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

Letter to Latvia on kindergartens, May 2019

Excellency,

I would like to inform you that in the course of its 98th Session, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered information received under its early warning and urgent action procedure, related to the new regulation on pre-school education (No. 716) and minority rights, in Latvia.

The information received indicates that on 21 November 2018, the State party adopted a new regulation No. 716 on pre-school education. The new legislation will enter into force on 1 September 2019 and includes in its annexes mandatory model programmes. Accordingly, the main medium of communication in a play-lesson shall be Latvian, except activities organised with the aim of learning minority’s language and ethnic culture.

The Committee is concerned that this new law may be discriminatory towards ethnic minorities in the field of education. In this regard, the Committee would like to recall the State party its recommendations made in paragraph 17 of its concluding observations of September 2018 (CERD/C/LVA/CO/6-12).

The Committee recommended that the State party take measures to ensure that its language policy and laws do not create direct or indirect discrimination or restrict the rights of ethnic minorities to access education, employment and basic services. The Committee also recommended that the State party ensure that there are no undue restrictions on access to education in minority languages and reconsider the necessity of amendments to the Law on Education that create further restrictions on the number of lessons of minority language in public and private schools.

Accordingly, the Committee requests the State party to provide information on the steps taken to implement the above-mentioned concluding observations and to ensure that the new regulation No. 716 on pre-school education is in line with the Convention.

In accordance with article 9 (1) of the Convention and article 65 of its Rules of Procedure, the Committee requests the State party to submit its response by 8 July 2019.

Allow me, Excellency, to reiterate the wish of the Committee to continue to
engage in a constructive dialogue with the Government of the Republic of Latvia, with a view to ensuring the effective implementation of the Convention.

Yours sincerely,

Noureddine Amir

Chair


Document data: 10.05.2019 CERD/EWUAP/ 98th session/Latvia/JP/ks The letter has been sent to the Permanent Representative of Latvia to the United Nations Office in Geneva Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CERD/Shared%20Documents/LVA/INT_CERD_ALE_LVA_8931_E.pdf

Publisher’s notes: the provision on the main medium of communication applies to the age of five and above.

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

LV-1520

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

Co-operation agreement of the parties forming the Kariņš Cabinet (excerpts), 2019

II Rules of co-operation

(..)

2.7. The issues concerning (..) amendments to the Citizenship Law, except the case mentioned in paragraph 2.8.1. of the present agreement (..) and such amendments, which worsen the situation of the Latvian language, to laws regulating the use of the language (..) can only be decided based on the principle of unanimity of co-operating parties.

2.8. The co-operating parties respect each other’s rights to move forward draft laws and the rights to differ in voting on the following issues:
2.8.1. granting citizenship to Latvia-born minor children of “non-citizens”;
(..)
2.8.4. restitution and compensation for the property rights of Latvia’s Jewish communities having disappeared due to the Holocaust;

(..)


Document data: 23.01.2019. Link: https://www.mk.gov.lv/sites/default/files/editor/sadarbibas_ligums_gala-redakcija_red.pdf (Latvian)