Feb. 26, 2015

  • Latvijas Avize interviews the Rabbi Dr. Menahems Barkahans
  • Vesti Segodnya interviews the Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs

Latvijas Avize interviews the Rabbi Dr. Menahems Barkahans, head of theRiga andLatvia’s Jewish Religious Community and association “Shamir”, and head of Riga Ghetto andHolocaustMuseum. Mr Barkahans says that in the context of growing security concerns after the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, also the Jewish Community prepares a letter to the Latvian Police asking to pay more attention to the territory around the Riga Ghetto Museum and the premises of “Shamir.” He believes that the religious war with extreme Islamic approach has begun. Therefore it is important to draw more attention to prevention of influx of radical Muslims toLatvia and to do everything possible to keep the number of immigrants and refugees inLatvia as small as possible. Speaking about integration issues, Mr Barkahans believes that every Latvian resident should know Latvian language, but education in state funded schools should be in Latvian language only. At the same time, he mentions the practice ofIsrael where the state ensures its residents with provision of information in their native language in row with Jewish language. Such approach, he believes, helps residents to understand what the state wants and to avoid development of negative attitude towards the state. Regarding to the restitution of Jewish properties lost by the Jewish community members due Soviet occupation in 1940 and during the Holocaust, the Rabbi believes that all properties which currently belong to state or municipalities should be returned to Jewish communities and not only to the organisation called Latvian Council of Jewish Community. Commenting 16 March events in Riga – the unofficial commemoration day of Latvian Waffen SS legionnaires – Mr Barkahans understands that former warriors, no matter on which side they fought,  want to lay flowers in memory of their friends who were killed during the war. However, in case of 16 March, the veterans are used for political manipulations. Therefore, he suggests that, instead of going toMonument ofFreedom in the centre ofRiga, the veterans could rather pray in churches and in cemeteries. 

Vesti Segodnya interviews the Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs who was recently granted the Award by the International Public Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations during his visit toMoscow. The Patriarch Kirill awarding Nils Usakovs said that he appreciates Usakovs’ efforts on strengthening of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional concord inRiga. Mr Usakovs, in his turn, said that the visit of the Patriarch toLatvia (which was postponed for an unspecified date) is awaited inLatvia and it would be important for the visit take place during theLatvia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. According to the Mayor, Riga City Council has established the council of religious organisations which includes representatives of all confessions. As well as the team of the City Council consists of ethnic Latvians and non-Latvians who work in the interests of allRiga residents. 

Feb. 24, 2015

  • Vesti Segodnya reports about voting rights in Latvia and in other EU member states

Vesti Segodnya, reports that inLithuania, not only Lithuanian and the EU citizens but also third country nationals permanent residents ofLithuania have voting rights in the upcoming municipal elections. The newspaper notes, that such practice exists in 20 out of 28 the EU member states.Latvia is one of the member states where not only non-EU nationals but also Latvian non-citizens do not have voting rights or rights to be elected. According to the Latvian MP Boriss Cilevics (political party “Concord Centre”), the majority of the Parliament members strongly objects widening of the number of voters giving such rights to Latvian non-citizens and moreover to third country nationals. Mr Cilevics believes that it is an absurd situation when voting rights are granted to those EU citizens who resided inLatvia for six months but Latvian non-citizens who were born and lived here all their life are deprived of such rights. 

Feb. 23, 2015

  • State Language Centre: situation with usage of state language has improved

In an interview with Diena, representative of the State Language Centre (SLC) Sarmite Pavulena says situation with usage of state language has improved, because young people graduating from school are proficient in Latvian language. She believes that such tendency will continue. In total, the SLC punished 769 persons in 2014, which is by 364 less than in 2013. In 430 cases persons were punished for insufficient usage of state language during fulfilment of professional duties. During 2014, the SLC received 980 complaints about violations of state language usage. The SLC receives complaints also through the social networks.


Feb. 20, 2015

  • Cabinet of Ministers approved Action Plan for the implementation of the National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy Guidelines for the time period up to 2016

Latvijas Avize reports that the Cabinet of Ministers approved Action Plan for the implementation of the National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy Guidelines 2012 – 2018 for the time period up to 2016. The state budget allocated 2,4 million euros to five different ministries for the implementation of the action plan. In addition, 1,4 million euros will be granted to various activities. Commenting the adoption of the Action Plan, the Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, says that she does not like the word “integration” as she believes it is a passed stage and now it is important to achieve that people who live inLatvia would have the sense of belonging to the state. The activities foreseen in the Plan are much wider than just integration, says Mrs Straujuma. Those are aimed at sense of belonging toLatvia, creation of opportunities for ethnic minorities to take part in the policy making process, development of ethnic minority cultures, and development of diaspora. Social scientist Dagmara Beitnere-Le Galla, in her turn, believes that it is impossible to hope that “citizens of former empire suddenly would change their mentality and since Putin’s coming to power (inRussia) this mentality has only grown.” She also believes that integration foresees not only the fact that people stay in the country but also tolerance and loyalty of these people. Mrs Beitnere-Le Galla says that currently she explores life stories of Russians and Roma living inLatvia and those show that there are ethnic Russian living in Latvia in the fifth generation and have never overtaken communist ideology and there are others who have inherited from parents and grandparents hate and contempt.  

Feb. 19, 2015

  • Weekly IR features two articles about Latvian citizens and non-citizens taking Russian citizenship in Latvia and about foreigners who received residence permits in Latvia on the basis of purchasing real estate

Weekly IR reports thataccording the State Social Insurance Agency (SSIA), the real number of Russian pensioners residing in Latvia is unknown because Russia does not provide such data. The SSIA can provide data only about those pensioners who receive Russian pensions through it, but as there are many pensioners who receive pensions directly from Russia the exact number is unknown. According to the official data of the Russian Pension Foundation, there were 20,405 Russian pensioners living in Latvia in 2014. Since 2010 the number has increased by almost 5,000. According to the Register of Residents, there were 54,838 Russian citizens living in Latvia in 2014. According to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, 2,616 persons renounced the status of Latvian non-citizen and 129 persons renounced Latvian citizenship in favour of Russia’s citizenship. The majority of them were people of retirement age. The retirement age in Russia is 55 years for women and 60 for men – comparing to 62 years in Latvia. The Security Police is concerned about the absence of the official data on the number of Russian citizens living in Latvia as it could promote speculations in public space and distribution of information discrediting for Latvia.

According to IR, 13,518 foreigners have received residence permits in Latvia within five years since the adoption of so-called “investors programme.” The majority of the investors – about 10,000 – are Russian citizens. The number of application for residence permits on the basis of purchase of expensive real estate or financial investment in Latvia has rapidly grown after events in Ukraine in February and March 2014 and dropped after the adoption of the amendments which significantly raised the price threshold of the real estate required for applying for residence permit. Thus, since September 2014 until the end of January 2015 – only 67 persons applied for residence permits on the basis of real estate purchase and 23 on the basis of bank deposit investment. According to research conducted by Re:Baltica, the majority of real estate purchasers are Russia’s middle class citizens connected with medium size private business, especially with banks. Currently, the Parliament again discusses possibility to lower the price threshold of the real estate required for applying for residence permit. However, the member of the governing coalition National Union strongly objects to it, arguing that the growing number of Russian citizens in Latvia could endanger state’s security.

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