- Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns Latvia for discrimination of Russian speaking residents
The Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented the recent statement by the State Language Centre (SLC), which called to speak only Latvian language at work places. The Ministry commented that such statements divide Latvia’s society and contradict a number of recommendations by international organisations regarding rights of ethnic minorities to preserve and develop their native language. The Russia’s Ministry also declared that SLC’s statement confirms that general policy of the Latvian government is aimed at discrimination of ethnic non-Latvians, first of all, Russian speakers. As reported, the SLC called employees of different institutions and offices to speak only Latvian language in the presence of clients. While legislation does not regulate the usage of state language in unofficial communication, the SLC argued that conversation should not be considered as unofficial if third persons (passengers, visitors, or clients) can hear that conversation. Vesti Segodnya
- Newspapers reports about annual parliamentary foreign policy debates
- Number of non-citizens decreased from 13% to 12,1% during 2014
- Vesti Segodnya interviews the head of the Islam Cultural Centre in Latvia Imrans Olegs Petrovs
- French Ambassador to Latvia Stephane Visconti: it is wrong to link the huge Muslim community with few terrorists
- The MP Boriss Cilevics: cooperation agreement between the Concord and the United Russia is difficult to implement
Newspapers reports about annual parliamentary foreign policy debates conducted yesterday. The report by the Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed the security challenges the EU faces, such as conflict in Ukraine, relations with Russia, and terrorist attack in Paris. The MP, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Prime Minister Rihards Kols representing the opinion of the National Union criticized the Minister Rinkevics for too soft position regarding Russia. He also said that Latvia should have definite position on immigration issues. But commenting the possible introduction of quotas for admission of immigrants by the EU member states, Mr Kols said that “Latvia already fully complied with its quota by 260,000 non-citizens residing in Latvia.” Latvijas Avize, Neatkariga, Diena
According to the Naturalisation Board of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, there are 262,000 non-citizens currently residing in Latvia. During 2014, the number of non-citizens decreased from 13% to 12,1% of the total Latvia’s population. Vesti Segodnya
Vesti Segodnya interviews the head of the Islam Cultural Centre in Latvia Imrans Olegs Petrovs. He condemned the terrorist attack in Paris, but, at the same time, he also condemned the cartoons insulting feeling of many people. Mr Petrovs believes that it is a task of law enforcement bodies to protect feelings of people. Mr Petrovs also says that the interest towards the local Muslim community from the security services and journalists has increased after the attack. According to him, there are about 400 practising Muslims in Latvia out of 5-10,000 Muslims living in the country.
Neatkariga prints an interview with the French Ambassador to Latvia Stephane Visconti. The Ambassador does not agree to an assertion that the terrorist attack in an evidence that integration policy in France has failed. Mr Visconti stresses that it is wrong to link the huge Muslim community with few terrorists who commit crimes in the name of Islam.
The MP, member of the political party Concord Boriss Cilevics, stated that it is difficult to implement the cooperation agreement between the Concord and Russia’s governing party United Russia at present. According the Mr Cilevics the party supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and, therefore, it is difficult to hold conversations with Russia. He also does not see it necessary to terminate the agreement because the Concord wants to preserve all the options for dialogue. He stressed that the agreement is not about subordination or friendship with Russia but only about mutual consultations. Latvijas Avize
- Minister of Defence Raimonds Vejonis: males, females, ethnic Latvians and ethnic non-Latvians, citizens and non-citizens are ready to defend the state if necessary
- Neatkariga interviews the Saeima’s Speaker Inara Murniece
According to a survey “Opinion of Latvian Residents on the National Defence Issues” conducted by the marketing and public opinion research centre SKDS ordered by the Ministry of Defence, 58,7% of Latvian male citizens and 34,4% of males without Latvian citizenship would defend Latvia with arms in their hands if necessary. 27,9% of male citizens disagreed with such assertion. The share of males aged between 17-25 – both citizens and non-citizens is equally high – 65,2% and 63% correspondingly. 67% of males whose family language is Latvian and 41,2% whose family language is Russian would defend Latvia. According to the Minister of Defence Raimonds Vejonis such results should stop the artificial discussions that nobody is ready to defend Latvia. He also said that males, females, ethnic Latvians and ethnic non-Latvians, citizens and non-citizens are ready to defend the state. Latvijas Avize
Neatkariga interviews the Saeima’s Speaker Inara Murniece (member of the National Union.) Commenting the draft law on restitution of Jewish properties to the Jewish community currently being developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Murniece says that most likely, it foresees return of several properties such as cemeteries and synagogues. She believes that concerning every single property there should be a separate draft law elaborated in order to define the aim and condition of the return, such as prohibition to sell it or lease to someone else. Regarding 16 March (unofficial commemoration day of Latvian Waffen SS legionnaires) events, Mrs Murniece says that it is the day of remembrance of Latvian fallen warriors and it is free choice of every person what to do on this day.
