CERD Concluding observations on Lithuania (excerpts on citizenship and statistics), 2019

C.Concerns and recommendations

Statistics

5.The Committee is concerned about the lack of statistics on the enjoyment of economic and social rights by persons belonging to different ethnic groups and of different national origins (art. 2).

6. The Committee recommends that the State party collect statistics on the social and economic situation of persons belonging to different ethnic and national minorities, disaggregated by sex, age and other relevant indicators, in order to acquire the necessary empirical data to design policies and measures aimed at enhancing the equal enjoyment of rights under the Convention.

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Stateless persons

25.The Committee is concerned about the drop in the number of stateless persons registered in the State party during the reporting period and about the presence of children among them. In particular, it is concerned that children born in the State party to parents who cannot pass their citizenship on to them need to go through a naturalization process in order to acquire Lithuanian citizenship. The Committee also notes with concern that only stateless persons with a residence permit are currently included in the statistics about statelessness (art. 2 and 5).

26. The Committee recommends that the State party take concrete measures, including legislative measures, to reduce and prevent statelessness and to facilitate the naturalization procedure for stateless persons, particularly those born in Lithuania. The Committee also recommends that the State party improve its identification mechanism and data collection on stateless persons in order to include those without residence permits in the official statistics on statelessness.

D.Other recommendations

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Paragraphs of particular importance

35. The Committee wishes to draw the attention of the State party to the particular importance of the recommendations contained in paragraphs 14 (racially motivated crimes), 18 (situation of Roma) and 26 (statelessness) above and requests the State party to provide detailed information in its next periodic report on the concrete measures taken to implement those recommendations.

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Document data: CERD/C/LTU/CO/9-10 adopted 09.05.2019, published 07.06.2019 Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CERD%2fC%2fLTU%2fCO%2f9-10&Lang=en (also available in the other UN official languages)

ECRI conclusions on implementing its recommendations (excerpt on Roma), 2019

1) In its report on Lithuania (fifth monitoring cycle) published on 7 June 2016, ECRI recommended that the Lithuanian authorities, as part of the Action Plan for Roma Integration 2015-2020, resolve the difficult housing situation of Roma, inter alia by (i) co-operating more closely with and financially supporting relevant local authorities, in particular the Municipality of Vilnius, to provide sufficient social housing to vulnerable members of the Roma community; and (ii) working with rental agencies and associations of private landlords to overcome prejudices against Roma in the privatesector housing market. Furthermore, recalling its 2011 recommendation concerning the Kirtimai settlement and expressing concern that no steps have been taken to provide suitable accommodation since then, ECRI strongly recommends that the authorities take steps as soon as possible to provide proper accommodation for this community and, in the meantime, ensure that no evictions take place, and that all necessary public services are provided to the people in the Kirtimai settlement.

ECRI has been informed by the Lithuanian authorities that the municipality of Vilnius adopted a programme for the integration of the Kirtimai Roma community (2016-2019). The extremely difficult housing situation in the Kirtimai settlement is to be addressed in two ways: (i) providing social housing to Kirtimai residents, or (ii) subsidising rental costs for residents who find alternative accommodation in the housing market.

Concerning the first approach, ECRI was informed that in 2016, six families (six women, three men and 21 children), in 2017, four families (four women and 17 children) and in 2018, two families (three women and two children) were able to move into social housing accommodation. In addition, in 2018, four families (four women and two children) moved into municipal dormitory accommodation, which also offers common living areas. Priority for social housing was given by the municipality to families with a large number of children. During 2016-2017, for example, all families with five or more children were provided with social housing.

Concerning the second approach, 46 families (four in 2016, 18 in 2017 and 24 in 2018) with a total of 119 persons (12, 42 and 65 respectively) benefitted from the rental subsidy scheme, with each family member receiving € 72 towards covering the cost of their new accommodation.

In February 2018, the municipality also approved a one-year assistant position in the municipal housing company dedicated to working with Roma families which are affected by demolition orders to secure housing for them. In addition, social workers are tasked to work with Roma families who relocated in order to help them integrate into their new neighbourhood and prevent prejudices among residents.

