Letter to Latvia on language of instruction in pre-schools by 4 Special Rapporteurs (excerpt), 2019

We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 26/17, 34/18, 34/6 and 34/35.

In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of the regulation on pre-school education No. 716, which appears to impose restrictions on the use of minority languages in pre-school educational institutions.

According to the information received:

On 21 November 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a new regulation No. 716 on pre-school education, stipulating that the official Latvian language will be the only medium of instruction and learning in pre-schools classes for children between five and seven years old. The regulation came into force on 1 September 2019.

In Latvia, pre-school education is available for children between the ages of 1.5 and 7 years. Pre-school enrolment is, however, mandatory at the age of 5 and play-lessons constitute the main form of learning at this educational level.

Annex 2 of the regulation No. 716 presents a model programme for minority pre-school educational institutions. In paragraph 9, the annex states that, for children from the age of 5, the only medium of communication and instruction in play-lesson in minority pre-school educational institutions shall be the Latvian language, except for activities organised with the aim of learning a minority language and culture.

Adoption of the regulation No. 716 coincided with the repeal of regulation No. 533 of 31 July 2012. The repealed regulation No. 533 had put forward a different educational approach, one reportedly more sensitive to minority childtren’s mother tongue and to their educational needs. In its proposed model programme for minority pre-schools, regulation No. 533 had adopted a “bilingual approach” in play-lessons for the whole length of pre-school education covering children aged 1.5 to 7 years and had encouraged the creation of a “supportive environment for the acquisition of the official language”. By contrast, regulation No. 716 mandates an “official state language approach” for education of pre-school children aged 5 and above.

In addition, we have received reports indicating that the consultations for the text of new regulation No. 716 started in April 2018. These reports state that input was sought from only a limited number of stakeholders, including local civil society organizations, without direct engagement with minority communities and their representatives, or with organizations working on human rights and in particular on the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.

Without prejudging the accuracy of the information we have received, we express our concern over the Cabinet of Ministers’ adoption of the regulation No. 716 on pre-school education, mandating exclusive use of the Latvian official language in minority pre-school classes for children aged 5 and above. Regulation No. 716 replaced the relatively more inclusive regulation No. 533, which, before its repeal, provided for a bilingual approach for the entire pre-school period through age 7. We fear that regulation no. 716 regulation – in force as of 1 September 2019 – will harm minority children’s equal enjoyment of their human right to education in Latvia. The exclusion of their mother tongue from pre-school learning activities may hinder these minority children’s learning.

We also express our concern regulation No. 716 may violate the right of members of linguistic minorities to use their own language in community with other members of this group. We also fear that regulation No. 716 could lead to undue interference with the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds, regardless of the language used.

Lastly, we express our concern over the reported lack of a wide consultation on the text of the new regulation, and find particularly troubling the reported absence of consultation with minority communities and their representatives, or with organizations working and advocating for the rights of persons belonging to minorities in Latvia. We want to emphasize that achieving a truly inclusive and just society requires the effective participation of persons belonging to minorities in the formulation, adoption, implementation and monitoring, at the international. national and local levels, of laws and policies affecting them.

In connection with the above alleged facts and concerns, please refer to the Annex on Reference to international human rights law attached to this letter, which cites international human rights instruments and standards relevant to these allegations.

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:

  1. Please provide any additional information and/or comment(s) you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.
  2. Please provide all relevant information regarding implementation of regulation No. 716 and, in particular, the measures put in place to ensure that pre-school minority children learn in their mother tongue.
  3. Please provide disaggregated data on the number of children, classes and schools affected by regulation No. 716.
  4. Please provide detailed information on the consultation process of the regulation No. 716 and the measures undertaken to ensure wide participation of all relevant stakeholders, including representatives from minorities and their organizations, in decisions affecting them, in particular with regard to their linguistic rights.
  5. Please provide information about measures taken by your Excellency’s Government to protect and promote the right of persons belonging to minorities, in community with the other members of their group, to use their own language.


Document data: 24.09.2019 ; OL LVA 1/2019 Link: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24863

Publisher’s note: the annex, not reproduced here, refers to Article 26(2) of the UDHR, Article 13 of the ICESCR, Articles 2, 19, 26 and 27 of the ICCPR, Articles 13 , 29(c) and 30 of the CRC, Articles 1, 2 and 4.1 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Articles 1, 2(c) and 5 of the ICERD, to the reports of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues A/HRC/22/49 (paras. 39, 41 and 83) and HRC/NONE/2017/12 (pages 16 and 21).

