24.04.2012 Movement "For Equal Rights": Q&A
- What does ‘For Equal Rights’ stand for?
‘For Equal Rights’ is a Latvian social movement, which was created in 2011. It has a very specific goal - to initiate a national referendum to amend the Ci
The initial task was to collect 10,000 citizens' signatures under the draft amendments before September 2012. It was achieved, gathering more than 12,600 signatures. However, the Central Election Commission refused to launch the next stage of signatures-gathering, claiming itself to be competent to evaluate the bill's consistency with the constitution. despite the conslusion of the only independent expert it had invited, and claiming the bill to contradict he principle of state continuity, despite the example of Lithuania
- What are the main reasons to hold the referendum on citizenship?
Already for twenty years, Latvian residents are divided into citizens and non-citizens. Hundreds of thousands of people, (most of whom resided in
In 1991, the Latvian government made the decision to exclude the 1/3 of the population from the political process of the country. People were denied Latvian citizenship, despite previous promises of the newly elected representatives to treat everyone equally. People felt disillusioned and betrayed when the government turned against their voters. After twenty years of exclusion and unequal treatment, would it be democratically and morally fair to ask people what they really want?
- What are the roots of the problem?
In October 8, 1988, the Popular Front of Latvia (PFL) was established and a year later, the PFL declared its aim to restore the independence of
One of the main points of the Popular Front’s programme was to respect the rights of people who moved to the
Similarly, the Atmoda - a PFL weekly newspaper, which targeted Latvian and Russian-speaking audience and was published in both languages, actively promoted the idea of equal rights and democratic participation of all residents in
Influenced by big promises, the majority of people voted for the independence of
On May 4, 1990 the Supreme Council adopted a declaration “On the Restoration of Independence of the
On October 15, 1991 the Supreme Council passed legislation “On the Renewal of the Rights of Citizens of the
- How the rights of non-citizens are restricted?
According to the Latvian Human Rights Committee, there are 80 differences between the rights of Latvian citizens and non-citizens. These differences are not only related to political rights, but also social and economic ones.
Just a few examples:
- The right to work in state offices or police (in some cases, even cleaning jobs are available to citizens only)
- The right to travel visa-free to many countries
- The right to pension (in some cases, citizens are entitled to receive bigger pensions, even with the same work experience)
- The right to receive privatisation certificates (citizens were allowed to receive more privatisation certificates than non-citizens)
- The right to education (certain higher education establishments for citizens only, such as the
- The right to self-defence (possession of firearms is allowed to citizens only)
There is a long list of real-life examples how exclusion from mainstream society influenced people’s lives. Especially, in the first half of the 1990s, this ‘imaginary’ division had tragic consequences. Some non-citizens received provisions on mandatory departure from
- Is it only about non-citizens?
Besides creating ‘imaginary’ division between citizens and non-citizens, the Law on Citizenship is used as a mechanism to restrict the rights of ethnic minorities in
As a result, restrictive language laws were introduced and ethnic minorities lost their right to be educated in their mother tongues.
- Why does the problem of mass non-citizenship still exist?
The answer is very straightforward – the Latvian government simply does not want to solve it.
Prior 1999, the majority of non-citizens did not have the right to naturalisation. There is still a very specific category of non-citizens who are denied naturalisation.
Naturalisation exam in
Despite heavy criticism of different international human rights monitoring bodies (e.g. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and United Nations Human Rights Committee) and European Court of Human Rights’ judgements (e.g. Andrejeva vs. Latvia), the situation of non-citizens in Latvia remains unchanged.
- Why Latvian citizens should vote for the rights of non-citizens?
To sign for the rights of non-citizens is not a question of justice only. It is a question of a possible political change. If now elections do not bring any visible results, 300,000 new citizens can breathe new life into the society.
Those who are not happy with economy and situation of ethnic minorities, and concerned about the future of
We need this change in order to be more democratic and transparent, to look forward to the future and close cooperation with our neighbours and to use our capacity in order to advance our society and develop our economy.
- What is the content of the suggested amendments to the Citizenship Law?
To amend the Citizenship Law (“The Herald of the Saeima and the Cabinet of the Republic of Latvia”, No. 17, 1994, No. 8, 1995, No. 22, 1998) as follows:
1. To add to the Section 2 the following Clause 6:
“6) Since 1 January 2014 – non-citizens, who have not submitted an application on keeping the status of a non-citizen until 30 November 2013, in a manner to be determined by the Cabinet”.
2. To add to the Transitional provisions the following Paragraphs 5 and 6:
“5. The Cabinet shall by 30 August 2013 determine the form of an application on keeping the status of a non-citizen, the order of its submission and review, as well as the order in which the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, not later than by 23 December 2013, shall send a certificate of becoming Latvian citizens since 1 January 2014 to the subjects of the Section 2, Clause 6. Since 1 January 2014, a passport of a non-citizen, combined with the said certificate, shall be equated to a passport of a Latvian citizen.
6. The Cabinet shall by 30 August 2013 submit to the Saeima amendments to the Personal Identification Documents Law on the order of exchange of a passport of a non-citizen for a passport of a Latvian citizen, foreseeing that the exchange is free of charge.”