The authorities informed ECRI that while some 10 years ago the estimated number of residents in Kirtimai was around 500, this number had decreased by about 50% in 2017 and was further reduced to some 200 persons in mid-2018. Unfortunately, ECRI did not receive any information concerning the provision of public services in the Kirtimai settlement.

While the above-mentioned efforts are useful steps towards tackling the difficult housing situation of Roma in the Kirtimai settlement, they remain far from sufficient as of yet. ECRI strongly encourages the Lithuanian authorities to significantly scale up their efforts in this respect and to ensure suitable housing solutions are also found for the remaining Kirtimai residents.

ECRI considers that this recommendation has been partially implemented.

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Document data: CRI(2019)25; adopted 03.04.2019, published 06.06.2019. Link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/european-commission-against-racism-and-intolerance/lithuania (also available in French)

National Threat Assessment 2019 (excerpts)

Protection of constitutional order

Russia manipulates democracy in order to influence social and political processes

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The Russian ruling elite, under the veil of attention to its diaspora – an objective intrinsic to democratic countries – implements subversive compatriot policy aimed at fomenting ethnic discord in the Lithuanian society. During his address at a plenary session of the 6th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad, held in Moscow in October 2018, Putin criticized allegedly growing Russo-phobia in the Baltic States, extreme nationalism and violations of Russian speakers’ rights. To protect the latter, Russia sponsored two centres operating in Lithuania. Representatives of these centres participated in international forums for protection of human rights, disseminated disinformation and accused Lithuania of allegedly violating Russian speakers’ rights.

To discredit Lithuania, the Kremlin uses events that are not linked with purported violations of Russian speakers’ rights. In 2018, following a several year-long break individuals related to informal extreme right groups engaged in violent incidents in Lithuania. These single crimes were not Russo-phobic and did not indicate a rise of political extremism. Same individuals, well known to law enforcement, usually engage in incidents that attract public attention and serve Russia in its unfounded accusations.

Russia manipulates the freedom of speech to spread propaganda disparaging Lithuanian statehood. The Kremlin abuses this fundamental democratic principle and portrays its propaganda as journalism, which represents an alternative opinion and allegedly builds on criteria of objectivity and need to convey information to society. Therefore, in response to any attempts of Lithuanian institutions to limit propaganda Russia accuses Lithuania of censorship and restriction of freedom of expression. In  2018, the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission, due to continuous incitement of ethnic discord and war propaganda, repeatedly suspended rebroadcasting of the Russian TV channel ‘RTR Planeta’ for one year. The Kremlin escalated the case as an aggressive attempt to restrict the freedom of expression. However, the European Commission examined the case and decided that the suspension of rebroadcasting of ‘RTR  Planeta’ was compatible with EU law.

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Information Security

Unable to presuade, the Kremlin seeks to raise doubts about inconvenient truth

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In 2018, the spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova actively participated in propaganda campaigns against Lithuania. In her statements, she sought to discredit members of the Lithuanian resistance against the Soviet occupation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also disseminated false information about deteriorating situation of Russian-speakers in his statements.

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The Kremlin creates the adversarial image of Lithuania by spreading disinformation about persecuted Russian speakers and resurgent Nazism.

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Russian history policy aimed to justify aggressive actions abroad

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The Kremlin’s propaganda portrays Soviet invaders as liberators from Nazi Germany

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[T]he Soviet victory and the perpetuation of Soviet heritage are among priorities of Russian history policy in Lithuania. In pursuance of these aims, Russia implements and actively promotes projects of history policy, particularly seeking to attract the youth. Leaders of the Soviet veteran and Russian compatriot organizations in Lithuania implement this activity under coordination of Russian diplomats. Every year on 9 May, they organize marches of the Immortal Regiment in Vilnius and Klaipeda, where its participants carry pictures of their relatives who took part in the WWII.