One should also note one inaccuracy in the letter. It speaks about Latvian being introduced as “the only medium of communication and instruction”, while in fact, the relevant document imposes it as the “main” (galvenais) medium.

Report on the implementation of national Roma integration strategies (excerpts), 2019





1.1. Focus of measures


Distribution of education measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-areaMS
Fight early school-leavingAT, BE, BG, CY, ES, EL, HU, HR, IT, LV, LT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SE, SK, UK
Consider the needs of individual pupilsAT, CY, CZ, ES, HU, IT, LV, LT, LU, PT, RO, SE, SI, UK
Encourage Roma participation in – and completion of – secondary and tertiary educationAT, BG, HR, CZ, ES, HU, LT, LU, PT, RO, SK
Increase the access to and quality of early childhood education and careAT, BG, HR, CY, CZ, ES, HU, IT, LU, NL, RO, SI, SK
Eliminate school segregationAT, BE, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HR, IT, LU, NL, RO, SK
Use inclusive and tailor-made teaching and learning methodsAT, BG, HR, CY, CZ, LT, LU, NL, RO, SI, SK, UK
Support the acquisition of skills adapted to labour market needsAT, BG, CZ, EL, ES, LT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SI, SK
Support transition between educational levelsAT, BG, CZ, ES, HU, HR, IT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SK
Encourage parental involvementAT, BE, BG, CY, ES, HR, LV, LT, LU, RO, SK
Improve teacher trainingAT, BG, CY, CZ, ES, LT, RO, SE, SI, SK
Promote extracurricular activitiesAT, BG, CY, EL, IT, LV, LT, RO, SI, SK
Widen access to second-chance education and adult learning AT, BG, CY, CZ, EL, ES, HR, LT. LU, UK
Fight illiteracyAT, BG, CY, HU, ES, HR, NL, RO
Prevent inappropriate placement of Roma in special needs schoolsAT, CZ, ES, HR, RO, SK


1.2. Achievements and challenges

The most widespread achievement mentioned by NRCPs in the area of education is mediation9 . Other achievements include: development of kindergarten capacities10; improved support to fighting and monitoring early school-leaving 11 ; and including Roma inclusion and non-discrimination related topics in teacher training or national curricula12 .

9 AT, FR, EL, ES, IT, LV, RO

10 e.g. CZ, SK

11 e.g. HU, ES, LV

12 e.g. AT, ES, IT, PT

The most significant challenges highlighted by NRCPs include: school participation, absenteeism, early school-leaving, the transition from primary to secondary and the completion of secondary education. 13 Other challenges include: fighting segregation 14 ; ensuring and developing human capacities15; cooperation among stakeholders16; promoting early childhood education and care;17 adult learning and second chance education18; and data availability19 .

13 AT, CY, EE, EL, ES, FR, HR, LT, NL

14 EL, ES, HR, RO

15 EL, LV, SE, SK

16 ES, LT, LV, PL

17 BG, EL, ES

18 AT, BG, EL

19 HR, IT, PT

1.3. Policy learning


Promising approaches:
BG, CZ, DK, EL, FI, FR, HR, HU, LT, PL, SK: Introduction or extension of obligatory (free) preschool, ESIF funded development of kindergartens, training for kindergarten teachers
CY, EL, ES, IE, IT, HR, HU, LT, LV, NL, PL, PT, RO, SE, SI: Programmes aimed at preventing school drop-out of Roma (girls) through afterschool support, tutoring, scholarships, mentoring, mediation, assistants, second chance education, teacher training, support to families
AT, CY, FI, HU, IE, IT, PT, RO: Introducing Roma history (including the Holocaust) and/or culture in national curricula
IE, HR, RO: Allocation of places to Roma in secondary and tertiary education
LT: Network of schools attended by Roma children receiving capacity building and competence development
SE: Teachers training (Södertörn University) and secondary-level adult education in Romani



2.1. Focus of measures


Distribution of employment measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Eliminate labour market barriers, including discrimination AT, BE, CY, CZ, EL, ES, HR, HU, LT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SK
Provide personalised guidance to individual job-seekers AT, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HU, HR, LV, LU, NL, RO, SI, SK
Support vocational trainingAT, BG, CY, ES, LV, LU, NL, RO, SK
Support lifelong learning and skills developmentAT, BG, ES, HR, HU, LV, LT, LU, NL, PT
Support self-employment and entrepreneurship AT, BG, HR, CZ, EL, ES, HU, LT
Support first work experience AT, BG, CY, CZ, EL, ES, HR,
Support on-the-job training BG, CZ, ES, HU, LV, LU, SK
Provide equal access to mainstream public employment services BG, HR, CZ, HU, LV, SK, ES, UK
Promote employment opportunities within the civil serviceEL, HU, NL, SK


2.2. Achievements and challenges

In their reporting on 2017, several NRCPs referred to the positive impact of economic growth on the prospects for Roma employment21. But even more NRCPs referred to targeted measures, such as regional employment programmes (career-counselling, vocational or on-the-job training and job matching tailored to Roma or vulnerable job-seekers)22. Such measures are even more effective when Roma are involved as mediators, social workers, or other service providers.

