PM sees potential of improving ties with Poland

Skvernelis spoke after a meeting with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.

In the Lithuanian prime minister’s words, Kaczynski “sees Lithuania as a strategically friendly country.” The head of the government said he updated the Polish politician on the situation of the Polish national minority, as, in his words, many problems are currently caused by wrong interpretations.

“Some stereotypes probably keep us from emotional reloading today. He was provided first-hand information about the situation of the Polish ethnic minority. Now there is a huge opportunity to solve the problems,” the prime minister told BNS in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Skvernelis said he had provided data about existence of the biggest network of Polish-language schools in Lithuania outside Poland. Lithuania is the only country providing Polish-language education from pre-school to university, with financing of ethnic minority schools about 20 percent higher than that of Lithuanian schools.

He also presented the Lithuanian government’s decision to broadcast Polish television in southeastern districts with large Polish population and the Vilnius administration’s decisions on the status of Polish schools.

In Skvernelis’ words, the spelling of Polish first and last names in Lithuanian identification documents remains a sensitive issue in Poland. A few projects are currently discussed at the Lithuanian parliament on permission to use the letters w, q and x in passports, as the letters do not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet. The prime minister supports the decision, however, it is unclear whether the bill will secure sufficient support at the parliament.

Skvernelis said Poland still remembers the story when the bid to allow the origin spelling of Polish names was rejected during the last visit of then Polish president Lech Kaczynski, Kaczynski’s twin brother, in Vilnius in 2010. The president was killed a few days later.

“The biggest problem is that the promise was made, it was never kept, and then Polish president died a few days later. It is a sensitive topic,” said the prime minister.

Skvernelis said he briefed Kaczynski on the concerns of Poland’s Lithuanian community about the situation in Lithuanian-language education there, as the local communities in Sejny and Punsk are short of Lithuanian-language textbooks, Lithuanian schools are being closed and Lithuanian-language examinations are held below standards.

The Monday’s meeting also addressed the Warsaw disagreements with Brussels, as European Union (EU) officials have threatened to take sanctions against Poland over the controversial judicial reform and refusal to take in refugees.

The Lithuanian prime minister said the Polish politician updated him on the judicial reform, which critics see as granting excessively broad powers to the justice minister and narrows the independence of judges.

“I looked into the judicial reform. Kaczynski is a lawyer, and I am also a lawyer. The argumentation is clear and comprehensible, stated very clearly through the prism of law theory and practice, we discussed the criminal process, the criminal code and its application. I cannot comment on Poland’s dialogue with the European Commission, however, the fact is that there are tensions. They (Poland) have argumentation behind the need to proceed with the reform,” said the prime minister.

On Tuesday morning, Skvernelis met with Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, and the two were later joined by their Latvian counterpart. The meetings addressed bilateral ties, energy and transport projects, as well as defense cooperation.

Lithuania also seeks Poland’s support for synchronizing its power grid with the Western European system and pressure on Belarus over the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius.

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