MINELRES: Minority Issues in Latvia, No.76

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Mon Nov 3 17:08:39 2003


Original sender: Tatyana Bogushevitch <minissues@delfi.lv>


Minority issues in Latvia, No. 76
Prepared by the Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.)
November 1, 2003


Content:
- Latvian observer in the European Parliament withwdrawn for speaking
out 
on the situation of minorities in Latvia 
- EU-Russia partnership: Latvia's minority policy as the hurdle
- Education reform 2004: protests continue, still no dialogue 
- News of legislation: Non-Citizens' law tightened, ratification of 12th 
Protocol to ECHR rejected 
- EP elections: will lustration be kept?
- Anti-Semitic speech not to be prosecuted?
- Citizenship Law to be made more beneficial for children
- Newly elected National Council on Radio and Television: minority-free
again
- Language quotas for private broadcasting: ever ended story?
- Are ethnic Latvians better-off than minorities?
- Conference: bitter truth after 15 years
- Loyalty and ethnicity: different views
- Minority issues in Latvia, No. 75: the follow-up


- Latvian observer in the European Parliament withwdrawn for speaking
out 
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
on the situation of minorities in Latvia 
----------------------------------------

We already reported that Latvian observer Martiyans Bekasovs in the
European 
Parliament (GUE/UEL group) distributed information concerning the
situation 
of minorities in Latvia. On October 30, under request of ten MPs from
the 
right-wing parties the Saeima (Parliament) decided to expel Mr Bekasovs
from 
the observer delegation. 64 MPs voted for, 22 - against, and 3
abstained.

One of the MPs, who have launched the attack on Bekasovs, chair of the 
parliamentary commission on education, science and culture Janis
Strazdins 
(Union of Greens and Farmers) argued, that there was a massive campaign
in 
order to harm the image of Latvia. "The constant complaints about Latvia 
violating human rights and forced assimilation of Russian-speaking
population 
have no ground and do not reflect the real situation", Mr Strazdins said 
("Chas" ("The Hour"), October 24). The main reason for the attack on
Bekasovs 
was based on the information provided by him that non-citizens cannot
find 
a job because of poor knowledge of the state language, and have no money
for 
language courses. Right-wing MPs claim that this is not true.

During the debates representatives of pro-minority opposition pointed
out 
that withdrawal of Bekasov for providing information is in breach with
the 
freedom of expression and would mean a new scandal for Latvia.
Nevertheless, 
MP Peteris Tabuns (nationalistic ruling party "For Fatherland and
Freedom"/LNNK) 
said that "the people like Bekasovs disgrace Latvia abroad and cannot
represent 
the country". He also suggested to withdraw another one pro-minority
observer - 
Boris Tsilevich (the People's Harmony Party, PES group) ("Vesti
Segodnya" ("The 
News Today"), October 31, 
http://rus.delfi.lv/news/press/vesti/article.php?id=6676552). Mr
Bekasovs is 
going to appeal his withdrawal in the Constitutional Court, as well as
to inform 
the European Parliament about the situation.

Our commentary

In our view, one could hardly use judicial measures in such a situation. 
Formally, it is the competence of national parliament to appoint and 
withdraw its observers. However, the very idea of parliamentary
democracy 
implies representation of different views, and normally delegations in 
international parliamentary assemblies are compiled on the basis of 
proportional representation of all political forces in national
parliament. 
The argument would be legitimate if Mr Bekasovs is a civil servant, but
he 
is an elected representative and expresses views and interests of his 
constituency.  

The event reminds us recent Soviet past. People, who dared to express 
dissenting opinion, also had no chance "to represent the country abroad" 
then. One has to conlcude that all people in Latvia are expected to 
express only one view, endorsed by the government, otherwise they will 
be labelled enemies, ordered to shut up, and punished.


