Minority issues in Latvia, No. 33


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Subject: Minority issues in Latvia, No. 33

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Minority issues in Latvia, No. 33


Minority issues in Latvia, No. 33
Prepared by the Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.)
August 3, 2001
 
Repercussions of the "Vieda" competition 
 
We have already reported about the "Vieda" publishers' competition for
students and schoolchildren "The way to the new world or the real
nationalism and true culture – the only guarantee of the Latvians'
survival and development" (see Minority issues in Latvia, No. 27,
http://racoon.riga.lv/minelres/archive//03282001-20:08:18-2022.html).
As Mr. Aivars Garda, director of the "Vieda" publishers promised, the
best 72 compositions sent to the publishing house are published in the
book "Nevienam mes Latviju nedodam" ("We do not give Latvia to
anyone"). Topics of the compositions are: "Realization of Divine
Justice or Latvia's deliverance from 700,000 colonists as the task No.
1", "Is Russian-language media in Latvia spreading ideas of Russian
chauvinism or fascism", "National partisans and legionnaires – the
example of heroism for Latvian youth", etc. Students of the University
of Latvia, the Latvian Police Academy, schoolchildren are among the
authors. 

MPs from the ruling radical nationalistic party "For Fatherland and
Freedom" Juris Vidinsh and Roberts Jurdzhs attended presentation of
the book. 

Following sound public concerns over the publication which alledgedly
spreads ideas od intolerance, the Constitution Defence Bureau of
Latvia analysed its compatibility with the legilsation of Latvia.
However, the Bureau has not found hate speech in the competition's
rules and in the book. This evaluation was seconded by Mr. Peter
Semneby, head of the OSCE Mission to Latvia. 
 
Following the "Vieda" competition, popular Latvian newspaper "Mana"
("My") for teenagers announced similar competition "For the patriots
of Latvia". The newspaper offers children to think over, "what does it
mean to you to be Latvian" and to write the composition about it. The
authors of the best compositions will receive the mentioned "Vieda's"
book "Nevienam mes Latviju nedodam" as awards. So, now 9-13-years-old
schoolchildren can receive awards for best expressed nationalistic
ideas (the newspaper "Vesti Segodnya" ("The News Today"), July 25,
http://www.cm.lv/index.php3?br=$br&g=2001&m=07&d=25&w1=&w2=p&pub=030#banner)
 
On July 19 - 20, the EU Commissioner on Enlargement Günter Verheugen
visited Latvia. During his visit Mr. Verheugen delivered a lecture
about the European Union in the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga.
Four students handed to Mr. Verheugen a letter signed by Mr. Aivars
Garda, Mr. Janis Leja, MP from the Latvia's Social Democratic Workers'
Party, and other persons. The authors demand "to stop genocide against
the Latvians" and maintain that "the repatriation of colonists" is the
only precondition to speak about possible 
Latvia's membership in the European Union. "If the decolonisation will
not be realized at a good bat, a civil war threatens Latvia, colonists
kindle hostility in our land, especially Russian-language press", says
Mr. Garda and others (the news agency BNS, July 20,
http://www.delfi.lv/archive/index.php?id=1558399&ndate=20.07.2001&categoryID=
). 

The Prime Minister Andris Berzinsh asked the Constitution Defence
Bureau and the Security Police to evaluate the letter. 

Mr. Nils Muizhnieks, head of the Latvian Center for Human Rights and
Ethnic Studies, initiated collecting signatures under the open letter
to the political parties "For Fatherland and Freedom" and the Latvia's
Social Democratic Workers' Party (two parties whose MPs took active
part in Mr Garda's activities mentioned above) asking these parties to
openly express their attitude towards activities of their colleagues
(for more details about the letter, see Bigotry Monitor No. 5,
http://racoon.riga.lv/minelres/archive//07312001-12:15:16-5297.html ).
However, the both parties refrained to condemn their members for their
support of the racist book, as "this is these persons' private
matter".      

 
Non-citizens' future in the European Union
 
During his visit to Latvia the EU Commissioner Günter Verheugen said
to journalists that Latvia's non-citizens will not have the same
rights as the citizens in the European Union, but they will enjoy
basic human rights. The Commissioner recognized that it is very
complicated issue and the EU lawyers analyse it (the news agency BNS,
July 21,
http://www.delfi.lv/archive/index.php?id=1559653&ndate=21.07.2001&categoryID=
).
 