- Head of the Saeima’s National Security Committee Solvita Aboltina: Islam should not be equated to terrorism
- Ex-head of the Centre of People’s Front in Liepaja: state has forgotten that Latvia’s independence was supported also by many representatives of ethnic minorities in 1991
- Vesti Segodnya reports that Latvia has blocked the holding of an exhibition on Holocaust organised by a Russian Foundation “Historical Memory”
Neatkariga interviews the head of the Saeima’s National Security Committee Solvita Aboltina. Commenting the terrorist attack in Paris, Mrs Aboltina said that terrorism and Islam should not be equated, because terrorists do not always belong to a religious community. She stressed that Latvian Muslim community is not aggressive. At the same time, she also stressed that the state should maintain a dialogue with every resident, in order to be confident that nothing bad is planned against the state or majority of the society.
Ex-head of the Centre of People’s Front (organisation which won parliamentary elections in 1990 and restored Latvia’s independence) in Liepaja Sandra Senina, in an interview with Latvian Radio 4 remembering barricades of 1991, said that at those times support came not only from ethnic Latvians but also from people of different ethnic background who also believed that Latvia will become independent state. According to Mrs Senina, among those Liepaja residents who voted for Latvia’s independence 38% were ethnic Latvians and the rest were people of other ethnicities. She also stated that the politicians should apologize before non-citizens for forgetting their contribution to the restoration of Latvia’s independence. Vesti Segodnya
Vesti Segodnya reports that Latvia has blocked the holding of an exhibition “Childhood in Captivity. Victims of the Holocaust through the eyes of juvenile prisoners of Nazi concentration camp Salaspils” planned to be opened on 26 January in the UNESCO building in Paris. The organiser of the exhibition is a Russian Foundation “Historical Memory”. The same exhibition was displayed in 2012-2013 in Minsk and Moscow and planned to be displayed in Riga. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned it considering that it falsifies the history and harms Latvia’s image. The Minister of Foreign Affairs included the organisers of the exhibition, members of the “Historical Memory”, in the list of persons whose entrance to Latvia is denied.
- Vesti Segodnya: the Ombudsman Juris Jansons does not insist anymore on transition of ethnic minority schools into Latvian language
- MP, member of the National Union Einars Cilinskis: 16 of March is commemoration day of Latvian warriors who believed that they are defending their state
Vesti Segodnya reports that the Ombudsman Juris Jansons in his report about human rights situation in 2014 does not insist anymore on transition of ethnic minority schools into Latvian language. In the report, the Ombudsman criticizes a number of schools for insufficient state language proficiency of teachers. However, he does not question bilingual system as such. Also in an interview to Latvia’s official public journal Latvijas Vestnesis, evaluating language proportions in bilingual education programmes, he stated that it as important to observe already existing legal norms which are not only technically good but are also logical and practical.
Vesti Segodnya interviews the MP, member of the National Union Einars Cilinskis. In 2014, Mr Cilinskis was forced to leave the post of the Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development due to his decision to take part in the procession commemorating Latvian legionnaires on 16 March (unofficial commemoration day of Latvian Waffen SS legionnaires) in the centre of Riga. According to Mr Cilinskis, 16 of March is commemoration day of Latvian warriors who believed that they are defending their state. He also asserts that this procession does not support Nazi Germany’s aggression against the Soviet Union in any way. Mr Cilinskis also says that in difficult historical situations it is hard to find common point of view and asserts that ethnic Latvians painfully perceive the wide celebration of the 9 May (Victory Day) in Riga as for them this day symbolises repeated Soviet occupation.