suspend the education reform as it is aimed not only towards the destruction of the traditional model of education in ones' native language, but also towards the liquidation of schools in rural areas due to abolition of a secondary school model. It is not necessary to have specific data in order to understand how we are lagging behind the European Union in the area of salaries, pensions, health protection, and infrastructure. And the only area we are equal is the area of education. We have the same percentage of people with higher education. This is a great achievement. Why do we have to carry out a reform which will destroy this education? It turns out that Lithuania does not need people with higher education. Meanwhile, a high level of education means the prestige of the country. This is another reason for preserving it. This also means good conditions for foreign investments. But that is economy already.
Unfortunately, the ruling coalition does not understand this. But common people, who participate in such protest actions, do. The matter, that we are the leaders of protest actions which are aimed to stop this pseudo reform and protect education attests to our good actions, to the fact that not only national minorities, which we have never let down, but also Lithuanian trade unions trust us. On the one hand it is very pleasing, but on the other - obliging too.
- A month ago a referendum on the status of the Russian language was conducted in Riga. Your party stands for the possibility to use the native language of national minorities as a second official one in the areas of dense clusters of these national minorities. Would it make sense to conduct such a referendum in Lithuania?
- I think that this situation is quite clear without any referendum. There is a specific standard in the European Union, members of which Lithuania and Latvia appear to be. We have simply to live according to this standard and thus no referendum is needed. The point of the standard is that if a national minority makes a high percentage of all population, then its language should be official. Moreover, the language does not have to be official in the whole country, but only in the areas of dense clusters of this national minority. Two or three languages can function normally in Visaginas, Vilnius Region, Klaipėda. Moreover, it is sufficient to consider them as simply official. The sooner it happens, the better for our country. This is normal that the language of a minority, which appears to be historically based in a place, not imigrant, is used. There is even nothing to argue about. This is a clear situation.
- How do you think, has the problem of land returning in Vilnius and its regions moved forward?
- We need to talk about how the problem was solved, not what was solved. In Šalčininkai Region the best allotments have not been divided between local residents. There was a similar situation in Vilnius Region, e.g. when a rightful owner did not get back his good allotment, but instead was offered swamp and shrubs. Sometimes people agreed to such conditions fearing that nothing else will be offered to them. The issue of land returning will not be solved as long as locals will not be able to have their influences on the issue. From the very beginning this problem was allocated to solve not to local inhabitants with the help of their representatives in local governments, but to governmental administrations of counties. We all know what was the result of land's division combined with the transfer of allotments for the needs of people, who did not appear to be rightful owners of these allotments. When land surveyors have transferred all of their land, then amendments to the Law were introduced in 1999in Seimas, according to which a right to a land can be rewritten to other people. This led to an even greater number of land transfers. Dozens of allotments have been bought, people have been cheated by offering rewriting a land and promising to pay. For a very long time people, waiting for the return of land, agreed with the conditions of the second-hand dealers. Mass transfer of allotments was over; some 'recordsmen' had about hundred allotments. And only in 2012, when County Services were liquidated, a hope for improvement appeared. But vainly. The process of land returning was handed over to National Land Service under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania. The only thing is that municipal governments gained some rights in 2002, while regional local governments do not have any rights so far.
The process of land returning smells of cynicism especially when bearing in mind the fact that nowadays the Seimas has adopted a Law on Compensations of Urban Land at a price of 10 thousand litas per hectare. This money is just ridiculous. Moreover, there is no money now. The country will have them when forests will be sold to businessmen and only then there will be money to pay off the people. The question is, why the country cannot pay off with forests immediately. It turns out, that someone is going to take advantage of that.
During the protest action just in front of the Government building, in addition to the requirements concerning education a petition on the return of land was adopted. The petition particularly requires the compensation for urban land in Vilnius at the market price. Moreover, the current conditions for compensations are called robbery in broad daylight.
- How do you think, will there be a light at the end of a tunnel for Lithuania?
- We hope for God's help. The Gospel says, "Where two or three gather together in My name, I will be there too". This fully applies to our times also. If there are at least two people defending their own ideas, it means that the light at the end of a tunnel will appear. If there are 7-10 thousand of us, as during the protest action, if we gain 16 seats in the Seimas, then we will have a huge chance to change our lives for better. We should seek for that in order to have more honest people in politics, in order to make people think of whom to vote for.
"Litovskij Kurjer" N13 (891) 29th March 2012