Lithuania's parliament allows letters 'x', 'w' and 'q' in ID documents

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By Euronews
Inside of Lithuania's parliament in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.
Inside of Lithuania's parliament in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.   -   Copyright  Mindaugas Kulbis / AP

Breaking a decades-long deadlock, the Lithuanian parliament will now allow for the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names in Latin-based characters in personal documents.

The bill, passed in a vote of 82 to 37 with three abstentions on Tuesday, will come into force if it is signed into law by president Gitanas Nausėda.

The law would allow using the letters "q", "x", and "w", which do not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet, to spell the names of Lithuanian citizens if they assume their spouses' non-Lithuanian surnames.

This will also apply if the surname of a Lithuanian citizen's parents or one of their parents is written with non-Lithuanian characters in the source document, and if a citizen's parents, grandparents or ancestors had or have the citizenship of another country and their first and last names were spelled in non-Lithuanian characters in the archive source document.

"It’s a very important move in terms of human rights and even in terms of security policy," Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, said.

The original spelling of names in Latin-based characters without diacritical marks will also be allowed if a Lithuanian citizen acquired their first and last names in the foreign country where they reside and the names are spelled in these characters in the source document.

Currently, foreigners and their families who want to have their names written with letters that don't exist in the Lithuanian alphabet in their passports and ID cards have had to turn to courts, which have so far ruled in their favour.

Debates on the original spelling in documents have been happening for decades.

The issue of the original spelling of ethnic Poles' names that contain non-Lithuanian characters is regularly raised at bilateral meetings between Vilnius and Warsaw.

However, some politicians in the ruling coalition rejected it.

"This is simply a betrayal of the Lithuanian language," said Audronius Ažubalis, member of the ruling Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrat party.

A group of MPs is asking the president to veto the bill.

Additional sources • EBU