EU-Russia partnership: Latvia's minority policy as the hurdle
-------------------------------------------------------------

On October 14, the State Duma (Parliament) of the Russian Federation
adopted 
a statement on violations of human rights and minority rights in Latvia. 
Several problems are touched upon in the statement, uncluding a big
number 
of non-citizens and status of the Russian language as foreign language. 
According to Russian MPs, the state programme "Society Integration in
Latvia" 
is aimed at assimilation of persons belonging to minorities against
their 
will ("Vesti Segodnya" ("The News Today"), October 15, 
http://rus.delfi.lv/temp/vesti/vs_03_1285.pdf). The Duma even suggests
the 
government of Russia to exclude Latvia from the Co-operation and
Partnership 
Agreement with the EU.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia Sandra Kalniete met the EU 
Commissioner on Enlargement GØnter Verheugen on October 16. The
statement 
of the Duma was discussed. As reported by Latvian-language media, Mr
Verheugen 
mentioned that the statement was ill-founded, the EU recognises that
Latvia 
meets all the criteria in the field of human rights, and this opinion
has not 
changed (official newspaper "Latvijas Vestnesis" ("The Latvian Herald"), 
October 17). As regards partnership with Russia, he pointed out that
Latvia 
will become a state party to the EU - Russia agreements automatically.

Our commentary

We already mentioned in the previous issue of our newsletter (see
Minority 
issues in Latvia, No. 75, 
http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-October/002994.html) that 
there is a risk of creating different standards in perception of
minority 
related policy of Latvia by the European Union and the Council of
Europe. 
Although we take into account pre-election campaign in Russia, one
cannot 
but notice certain similarities with the Council of Europe's criticisms
and 
recommendations addressed to Latvia. It would be unfortunate, to say the 
least, if the Council of Europe standards will not apply to the members 
of the "rich Europe", i.e. the European Union.


Education reform 2004: protests continue, still no dialogue
-----------------------------------------------------------

Protests against the reform for secondary education in minority
languages 
(i.e. transition to Latvian as the main language of instruction)
scheduled 
for 2004 continue. The Headquarters for the support of the
Russian-language 
schools organised the next rally, devoted to 5-year anniversary of the 
Education Law on October 29. Approximately 300-500 people, mainly 
youngsters, marched in the centre of Riga from the building of the
Ministry 
of Education and Science to the Saeima (Parliament) and the Riga Castle
- 
residence of the President. They protested against the reform. Near the
Riga 
Castle, a scarecrow dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member representing the
reform 
was burnt down. Some youngsters were detained by the police for some
time, 
as it is prohibited to make bonfires in the centre of Riga ("Chas" 
("The Hour"), October 30). 

In the meantime, the chair of the Board of the World Federation of Free 
Latvians (PBLA - influential association created by Latvian exiles in
the 
West after the WWII) Janis Kukainis stated that there "fifth column" in 
Latvia  - persons who "psychologically cannot understand that Latvia
will 
remain an independent state". If the state supports schools financially, 
all the subjects (except foreign languages) are to be taught in the
state 
language. "If they [Russians] want their schools, they should finance
them 
themselves", Mr Kukainis asserted ("Lauku Avize" ("The Rural
Newspaper"), 
October 22).

Mayor of one the biggest city Ventspils Aivars Lembergs (considered to
be 
one of the wealthiest persons in Latvia, and shadow key persons in
Latvia's 
politics) expressed different point of view. He said that that the
reform 
has had a negative impact on economic co-operation between Latvia and
Russia. 
According to him, "nationalistic parties in Latvia and in Russia are the
main 
beneficiaries from the reform". Lembergs also believes that local
governments 
will not be able to control implementation of the reform since it was
poorly 
prepared by the state institutions, therefore, istshould be postponed
("Chas", 
October 23; Integration Monitor, 
October 23, http://www.policy.lv/monitor/?id=101734&date=23102003). 

The President of Latvia does not share Lembergs' opinion. She believes
that 
Latvia's and Russia's relations do not depend on minority education
policy in 
Latvia ("Latvijas Vestnesis" ("The Latvian Herald"), October 24).

One more concern in the field of education in minority languages came to
light 
lately. Media reported on the situation in the secondary school No. 2
with the 
Russian language of instruction in the town of Cesis. This year there
were not 
enough pupils to open the 1st grade there. According to regulations of
the 
Ministry of Education and Science, the class is to be opened if 18
children 
will learn there (8 children for rural schools), and the number of the 
Russian-speaking children wishing to study in mothertongue appeared
slightly 
less than 18. Parents feel anxious that in some years the only school
with the 
Russian language of instruction in the town will be closed, therefore
they ask 
the Ministry of Education and Science to apply criteria for rural
schools in 
this case ("Vesti Segodnya" ("The News Today"), October 22, 
http://rus.delfi.lv/archive/article.php?id=6598238&ndate=1066770000&categoryID=3513828).


