- First protest action was hold yesterday against the government’s plans to switch education in national minority schools into state language
- Congress of Non-citizens appealed to the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding
Yesterday, first protest action against the government’s plans to switch education in national minority schools into state language was hold near the building of the Cabinet of Ministers in Riga. The protest was organised by the party the Union of Latvia's Russians and gathered, according to Vesti Segodnya, about 200 persons. The protestors criticized the statement of the Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma that sooner or later all schools in Latvia will be in Latvian language only. Leader of the Union of Latvia's Russians Jakovs Pliners in an interview with Diena stated that the protests will continue because the planned changes are against the will of national minorities. The Minister of Education Ina Druviete, in her turn, believes that if the planned changes are detailed explained and implemented in tight cooperation with language and education specialists, especially teachers who work in ethnic minority schools than there will be no street protests. The Chairperson of the Union of Citizens and Non-Citizens Vladimirs Sokolovs highlighted that if Latvia is a democratic country, it should ask the parents before introducing any major changes affecting the education of their children; imposing the changes against the will of the parents is a sign of coercion and dictatorship.
The Congress of Non-citizens appealed to the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding asking to put her special attention to the problem of mass-scale non-citizenship in Latvia. The Congress says that there is about 300,000 persons with status of non-citizen of Latvia and these people are separated into a specific category of residents despite that they have lived in this country for generations, work here and pay taxes. The Congress also notes that as the majority of non-citizens are ethnic minorities, the European Commission paid special attention to the lack of political rights during the accession process in 1995-2004. However, after Latvia entered the Union, the government substantially decreased its efforts to introduce equal standards in the area of ethnic minorities.
- Minister of Education Ina Druviete: further preservation of minority schools separately should be reassessed, starting with minority kindergartens
- Director of Russian language school: new language reform in ethnic minority schools is political provocation
Latvijas Avize reports about a meeting of the Minister of Education Ina Druviete and the Advisory Council on Ethnic Minority Education of the Ministry of Education. According to Mrs Druviete, increase of the proportion of education provided in Latvian language in ethnic minority schools is necessary in order to continue improving state language proficiency of students. Mrs Druviete asserted that the language proportion in ethnic minority schools might be 80% of subjects in Latvian language and 20% in Russian (subjects concerning native language and culture). The Minister rejected the worries of teachers that such system is aimed at assimilation of non-Latvian children and said that “we should help child to grow up as citizen.” School directors and representative of the Latvian Language Agency voiced their concerns that not all teachers in minority schools will be ready for such reform. Introduction of 60/40 proportion in 2004 was also met with fervent protests by the parents and students and the Minister believes that if the government conveys its message, there will be no unrest. Mrs Druviete also stated that further preservation of minority schools separately should be reassessed, starting with minority kindergartens.
Vesti Segodnya features an interview with a director of Russian language secondary school in Riga Anna Vladova. The director believes that the idea to transfer almost all content of education in ethnic minority schools is a politicized process and it would harm the education quality. Mrs Vladova believes that the existing language proportion 60/40 is effective and it is enough for preservation of own culture, identity and language. Mrs Vladova believes that such idea is a very dangerous provocation before the upcoming parliamentary elections.
- Minister of Education Ina Druviete is planning to meet with directors of ethnic minority schools
- Vesti Segodnya interviews the Ombudsman Juris Jansons
- 1,732 persons received Latvian citizenship through naturalisation in 2013
Vesti Segodnya reports that the Minister of Education Ina Druviete is planning to meet with directors of ethnic minority schools in order to discuss used models of bilingual education. The Minister also is planning to give her subordinates task to elaborate methodology for ethnic minority schools for transfer of all subjects into Latvian language except native language and literature starting with 1 September 2018. On 4 February, political party the Russian Union of Latvia (ex-FHRUL) is planning to hold a picket for protection of education in Russian language.