The Minister for Foreign Affairs Indulis Berzinsh has the same
approach to the problem. He also considers that the only way for
non-citizens to enjoy the citizens' rights in the European Union is
naturalisation (the newspaper "Biznes & Baltija" ("Business & The
Baltics"), July 5).

Approximately 23% of the Latvia's residents are non-citizens, i.e.
persons, who came to Latvia during the Soviet period, and their
descendants. Almost all non-citizens belong to national minorities.
Now they have not the same rights as the citizens of Latvia in many
areas, besides political rights (for the full list of differences, see
http://www.riga.lv/minelres/count/non_cit-rights_1.htm ). For example,
Latvian citizens can enter all the Schengen agreement states without
visa, while non-citizens have been granted this right only by Denmark.
Thus, the issue of the free movement of persons is very topical for
the non-citizens.

 
The education "problem 2004": is there a solution?
 
As we already mentioned, parents of the Russian-language school No. 2
in Valmiera town strongly protest against the 2004 elimination of
state-supported secondary education in minority languages scheduled
for 2004 (see Minority issues in Latvia, No. 32,
http://racoon.riga.lv/minelres/archive//06302001-10:17:54-8475.html ).
It is still one of few Russian-language schools in Latvia, where the
people try to find a solution for the problem 2004. In most of other
cases, the schools' administrations strongly oppose the envisaged
language reform off-the record, but are afraid of raising their
voices, and are often even allegedly blackmailed by local
authorities.   

The Valmiera parents sent a petition to the state officials and
diplomats concerning the issue. However, the answers are not
reassuring. For example, Mr. Dzintars Abikis, chairman of the
Parliamentary Commission on Education, Science and Culture, replied,
"You can maintain and develop your language and culture in family,
cultural societies, Sunday school, if you will wish to create and
support them" (the newspaper "Chas" ("The Hour"), June 30,
http://www.chas-daily.com/win/2001/06/30/g_29.html ).
 
The NGO LASHOR (Association for Support of Russian-Language Schools in
Latvia) has elaborated the new model of bilingual program for national
minority schools. In September it is to be considered by the Ministry
of Education and Science. The main difference of the model from the
four other models approved by the Ministry, is that the language of
instruction in the national minority school after 2004 remains the
minority language (not less than 70% of time). The Latvian language is
learnt mainly at the lessons of Latvian, using the most modern methods
of language training. The program also envisaged two courses:
"Lettonica", providing an integrated system of knowledge on Latvia,
combining learning Latvian history, geography, ethnography, culture,
literature, environment of living, and "Ethnica", providing the
knowledge about the corresponding national minority. The Ministry's
officials will decide about the program's future (the newspaper "Chas"
("The Hour"), July 17,
http://www.chas-daily.com/win/2001/07/17/g_11.html ).
 

The issue of personal name spelling remains topical
 
The State Language Centre has elaborated draft amendments to the
Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers "On the Writing and
Identification of Names and Surnames". The main principle remains the
same – personal names and surnames must be written in documents
according to the grammar of the Latvian language. However, if a name
or surname in Latvian looks very different from the original form, the
original form of the personal name can be recorded too (if the
original form is in Latin script, it can be written on the same page
of the ID, if it is in Cyrillic script, only surname can be written on
some other page). Now the Cabinet will consider the amendments (the
newspaper "Chas" ("The Hour"), July 18,
http://www.chas-daily.com/win/2001/07/18/l_23.html ).
 
Since July 1 the Constitutional Court of Latvia can examine the
constitutional complaints submitted by private persons. The first case
admitted by the Court concerns the issue of personal names spelling.
Mrs. Mentzen, Latvian by ethnic origin, whose husband is German,
considers that the Regulations "On the Writing and Identification of
Names and Surnames" and the corresponding section of the State
Language Law run counter to the Constitution of Latvia. Her new
surname is "latvianized" as "Mencena" in her Latvian IDs. All other
court instances rejected her complaint.
 
The outcome of the trial will be significant for many persons
belonging to national minorities. It should be mentioned here that a
similar case on the minority name spelling was prepared by the lawyer
of the Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.) Gennady Kotov and
registered in the European Court of Human Rights in July (Kuharec v.
Latvia).
 
Alexei Dimitrov
Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.)

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