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Lithuanian language authorities demand removal of Polish signs

The Lithuanian Language Inspectorate has demanded the removal of Polish-Lithuanian signs which bear the bilingual names of two towns – Bieliszki and Orzelowka – located in the Vilnius region.

“The matter concerns the names of towns that are inhabited largely by a national minority and have not been regulated by law,” Beata Bietkiewicz, a Polish MP told PAP. “In the issue concerning the Vilnius region, the national minority is made up of Poles.”

She pointed out that the matter could have been settled through the adoption of a law regarding national minorities, something that Poles have been demanding for years, but approval of additional legislation that was being prepared did not have the support of the majority in the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament.

The dispute over Polish signs in the Vilnius region, which has been ongoing for years, was rekindled when in May the State Language Inspectorate, which has control over the enforcement and implementation of the Law on the State Language, demanded that the authorities of the Vilnius region remove two decorative Polish-Lithuanian signs that carried the names of the towns of Bieliszki and Orzelowka.

As the district authorities did not agree with this order, they referred the matter to the Administrative Disputes Committee.

Zigimantas Pacevicius, an attorney who represents the interests of the Vilnius district’s local government, has already announced that in the event of an unfavorable decision by the Commission, the case would be referred to the Constitutional Court for clarification. “The constitution guarantees national minorities to preserve their national identity,” he said.

Meanwhile, Audrius Valotka, the head of the State Language Inspectorate argues that according to the law on the state language in Lithuania, the names of places are only allowed to be written in Lithuanian.

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