“A Polish-Lithuanian skirmish in Brussels,” announces Gazeta Wyborcza, reporting on an open letter by 10 Polish MEPs sent to Euro-parliament president Jerzy Buzek appealing for the “defence of the rights of Lithuania’s Polish minority.”

“Poles in Lithuania expected that once Lithuania joined the EU, the rights of ethnic minorities would be respected and extended there. This, however, has not been the case,” write the signatories of the letter, which, according to Wyborcza, was initiated by Waldemar Tomaszewski, a Lithuanian Pole and former presidential candidate. It has been condemned by Audronius Ažubalis, head of the Lithuania parliament’s foreign affairs committee, who claims it incites ethnic conflict and hinders the integration of the Polish minority in Lithuania (7 percent of the country’s population).

The contentious issues include the right to bilingual town and street names in districts with a Polish majority, the right to a Polish spelling for names on ID cards and passports, funding for Polish schools, and the return of real estate expropriated from Lithuanian Poles. “We have a complex history, we have only recently regained our independence. If we agree to Polish town names, how do we reject claims for town names in Cyrillic?” wonders Vytautas Landsbergis, the first leader of post-Soviet Lithuania. The mighty Russian neighbour, he pursues, is interested in setting the Poles and Lithuanians at one another’s throats. Another issue that remains a thorn in the side of bilateral relations is the 1920 Polish seizure of Vilnius.