Language campaign enters final stretch

  • 2011-11-24
  • From wire reports

CALMING THE NATION: Valdis Dombrovskis said extremists on both sides are creating unnecessary tension on the issue of the official state language.

RIGA - Interviewed by Radio 101 on Nov. 16, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis declared that the state’s highest-ranking officials believe that Latvian must be the sole official language, and actions that create tension in the community on this issue are impermissible, reports LETA. Asked about the reported statement for the people being readied for release in the coming days regarding the language issue, Dombrovskis said that “the interpretations by the mass media are hasty. Right now, there is no statement,” he stated.

Dombrovskis pointed to the activity of Harmony Center, and its leader, Nils Usakovs, as the problem. They are “fanning the flame” and causing tension among the populace, he said. Also, the nationalist alliance (All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK) has gone “high profile” on this, its key issue, and are using the situation to its advantage, he added.
Interviewed by LTV1 on Nov. 17, Saeima Speaker Solvita Aboltina explained that taking into account the strained situation regarding national and language issues, an idea arose for a joint statement to the people from Latvia’s leaders, but this was dropped, “so now, the president and prime minister can deliver the statement’s message separately, in their speeches.”
The joint statement was dropped because President Berzins made it known that he does not support the idea, said Aboltina. “This does not mean that we will not talk about these issues; on the contrary, we will underline in our speeches that Latvian is the sole state language,” she pointed out.

It was during the Nov. 19 congress of the political party Harmony, which is one of the two parties that make up Harmony Center, that the opportunistic Riga Mayor Usakovs urged party members and supporters to sign the petition demanding state language status for Russian.
“Persons from Harmony should sign the petition,” he now says.

Although Harmony Center claims that the party does not support holding a referendum on granting the status of a state language to Russian, Usakovs has signed the petition, even though he had earlier promised that he would not participate in signing it, as he doesn’t believe in its goal. In a statement to the media, Usakovs explained that this was not a move against the Latvian language, but for “self-esteem.”

The signature drive continues until Nov. 30 for holding a referendum on amending the Constitution in order to make Russian a second state language in Latvia. A total of 154,379 signatures must be collected for staging the referendum.
Local government members, municipal leaders and several high-ranking officials, all members of Harmony Center, have signed the petition. Like Usakovs, they claim that they intend not to change the status of the Latvian language, but their signatures are meant to announce that a large part of society feels offended and wants to bring ethnic issues to the forefront. Previous to the latest elections, however, the party proposed to put aside all inter-ethnic discussion for three years.

Usakovs said earlier that he was infuriated by the All for Latvia!- For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK Cabinet ministers, who voted against allocating funding for the referendum, even though, “according to the law, if 10,000 signatures are collected, the state must fund the campaign.”