Fundamental Rights Report 2020 (excerpts), 2020

2. EQUALITY AND NON-DISCRIMINATION

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2.2. EFFECTIVENESS AND INDEPENDENCE OF EQUALITY BODIES STILL UNDER SCRUTINY

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Against this background, country reports and conclusions on the implementation of previous recommendations released in 2019 by the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) show that lack of independence and insufficient human and financial resources continue to affect a significant number of equality bodies across the EU. [..]

The lack of a mandate to provide independent assistance to victims of discrimination came out in the report on Latvia. 33 [..]

33 Council of Europe, ECRI (2019), ECRI report on Latvia (fifth monitoring cycle), Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 5 March 2019.

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3. RACISM, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE

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3.1. RACISM REMAINS A PERSISTENT PROBLEM

Racism and prejudice continued to pose serious challenges across the EU. Several people were murdered in hate crimes in 2019, as in previous years. Troublingly, diverse polls – exploring both general attitudes and individual experiences − suggest that tolerance of racism and right-wing extremism is growing.

Around one in three of 1,005 Latvian residents do not want to work alongside Roma (33 %), Afghan (30 %), Pakistani (29 %), Syrian (26 %) or African (25 %) persons, a poll revealed.1

1 Latvia, Research centre SKDS (2019), Opinion of Latvian residents about ethnic relations in Latvia (Latvijas iedzīvotāju viedoklis par etniskajām attiecībām Latvijā).

[..]

3.2. LEGAL AND POLICY INITIATIVES TO CURB HATE CRIME AND HATE SPEECH FALL SHORT

The Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia (2008/913/JHA) defines a common criminal law approach to racist and xenophobic hate speech and hate crimes and establishes objectives the Member States have to fulfil to ensure that certain serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia are punishable throughout the EU. [..]

In 2019, ECRI identified gaps in several Member States’ legislation against the public expression of and incitement to hatred, which is also subject to EU legislation. Its reports on Ireland,23 Latvia,24 Slovenia25 and Romania26 raised concerns that no legislative provisions penalise the public expression of insults, or defamation on grounds of race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin.

24 Council of Europe, ECRI (2019), ECRI report on Latvia (fifth monitoring cycle), Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 5 March 2019

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3.2.3. Encouraging hate crime reporting

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To increase trust in the police and to address hate crime under-reporting, ECRI recommended that Latvia establish a state police unit to reach out to vulnerable groups.78 [..]

78 Council of Europe, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) (2019), ECRI report on Latvia (fifth monitoring cycle), Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 5 March 2019.

[..]

Providing tools for policymakers to address hate crime

In 2019, several EU projects funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020 developed multilingual tools and guidance for policymakers at national, regional and local level to address hate crime. These include:

— Proximity policing against racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance (Proximity) – Spanish Observatory for Racism and Xenophobia (Oberaxe), Ministry of Employment and Social Security, with partners in Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom:

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3.3. More efforts needed to implement Racial Equality Directive correctly

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ECRI and CERD expressed concern about gaps in legislation against ethnic discrimination in a number of Member States. For example, in its report on Latvia, ECRI stressed that there is currently no comprehensive legislation dedicated to prohibiting racial discrimination.83

83 Council of Europe, ECRI (2019), ECRI report on Latvia (fifth monitoring cycle), Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 5 March 2019.

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Document data: 11.06.2020. ISBN 978-92-9474-895-9 Link: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2020-fundamental-rights-report-2020_en.pdf

Amendments to the General Education Law (excerpt), 2020

To supplement Section 21 of the law with a new Paragraph 2 reading as follows (the existing text of the Section being considered to be Paragraph 1):

(2) A municipality has a duty to ensure an opportunity to acquire pre-school
education programmes in the official language in all the pre-school
educational institutions subordinated thereto.


Document data: The text given is an unofficial translation. Latvian original text: (2) Pašvaldības pienākums ir nodrošināt iespēju visās tās padotībā esošajās pirmsskolas izglītības iestādēs apgūt pirmsskolas izglītības programmu valsts valodā.