News of legislation: Non-Citizens' law tightened, ratification of 12th 
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Protocol to ECHR rejected 
-------------------------

The Saeima (Parliament) of Latvia adopted amendments to the Law "On the
Status 
of Former USSR Citizens, Who are not Citizens of Latvia or Any Other
State" 
(so-called Law on Non-Citizens) in the first reading on October 16. The 
amendments provide that a non-citizen can be deprived of this legal
status, 
if s/he has received a permanent residence permit abroad. The current
wording 
contains a similar provision only in respect of CIS states. If the
Saeima 
adopts the amendments, some non-citizens of Latvia (mainly living in the 
Western Europe) could lose a legal link with Latvia and become
"full-fledged" 
stateless persons (see Minority issues in Latvia, No. 73, 
http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-September/002935.html).

As MP Vladimir Buzayev ("For Human Rights in United Latvia") pointed
out, 
the amendments mean that Latvia will increase a number of stateless
persons 
in Western Europe. Although, according to the draft, a person who is
deprived 
of the non-citizen's status will be entitled to receive the status of a 
stateless person, one can receive a document of stateless person issued
by 
Latvia only if s/he stays in Latvia legally. Therefore, such persons
will 
have to apply for a status stateless person abroad. 

In fact, the amendments are retroactive - even persons, who have
received a 
permanent residence permit some years ago can be deprived of the
non-citizen's 
status. Besides, the decision is to be made by administrative
authorities; 
while a citizen of Latvia can be deprived of his/her citizenship only by 
court ("Vesti Segodnya" ("The News Today"), October 17, 
http://rus.delfi.lv/archive/article.php?id=6564315&ndate=1066338000&categoryID=3513828).

On October 16, the Saeima rejected proposals of the pro-minority
People's 
Harmony Party to ratify Protocols No.12 (prohibition of discrimination)  
and No.13 (abolition of the death penalty under any circumstances) to
the 
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental 
Freedoms. It is revealing that no one mentioned any reason for rejecting 
the draft, MPs from the ruling coalition as well as oppositional
People's 
Party simply silently voted against the bills. 

Our commentary

As regards amendments to the Non-Citizens' Law, serious legal problems 
arise. In fact, the amendments do not comply with the provisions of the 
1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (ratified by Latvia in 
May 1990). Besides, adoption of the amendments could create problems for 
implementation of the EU Council Directive concerning the status of 
third-country nationals who are long-term residents (to be adopted
soon). 
It might appear that a non-citizen of Latvia, who receives long-term 
resident's residence permit, is deprived of his/her legal status in
Latvia 
and is forced to apply for a stateless person's document in the country
of 
residence.

As regards the Protocols, we realize that the Protocol No. 12 is
ratified 
by only 5 member states and has not yet entered into force (10
ratifications 
are necessary). However, ratification of the Protocol would be the best 
evidence that Latvia, indeed, has no problems with discrimination of 
minorities and is not afraid of any kind of monitoring or consideration
of 
individual complaints by the European Court of Human Rights. Reluctance
of  
the government to ratify the Protocol, and clear preference given to 
propaganda efforts, might make one doubt that the government really
believes 
in own statements about complete lack of discrimination in Latvia.     

In turn, Protocol No.13 was even adopted by the previous Saeima in the 
first reading, but the new parliament seems to be reluctant to proceed
with 
its ratification. 


EP elections: will lustration be kept?   
--------------------------------------

The Ministry of Justice has prepared a draft Law on the Elections to the 
European Parliament. The draft does not contain political restrictions
for 
the candidates. Electoral legislation of Latvia provides that persons
who 
were active in the Communist Party, Komsomol, Interfront, and some
veteran 
organizations after January 13, 1991, cannot run for both parliamentary 
and municipal elections (although these organizations were legislatively 
banned only in August 1991 - see corresponding provisions of the 
Saeima Election Law at 
http://www.minelres.lv/NationalLegislation/Latvia/Latvia_ElecParl_excerpts_English.htm).

