Latvian Parliament passes amendments over Presidents objections

  • 2007-03-02
  • By TBT staff
RIGA 's Saeima (Latvian Parliament) voted in favour of national and state security amendments on Thursday, despite the president having rejected them once. The President is allowed to send the amendments back to Parliament for revision once, should Parliament choose to pass the laws again 's as they did in this case 's the President must sign them into law.

The amendment on national security was passed by a vote of 57 for to 32 against, the amendment regarding state security passed by a vote of 53 to 32. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga voiced strong opposition to the bills, arguing that they "can endanger the successful and professional performance of national security institutions, as it increases the risk of revealing the state secret and classified information, enlarging the range of persons who will have access to information on operational activities during their active stage".

Members of the opposition New Era party have branded the amendments as a move toward an "orange dictatorship," declaring that the bills are an attempt to concentrate power.

The amendments allowed for the ministers of defence, foreign and interior affairs, and justice, as well as heads of security institutions and other ministers, to be involved in the national security councils work.

Through the new national security law, members of the national security committee are enabled to not only to get acquainted with results of inspections of national security institutions, but also to conduct those inspections themselves.

The new openness of security issues to parliamentarians continues to draw heavy criticism from both the President and opposition leaders. "It is not clear for me, as the head of the National Security Council, why one state institution together with other people, whose relations with the state security institution system are not defined by the law, are given the rights to investigate security institutions" Vike-Freiberrga wrote in a letter to Parliament.

The President worries that the bills will also draw criticism from allies in NATO and the EU. She argues that the principles, procedures and criteria of these investigations should be clearly defined at the highest levels so as not to diminish the trust of Latvia's cooperation partners.

Both opposition leaders and the President have expressed surprise and dismay at the ruling parties quickly pushing the proposals through Parliament without having been adequately analyzed by specialists and experts. "You are clearly adjusting the laws to your interests," said Karlis Sadurskis of the New Era party.

The ruling coalition, however, has dismissed this as "political rhetoric" and cites the need for improved co-ordination among security institutions.