The Latvian parliament [Saeima] in the final reading has passed a bill authorizing the government to sign the border treaty with Russia without an explanatory declaration Latvia previously wanted to attach to the document.
During the final vote, 69 parliament members voted "for" and 26 voted "against" with no abstentions.
Those MPs who votes against the bill included all lawmakers from the opposition center-right New Era party and the nationalist alliance For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK), as well as Visvaldis Lacis and Leopolds Ozolins from the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS).
A total of 13 proposals had been submitted for the second reading of the draft law, of which lawmakers approved only one submitted by the parliament legal affairs committee.
However, the new wording of the bill says that considering Latvia's constitutional bill on the sovereign status of the Republic of Latvia passed on Aug. 21, 1991, and the internationally recognized continuity of the Latvian state, the parliament decides to authorize the Cabinet of Ministers to sign the draft border treaty with Russia initialed on Aug. 7, 1997.
The proposal was approved with 89 votes to just one.
Essentially, the change means that the Cabinet has the right to decide, which official will be sanctioned to conclude the agreement with Russia.
Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks mentioned Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga or himself as the potential candidates for signing the border treaty. "Now, the most important thing is what the president will do," he added.
The government ministers attending the parliament session included Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, Transport Minister Ainars Slesers, Society Integration Minister Oskars Kastens, Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis, Welfare Minister Dagnija Stake and Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, who took the floor twice.
A number of lawmakers voiced concern about the possible development of the situation in the future, warning that Russia or other political forces might demand two official languages or citizenship to Latvia's non-citizens.
Pabriks told these speakers not to "mislead people... If there is a government and ministers like now, two official languages and citizenship to all will be out of question."
Several lawmakers criticized the prime minister, accusing Kalvitis of avoiding to comment on whether the declaration that Latvia wanted to attach to the border treaty two years ago, will be withdrawn.
After the vote, lawmakers backed a proposal of ten New Era MPs to announce each lawmaker's choice. The proposal was approved unanimously.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga now has to decide in ten days' time on signing the bill into law.
In 2005 Russia refused to sign the border treaty with Latvia, since the Latvian government wished to add to the treaty a declaration containing a reference to the 1920 Latvian-Russian Peace Treaty under which the Abrene county (now Pytalovo) belongs to Latvia.