VILNIUS – Lithuania has urged Belarus to ensure its Lithuanian ethnic minority access to education in their native language, as the neighboring country plans to stop doing so in schools in two settlements as of September 1, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Belarus was warned at Wednesday's meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, it said in a press release.
Under new amendments to Belarus' Education Code, the neighboring country will stop providing Lithuanian-language education in Lithuanian schools in Rimdzhiuni and Pelesa from September 1.
"The actions taken by the Belarus authorities violate international obligations and OSCE commitments undertaken with respect to national minorities and will most negatively affect the educational and linguistic rights of the national minorities in Belarus, including the Lithuanian minority," said Nida Jakubone, chargé d'affaires of Lithuania's permanent mission to the international organizations in Vienna.
"This is a first step toward closure of the national minorities’ schools in Belarus,” she added.
At the meeting, High Commissioner on National Minorities, Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov presented his activity report, in which, among other issues, he said that he had "urged Belarus' authorities to reconsider the amendments" and "to ensure an agreeable approach to national minority language education".
"The High Commissioner's report also drew attention to Russia's actions, underlining his deep concern that the latter had used the issue of national minorities to justify its aggression against Ukraine," according to the Foreign Ministry.