Integration monitor

Integration monitor is a daily Latvian press digest on ethnic minority and society integration issues. The Monitor reviews the biggest Latvian dailies: Diena, Latvijas Avize, Neatkariga (in Latvian language), Vesti Segodnya (in Russian language). In specific cases other information sources are used. Latvian Centre for Human Rights is not responsible for information published by the media.

Aug. 31, 2016

  • State Language Centre fined the Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs for communication in Russian language through social networks
  • European Commission (EC) criticizes Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for excessive requirements for asylum seekers’ admission
  • Asylum seekers held a protest action on living conditions in Latvia
  • UNHCR campaign “We would do the same!” caused controversial reaction in Latvia
  • Courts will not provide free-of-charge interpreters during civil proceeding to all the case participants anymore
  • Russian Embassy to Latvia explained why a young Latvian non-citizen was refused to enter Russia without a visa
  • State Language Centre: state language skills of the Mayor of the Zilupe Council Olegs Agafonovs do not correspond to the required level
  • U.S. Embassy to Latvia is criticized for communication in Russian language in social networks
  • The Union of Greens and Farmers: owners of agricultural land should have at least intermediate level of Latvian language skills


The State Language Centre (SLC) fined the Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs for communication with residents in Russian language through the social network Facebook. The head of the SLC Maris Baltins said that the fine was imposed after repeated complaints received from the residents. According to Mr Baltins, the local government may provide information in the foreign languages, for instance, in the programme of the city festival, when it is important for all the guests of the capital; other information for example, on broken pipes, should be in Latvian language only. The Mayor Usakovs appealed the SLC decision with an argument that the legal requirements concerning local government’s communication do not apply to foreign social networks.,, news agency LETA  4.08 11.08

The European Commission (EC) criticizes Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for excessive requirements for asylum seekers’ admission. As reported, Latvian government set certain criteria for asylum seekers to be relocated to Latvia from Greece and Italy: Latvia will accept families with children, people with higher education, foreign languages skills and work experience. The EC stated that the exemption of asylum-seekers who are unable to meet certain criteria had no sufficient justification. A representative from the Representation of the EC in Latvia Kristine Liepina explained that the refusal to relocate asylum seekers may be justified only in cases if a person imposes a threat to national or international security.,,, 5.08

On 8 August, about 20 asylum seekers held a protest action on living conditions in Latvia. According to the asylum seekers who took part in the protest action, the daily allowance (3 EUR per day) is too small while the access to health care, housing and employment is problematic. The asylum seekers called the government and the society called to pay more attention to their problems., 8.08

On 11 August,the UNHCR launched a campaign “We would do the same!” in Latvia. The aim of the campaign is to promote more openness and compassion towards refugees as well as to speak about stereotypes existing in the society. The campaign’s posters portraits images of two people – a Syrian refugee with a title “We are running” and a Latvian resident with a title “We would run”. Such campaign’s slogans caused controversial society’s reaction.  The Ministry of Defence came with a statement that the campaign is incorrect as it indirectly asserts that in case of a military conflict Latvian residents would run away instead of defending Latvia. On 19 August, the Ministry has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make a request to the UNHCR to suspend the campaign. Following the negative reaction, an advertisement agency DDB Latvia responsible for the implementation of the campaign in Latvia decided to change the campaign’s slogan to “We are all humans!” Similar campaigns are also conducted in other countries under the slogan “With refugees.” According to the public opinion poll conducted for the Latvian campaign, 55% of Latvian residents have negative attitude towards accommodation of refugees in Latvia and 66% do not want to have refugees as their neighbours. The most negative attitude is among residents of Riga and Latgale (Eastern region of Latvia), persons with low income and lower education level. News agency LETA 11.08, 18.08, 23.08

According to the new amendments to the Civil Procedure Law, the court provides for services of interpreters only to case participants who are free of paying court expenses and are granted state funded legal aid. Up to now, the court was obliged to provide for services of interpreters in the civil proceedings to each case participant who is not proficient in Latvian (state) language. 12.08

According to the media, a young woman – Latvian non-citizen who studies in one of the Russia’s universities, was refused to enter Russia without a visa. The Russian border guards explained her that the new regulation was introduced as of 10 August; according to it, a visa is not required only for those non-citizens who were born before 1992. When the story went on media, the Russian Embassy in Latvia stated that such regulation became effective as of 17 June 2008 (Order of the Russian Federation President No. 977). According to the Russian Embassy, the visa-free regime applies to Latvian and Estonian non-citizens who were USSR citizens and their children who have passport of non-citizen and are under 18. Thus, these rules apply only to those non-citizens who were born before 6 February 1992 and their underage children. Non-citizens who were born after 6 February 1992 and are over 18 are required visa., 15.08

The State Language Centre (SLC) found that Latvian (state) language skills of the Mayor of the Zilupe Council Olegs Agafonovs do not correspond to the required level. According to a representative from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, the Mayor could be dismissed only by the court’s decision; he would be given six months to improve the language skills before the repeated language check. If he fails repeatedly, the SLC should ask the court to withdraw the Mayor’s mandate. In spring 2016, the Minister Kaspars Gerhards submitted the draft amendments proposing to decrease the period when mayors or deputies are given a chance to improve the state language skills from six months to one month with an argument that the currently set period is too long.  New agency LETA 25.08

The U.S. Embassy to Latvia received controversial feedback from users of social networks about its recent initiative to use also Russian language in communication. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics commenting the situation said that he does not have any objections regarding the fact that the Embassy communicates in Latvian and Russian language. At the same time, he recommended the U.S. Embassy to revise the way it is done arguing that in cases when the post is written in Latvian and Russian it looks like communication in a country with two official languages; such communication informally legitimizes bilingualism despite the fact that the majority of Latvian citizens said “no” to it at the national referendum in 2012. According to the Minister, the U.S. Embassy promised to analyse its further communication strategy in Russian language. News agency LETA 26.08

The Union of Greens and Farmers submitted to the Parliament the draft amendments stipulating that agricultural land can be owned only by physical persons with at least intermediate level of Latvian language skills and by those legal entities where more than half of the equity capital belongs to persons meeting the same language requirements. According to the author of the amendments the MP Armands Krauze, the farmers should be required to have Latvian language skills for reading and understanding the legal requirements and instructions in order to prevent various risks., Vesti Segodnya, 30.08

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