The newspaper "Lauku Avize" ("The Rural Newspaper") published a
commentary 
by Maris Antonevics on October 25. The author points out that some 
pro-minority candidates, who are not allowed to stand for the national 
elections, could participate in the EP elections, in particular, leader
of 
the "Equal Rights" party, co-chair of the Latvian Human Rights Committee 
Tatyana Zhdanok or leader of the Socialist Party, former leader of
Latvian 
communists Alfreds Rubiks.

The author believes that persons like Tatyana Zhdanok cannot represent 
interests of Latvia in the EP, but would just brawl about the violation
of 
human rights in Latvia. The author states that the activities of Mrs
Zhdanok 
clearly show her as a person who was against the independence of Latvia
in 
the late 1980s - early 1990s, and it seems she has learned nothing in
the 
past 12 years. The newspaper is disappointed by the fact that "she is
more 
or less widely supported by the so called Russian-speaking, and has a
real 
chance to win the elections". Her only rival is Boris Tsilevich (the
People's 
Harmony Party), who is though more liberal, but in fact represents the
same 
views.

The newspaper believes that decision to extend political restrictions to
the 
EP elections could be misunderstood in Europe, for the history of Latvia
is 
very peculiar. However, the newspaper states, "Latvia has its
representatives 
in Brussels, Strasbourg and other places, who could clarify and explain
the 
situation".

Our commentary

One can see that the idea of political pluralism is not supported by one
of 
the biggest Latvian-language newspaper. It is very probable that the
same 
opinion will be shared by the majority of MPs when the draft law is 
considered by the Saeima. However, much will depend on the decision of
the 
European Court of Human Rights on the case Tatyana Zhdanok v. Latvia 
(considered by the ECHR in May 2003, the judgement is not yet
announced).


Anti-Semitic speech not to be prosecuted?  
-----------------------------------------

We already reported that Minister for Special Assignments for Society 
Integration Affairs Nils Muiznieks applied to the Prosecutor's General 
Office asking to initiate criminal proceedings against journalist of the 
newspaper "DDD" Karlis Rebins, who published anti-Semitic articles about 
the WWII (see Minority issues in Latvia, No. 70, 
http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-June/002804.html). 

However, representative of the Security Police Kristine Apse-Krumina has 
informed that the experts "did not discover any signs of the intention
to 
incite ethnic hatred in the article". It was concluded that "the biggest 
part of the insulting information was quoted from other authors and the 
main message of the article was the criticism of the foreign policies of 
big states". The experts found just one single place in the article
where 
"the author interprets the vague conclusions of other authors and thus 
slightly tangents the history of the Holocaust". 

Therefore, the Security Police has declined to start criminal
proceedings 
against Mr Rebins and Mr Garda, publisher of the newspaper "DDD". In the 
last issue of "DDD" there is a notice that the next part of the
anti-Semitic 
"Zion Wise Men Protocols" is already published ("Telegraf" ("The
Telegraph"), 
October 20,
http://rus.delfi.lv/news/press/telegraf/article.php?id=6581706). 

Our commentary

We find it highly regrettable that this clear case of anti-Semitic 
speech bordering (to say the least) with the Holocaust denial was 
considered legal by the Security Police. We hope that this it is not the 
end of the story, and that in the end of the day Latvian law enforcement 
agencies will appear courageous enough to call spade a spade. 


Citizenship Law to be made more beneficial for children
-------------------------------------------------------

The Secretariat of the Minister for Special Assignments for Children and 
Family Affairs has submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers draft
amendments 
to the Citizenship Law. The amendments are elaborated in order to make 
Latvian citizenship easier available for children.

In particular, the draft provides that the citizenship of Latvia is 
guaranteed by request for a child under 15, if:
 - one of his/her parents is a citizen, another one is a non-citizen 
(stateless person) or not known (currently children of naturalised
citizens 
could be registered as citizens only if they naturalised together with 
one of their parents);
- one of his/her parents or adopters is a citizen, another one is a
foreign 
citizen, if they so decide, or (if they cannot agree) if a child resides
in 
Latvia.

