(MENAFN - Saudi Press Agency) Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited Lithuania in a hastily arranged trip on Sunday to show solidarity with ethnic Poles, who have protested against plans to increase the teaching of the Lithuanian language in Polish schools, according to Reuters.
About 1,000 students, parents and teachers protested on Friday against new legislation which would require Lithuania's ethnic minority schools to teach more subjects, including Lithuanian history, in the Lithuanian language, which is unrelated to Polish.
The move adds to a series of disputes which have strained ties between the tiny Baltic republic and Poland . Ethnic Poles, the largest minority in Lithuania, fear the change of law will put them at a disadvantage and the Polish government has urged Vilnius to seek a compromise.
Tusk met with Polish minority leaders at a church next to the Gate of Dawn chapel in the old town of Vilnius.
'Polish relations with Lithuania would be as good as the Lithuania state's relations with the ethnic Polish minority,' Tusk, who faces elections back home in October, told the crowd, mostly ethnic Poles, to loud applause.
However, Kestutis Girnius from the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences in Vilnius, said Tusk's remarks could be interpreted as threatening.
'You can view this statement as neutral, but also as a kind of a threat, that Warsaw could worsen relations with Lithuania,' he told Reuters.
Tusk told the crowd in the church he had agreed with Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, whom he met earlier on Sunday in the coastal town of Palanga, to set up an expert group to look into the implementation of the education law amendments.
'No law can abuse the rights and tradition of Lithuanian citizens, no matter of their ethnicity,' Tusk told reporters.
The Lithuanian government has said the changes are aimed at helping ethnic minorities integrate into society.
Kubilius was quoted as saying by the BNS news service that the law would not be changed, but there could be discussion on 'how it can be implemented, given various proposals'.
About 70 of 80 schools catering for the Polish minority in Lithuania had planned to go on strike as of Monday, but had postponed the protest, the strike coordinator said.
Poland and Lithuania, both members of the European Union and NATO, were joined in a common state for centuries from the Middle Ages and have had mostly good ties since Vilnius regained its independence in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union.