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The European organizations and the promotion of national minority rights in the Baltic states: the case of Lithuania

Anne-Sylvie Pigeonnier
University of Luxembourg
Anne-Sylvie Pigeonnier
University of Luxembourg
Open Panel

Abstract

The promotion of minority rights in Latvia and Estonia during the EU Accession process has received much attention from the international organizations and the academic literature. Conversely the positive situation of the national minorities in Lithuania was almost not mentioned. The Lithuanian SSR was the first state in East and Central Europe to adopt a law on national minorities (1989). The law on citizenship enabled all permanent residents to become citizen, even before the restored independence. The research question of the paper will be whether and to what extend the European organizations (the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union) had an impact on the protection of minority rights in Lithuania: which model was promoted by the European organizations? Did it exist competition or co-operation between them? Were the Lithuanian authorities sensitive to their recommendations? Was there a decrease of the minority rights after the EU Accession? Following the academic literature on Europeanization, we will start from the hypothesis that the external pressures have been weak in the Lithuanian case, because of the initial fit with the vague European criteria on minority protection. The paper will rely on the qualitative analysis of the Lithuanian legislation, the EU Commission regular reports and the documents produced by the CoE for the monitoring of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The European organizations intervened very few in Lithuania. From the year 2002 began a slight erosion of the minority rights, which the CoE could only slow down. The EU accession didn’t change anything to the stagnation of minority rights. Moreover new questions arose with the abolition of the law on minorities (2010) and the never-ending discussions for the adoption of a new law. Minority rights protection is a paradoxical issue in the Lithuanian case: the initial choice for a multicultural democracy, the willingness of the elite to fulfil the international norms are still in opposition to the need to promote “the Lithuanian core identity” after 50 years of Soviet rule.