Lithuania's top court to look into constitutionality of non-Lithuanian names in passports

  • 2022-11-23
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Constitutional Court has agreed to look into constitutionality of legislation allowing the use of the letters "w", "q" and "x", which do not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet, in Lithuanian citizens' personal documents.

The court said on Tuesday it had accepted a request from a group of MPs questioning the constitutionality of a law provision, in effect since May, allowing the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names in Latin-based characters without diacritical marks in personal documents in certain cases.

This applies when a Lithuanian citizen assumes their spouses' non-Lithuanian surname and when the surname of a Lithuanian citizen's parents or one of their parents is spelled in non-Lithuanian characters in the source document. 

The MPs say that although the Constitutional Court in its earlier decisions did not bar the use of non-Lithuanian letters in personal documents, it ruled that the parliament must consult the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language (VLKK) before changing the name-spelling rules and that the watchdog's official opinion "is binding on all public authorities".

They note in the petition that the parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs did ask VLKK for its official opinion about the latest amendments to the Law on the Spelling of the Name and Surname in Personal Documents, and it was negative. 

According to the MPs, the parliament ignored the watchdog's opinion and passed the contested legal regulation, thus, among other things, violating the Constitution's Article 14 on the status of Lithuanian as the state language.

The petition was filed by 30 MPs, mostly members of the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union. 

After the amendments came into force in May, some Poles in Lithuania, including Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska, changed the spelling of their names.

Other local Poles say they are not satisfied with the current regulation as it still does not allow them to spell their names in their original form using diacritical marks.