Besides, the amendments concern the order, in which a child of
non-citizens 
(stateless persons) born after Latvia restored its independence can be 
registered as a citizen. There will be no requirements concerning
criminal 
records of a child any longer. It will be possible to grant citizenship,
if 
one or both of the parents are deprived of their parents' rights. The 
amendments could come into force on July 1, 2004.

Similar amendments were proposed by the faction "For Human Rights in
United 
Latvia" in May, but were rejected then (see Minority issues in Latvia,
No. 69, 
http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-June/002756.html). The 
amendments are to be endorsed by the Cabinet and adopted the Saeima.


Newly elected National Council on Radio and Television: minority-free
again
--------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

The Saeima (Parliament) of Latvia elected new members of the National
Council 
on Radio and Television on October 2. Two candidates of minority origin
were 
proposed by the pro-minority opposition, but once again both of them
were 
rejected. It means that the "tradition" is maintained - no person
belonging 
to the Russian-speaking minority has ever been elected member of the
Council 
since its establishment. Apparently, no commentary is needed here, the
facts 
speak for themselves... 


Language quotas for private broadcasting: ever ended story?
-----------------------------------------------------------

It remains to be seen whether the new Council will try to maintain 
language restrictions for private broadcasting. Former chair of the
Council 
Ojars Rubenis suggested to introduce provisions establishing a
proportion 
between channels broadcasting in different languages, after the
Constitutional 
Court had declared the language quotas unconstituional (see Minority
issues in 
Latvia, No. 70, 
http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-June/002804.html). This
could 
mean, for example, that 7 private channels out of 10 in the region
should be 
licensed to broadcast in Latvian only. According to the new chair Imants 
Rakins, the Council will not do this. Rakins informed that a lot of
stations 
asked for a permit to broadcast more in minority languages since the
judgment 
had been passed, and the Council has not rejected any application 
("Vesti Segodnya" ("The News Today"), October 24, 
http://rus.delfi.lv/news/press/vesti/article.php?id=6618125). 


Are ethnic Latvians better-off than minorities?
-----------------------------------------------

The Russian-language daily "Vesti Segodnya" ("The News Today") has 
published results of the survey held by the SKDS centre, which asked the 
question "What is the highest rate Latvian banknote you have ever held
in 
your hands?”(October 21, http://rus.delfi.lv/temp/vesti/vs_02_1290.pdf).

The results of this research have shown a certain ethnic division in
this 
area. For example, 29,5% of ethnic Latvians held the LVL 500 (approx.
EUR 
760) banknote. But among other ethnic groups this percentage is lower - 
23,1%. 

In a "poorer group" - those who have not held more than LVL 20 (approx.
EUR 
30) - the division is as follows: 7% ethnic Latvians and 12,1%
non-Latvians. 

One can see that ethnic differences are not so notable among the rich
people, 
but they can be clearer seen among poorer residents of Latvia.  


Conference: bitter truth after 15 years
---------------------------------------

The conference "Post-communist transformation and democratization in
Latvia" 
took place at the University of Latvia on October 18-19. Estonian and 
Latvian humanitarians discussed the results and perspectives of the 
transition reforms in the Baltics. 

Dr Priit Jarve (Estonia, European Centre for Minority Issues) pointed
out the 
three problems the society of Latvia had to solve at the same time:
economic 
reforms, democratization and nation-building. These three problems
compete 
with each other creating contradictions on such lines as national state
vs. 
minority rights or economic demands vs. social policies. 

MP Boris Tsilevich (the People's Harmony Party) argued that the strategy
of 
the ethnic domination implemented through "the restored citizenship"
concept
has led to the long-term democratic deficit. As the ethnic majority
could 
use privileges, the competition on the job market was distorted
entailing 
nepotism, corruption and incompetence. The mistrust and scepticism
towards 
the government's policy emerged among the Russian-speaking residents of 
Latvia. 

Political scientist Artis Pabriks (the People's Party) was defending
Latvia's 
policies. He admitted that the "minority education reform-2004" serves
the 
political goals. Still, he asserted that there is no ethnic domination
in 
Latvia since it is not stipulated by any law. In his view, there is a 
civilized and liberal democracy in Latvia.

