Polish, Lithuanian parliamentary heads mark historic union

PM Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Twitter that the Union of Lublin was “a breakthrough document in the history of the world.” Wojtek Jargiło/PAP

The speakers of the Polish and Lithuanian parliaments on Sunday marked the 450th anniversary of the signing of the historic union between the two nations that created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest and most populous states in Europe.

Speakers of the Polish Sejm (lower house) and Senate, Marek Kuchcinski and Stanislaw Karczewski, respectively, and the Lithuanian unicameral parliament Seimas, Viktoras Pranckietis, laid flowers at the Union of Lublin Monument in Lublin, a city in eastern Poland where the union was signed. The ceremony was also attended by Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki.

The ceremonies also attracted a range of officials from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania.

Lublin used to be located in the heart of 16th century Poland.

Speaking to PAP before the ceremonies, Stanislaw Karczewski said that Poland's present contact with Lithuania is the best in years, stressing politics, energy and economy as the areas of close cooperation.

Karczewski said his contacts with Pranckietis are "very good and frequent" as he expressed satisfaction that Lithuania's newly-elected president, Gitanas Nauseda, chose Poland as the destination for his first foreign trip.

Among problems that remain unresolved, Karczewski named the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania, especially the right to spell their names in Polish in Lithuanian documents, using Polish town names in the cases of towns that have a significant Polish population and providing education in Polish.

PM Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Twitter that the Union of Lublin was "a breakthrough document in the history of the world," adding that the multi-national and multi-religious Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania was "centuries ahead of the West."

At a debate on the European significance of the Union of Lublin that was held later in the day, Pranckietis said that Poland and Lithuania should focus on common goals, as he referred to the Union of Lublin as a forerunner of the European Union.

The Lithuanian parliamentary speaker said that the two countries play an important political role in Europe.

Both countries speak in one voice on Ukraine's territorial integrity, said Pranckietis. "History has taught us that freedom is not given once and for all," he said. He also argued that Poland and Lithuania should support candidates for EU members, including Ukraine.

Karczewski said that the Union of Lublin was signed to defend Poland and Lithuania against Moscow. Such defence is also needed today, within NATO, the Polish Senate speaker said.

Kuchcinski said that the Union of Lublin featured a number of examples for contemporary international politics. The Sejm speaker stressed the pillars of the act which included parliamentarianism, self-governance, tolerance, independent courts, a republican election of the monarch, as well as freedom and equality.

Anniversary letters were also sent to the participants in the ceremony by Polish President Andrzej Duda and PM Mateusz Morawiecki.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the biggest countries of 16th/17th-century Europe, with a large multi-ethnic population. It was formally established by the Union of Lublin in July 1569. Considerably reduced in size by the subsequent partitions of Poland by its neighbours Russia, Prussia and Austria in the second half of the 18th century, it disappeared from the map of Europe in 1795.