|By PR Newswire||
|October 2, 2013 09:09 AM EDT||
RIGA, Latvia, October 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
On 27 September 2013 a new Preamble to the Latvian Constitution was presented in the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima. It was prepared by Representatives of the ruling coalition parties without the consulting, participation or consent of the opposition or the people of Latvia.
This preamble seeks to legitimize the shift from a liberal democratic regime to an ethno-national democracy. The text aims to anchor in the State Constitution an "Ethnic Latvian Nation" as the primary principle of sovereignty, in contrast to the current liberal country which is composed of the "people of Latvia". This change would not only imply a further separation within the Latvian nation between ethnic Latvians and Latvian citizens from a different ethnic origin, as well as a further disenfranchisement of Latvian non-citizens by formally excluding any possibility of them ever becoming a legal part of the Latvian Nation. It would also mean that Latvia deliberately chooses to disregard Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union which states that the EU is founded
"On the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail"
Ever since 2011, the concept of ethnical dominance has slowly been growing in Latvia, when it was included in the policy paper "National Identity, Civil Society and Social Integration" adopted by the Latvian Government. This paper defines the Latvian language and Culture not only as the primary basis for social integration, but also as a precondition for democratic participation. There are a lot of prohibitions and legal restrictions for displaying in public a language other than Latvian. Even legally organised referendum for second state language was deemed as a a subversive threat, as a consequence the referendum legislation was made more restrictive.
In 2012 the Constitutional Commission, established by President Andris Bērziņš, published a report about the 'About constitutional fundament and indefeasible Constitution's Core of Latvian state', which aims at setting the Constitution's "true interpretation" as intended by the founding fathers. The report finds that the Latvian State was founded solely by ethnical Latvians, and that any other ethnical groups only joined this "democratic project" later. This finding is historically untrue as Latvia has been populated by Germans, Russians and Jews throughout the centuries. By 1940, ethnic Russians represented already 20% of the population.
This interpretation of the Latvian Constitution has now been formalized through the adoption of the Preamble. Additionally, the Preamble does not permit to change the "Constitutional Core" - not even by referendum. The speaker of the Parliament, Solvita Aboltina, publicly stated that the preamble shall prevent citizens' initiatives such as the "Referendum for a Second State Language" which was initiated by Latvian minorities in February 2012.
Iveta Kažoka, researcher at the Latvian Centre of Public Policy, Providus, said:
"I disagree with the concept proposed in the preamble project. Especially, that the Latvian nation, meaning the Latvian citizens are divided into the state-forming nation, ethnic minorities and other unnamed elements - besides the state-forming nation according to the authors [of the preamble project] is the most important element, the "master" of Latvia. "
"In my opinion, it is destructive when in Latvia again and again people's attention focuses on the ethno-cultural characteristics, totally insignificant differences between citizens in the 21st century, when ethnic and cultural features of some citizens are declared more important than other ethnic and cultural peculiarities"
The Latvian Non-citizens Congress, which represents long-term stateless people disenfranchised from political rights in 1992, stated that Latvia at present is following the example of Hungary by gradually instituting systematic non-democratic changes within its democratic base.
Elizabete Krivcova, lawyer and Chairman of the Congress, says that
"the draft preamble to the Latvian Constitution is in clear risk of a breach of the common European values and principle of effective democratic participation irrespective of the ethnical origin of citizens. Our organization is acting to solve the problem of mass statelessness, but the newest developments show that our government is planning to introduce a limitation in political rights of citizens depending on their ethnic origin"
According to the 2011 census, 62% of the population was ethnic Latvian and 38% were ethnic minorities. The common language for different national minorities is Russian which is spoken at home by 37.2% of the population. Minority issues concerning language, education and political rights was reason to many tensions and protests within the country, as well as subject of serious concern for international organizations like the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union.
SOURCE The Latvian Non-Citizens Congress