Political scientist Tatyana Bogushevitch (editor of our newsletter) had
no 
doubt that Latvia is a democracy, but she put the its quality under
question. 
She believes that the model of ethnic democracy is applicable for the
state. 
Ms Bogushevitch argued that minorities are excluded from the political
life 
and that being loyal towards minority is perceived as being disloyal
towards 
the state in Latvia. On a number of concrete examples, she demonstrated
that 
minority issues are perceived as a "zero-sum game" by political elite:
any 
step towards the interests of ethnic minorities is considered to be a 
damnification to the ethnic majority. She stressed that multiculturalism
is 
not going to disappear from Latvia, therefore another political model
must 
be chosen. 

Ethno-psychologist Ilga Apine stated that harsh regulations concerning
ethnic 
minorities were necessary in the early years of Latvia in order to
protect the 
interests of the nation-state. She suggested, however, that this period
is over 
now and that Latvia should start moving from the ethnic democracy
"towards the 
state patriotism and liberal nationalism" ("Vesti Segodnya" ("The News
Today"), 
October 21,
http://rus.delfi.lv/news/press/vesti/article.php?id=6590039).

Our commentary

We are glad to admit that this event was a long awaited premiere, as for
the 
first time since the independence was restored, the Russian language was
one 
of the working languages at the scientific conference on this issue.
 
It was also the first time that a conference was dedicated to an
academic 
rather than political debates. This is why the conference managed to
attract 
people with different political views from both Russian-speaking and
ethnic 
Latvian intelligentsia.


Loyalty and ethnicity: different views
--------------------------------------

Public policy portal politika.lv has published an article by political 
scientist Dr Artis Pabriks "Ethnic minority organizations: stable ground
for 
foreign policy bridge or fifth column" 
(http://www.politika.lv/index.php?id=107438&lang=lv). Dr Pabriks' main 
idea is that state should engage in the formation of ethnic minority 
organizations, loyal to Latvian state and furthering its policy, thus 
neutralizing activities of "fifth columns", financed by ethnic homeland. 
Speaking specifically about Russia, he reminds of Karaganov's concept on 
Russia's policy towards ex-USSR states published as early as 1992 and
well 
publicized in Latvia. Its main goal was using ethnic minorities for
success 
of own foreign policy goals. Russia's policy towards the
Russian-speakers 
and Latvians of Russian descent in Latvia reminds Pabriks of Nazi
Germany 
policy towards Baltic Germans after 1933. According to him, Weimar 
Germany was very good at division of foreign policy and ethnic
sympathies, 
confronting Baltic German conservatives in Baltic states. Nazi Germany
had 
declared that German minorities were a part of the Volk, galvanizing 
minority and making relations unbearable, resulting in zero-sum game 
for both sides.

In the article "Political culture in Latvia: open or closed concept" 
(http://www.politika.lv/index.php?id=107411&lang=lv) Dr Denis Hanov 
(Secretariat of the Minister for Special Assignments for Society 
Integration Affairs) advocates modification of the concept of Latvian 
nation, moving to more open concept. Dr Hanov notes, that Latvian 
political elite does not like talks about openness of Latvian ethnic 
group, relying on exclusivist conception made as early as the end of 
1980-ies. Exclusivism and relying on the Latvian language as ideal 
linguistically sterile construct is not the answer in the age of 
multicultural Europe. Latvia had not yet met real cultural and racial 
diversity present in every European state. Latvian emphasis on ethnic 
concept of citizenry is outdated, as European states changed their own 
perception of citizenry, including existing multiculturality in the 
concept of citizen without losing ethnic identity. Thus, the author 
states, that Latvian ethnic identity is not isolated from foreign 
policy and should be revised and updated. Second, this makes to revise 
traditional image of Latvian culture, abandoning linguistic purism, 
supporting popularizing Latvian language en masse, allowing existence 
of accents, created through electronic media, furthering linguistic 
tolerance. According to Dr Hanov, NGO sector should promote the Latvian 
language, expansion of the Latvian language in all spheres of life with 
inclusion of ethnic minorities in development of the language should be 
promoted.  Third, ethnic groups, both agreeing and disagreeing with 
policy of the state, should be engaged into state policy via different 
mechanisms to strengthen legitimacy of actions by Latvian political
elite. 