21 BG, ES, HR

22 AT, BG, CZ, ES, FR, HR, HU, LV, NL, SK

NRCPs emphasise three main types of challenges: capacity of implementing structures 23 ; discrimination against Roma24; and attitudes and trust of Roma themselves25 .

23 AT, EL, PL, PT, SK

24 EE, ES, LT, LV, NL, PT, RO

25 BG, EE, FR, NL, PT

2.3. Policy learning


Promising approaches:
٠ BG, CY, ES, IT, LV, NL, PT, SI: Regional or local employment programmes (individualised counselling) to promote active job-seeking or self-employment
٠ HU, EL, ES, FR: Targeted programmes to improve the employability of Roma women (in the social sector)
٠ IT, LT, HU: Examples of cooperation with employers for job placements for Roma and fighting stereotypes
٠ SK: Amendment of the Act on Public Employment Services providing for an individual action plan to support labour market integration binding the jobseeker and the labour office
٠ BE: Since 2016, Roma have access to the ‘integration path’ set up for people of foreign origin in Wallonia (courses on French language, basic knowledge of society; support to find employment and children’s schooling). Municipalities employ Roma mediators in public social assistance centres, prevention or proximity services
٠ HR: Ombudsman’s office gives antidiscrimination training to public employment officers and other civil servants
٠ UK: Race disparity audit and website to collect and disseminate information on discrimination in employment



3.1. Focus of measures

Distribution of health measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Remove barriers to healthcare AT, BE, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HR, HU, IT, RO, SE, SK, UK
Promote health awareness AT, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HR, HU, IT, LV, NL, SE, SI, SK, UK,
Improve access to free vaccination programmes targeting children and groups most at risk AT, BG, EL, HR, HU, SK, UK
Improve access to medical check-ups, prenatal and postnatal care and family planningAT, ES, HU, SI, SK, UK




4.1. Focus of measures


Distribution of health measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Ensure access to public utilities and infrastructure for housing BE, BG, CY, EL, ES, HR, RO, SI, SK, UK
Eliminate spatial segregation and promote desegregation AT, BE, BG, EL, ES, HU, IT, LT, RO, SK, UK
Promote non-discriminatory access to social housing AT, CZ, EL, ES, HU, IT, LT, LV, RO, SI, SK, UK
Ensure that urban regeneration projects include integrated housing interventions for marginalised communities BE, BG, ES, HR, HU, IT, SK
Promote community-led local development and/or integrated territorial investments supported by the ESIFES, HR, HU, IT
Provide halting sites for non-sedentiary Roma AT, UK


4.2. Achievements and challenges

NRCPs reported that the most significant achievements were in access to social housing38. Another important cluster of achievements mentioned by several NRCPs was the elimination of slums and spatial segregation39. NRCPs also referred to results in the provision of halting sites40, access to public utilities (such as water, electricity and gas) and infrastructure for housing41; the legalisation of housing42; and in urban regeneration43 .

38 AT, CZ, EL, HU, LV, LT, PT, RO

39 ES, FR, HU, IT, LT

40 FR, NL

41 SI

42 HR

43 BG

Reported challenges include: spatial segregation44; barriers for Roma to access housing in the private sector45; as well as public support for and legislation on access to social housing46 .

44 BG, CY, ES, SK

45 ES, LT, LV, NL

46 CZ, BG



1. Focus of measures


Distribution of non-discrimination measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness about the benefits of Roma integration AT, BE, BG, CZ, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SK, SE
Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness on diversityAT, BE, BG, CZ, EE, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SE, SK
Fight antigypsyism by combatting Anti-Roma rhetoric and hate speechAT, BG, CZ, ES, HU, IT, LT, LV, SK, UK
Fight violence, including domestic violence, against women and girls AT, ES, IT, NL
Fight (multiple) discrimination faced by children and women involving all relevant stakeholders AT, ES, IT, NL
Fight underage and forced marriages AT, NL
Ensure the effective practical enforcement of Directive 2000/43/EC CZ, HR, IT, LT
Fight trafficking in human beingsAT, HU
Implement desegregation measures regionally and locallyHU, NL, UK
Ensure that eviction are in full compliance with EU law and international human rights obligationsIT
Fight begging involving children, through the enforcement of legislationAT
Promote the cooperation between Member States in situations with cross-border dimensionAT


2. Achievements and challenges

The achievements most often mentioned by NRCPs were: improving the conditions of Roma women and children47; combating antigypsyism by breaking stereotypes or promoting Roma culture and history 48 ; and involving all relevant actors (public authorities, civil society and Roma communities) in efforts to promote anti-discrimination49 .

