Human rights at core of integration policy

  • 2010-09-22
  • From wire reports

VILNIUS - The main objectives of the national minorities policy of the state of Lithuania are further integration of national minorities into Lithuania’s social, political, economic and cultural life and culture, also helping them to preserve and foster their national identity, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Apubalis said on Sept. 17 in Vilnius at a conference dedicated to the discussion of the situation of Lithuania’s ethnic communities, reports news agency ELTA. The Minister stressed that after the re-establishment of the state, Lithuania took a step in the right direction - the Supreme Council (Reconstituent Seimas) of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the so-called “zero option” in the Law on Citizenship.

According to this law, Lithuanian citizenship was granted to all non-native persons who expressed such a wish. They became citizens of Lithuania with equal rights and responsibilities. Minister Azubalis said that this helped to maintain political stability in the society and avoid confrontations. “Representatives of all the national minorities of the country took part in the creation of Lithuania’s modern history,” the Minister said.

According to Azubalis, this was demonstrated by the representatives of national minorities who had worked and were still working in Lithuania’s diplomatic service, and in the field of foreign policy. “Not so long ago, Lithuania was represented even by three ambassadors of the Karaim background, and this ethnic minority is considerably small. A member of the Polish community had worked as a Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. Currently, Lithuania’s diplomatic missions abroad are headed by diplomats of Russian and Belarusian origin, and our restless incumbent Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Seimas (Parliament) of Lithuania is a Lithuanian Jew,” Minister Azubalis said.

The minister stressed that the achievements of his colleagues demonstrated that opportunities were open to everyone in Lithuania that chooses to integrate into Lithuania’s multicultural society.

According to Minister Azubalis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs constantly informs various international organizations, including the United Nations, on the situation of national minorities in Lithuania, the implementation of programs, and of the Pact of Civil and Political Rights, in which the protection of national minorities constitutes an important part.
“The implementation of the principles of European Law is an integral part of our country’s legislation. The need arose this year to adopt a new Law on Ethnic Minorities, and a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also involved in the preparation of the concept of this law. I believe that during the autumn session, the Seimas (Parliament) will continue to examine the regulation regarding the situation of ethnic minorities,” the Minister said.

The minister identified issues of ethnic communities as one of the priorities of Lithuania’s upcoming chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2011. “We are a successful multicultural democratic country and we cherish universal human values, the dissemination of which complies with the national interests of Lithuania and other OSCE member states. We care about human rights and fundamental freedoms, ensuring of them and full-right participation of civil society in public activities. Lithuania is ready to continue on the topic of tolerance and non-discrimination. These topics cannot be separated from the freedom of speech and press,” the minister said.

The conference was co-organized by Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the House of National Communities.