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2015.09.08 13:45

Lithuanian PM: National minority bill will be amended

DELFI EN | The Lithuania Tribune2015.09.08 13:45

  The national minority law, drafted by a working group, will be amended, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said following a Tuesday meeting with representatives of national minorities, the House of National Communities and the academic society.

The national minority law, drafted by a working group, will be amended, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said following a Tuesday meeting with representatives of national minorities, the House of National Communities and the academic society.

“It has been agreed that the drafting of a Law on National Minorities will be finished shortly. The draft law will be the basis for further discussions,” Butkevičius told journalists on Tuesday.

In his words, representatives of national minorities submitted their proposals at the meeting on how the bill should be amended. They include, the Prime Minister said, a proposal to drop a provision on the 25-per cent share of national minority population in areas where wider use of minority languages would be allowed.

Under the bill drafted by the working group led by Culture Vice-Minister Edvard Trusevič of the ruling Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL), bilingual signs would be allowed in areas where national minorities make at least 25 per cent of the local population.

Poles make over 25 per cent of the population in Vilnius, Šalčininkai, Švenčionys and Trakai Districts, and more than 25 per cent of the population in Visaginas are Russian. Under the bill, minorities would be allowed to use their language at government institutions.

A new working group will improve the bill. The work will be coordinated by the Chancellery of the Government, Vice-Chancellor Remigijus Motuzas said. The group will include representatives of the public, political scientists and more representatives of national minorities.

According to the Prime Minister, some representatives of national minorities said during the meeting that a special minority law was not needed, and other said it was necessary. PM Butkevičius himself believes various existing legal acts in Lithuania ensure national minorities’ right to use their language and not everyone wants to see that.

Furthermore, according to the Prime Minister, the Culture Ministry’s existing unit in charge of national minorities could become a department or even a division separate from the ministry.

The Butkevičius government made a commitment in its programme to draft a Law on National Minorities, but the Cabinet has not discussed it so far.

The Seimas is also currently debating a separate EAPL proposal to reinstate the old version of the Law on National Minorities which is no longer in force. The proposal has been criticised by President Dalia Grybauskaitė and the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language as running counter to the Constitution.

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