President, PM discuss upcoming protests
RIGA – During their weekly meeting on Wednesday President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Indulis Emsis discussed the protests by opponents of the school reform program scheduled at the start of the school year and what action the government should take.
Emsis told reporters after the meeting that measures "would be effective" though he did not give details.
He did say however that the government's response would not be directed at the protestors but rather toward explaining the education reform. He said the president had her suggestions as to what the government should do.
Emsis, a member of the Greens and Farmers Union who leads a fragile minority coalition, said that the government must explain the education reform and promote dialogue with teachers in minority schools, as well as with schoolchildren and their parents.
The prime minister said that the fuss created around the reform was "the fruit of suspicion and fantasy, which is not objective. The troubles have been artificially inflated."
Emsis stressed, however, that the reform would not be cancelled.
"In this sense there will be no change," he told journalists.
The reform will increase the number of lessons taught in Latvian at state-run minority high schools (10th grade and up) to 60 percent starting.
Political opponents representing the ethnic segment of the population have been outspoken against the reform and have organized several massive rallies last winter and spring. They have asked the government to cancel the reform and have threatened to boycott school altogether come Sept. 1.
Pro-reform officials claim the reform is necessary in order to increase the competitiveness of Latvia's minorities, who comprise some 40 percent of the population.
The Russian School Protection Headquarters, or Shtab – an unregistered organization aimed at dismantling the reform – has planned a demonstration in Riga on Sept. 1 similar to that of May 1, where thousands of people gathered to protest against the reform.
A general strike of minority school kids has been called for September 2.
Then, on Sept. 12 the General Latvian Russian Community Congress of 500 delegates has planned further "resistance tactics" and the founding of an NGO to protect the rights of the Russian community.