In an interview with Vesti Segodnya the Ombudsman Juris Jansons says that it is a lie that he has ever called to close Russian language schools. Mr Jansons asserts that he wanted to draw attention at the education quality in ethnic minority schools and raise discussions on whether it is necessary to transfer secondary schools into Latvian language only. Regarding the situation with non-citizens, the Ombudsman blames certain NGOs as those mislead non-citizens saying that state should grant them citizenship automatically. In particular, the Ombudsman blames the Congress of Non-Citizens saying that establishment of such organisation will slow down naturalisation process even more. The Ombudsman is assured that Latvian non-citizens use the same social-economical rights equally with citizens and that the only exception for non-citizens are political rights – they cannot vote and to be elected.
1,732 persons received Latvian citizenship through naturalisation in 2013 which is for 481 persons or 21% less than in 2012. According to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, naturalisation speed continues to decrease in Latvia – 2,467 persons naturalised in 2011 and 2,213 in 2012. Diena, Vesti Segodnya
- Latvijas Avize: opinion of the Ombudsman and Latvian Human Rights Centre do not match
- Union of Citizens and Non-citizens: how will the Ombudsman regain trust after disclosing information to third party?
- Political scientist Andrejs Berdnikovs: Russian parents should mobilise
Latvijas Avize interviews the director of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights Anhelita Kamenska. According to Ms Kamenska, the recent activities and statements of the Ombudsman Juris Jansons concerning non-citizens, bilingual education and minority schools raise concern about his independence. She refers to a letter by Ombudsman sent to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which criticises some Latvian NGOs for spreading misinformation about non-citizens. The issue had earlier been raised by Vineta Poriņa, an MP from the nationalist’s union, after the OSCE Human Dimension meeting. Ms Kamenska also draws attention to the differences in rights between citizens and non-citizens, and highlights areas where EU citizens enjoy more rights than non-citizens, who have stronger ties with the country. Ms Kamenska underlines the progress in minority schools in implementing bilingual education, and questions the purpose, the timing and the quality of Ombudsman’s research (a full report remains unavailable). She criticizes the Ombudsman for reporting teachers with inadequate Latvian language proficiency to state language inspectorate, and questions whether he is being perceived as independent. Ms Kamenska also sees no justification for the transfer of minority schools in solely the Latvian language, and suggests that the situations when the distribution of information by public bodies in foreign languages is justifiable be increased.
Co-chairman of NGO "The Union of Citizens and Non-citizens" Vladimirs Sokolovs published open letter to the Ombudsman Juris Jansons. Mr.Sokolovs reminds that at the end of 2013, representatives of the Ombudsman's Office visited several national minority schools and informed the State Language Centre about seven minority teachers, who spoke imperfect Latvian language; the state language inspectors punished six of these teachers. Mr.Sokolovs inquires who decided to record the personal data of teachers and disclose it to a third party? Mr.Sokolovs points out that the Ombudsman has broken trust by the disclosure and asks how the Ombudsman is going to regain it. Mr.Sokolovs also inquires how many Russian speaking citizens work at the Ombudsman's Office.
In an interview Vesti Segodnya political scientist Andrejs Berdnikovs compares how Russian speaking residents in Latvia and Mexican residents of the USA fight for their rights. Mr Berdnikov says that Mexicans achieved more rights by large protests and ongoing pressure on state authorities. On the contrary, Russian speakers in Latvia avoid radicalisation and thus change nothing about their rights, believes Mr Berdnikovs. Commenting the plans of the governing coalition to transfer education in ethnic minority schools into Latvian language, Mr Berdnikovs says that it will be a test and will show whether people can be self organised stressing that active actions should come especially from parents of children who study in ethnic minority schools.
- Russia’s Ambassador to Latvia Aleksandr Veshnyakov met with the Minister of Education Ina Druviete
Latvijas Avize reports about a meeting of the Russia’s Ambassador to Latvia Aleksandr Veshnyakov and the Minister of Education Ina Druviete. The Ambassador clarified Russia’s plans to open Russian schools abroad saying that he doesn’t see a need for such schools in Latvia yet as Russian language and literature teaching in ethnic minority schools is at a high level. In response to the Ambassador’s concerns over the plan of the governing coalition to transfer education in ethnic minority schools into Latvian language starting with 2018, the Minister Druviete said that there are no plans to close ethnic minority schools but 80% of subjects will be in Latvian language. In native language ethnic minorities will study only those subjects which are connected with their cultural identity.