Half a year later, we should probably admit that the Lithuanian taliban is alive and well while its influence, despite the conservatives having lost the elections, is as strong as before.
I am referring specifically to the way the Lithuanian state treats its citizens who, for objective reasons, were not born Lithuanian and will probably never identify themselves as such, much as the taliban would want to force them.
This kind of attitude was manifested this week by the extended college of judges of the Supreme Administrative Court, who ruled that facilitated Lithuanian language exam for Polish-speaking students was a violation of the constitutional principle of equality and, on top of that, discredited the constitutional value of the official language.
Lithuania is a democratic state and in democracies, court rulings are binding. So in this particular case I can only sigh in relief that the court did not consult the spirits and did not locate a phantom article in the Constitution, saying that other languages – which, obviously, have no constitutional value – should not be spoken in Lithuania at all.
I am still perplexed, though. Why did the court, having stated that the state is obligated to assure adequate teaching of the official language and equal examination for all, conclude that the facilitated exam was a violation of equality, whereas different teaching conditions were not discriminatory and perfectly in agreement with equality principles?
The difference amounts to over 800 hours of classes that give a huge advantage to Lithuanian speakers vis-à-vis those students who were born non-Lithuanian.
The question begs itself, because – even without consulting the spirits – the court must have known that Lithuanian language teaching conditions in Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian schools were different. The difference amounts to over 800 hours of classes that give a huge advantage to Lithuanian speakers vis-à-vis those students who were born non-Lithuanian.
The judges must have also been aware that the decision to give this advantage (a law that extended instruction in Lithuanian in ethnic minority schools and removed the previous provision whereby native and non-native speakers took completely different Lithuanian language exams, - 15min) was a piece of voluntarism and had nothing to do with the principle of equality, because it did nothing to assure equal conditions of learning the official state language.
True, this inequality was offset by discriminatory examination criteria – something that did not attract any attention of the taliban in power at the time. By the way, paradoxically enough, the complaint that was sent to the court about the current discriminatory examination criteria had, among its signatories, former education minister Gintaras Steponavičius who, just a few years ago, publicly maintained that easier examination for non-native-speakers was a good thing.
So why did the judges see discrimination this time round?
My guess would be simply because the spirit of taliban is alive and well. And because, after the lost elections, the conservatives' mission is continued by their unofficial leader Dalia Grybauskaitė who, in her State of the Nation Address, urged everyone to sing in Lithuanian and vented her annoyance at the government composition she did not approve through sobs over wrongdoings suffered by our language.
Results? In lieu of acceptance and integration, we're witnessing dissociation and the country antagonized – exactly what the president spoke about her address. Unfortunately, the judges heard her well.