47 BG, EE, ES, HU, HR, PT, SK

48 ES, FR, HU, LV

49 IT, ES, SI

Several NRCPs referred to challenges of improving access to legal protection and rights awareness50, as well as difficulties in fighting against stereotypes51 and improving the situation of Roma women and children.52 The mere fact that several Member States53 – including some with large Roma communities and several with very high rates of perceived discrimination among Roma – did not report any antidiscrimination measures underlines the gravity of challenges in this area.

50 AT, CZ, LT, PT

51 EE, ES, HR, LV

52 BG, ES, SK

53 CY, FR, EL, PL, RO

3. Policy learning


Promising approaches:
AT: As a result of an online consultation on the NRIS, efforts to address antigypsyism intensified. Fighting antigypsyism became a priority under the revised strategy and the focus of a dedicated event of the Austrian EU presidency
٠ DE: An independent expert commission on antigypsyism has been set up to provide the government with concrete recommendations regarding the history of Sinti and Roma in Germany, their persecution and discrimination, as well as recommendations for addressing antigypsism today.
٠ Recognition of the Roma Holocaust and setting up of a committee against racism with Roma participation (SK); monuments, exhibitions and online platform to commemorate Roma victims of the Holocaust (NL); annual commemoration of Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day in Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp (PL); Roma History and Art Museum and compensation to victims of forced labour (LV)


Document data: 06.09.2019 Link [with annexes not quoted here]: https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/report-implementation-national-roma-integration-strategies-2019_en

HCNM statement to the 1229th Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council (excerpt), 2019

During my first visit to Latvia in my current capacity, which took place in March, I engaged with a broad range of interlocutors both in Riga as well as in Daugavpils; an area with a sizeable concentration of minorities in the south-east of the country.

On the matter of citizenship, I took note of a decrease in the number of non-citizens from 29 per cent in 1995 to 10.7 per cent in 2019. In this context, I was encouraged by the President’s initiative to grant automatic citizenship to the newly-born children of non-citizens and welcome the recent adoption of the relevant draft law the Saeima in the first reading. While I recognize that this measure alone will not solve the issue of non-citizenship, I view it as a positive step towards the resolution of this long-standing matter, and as having a symbolic value for minorities. I encouraged the authorities take additional steps to further facilitate and incentivize naturalization, especially for the younger generations, which would be beneficial in the long term.

With regard to the education reforms launched in 2018 and their implications for national minorities, I recognize the intended objectives behind the reorganization and optimization of the school system. At the same time, I reiterated my position that the reform constitutes a departure from a previously well-functioning model of bilingual education, which was based on the advice of my institution. Going forward, it is crucial to proceed with the implementation of the reform in a way that is inclusive and which takes into consideration the concerns of national minorities who will be affected by it. In this regard, I encouraged effective communication and dialogue with minority communities to reduce the risk of misunderstandings and rumours. I also urged the authorities to avoid giving any impression that the reform is unduly penalizing or disproportionately impacting national minorities.

As to the language policy, I highlighted the importance of a pragmatic approach by pursuing a balance between promoting the State language and safeguarding minorities’ languages through positive means and incentives, rather than punitive measures, as the latter may undermine any efforts to increase the use of the State language as a tool for integration. In Latvia, I also looked into other matters related to the integration of society, such as inclusive public spaces and symbols.

Document data: 23.05.2019, Link: https://www.osce.org/permanent-council/420572?download=true

Riga, March 16, 2019 – a march honouring Waffen SS Latvian Legion veterans

A general view of the gathering participants
Leader of the co-ruling National Alliance party, Mr Raivis Dzintars, MP
Another participant of the march
Mr Aleksandrs Kiršteins, MP (National Alliance)
Another participant of the march
Co-operation of Waffen SS symphathizers from various countries
Specific political demands
Dr Guntis Kalme, a mainstream Lutheran priest, a professor of the Luther Academy
Mr Jānis Dombrava, MP (National Alliance)
Behind the big flag, left to right: Raivis Dzintars MP, Imants Parādnieks (Prime Minister’s advisor on demography, with a baby), Jānis Dombrava MP, Jānis Iesalnieks MP
Protesters – a two-times MP Mr Vladimir Buzajev (Владимир Бузаев), and a three-times MEP Ms Tatjana Ždanoka (Татьяна Жданок; both – Latvian Russian Union), the latter from a family decimated by the Holocaust

