HCNM letter to the Parliament’s Speaker on campaigning & tertiary education, 2020

Excellency,

As part of the ongoing dialogue between the Government and Saeima of Latvia and the office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, please allow me to address two issues that, in my opinion, are of importance.

I took note of the initiative in the Saeima to consider amending the Election Campaigning Law which envisages that election campaign materials must be in the State language only. Although promoting the State language, including through its use during the elections, is key to the successful integration of society, it is equally important to ensure that it is not achieved at the expense of minorities’ linguistic rights, which need to be protected in line with Latvia’s international obligations and as part of a coherent and comprehensive integration policy.

International standards provide for the right of national minorities to conduct election campaigns in their mother tongues. Notably, paragraphs 32.1 and 32,5 of the Copenhagen Document commit participating States to grant national minorities the right “to use freely their mother tongue in private as well as in public” and “to disseminate, have access to and exchange information in their mother tongue.” In line with the OSCE HCNM Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies, “the overall framework for political participation should be designed to facilitate the inclusion of minority issues in the public debate as well as to promote the political participation of persons belonging to minorities. This should include displaying electoral information and advertising in minority languages, providing opportunities for the use of minority languages in the media and producing electoral material in minority languages.” (Guideline 27). I would thus respectfully encourage the Saeima not to adopt any amendments that pose restrictions on campaigning in any language other than the State language.

I am also aware of the decision of the Constitutional Court of Latvia regarding the use of languages in private higher education institutions. I noted that the regulator has been given one year to review existing language restrictions. In connection with this, and as expressed in the letter dated 8 July 2020 from HCNM Zannier, I would like to reiterate the need for the Latvian authorities and the Saeima to consider exempting private higher educational institutions from strict language requirements and foresee a possibility for private institutions to be able to exercise academic freedom in determining the languages of instruction, including minority languages.

It is my intention, as Director and Officer-in-Charge of the office of the HCNM, to continue our open dialogue and co-operation with the Government and Saeima of Latvia. To this end, the office of the High Commissioner stands ready to provide expert support on the abovementioned issues and beyond.

Please accept, excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Christophe Kamp

Director and Officer-in-Charge

Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities


Document data: 08.09.2020 (also sent to the foreign minister) Link: https://titania.saeima.lv/LIVS13/saeimalivs13.nsf/0/38CBD809ACA764E3C2258602002B29ED?OpenDocument

Draft amendment to the Pre-election Campaign Law, 2020

To supplement the law with a Section 5.1, to read as follows:

Section 5.1. The Language of the Pre-election Campaign

The pre-election campaigning, the expenses for placement of which fall under expenses subject to restrictions for the amount of pre-election campaign expenses, as provided by law, shall be made in the official language only.”

To supplement the law’s Transitional Provisions as follows:

Transitional Provisions

5. Section 5.1. of the present law shall come into force on January 1, 2021″


Document data: the bill is numbered 780/Lp13. It was conceptually approved by the Parliament’s plenary on September 3, 2020. Three readings are ahead. The Latvian text of the amendment is available at https://titania.saeima.lv/LIVS13/saeimalivs13.nsf/0/2943494D663BA615C22585D10024170C?OpenDocument The text of the current law is available in English in an almost up-to-date version (the amendments of June 2020, not yet translated there, are procedural) at https://likumi.lv/ta/en/en/id/253543-pre-election-campaign-law . For the international law context, see ECtHR judgment in Şükran Aydin and Others v. Turkey http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/fre?i=001-116031

The Law on International Schools (excerpt), 2020

Section 1. Terms Used in this Law

The following terms are used in this Law:

1) an international school – an educational institution founded by a natural or legal person and registered in the Republic of Latvia, which implements in the Republic of Latvia an educational programme recognised by an other member state of the European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, by the Board of Governors of the European Schools or by the International Baccalaureate Organization, in the official languages of the member states of the European Union and the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


Adopted 02.07.2020. Latvian text: https://titania.saeima.lv/LIVS13/saeimalivs13.nsf/0/6B83B33A45FFB721C22585A00048EF18?OpenDocument

“Being occupied as a privilege” (excerpt), 2020

[..]

The dominating language in the USSR was Russian, and it was heavily promoted in schools and public life at the expense of local languages.

[..]


Document data: 24.06.2020. Link: https://euvsdisinfo.eu/being-occupied-as-a-privilege_baltic_states/

Publisher’s notes: as the data from Latvia itself show, Latvian was dominating in Latvia’s schools at the end of Soviet rule. Languages of smallers minorities like Belarusian and Polish were restricted during the Soviet rule, indeed, – but not just in favour of Russian. Parents could also send their children to schools with instruction in Latvian. For some documents on education from Soviet Latvia, see in the Imagery section.

Constitutional Court judgment on kindergartens (excerpts), 2020

18. 3. [..] The Constitutional Court concludes that it follows from the letters of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Special Rapporteurs that those United Nations bodies did not have available, when elaborating those letters, a full information about the scope of the Regulation No. 716, which is being clarified in the present judgment. Those letters shall be considered as an invitation to dialogue between the Latvian government and the relevant United Nations bodies.

[..]

21. [..] Thus, in the circumstances of the present case, educatees belonging to the constituent nation and educatees belonging to national minorities do not form comparable groups.

Taking into account the above, the contested provisions in the relevant part are in conformity with Article 91 of the Constitution.


Document data: 19.06.2020. Case No. 2019-20-03. Link (in Latvian): http://www.satv.tiesa.gov.lv/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-20-03_Spriedums-1.pdf Official English translation, slightly different, can be found at https://www.satv.tiesa.gov.lv/web/viewer.html?file=https://www.satv.tiesa.gov.lv/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-20-03_Judgment.pdf