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Tension between Warsaw and Vilnius over the Polish-speaking minority, which makes up around 7 percent of Lithuania’s population, continued this week as the Lithuanian ambassador to Poland was called in by the Polish government for a special meeting on the subject.

Poland’s foreign ministry summoned Lithuanian Ambassador to Poland Loreta Zakareviciene for a meeting to express their concerns over the treatment of the ethnic Polish minority, Reuters reported.

The Polish ministry mentioned “a growing … atmosphere of enmity” in Lithuania against the minority. The Lithuanian government said it made distinction between official policy and radicals within the country who have made inflammatory comments.

Recently Lithuania decided that Polish minority schools should teach more in Lithuanian, the state language. Lithuanian language proficiency is an issue in Polish schools where subjects are taught in Polish, but examined in Lithuanian.

The education issue is one of many, including ethnic spelling rights on documents, investor relations and energy matters, where the two neighbours can’t agree.

In his blog on The Economist, Eastern Approaches, editor Edward Lucas suggested that Lithuania needed to do a better job of communicating its position to Poland.

“Lithuania could do a better job of getting its side of the story across. Is there actually any difference between the provisions for “Polskosc” [Polishness] in Latvia and Lithuania? If not, why is Lithuania getting all the criticism. What in Lithuania’s view are the problems (if any) facing the small Lithuanian minority in Punskas (Punsk in Polish) and nearby places in north-eastern Poland?,” the blog said.

Lucas said that Lithuania could take advice from Estonia.

“The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website could usefully have a factsheet or links rebutting factual errors in the case against it (if any) and giving context that would explain Lithuania’s historical sensitivities about polonisation. (such as the forcible evacuation of 14,000 Lithuanians from the Suwalki (Suvalkija) region during the war: this is mentioned in a well-buried press release about a recent commemorative event). Estonia’s MFA has an exemplary factsheet about Russians in Estonia integration policy,” he wrote.

This week Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland would take the lead in relations between the two countries and lead by example. He said that Poland must overcome disputes over history and try to understand the Lithuanian position to make pragmatic progress.

Source: lithuaniatribune.com