Russia exploits the preservation of the Soviet heritage in propagating
the image of Soviets as liberators. Russia sponsors various works in
this domain – mainly search and reburial of the remains of Soviet soldiers, maintenance and restoration of their graves, monuments and
memorial sites. Lithuanian legislation prevents the emergence of false,
scientifically unfounded and propagandistic notes and symbols at the
burial sites of Soviet soldiers. In response, in 2018 Russia organized
propaganda campaigns and denied access to Russia to participants of
Lithuania’s annual expedition Mission Siberia who travel to Russia to
take care of deportees’ graves.


The narrative spread by Russian propagandists disparages Lithuanian
statehood, whereas their accusations of history falsification and support to Nazism effectively shape the adversarial image of Lithuania
in the Russian society. Thus Russia’s history policy lays basis for the
Kremlin’s destructive actions against Lithuania and poses threat to
Lithuania’s national security.

One of the main targets of the Russian history policy is the Lithuanian armed resistance movement, as it denies clichés of the Kremlin’s narrative about the positive Soviet influence to Lithuania’s development. Russian officials and subordinate propagandists seek to shape the attitude that only Nazi collaborators and Holocaust-complicit criminals supported the resistance against the Soviet occupation. To compromise the Lithuanian resistance the Kremlin cynically manipulates the Holocaust tragedy to achieve the goals of its history policy. Russian propagandists further intensified this activity as the Lithuanian Parliament declared 2018 the year of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas – one of the leaders and symbols of the Lithuanian resistance movement. For the same reasons Lithuania’s aspirations to render legal assessment of Soviet crimes against Lithuanian people and the claim to compensate damage suffered during the Soviet occupation trigger furious reaction from the Kremlin.


Document data: ISBN 978-609-412-162-3 Link: https://www.vsd.lt/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2019-Gresmes-internetui-EN.pdf

The reference to TV from Russia being blocked in itself is not directly related to minority issues in Lithuania – however, these issues were discussed in the related litigation before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Concerning the “Immortal Regiment” memorial marches – for contrast, see how this commemorative event is evaluated by the state of New York at https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/j4960

HRC Concluding observations on Lithuania (excerpts), 2018

B.Positive aspects

3.The Committee welcomes the following legislative and institutional measures taken by the State party:

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(h)The development and implementation of the Action Plan for Promoting Non-discrimination 2017–2019, the establishment of the Department of National Minorities in 2015 and the adoption of the Action Plan for Roma Integration into Lithuanian Society for the period 2015–2020;

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C.Principal matters of concern and recommendations

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Discrimination against Roma

7.While noting the various programmes to improve the situation of the Roma community and the progress achieved in certain areas, in particular education and employment, the Committee is concerned at reports that the Roma community continues to suffer from widespread discrimination, especially in the areas of housing, health care, employment and education. In particular, it is concerned (a) that part of the Roma population does not have compulsory health insurance; (b) at the persistent low literacy rates among Roma compared with the general population, the low percentage of Roma people with a general education and the decrease in the number of Roma people with secondary and higher education; and (c) at the low employment rate among Roma, in particular women. The Committee regrets the lack of statistics on the number of complaints of discrimination against the Roma community and is concerned about the low number of investigations and lack of accountability for such acts (arts. 2, 24, 26 and 27).

8. The State party should intensify its efforts to address stereotypes, prejudice, intolerance and systemic discrimination against the Roma population and ensure that complaints are investigated, perpetrators are held accountable and victims have access to full reparation. It should ensure access by the Rom a to the education system, including by increasing school enrolment and completion rates among Roma children. It should also implement measures to ensure universal health coverage and equal access by Roma to health-care services, housing and the labour market. It should ensure the effective implementation of the Action Plan for Roma Integration into Lithuanian Society (2015 – 2020), including by allocating sufficient funding, and ensure the effective coordination among and accountability of local authorities.

