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17.05.2005   Petitions Committee - Parliament to look into Latvia discrimination

Brussels, 20 April 2005 

The Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament has welcomed the Parliament's Petitions Committee decision that the situation of the Russian speaking minority in Latvia warrants further investigation.

The European Parliament could now decide to hold a special hearing to investigate the issue or organise an investigative mission to Latvia to look into the situation at first hand.

The Committee will also now seek legal advice with regard to the EU's remit with regard to Latvia's naturalisation procedures and will ask the European Commission for a full written account of its position.

Earlier the committee heard about the discrimination against some 450,000 Russian speakers living in Latvia who are denied Latvian citizenship and classed as 'aliens' - they represent the largest community of stateless persons in Europe. MEPs heard the case of Jurijs Petropavlovskis, a Latvian born ethnic Russian who has been denied Latvian citizenship even though he was born in Latvia and has passed the naturalization exams.

The decision has been welcomed by Spanish Green MEP David Hammerstein, member of the European Parliament's Petitions Committee. Mr Hammerstein said:

"We're very pleased with the decision to look into this very serious issue in more depth. We heard some very worrying evidence about the Latvian government's approach to recognising the rights of the so-called non-citizens - it's quite shocking that such a situation exists in twenty first century Europe.

I was particularly taken aback by the comments of one Latvian government representative who admitted that the decision to deny citizenship in the case of Mr Petropavlovskis had been made on political grounds.

We now need to make sure that the European Parliament has the opportunity to look into this serious issue in more depth."

The decision was also welcomed by Tatjana Zdanoka, an MEP who campaigns for the rights of Latvia's Russian speaking minority. Ms Zdanoka commented:

"Hopefully Euro-MPs will now get an opportunity to further investigate the discriminatory measures the Latvian regime is using to oppress a considerable part of population. This is an important step towards achieving proper recognition of our equal rights as full citizens of the European Union."


For further information:
Steven Cornelius
EFA Press Officer
The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament
Mobile: +32 473 56 09 67



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