Lithuania-Poland relations sour over language law

  • 2011-09-07
  • TBT Staff

Tusk (right) met with Kubilius (left) during his recent Lithuania visit to discuss education issues. (photo: Polish prime minister's office.)

VILNIUS -- Relations between Lithuania and Poland have soured over the past week following a new Lithuanian education law that will require more courses to be taught in the national language.

Lithuania has a significant Polish minority and around 80 schools where Poles can complete grades k-12 in the Polish language.

The new law sparked a protest of nearly 2,000 people -- mainly ethnic Poles -- in Vilnius late last week. The protest was suspended on Sept. 4 after a flash visit from Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Tusk expressed his support for the Polish minority in the country, while also meeting with Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius to form a joint Polish-Lithuanian team for advising on education issues.

The new law will require all students at minority schools to take Lithuanian language courses, as well as force history and geography courses to be taught in the national language. From 11th grade on, all students will follow the same study program of Lithuanian language and literature.

Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise. Most recently, Lech Walesa, former leader of the Solidarity union that battled communism, refused to accept a prominent Lithuanian medal, citing tensions with the Polish minority in Lithuania. 

Moreover, vandals last month destroyed a Lithuanian monument and street signs in eastern Poland, where many Lithuanian minorities live.