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Hate speech and hate crimes

11.While noting the legislative and other measures taken by the State party to combat hate speech and hate crimes, the Committee remains concerned about intolerance and prejudice towards vulnerable and minority groups, including Roma, Jews, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, as well as the prevalence of hate speech and hate crimes against these groups, including on the Internet. The Committee is concerned that hate speech and hate crimes based on gender identity are not expressly prohibited in national legislation (article 170 of the Criminal Code) and at reports that the aggravating circumstance established under article 60.1.12 of the Criminal Code has never been applied on the ground of sexual orientation. The Committee is further concerned at the low number of complaints, investigations, cases brought before domestic courts and convictions of hate crimes and the lack of information on penalties imposed. While noting the State party’s statement that data collection has improved, the Committee regrets the lack of accurate official data disaggregated by social group with regard to complaints about discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes (arts. 2, 3, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26 and 27).

12. The State party should:

(a) Strengthen its efforts to combat intolerance, stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination towards vulnerable and minority groups, including Roma, Jews, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, by, inter alia, increasing training for law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and the judiciary and conducting awareness-raising campaigns promoting sensitivity and respect for diversity among the general public;

(b) Increase its efforts to prevent hate speech and hate crimes, including by effectively implementing article 170 of the Criminal Code, and ensure that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited by law, including on the ground of gender identity, in accordance with articles 19 and 20 of the Covenant and the Committee’s general comment No. 34 (2011) on the freedoms of opinion and expression;

(c) Encourage the reporting of hate crimes and hate speech and ensure that crimes are promptly identified and registered as such, including through the establishment of a comprehensive, disaggregated data-collection system;

(d) Strengthen the investigation capacity of law enforcement officials on hate crimes and criminal hate speech, including on the Internet, and ensure that all cases are systematically investigated, that perpetrators are held accountable with penalties commensurate with the crime and that victims have access to full reparation.

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Freedom of expression and association

27.The Committee is concerned at initiatives that would restrict and inhibit freedom of expression, including that of individuals addressing the complicity of Lithuanians in Nazi crimes against Jews and others. In particular, it is concerned at reports that the names of associations, news agencies, journalists, human rights defenders and other individuals are published in the annual Assessment of Threats to National Security by the State Security Department, and at the absence of any information regarding the criteria and procedures for such publication or its justification. It is also concerned at reports of recently proposed amendments to the Law on Consumer Protection which would ban the sale of material that “distorts historical facts” about the nation (arts. 19 and 21).

28. The State party should cease publicly referring to individuals and entities that exercise their freedom of expression as “ national security threats ” . It should ensure that all of its initiatives, legislative or otherwise, guarantee that authors, journalists, human rights defenders and other individuals and associations are able to freely exercise their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with article 19 of the Covenant and the Committee ’ s general comment No. 34.

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D.Dissemination of information relating to the Covenant

31. The State party should widely disseminate the Covenant and its two Optional Protocols, its fourth periodic report and the present concluding observations with a view to raising awareness of the rights enshrined in the Covenant among the judicial, legislative and administrative authorities, civil society and non-governmental organizations operating in the country and the general public, including members of minority communities. The State party should ensure that the report and the present concluding observations are translated into the official language of the State party.

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Document data: adopted 20.07.2018, published 29.08.2018 CCPR/C/LTU/CO/4 Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR%2fC%2fLTU%2fCO%2f4&Lang=en

Fundamental Rights Report 2018 (excerpts), 2018

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4 Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance

4.1. No progress in countering racism in the EU

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4.1.3. Courts confront racist and related offenses

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In Lithuania, the Supreme Court dismissed a  defendant’s cassation appeal, ruling that the right to hold beliefs and freedom of expression are not in conformity with public insult, incitement to hatred and discrimination, and incitement to violence against a  group of people of a  certain nationality.36 The defendant was tried for having publicly written comments to various articles published on the news portal www.15.min.lt, which insulted persons and incited hatred, discrimination and violence against them based on their Russian nationality

36 Lithuania, Supreme Court of Lithuania (Lietuvos Aukščiausiasis Teismas)  (2017), in the Criminal Case No. 2K-206-693/2017.

