Latvia no closer to ratifying convention

  • 2004-05-06
  • By The Baltic Times
RIGA – Parliament voted 59 – 20 on Thursday to reject sending the national minorities protection convention to the standing committees ahead of ratification.

Latvia signed the Council of Europe-mandated convention in 1995 but has yet to ratify it.
Most ruling coalition MPs and opposition MPs from New Era and For Fatherland and Freedom voted against sending the convention to committees.
As Peteris Tabuns from For Fatherland and Freedom was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying, "We all remember how we covered street names in Russian with paints in the early '90s. Are we going to renovate them now? Apparently we will have to do it if we ratify this convention."He stressed that Latvia was a specific case since it the country was suffering the consequences of occupation.
Jakovs Pliners from the leftist For Human Rights called on his colleagues to support sending the convention to parliamentary committees. He reminded that Latvia just acceded to the EU five days ago and that EU institutions have on several occasions called on Latvia to ratify this convention.
"Several politicians marked this event with song and tears in their eyes, but now the time has come to look at the works that have not been done ... The national minorities protection convention is an integral part of Latvia ruled by the law," he said.
"Latvia at present is the only among the new European Union member states that has not ratified the convention. It is an unprecedented situation, in particular in the light of the fact that some 40 percent of Latvia's residents are minorities," said Pliners.
Tabuns countered by saying, "It's not the non-ratification that is unprecedented, but the fact that 40 percent of Latvia's residents are settlers," he said.Special Task Minister for Societal Integration Nils Muiznieks said that he supported ratifying the convention. "I believe too that the time has come to speak about it more seriously, but it is clear that it will not happen over a few weeks but requires a broad discussion among the politicians and the public," said Muiznieks.
"It looks to me like Latvians are too much afraid of the convention whereas non-Latvians hope to expect too much from it, the role of the convention is exaggerated," said Muiznieks. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said last year she did not see convention ratification as an urgent matter since Latvia has the appropriate legislative basis for protection of national minorities.
Muiznieks said in February 2003 that the convention would be ratified within a year, while then Prime Minister Einars Repse said he supported ratification with certain reservations.
International experts also on several occasions have pointed at necessity to ratify the convention. Estonia and Lithuania have ratified the convention, as have most European countries.