UNITED WE STAND: Minister Pabriks said Latvia is united and secure
RIGA - Latvian foreign minister Artis Pabriks has a double helping of discrimination on his plate at the moment with two high-profile visitors. Sep. 20, Pabriks met with RenÃ© van der Linden, President of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, who is touring all three Baltic states with a special focus on minority issues.
During the meeting, Pabriks pre-empted accusations that Latvia is a country with significant social divides by emphasising its positive progress over the last 20 years. He even went so far as to suggest that Latvia could serve as an example of societal integration for other countries that had "turned from a country with a split community into a united and secure state."
Pabriks drew the commissioner's attnetion to the fact that Latvia offers education in eight minority languages, which is more that in most European countries and that the number of 'non-citizens' [mainly ethnic Russians without passports] has decreasedfrom 29 percent to 16 percent of the population since 1995.
In response to questions from Van der Linden, Pabriks said that the differences between citizens and non-citizens are "minimal" according to the foreign ministry's record of the meeting.
The other investigator in town is Doudou DiÃ¨ne, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. He also arrived in Riga Sep. 20 on a working visit in response to an invitation from the Latvian government.
The stated purpose of his visit is to familiarise himself with societal integration in Latvia, the observance of minority rights and the measures taken by the government to combat racism, discrimination and intolerance - pretty much the same brief as Van der Linden's.
DiÃ¨ne will meet with government officials, non-governmental organisations and representatives of civil society and will visit Olaine prison. and the Occupation Museum.