April 19, 2011 / 6:23 PM / 9 years ago

Poland summons Lithuania envoy over ethnic Poles

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s foreign ministry summoned the Lithuanian ambassador in Warsaw on Tuesday to express concern over the treatment of its Baltic neighbor’s Polish-speaking minority.

The move is the latest sign of increased tensions between the two countries, which are both members of the European Union and of NATO, over a growing list of complaints, including the treatment of ethnic Poles and Polish investors in Lithuania.

The ministry said it had expressed concern to Ambassador Loreta Zakareviciene about “a growing ... atmosphere of enmity” in Lithuania toward its Polish-speaking population.

Vilnius has already distanced itself from recent nationalistic comments by some Lithuanian educators cited by Poland.

“We should not let radicals prevail. The (Lithuanian) government wants emotions to be left aside, so the normal dialogue (with Poland) continues,” said Virgis Valentinavicius, a spokesman for Lithuania’s prime minister.

The two countries have had generally friendly ties since the fall of communism in 1989 and Lithuania’s regaining of its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Warsaw has long fretted about the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania, which makes up around 7 percent of the small Baltic republic’s population, over issues ranging from the spelling of Polish names to land disputes and education.

Tensions have been exacerbated by complaints from Poland’s top refiner PKN Orlen, which is considering selling its Lithuanian unit, accusing Vilnius of failing to ensure it more accessible oil supplies.

Reporting by Chris Borowski in Warsaw and Nerijus Adomaitus in Vilnius

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