The National policy brief is prepared in the framework of a project „Fostering political participation and policy involvement of migrants in 9 Central and Eastern EU countries” (Agreement No. HOME/2013/EIFX/CA/ CFP/4234) supported by the European Commission's Fund fo the Integration of Third Country Nationals. The project is co-funded by the European Union
Encourage political participation of third country nationals through national and local level consultative bodies on integration, thus giving them an opportunity to elaborate, implement and monitor matters directly affecting them.
MIPEX – data on Latvian
According to the latest Migrant Integration Policy Index (2011), in all four dimensions of political participation (electoral rights, political liberties, consultative bodies and implementation policies) Latvia lags behind the EU average. It is noted that immigrant “community leaders are not yet brought into the public debate through the type of consultative bodies emerging across Europe”.
The Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU (the Basic principles) states that “the participation of immigrants in the democratic process and in the formulation of integration policies and measures, especially at the local level, supports their integration”. According to the Basic principles, ways of stimulating this participation and generating mutual understanding could be reached by structured dialogue between immigrant groups and governments.
The Council of Europe Convention on the participation of foreigners in public life at the local level defines consultative bodies as platforms that form the link between the local authorities and the foreign residents, which can function as a forum to discuss and formulate the opinions, wishes and concerns of foreign residents on matters which particularly affect them in relation to local public life, including the activities and responsibilities of the local authority concerned, and which foster the general integration of foreign residents into the life of the community.
According to the Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies, “states should adopt specific, targeted policies to ensure that everyone has adequate opportunities to effectively participate in democratic decision-making.” Examples of means and instruments that facilitate effective participation include also advisory or consultative bodies and mechanisms that act as formal or informal channels of communication between governments and community representatives.
The Council of Europe provides recommendations as to the objectives, composition, selection, activities and functioning of the consultative bodies:
- The specific objectives of the bodies should be clearly defined, classified and adapted to available resources.
- The consultative bodies should be consulted in all matters relating to the running of the municipality, and all residents should be informed about the results of each activity carried out. This challenge is also mentioned by several Member States.
- The member selection criteria to the consultative bodies should be allowed to be modified and adapted, and structures based on equal representation should be promoted.
- Sufficient financial and human resources should be provided, and the right of the body to act on its own initiative should be officially recognised.
In Latvia, the Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018) (adopted in October 2011) envisage establishing the national-level coordinating system in order to support immigrant participation: the National Integration Centre and the national level advisory board for third council nationals, which would include persons and organisations working on non-citizen, immigrant and refugee integration.
Consultative bodies: practice and challenges
Five national level and five local level advisory mechanisms (consultative councils or local authority integrations commissions) for promoting national minority and immigrant participation in decision making processes have been set up in Latvia. The interests of third country nationals are promoted through the Advisory Council for Integration of Third Country Nationals. All advisory bodies are structural bodies with approved statutes and a fixed schedule of meetings. Several minority organisations, including those representing non-citizens, have been participating in various councils; however, only one immigrant organization (the Arabic culture centre) has been represented in the consultative bodies so far.
Despite the fact that the consultative councils have been established with a view to promoting a dialogue among minority groups and policy makers, the public authorities are not required by law to respond to the recommendations of the consultative bodies. It leads to the general perception of many members of the councils that there is a lack of effective dialogue mechanisms at national level. The advisory boards or committees at local level are seen as more effective dialogue platforms.
In the Resolution on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by Latvia, the Committee of Ministers made a similar conclusion: “While a number of consultative mechanisms exist, few provide for effective participation in decision making, particularly at central level, as insufficient efforts are made to conduct consultations in a timely manner and comprehensively take into account the concerns that were expressed. There is little awareness among minority communities of the various councils and their functions.” The Committee has recommended to Latvia to “strengthen the mandate of existing consultation mechanisms for minority communities and ensure that the views and concerns of representatives are timely and effectively taken into account in all relevant decision making at central and local level.”
The effectiveness of the consultative bodies to a large extent depends also on the capacity of minority and immigrants’ NGOs to make policy proposals and substantiate their opinion.
- Provide structured and sustainable opportunities for minorities and immigrants in the preparation, implementation and assessment of policy documents and plans, especially with regard to those matters directly affecting them.
- Strengthen the mandate of existing consultative bodies and ensure that the public authorities are obligated to analyse the recommendations and decisions adopted by the body and provide a motivated answers.
- Make it a compulsory requirement for councils to account for their work once a year.
- Promote better representation of immigrant NGOs in the councils, both at national and at local levels by improving the procedure for selection of the councils’ members.
- Raise minority and immigrant NGO capacity and awareness on the issues related to political participation and the work of the advisory bodies.
Council of European Union (2004), The Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the European Union. Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/jha/82745.pdf
 The Council of Europe Convention on the participation of foreigners in public life at the local level, Council of Europe, 1992. Available at: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/html/144.htm
 European Commission (2014), European Modules on Migrant Integration, p. 54. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/ewsi/UDRW/images/items/docl_40802_750229173.pdf
 The Guidelines cover three main areas: (1) Civil Society and Integration (where the one of the goals is to strengthen the traditional and non-traditional forms of civic participation); (2) National identity: Language and Cultural Space; and (3) Shared Social Memory. Ministry of Culture, Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018), adopted 20 October 2011. Available at: http://www.km.gov.lv/lv/doc/ministrija/saliedeta_sabiedriba/KM_bklts_A5_3mm_bleed_02_2012_EN_PRINT.pdf
 National level advisory bodies: the Minorities Consulting Council of the President of Latvia; the Advisory Council to the Ministry of Education and Science on the National Minority Education Matters; the Consulting Committee of National Minority Non-governmental Organisation Representatives; the Advisory Council on Roma Integration Policy; the Advisory Council for Integration of Third Country Nationals. Local level advisory mechanisms are established in Riga, Jelgava, Jūrmala, Liepāja, Ventspils.
 The Advisory Council for Integration of Third Country Nationals was established in 2013 under the Ministry of Culture. It’s composed of 18 members representing eight state and two local authorities, as well as five NGOs and three social partners associations, including the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia and the Employer’s Confederation of Latvia. However, no immigrant associations are represented in the Council.
 Asari E.-M, Bjurholm E., Dusman A., Dusman A. jun., Hamidian K., Holvander P., Matlik T., Zankovska-Odina S., Ogur D. (2013), Comparative Analysis of Dialogue Platforms in Estonia, Latvia and Sweden Report, p. 36-39. Available in English: http://sidp.abikeskused.ee/images/documents/CAoDP_2014_ebook.pdf
 Resolution CM/ResCMN(2014)9 on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by Latvia (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 9 July 2014). Available at: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=2215943&Site=CM&BackColorInternet=C3C3C3&BackColorIntranet=EDB021&BackColorLogged=F5D383