Editor of Latvian public TV Ilmars Latkovskis writes in his article in
the 
daily "Diena" ("The Day", October 25) about ethnic relations in Latvia. 
According to him, ethnic relations in Latvia is the problem for Latvians 
first of all, because they do not understand what they want. He sees 
Russians as furthering policy of two community state and representation 
in the state institutions to influence ethnopolitics. These are the
secret 
aims, while the open ones are staying in Latvia, promotion of the
Russian 
language and the rights of non-citizens. Latvians do politically
correctly 
speak of naturalization and integration of non-citizens, but are afraid
of 
this in reality, because naturalization and integration are not
synonimes. 
Author believes the problem is the lack  of pragmatic ethnic policy in
Latvia, 
while "divisio et impero" principle is not working. This makes Russians,
29% 
in Latvia, act as a half of the population and integrate into their
ranks 
other ethnic minorities, which are among the most active supporters of 
Russians.
            

Minority issues in Latvia, No. 75: the follow-up
------------------------------------------------

We published information about the judgment of the European Court of
Human 
Rights in the case Slivenko v. Latvia in the previous issue (see
Minority 
issues in Latvia, No. 75, 
http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-October/002994.html). In
our 
commentary we mentioned that Latvian-language newspapers wrote that ECHR 
recognised that Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940,
although 
the term "occupation" itself was used only by judge Maruste from Estonia
in 
his dissenting opinion.

Mr Philippe Merlin (Deputy to the Permanent Representative of France to
the 
Council of Europe, formerly worked in the Embassy of France in Latvia)
has 
written to us, stating that the court has acknowledged that the Republic
of 
Latvia that existed before June 1940 and was internationally recognised
at 
that time (including by the USSR), has re-established its sovereignty in 
1991, what can be interpreted as recognition that between 1940 and 1991
this 
state was not allowed to exercise its sovereignty (this being also, by
the 
way, the position adopted by many foreign countries). Besides, in its 
judgement in Jasiuniene v. Lithuania (June 6, 2003), the court did use
the 
wording of "Soviet occupation of Lithuania", which, one may assume,
would 
similarly apply to all three Baltic states. The conclusion might have
been 
drawn from the above that the court has no qualms in qualifying as an 
"occupation" the situation of Baltics states prior to 1991, Mr Merlin
believes.

We thank Mr Merlin for his letter and welcome any further feedback on
our 
publications from our subscribers. It was definitely not our intention
to 
prove that ECHR denies the occupation of the Baltics. Rather, we pointed 
out that in fact the issue of occupation of Latvia was not discussed as
a 
matter of priority in the case Slivenko v. Latvia, but Latvian-language 
media demonstrated that the state has obtained recognition of
occupation. 
Thus, our concern was about (unfortunately, quite common) shift of focus
in Latvian media's report on the views expressed by international
bodies. 
Frankly speaking, we believe that evaluation of situation in 1940 was
not 
significant in the case at all. Regardless of all tragic events and
crimes 
perpetrated by the Soviet regime in the past, nowadays the Republic of 
Latvia ought to fully implement all human rights obligations, and the 
fact of occupation cannot be used as an excuse for violating anyone's
rights.
Representative of the Cabinet of Ministers in international human rights 
institutions Inga Reine, in fact, shares this view (see her article
about 
the case at http://www.politika.lv/index.php?id=107496&lang=lv). We are 
ready to continue discussion on any issue raised in our newsletter in
future.

Besides, we are glad to inform that a conflict between schoolchildren
and 
their teacher of the Latvian language in the Riga secondary school No.
63, 
reported in Minority issues in Latvia, No. 75, 
(http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-October/002994.html), is
over. 
In fact, there were mainly pedagogical rather than ethnic reasons for
the 
conflict. Under mediation of the National Human Rights Office the 
schoolchildren have apologised, and the teacher has accepted apologies. 


---------------
Compiled by:

Tatyana Bogushevitch
Yuri Dubrovsky
Alyona Babitch
Alexander Kiselyov

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Minority issues in Latvia
Newsletter published by the Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.)
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