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5 Roma integration

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5.2. Overview of the fundamental rights situation of Roma

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5.2.2. Education

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In some cases, Member States introduced sanctions in cases where children are left out of compulsory education (Bulgaria64 and the Netherlands65); in other cases, they provided material assistance in the form of stationary and school equipment (Cyprus66) or vouchers for preschools (Greece67) or by providing public transport to schools (Lithuania68).

68 Lithuania, Department of National Minorities under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Tautinių mažumų departamentas prie Lietuvos Respublikos Vyriausybės) (2017), Hearing regarding integration of community of Vilnius (Kirtimai) Roma settlement (Vyko posėdis dėl Vilniaus (Kirtimų) taboro bendruomenės integracijos), Press release, 28 September 2017.

Member States also introduced measures to foster diversity and the inclusion of minorities, such as Roma. For example, Lithuania introduced legislative changes to improve the integration of national minorities in education through educational material and guidelines for cultural diversity.69 Austria approved a  major reform of the school system in June 2017.70 It plans to create regional advisory boards of the Department of Education, which can include representatives of national minorities, such as Roma. The Ministry of Education in Spain committed itself to including Roma history and culture in the national curriculum.71 Some Member States developed policies aimed at sensitising and training teachers about ethnic or cultural minorities – for example, in Ireland, 72 Lithuania, 73 Portugal, 74 Slovakia75 and Slovenia. 76

69 Lithuania, Minister of Education and Science (Švietimo ir mokslo ministras) (2017), Order regarding the approval of the action plan on the inclusion of children in learning and diverse education for 2017-2022 (Įsakymas „Dėl vaikų įtraukties mokytis ir įvairiapusio ugdymo 2017–2022 metų veiksmų plano patvirtinimo”), No.  V-527, 27 June 2017.

73 Lithuania, Department of National Minorities (Tautinių mažumų departamentas prie Lietuvos Respublikos Vyriausybės) (2017), Training to strengthen community competences (Vyks mokymai, skirti stiprinti bendruomenių kompetencijas), Press release, 20 September 2017.

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5.3. Implementing monitoring frameworks

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In 2017, Member States adopted various approaches to incorporating quantitative indicators in their monitoring. For example, in Bulgaria, an annual monitoring report on the implementation of the national Roma integration strategy collects information regarding the projects conducted under ESIF funding, using quantitative indicators when possible.143 Similarly, Lithuania’s annual report on the implementation of the Action Plan for Roma Integration for 2015–2020 is based on yearly outputs, including indicators such as the number of Roma children in general schools, the number of Roma women involved in social activities and the number of illegal buildings in Roma ghettos.144

144 Lithuania (2015), Action Plan for Roma Integration into Lithuanian Society in 2015–2020 (Romų integracijos į Lietuvos visuomenę 2015–2020 metų veiksmų planas), No. ĮV-48, Vilnius, 29 January 2015.

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Document data: published in June, 2018. Link: https://fra.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/annual-reports/fundamental-rights-2018

FCNM Advisory Committee 4th opinion on Lithuania (excerpts on Anti-Semitism and historical memory), 2018

II. Article-by-article findings

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Article 5 of the Framework Convention

Support for the preservation and development of national minority cultures

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39. The Advisory Committee notes with satisfaction an increased interest in and a number of activities on the Roma Holocaust. The Ministry of Culture published a leaflet and a children’s book on this topic. In 2015, the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre organised an exhibition commemorating Roma victims of the Nazi occupation. 38

38 State report, p. 44.

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Article 6 of the Framework Convention

Tolerance and intercultural dialogue

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46. The Institute for Ethnic Studies conducts regular monitoring of “social distance” between ethnic groups. According to the 2017 results of this survey, 6% of respondents would not like to live in the same neighbourhood as Poles. For Russians, the percentage is 7%. 15% of respondents would not like to live in the same neighbourhood as Jews. For Muslims, the figure is at 45% and for Roma 64%. Approximately 2 000 persons belonging to Lithuania’s Roma community are indeed confronted with widespread negative stereotypes in society. More than 40% of respondents in a 2014 survey quoted in the state report43 said they would not like to work with a Roma person. These attitudes systematically inhibit the access of Roma to their rights to effective equality (see Article 4), education (see Article 12) and participation in socioeconomic life (see Article 15) and has become visible in a number of cases of discrimination, hate speech and police misconduct (see below).

