Latvian Non-Citizens’ Rally for Voting Rights
RIGA, Latvia, October 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ –
The Latvian Non-Citizens has marked a week of political activism in which it held a
high-level conference of academic and political activists and directly confronted senior
European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on voting rights for ethnic minority nationals.
There are currently 295,000 stateless Russians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles and
Jews living in the country who are unable to vote due to the country’s citizenship laws.
The Congress campaigns for reform of these laws to widen access to the democratic process.
On Thursday afternoon, the Congress initiated a high-level dialogue with
representatives of Latvian civil society groups to discuss the proposed revisions to the
Latvian constitution that seek to undermine Latvia’s rich multi-ethnic history. The
reforms to the preamble seek to redefine Latvia as solely “ethnic Latvian” state at the
expense of Russian, Lithuanian, Polish and Jewish citizens – a plainly discriminatory
On Friday, representatives of the Congress attended the European Commission’s
Citizens’ Dialogue forum and directly tackled Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on the
Commission’s failure to push the Latvian government to introduce citizenship law reforms.
This is the first time the issue has been raised in such a high-level public forum.
Elizabete Krivcova, the co-founder and speaker of the Latvian Non-Citizens’ Congress
“The Latvian Non-Citizens’ Congress is always willing to enter into political debate
with figures inside and outside Latvia. This week, we have demonstrated our strength a
mass political movement.
“We call on Commissioner Piebalgs to initiate dialogue at the highest level to ensure
the Latvian government correct this historical anomaly and grant human rights to all
“It cannot be acceptable in an EU country in 2013 that a member state government can
pursue openly discriminatory constitutional changes that harm ethnic minority groups.”
Note to Editor
During the lifetime of the USSR, the Soviet authorities settled a large number of
Russians and other non-Latvians in the country (at the request of the country’s Communist
Party) to fill vacancies in factories and on construction projects. Many of the
descendants of these workers remain in Latvia today.
In the years immediately preceding the collapse of the USSR, the Russophone minority
in Latvia constituted a much larger percentage of the population than any comparable
linguistic minority in any European country. When Latvia re-gained its independence in
1991, only 52% of its population was ethnic Latvian. 37.2% of the population were ethnic
Russians, with substantial Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Jewish and Roma
communities also found in the country.
With Latvia’s Declaration of independence in May of 1990, the 1919 citizenship law was
officially reinstated – leaving the non-ethnic Latvian half of the population effectively
stateless. Later that year, the Latvian Parliament passed the Resolution “On the Renewal
of the Rights of Citizens of the Republic of Latvia and Fundamental Principles of
Naturalization” which divided the residents of Latvia into two major categories: Latvian
citizens (approximately two thirds), and Latvian non-citizens (approximately one third).
Latvian citizenship was only provided to pre-war citizens (pre-1940) and their
descendants – a situation that continues to leave 300,000 people unable to vote today.
In order to draw attention to the plight of “non-citizens” a group of activists from a
broad spectrum of Latvia’s ethnic minorities have held alternative elections for a
While recognising that the body has no formal power to decide Latvian government
policy, the aim of the Congress is to provide a representative body that will become an
effective channel for civil participation of “non-citizens” and ethnic Latvians concerned
with ensuring a vibrant and unified political debate in the country.
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SOURCE Latvians Non Citizens Congress