Polish minorities denounce president's veto on language use

28th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

Poland's tiny Lithuanian and German minorities on Wednesday spoke out against a presidential veto derailing legislation that would have broadened use of their languages in local government.

"It's a bad sign and reflects a lack of respect for minorities and their rights," Algirdas Vaicekauskas, the leader of Poland's Lithuanian community told AFP Wednesday.

"Respect for minorities includes allowing the use of their language in official settings," he said.

However, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Wednesday he "would not rush to condemn" the Polish president's move, insisting on the importance of dialogue.

"I believe that Lithuania and Poland are capable of solving all ethnic minority issues by themselves, in the spirit of dialogue and good neighbourly relations," Linkevicius told AFP.

The community of some 8,000 Polish citizens who self-identify as ethnic Lithuanians is concentrated in the towns of Sejny and Punsk on Poland's northeastern border with Lithuania.

Poland's new conservative-allied President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday vetoed legislation on minority languages that would have allowed their use in county-level public administration.

Polish law already allows the use of minority languages in small municipalities where at least 20 percent of the population uses them.

As a result of Duda's veto, this right will not be expanded to the county level of public administration.

"Unfortunately, this looks like a political move that undermines the idea that Andrzej Duda is the president of all Poles," Ryszard Galla, a Polish lawmaker representing the country's ethnic German minority, was quoted as saying by Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

The German minority -- numbering some 140,000 according to 2002 census figures, the latest available -- is guaranteed one seat in parliament under a special constitutional provision.

Duda was elected in May with strong backing from the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Led by its founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski and known for its nationalist views, PiS won an unprecedented outright majority in Sunday's general election allowing it to govern independently for a four-year term.

Officials statistics show that ethnic minorities account for two percent of Poland's 38 million people.

© 2015 AFP

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