43 State report, p. 51.

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49. The Advisory Committee regrets the existence of anti-Semitic discourse in the media, specifically in online media, as mentioned by several interlocutors. It notes in particular the case of an anti-Semitic statement made by the “Ombudsman for Academic Ethics and Procedures”. 48 The statement was publicly condemned immediately by the Speaker of the Seimas and the Prime Minister. The Parliament, in a decision welcomed by the Advisory Committee, voted in March 2018 by qualified majority to dismiss the person from office. The Advisory Committee notes, furthermore, that the representatives of the Jewish community in Vilnius expressed concerns about the security of its buildings and would like more public support for the purposes of their security.

48 The Baltic Times (9 February 2018, Lithuania’s parlt speaker urges academic ethics guard to resign amid anti-Semitism claims, available at. www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_s_parlt_speaker_urges_ academic_ethics_guard_to_resign_amid_anti-semitism_claims

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Article 8 of the Framework Convention

Restitution of property

56. The Advisory Committee notes that under a law on property restitution adopted in 2011, the Lithuanian government will transfer a total of 37 million EUR in compensation to the Goodwill Foundation by 2023. The money is to be used for financing Lithuanian Jewish religious, cultural, health-care, athletics, educational and scholarly projects in Lithuania. From 2013 to 2016 the Government has paid 14.4 million EUR in total to the Goodwill Foundation. According to information provided by the Jewish community, 14 synagogues have been returned to the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Several dozen more synagogues listed on the registry of cultural treasures currently belong to the municipalities and private owners. Some of these, such as the one in Pakruojis, have already been renovated, others such as the one in Kalvarija, are still in need of funding. 57

57 Website of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, available at www.lzb.lt/en/2017/09/27/inter-institutionalcooperation-for-the-preservation-of-lithuanian-jewish-heritage, www.lzb.lt/en/2018/03/07/pakruojis-woodensynagogue-featured-on-lithuanian-public-tv-culture-channel, and www.lzb.lt/en/2018/04/06/kalvarijamunicipality-to-renovate-synagogue-complex

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Recommendation

58. The Advisory Committee encourages the authorities to continue a constructive dialogue with religious communities on restitution of property and support the renovation of religious buildings. In particular, support should be provided to the Muslim community in its efforts to build a mosque at a central location in Vilnius.

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Article 12 of the Framework Convention

Cultural diversity in education and teaching and learning materials

77. The Advisory Committee notes with interest that the Education Development Centre under the Ministry of Education has developed teaching modules on national minorities and intercultural understanding, but regrets that these topics, according to interlocutors, are not included in the general curriculum for teacher education. Education activities on the Holocaust, including the Holocaust against the Roma, such as regular seminars for teachers, are conducted by the “International commission for the evaluation of the crimes of the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes in Lithuania”.83 Furthermore, the Advisory Committee welcomes that the Ministry of Education is reviewing teaching and learning materials as regards the portrayal of persons belonging to national minorities. It was informed that one of the findings so far is that they do not contain enough information on Roma and that the Ministry of Education plans to remedy this situation. Given the widespread prejudice about the Roma community in society (see Article 6), the Advisory Committee recalls that measures to amend teaching and learning materials are very important.

83 State report, p. 44.

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Document data: ACFC/OP/IV(2018)004 ; adopted 30.05.2018, published 08.01.2019 Link: https://rm.coe.int/4th-advisory-commitee-opinion-on-lithuania-english-language-version/1680906d97 Also available in French