Lithuanian MPs reject initiative on use of diacritical marks to spell names

  • 2022-12-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian lawmakers on Thursday voted down a proposal to allow Lithuanian citizens to use diacritical marks to spell their names using Latin-based characters.

48 MPs voted for the amendment proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, 26 were against and 33 abstained.

"At present, non-Lithuanian citizens who wish to enter the original form of their name and surname in documents, using Latin characters, cannot do so. Only those lucky ones who do not have a diacritical mark in their surname can do so," Rita Tamasuniene, elder of the Regions Party political group and a member of the EAPL-CFA, explained when presenting the bill.

The law that came into force in May legalized the spelling of personal names using Latin characters, but it does not allow for the use of diacritical marks.

"If the state has already once allowed people to write their name and surname in Latin characters as it appears in the original, this right should be valid for everyone and should not become a selective right," Tamasuniene said.

The ban on the use of diacritical marks reached the Constitutional Court earlier this week after the Vilnius District Court referred the case of Jaroslaw Wolkonowski, a Polish-born scientist, on the use of diacritical marks in a personal document.

The law that was adopted early this year and came into force in May allows the use of the letters "w", "q" and "x", which do not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet, in Lithuanian citizens' personal documents. However, it does not permit non-Lithuanian diacritical marks.

The existing law allows 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.

After the law took effect on May 1, 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.