In January 2020, the parliamentary commission approved a sligtly different version, before the 2nd reading in the plenary. That text read “A municipality has a duty to ensure acquisition of pre-school education programmes in the official language in all the pre-school educational institutions subordinated thereto” and was followed by a letter from the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

Pre-independence maps of Latvia’s cities, with Russian streetnames

Riga, 1900
Riga, Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary
Riga, around 1820
Dinamind (RU Усть-Двинск, Ust’-Dvinsk, DE Dünamünde, LV Daugavgrīva), around 1820
Libava (LV Liepāja, DE Libau), 1903
Mitava (LV Jelgava, DE Mitau), 1907

Publisher’s note: two other selections of historical Riga maps, some of those with Russian texts as well: http://riga.zurbu.net/maps & https://hutun.livejournal.com/18563.html One Riga map in Russian in high resolution, from circa 1880 https://www.russkije.lv/media/original/r/Riga—karta.jpg

Coronavirus pandemic in the EU – Fundamental Rights Implications (excerpts from background document on Latvia), 2020

1 Measures taken by government/public authorities

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1.2 Measures affecting the general population

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1.2.2 Education

Focus on:

  • Ensuring continuity of education for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, including measures to ensure distance learning for this group

Governments regulations No. 183 on “The Regulations concerning the time of state exams in school year 2019/2020” were amended to suspend state exams for Grade 9 pupils, except for Latvian language exam in minority schools.12 Centralised exams for Grade 12 will take place as planned.

12 Governments regulations Nr 183 on “The Regulations concerning the time of state exams in school year 2019/2020” (Noteikumi par valsts pārbaudes darbu norises laiku 2019./2020. mācību gadā), at
https://likumi.lv/ta/id/306563-noteikumi-par-valsts-parbaudes-darbu-norises-laiku-2019-2020-nbspmacibu-gada

[..]

To facilitate access to remote schooling and acquisition of qualitative content and provide greater support to parents, particularly at elementary school stage, during working days from 9.00-13.40 lessons are broadcast in a new and educational TV channel “Your class.” The channel will operate from 6 April until 29 May and will be broadcast on two free TV channels, and also available online www.tavaklase.lv 14

14 Lvportals.lv (2020). Explanations: Education in Higher Educational Establishments, Schools and Kindergardens (Skaidrojumi: Izglītība augstskolās, skolās un bērnudārzos), at https://lvportals.lv/skaidrojumi/314370-izglitiba-augstskolas-skolas-un-bernudarzos-2020

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1.2.4 Access to justice

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For public information purposes all legal acts connected to the state emergency situation are available in three languages – Latvian, English and Russian. 38

38 The legal acts of the Republic of Latvia (.Latvijas Republikas tiesību akti). Covid-19: legal acts in Russian (Covid-19: правовые акты на русском языке). https://likumi.lv/p/ru/covid-19


Document data: 04.05.2020. Prepared by NGO Latvian Centre for Human Rights, commissioned by FRA under contract as background material for a comparative report. The information and views contained in the document do not necessarily reflect the views or the official position of the FRA. Link: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/lv_report_on_coronavirus_pandemic_may_2020.pdf

Publisher’s notes: it should be noted that tavaklase.lv only offers televised lessons in Latvian, except the lessons of languages as subjects. It should also be noted that the authorities began providing detailed information on the pandemics in Russian only after an outcry in mid-March, both in social networks (by Latvian Human Rights Committee and others) and in the parliament (by opposition Harmony MPs).

Links to English-language studies & policy documents

Vladimir BUZAYEV Legal and social situation of the Russian-speaking minority in Latvia. Riga: Averti-R, 2014 http://www.russkije.lv/files/images/text/PDF_Files/Legal-and-social-situation.pdf (also available, in a different version, in French and Russian)

Roma in Latvia. Research report 2015 – Society Integration Foundation – http://oldweb.km.lv/lv/doc/nozaru/integracija/Romi/romi_latvija_petijums_ENG.pdf

Language situation in Latvia: 2010–2015 A sociolinguistic study. Scientific Editor: L. Lauze. Editor-in-Chief: G. Kļava. Rīga: LVA, 2017. 272 pgs. http://www.valoda.lv/en/research/study-of-the-linguistic-situation/ (also available, in print version, in Latvian)

Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018). Cabinet of Ministers. https://www.km.gov.lv/uploads/ckeditor/files/Sabiedribas_integracija/Petijumi/En_Pamatnostad.pdf (also available in Latvian and Russian)

Poleshchuk, Vadim (ed.). Chance to Survive. Minority Rights in Estonia and Latvia Moscow, Paris: Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, Foundation for Historical Outlook and Legal Information Centre for Human Rights. ISBN 978-9949-18-818-5 https://web.archive.org/web/20110313081515/http://www.lichr.ee/main/assets/L-3-eng.pdf (also available in Russian)

The Latvian language, Languages in Latvia. State Language Commission, 2003 http://www.vvk.lv/doc_upl/Valodas_Latvijaa_ENG.pdf (also available, in adifferent version, in various languages)

EUI reports on citizenship, naturalisation and electoral rights in Latvia http://globalcit.eu/country-profiles/?country=Latvia