Photos – Dmitry Zhilin, 2019

Publisher’s note: the same year, the National Alliance tried to re-establish March the 16th as an official commemoration day. Link: https://eng.lsm.lv/article/politics/politics/national-alliance-repeats-march-16-memorial-request.a310737/ State-owned lsm.lv has reported on the march, but ignored what makes it exceptional – the participation of ruling politicians https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/society/march-16-parade-takes-place-in-riga.a312922/ Canada has condemned the march https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canada-condemns-annual-latvian-parade-that-honours-nazi-ss-unit

The same day, Parliament’s speaker Inara Murniece (NA), commemorating the day at a cemetery out of Riga, declares that legionnaires “did what their heart ordered them to – they defended Latvia” and that restoration of Latvia’s statehood became possible because of “legionnaires’ standards of values and their sacrifice”. Links in Russian https://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/latvia/murniece-latvijskie-legionery-sdelali-to-chto-velelo-im-serdce.d?id=50913207 and in Latvian http://www.saeima.lv/lv/aktualitates/saeimas-zinas/27766-inara-murniece-latvijas-valstij-legionaru-sirdis-bija-noteicosa-vieta

More context: March 15 – the administrative court upholds the limitations imposed by the Riga city municipality upon a counter-rally appled for by the Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee (no limitations are imposed on the events honouring Waffen SS veterans) – forcing to protest at a distance and without sound enhancement. In its coverage, DELFI.lv (a mainstream media) puts anti-fascists in quotation marks https://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/latvia/sud-ne-razreshil-antifashistam-protestovat-u-pamyatnika-svobody-16-marta.d?id=50910847 March 18 – Prime Minister Krisjanis Kariņš, who earlier advised politicians to visit cemeteries on March 16th instead of the march in the centre of the capital, avoids commenting on his advisor’s participation in the march https://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/latvia/karinsh-uvernulsya-ot-ocenki-dejstvij-svoego-sovetnika-v-svyazi-s-16-marta.d?id=50915449

EP Culture and education committee letter to Latvia, 2019

Committee on Culture and Education

The Chair

D 303450 01.03.2019

Mr Krišjānis Kariņš

Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia

Brīvības bulvāris 36, Rīga


IPOL-COM-CULT D (2019) 8190

Honourable Mr. Prime Minister

The European Parliament received several petitions reporting on the changes introduced by your Government to the Education Law and Law on the Institutions of Higher Education regarding the abolishing of education in minorities’ languages in universities and in high schools, including private ones, and the imposing of the additional restrictions on it in primary schools.

Linguistic diversity figures among the most salient manifestations of cultural diversity in Europe and consequently, multilingualism is a core value of the European Union, as integral to Europe as the freedom of movement, the freedom of residence and the freedom of expression. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which enshrines the foundational rights and freedoms protected in the EU, upholds a respect for cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity as a cornerstone of European policy.

The education systems in general and schools in particular, cannot be isolated from the sociolinguistic context and the society in which they are embedded. Indeed, school practices can influence the level of multilingualism and the attitudes towards multilingualism and multiculturality of a society as a whole. Children need to learn in their native language, especially in primary schools, as highlighted by UNESCO position paper “Education in a multilingual world”, UNESCO SDG4 – Education 2030 Framework for Action, UNESCO policy paper “If you don’t understand, how can you learn?” and OSCE Hague recommendations.

Moreover, on 7 February 2018, the European Parliament approved a resolution on protection and non-discrimination with regard to minorities in the EU Member States (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0032). This resolution encourages the Member States to ensure that the right to use a minority language is upheld and to protect linguistic diversity within the Union. It advocates respect for linguistic rights in communities where there is more than one official language, and calls on the Commission to strengthen the promotion of the teaching and use of regional and minority languages.

We are sure that you believe as we do that Europe’s linguistic diversity is a cultural and social asset and that in multilingual environments, respecting diverse linguistic identities is a requirement for recognising the equal dignity of citizens.

For that reason, on behalf the members of European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), I would like to kindly ask you to inform the CULT Committee on the main changes introduced on the above mentioned laws and the rational for those changes.

Moreover, we call upon your Government to set as a primary goal of these laws the best interest of the children from national minority’s families.

Yours sincerely,

Petra Kammerevert

Document data: 01.03.2019 No. IPOL-COM-CULT D (2019) 8190