on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 28 November 2012
at the 1156th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as “the Framework Convention”);
Having regard to Resolution Res(97)10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by Lithuania on 23 March 2000;
Recalling that the Government of Lithuania transmitted its State report in respect of the second monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 3 November 2006;
Having examined the Advisory Committee’s second opinion on Lithuania, adopted on 28 February 2008, and the written comments of the Government of Lithuania, received on 20 October 2008;
Having also taken note of comments by other governments,
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of Lithuania:
a) Positive developments
Following the adoption of the first opinion of the Advisory Committee in February 2003 and the Committee of Ministers’ resolution in December 2003, Lithuania has taken further steps to improve the implementation of the Framework Convention. The authorities have maintained an inclusive approach to the personal scope of application of this convention.
The legal and institutional framework pertaining to the implementation of the Framework Convention has been strengthened. Important new pieces of legislation, such as the Law on Education and the anti-discrimination legislation have come into force. In addition, a new draft law on national minorities is currently being discussed by the parliament. The mandate of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson has been enlarged to cover various grounds of discrimination, including ethnic origin. A Prime Minister’s Advisor on minority issues has been appointed.
Positive developments affecting fields of importance for persons belonging to national minorities have been noted in relation to the legislation on citizenship, following an important decision of the Constitutional Court. Improvements are also under way as regards the use of minority languages for surnames and first names.
The government has continued to provide support to the cultural activities of the national minorities and their cultural centres. The authorities have also continued efforts to provide adequate opportunities for minority language teaching and education in the languages of persons belonging to national minorities.
A general climate of tolerance and understanding between persons belonging to national minorities and the majority continues to prevail in Lithuania. Efforts are being made to monitor and combat racism,
anti-Semitism and intolerance, in particular in the media, including the Internet.
The authorities have continued to make efforts to address the socio-economic difficulties faced by the Roma. A number of specific measures have been launched to improve their educational situation, both for children and adults.
b) Issues of concern
The legal framework for the protection of persons belonging to national minorities lacks clarity and consistency. The fact that provisions of the Law on National Minorities in force cannot be implemented in practice remains a source of serious concern. Legal uncertainty persists in particular as regards the implementation of important principles of the Framework Convention relating to the use of minority languages in the public sphere, where the Law on the State Language imposes the compulsory use of Lithuanian. Certain judgments adopted by Lithuanian courts on the use of minority languages are disconcerting as they have not taken due account of other laws protecting national minorities, the relevant provisions of the Constitution and of the Framework Convention.
Although a general climate of tolerance and intercultural dialogue characterises Lithuanian society, isolated instances of intolerance and hostility towards persons belonging to certain groups, such as the Roma and the Jews, are still reported. Such manifestations are also reported against immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The role played by the media and education in raising awareness about human rights and the increasing diversity of Lithuanian society needs to be strengthened.
The authorities’ support to the preservation of national minorities’ cultures and identities is insufficient and certain measures taken in the framework of the government’s policy of strengthening the State language have raised concerns for national minorities.
Difficulties are still reported with regard to the financial resources available to minority schools in the public education system. The provision of adequate textbooks and qualified teachers deserves constant attention, as well as the requirements for opening minority language classes for the last grades of secondary education. Recent language related measures regarding the final secondary education exams also raise concerns under the Framework Convention.
The participation of persons belonging to national minorities in decision making should be improved. The language related exception to the prohibition of direct discrimination is problematic from the perspective of the Framework Convention. It may negatively affect these persons’ participation in social and economic life and may, in particular, hamper their efforts to access the labour market. Lack of reliable data on the various minority groups is also an issue which needs increased attention.
In spite of the efforts made in recent years, the Roma continue to face prejudice and particular difficulties in various sectors, including in obtaining identity documents. Discrimination in employment, obstacles in access to housing and health care as well as their educational situation continue to be an issue of serious concern.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of Lithuania:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in Sections I and II of the Advisory Committee's opinion, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
- ensure that, as a result of the legislative processes under way, a clear and consistent legal framework, fully in line with the principles of the Framework Convention, is provided for the protection of persons belonging to national minorities;
- make further efforts, including in terms of financial resources, to support and promote the preservation and development of the culture of national minorities; promote their increased presence in the media and in educational materials;
- take more resolute steps to promote mutual respect, understanding and dialogue among all persons living on the territory of Lithuania; encourage the education system and the media to play a more active role in combating racism and intolerance;
- provide the legal guarantees and practical conditions needed for the effective implementation of the provisions of the Framework Convention relating to the use of the minority languages in the public sphere;
- ensure that the government policy of promotion of the State language and the requirements relating to its command do not introduce disproportionate obstacles for employment and other opportunities of persons belonging to national minorities; monitor and combat any related discrimination against these persons;
- identify ways and means to provide a more adequate response to the minorities’ needs in the field of education, including through examining the funding system of minority schools, in consultation with national minorities’ representatives;
- promote further the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in the decision-making process, including throughout their more systematic consultation on issues affecting them; promote the participation of these persons in social and economic life as well as in the collection of data concerning their situation in various sectors;
- pursue and strengthen the measures taken to address the problems faced by the Roma in various sectors; take urgent steps to redress the educational situation of Roma children and adults.
3. Invites the Government of Lithuania, in accordance with Resolution Res(97)10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in section 1 and 2 above.
1 In the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.