Non citizens turn to EU over rights

  • 2014-02-05
  • From wire reports, RIGA

Members of the Latvian Non-Citizens Congress have turned to European Commission with renewed calls for human rights. 

The group have urged European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding to review the fact that non citizens don't have the right to vote in elections or hold a majority of state employed positions. There are currently around 300,000 non citizens in Latvia, latest statistics show. 

However, Latvian officials have urged non citizens to apply for Latvian citizenship in order to break the deadlock. Interested applicants are asked to take an exam in Latvian to pass.

A statement from the organization reads: "Latvian non-citizens are entirely disenfranchised from all political rights by being a special category of Latvian nationals living, working and paying taxes in Latvia for generations but without any citizenship. Due to the fact that non-citizens are ethnic minorities, the situation was a prominent cause of concern for the European Commission during the enlargement negotiations in 1995-2004.

"However, after joining the European Union, the Latvian government significantly diminished its efforts for complying with the Copenhagen criteria with regards to political rights of ethnic minorities," 

The right to vote is a basic fundamental right and the most powerful tool of expression of a citizen - and should therefore be granted to everyone, states Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for justice

Reding draws attention to the 'legal limbo' that some citizens find themselves in after leaving their home country for another EU member state. After leaving, they lose the right to vote in their home country but do not acquire the same right in the new country. 

"This year is the 10th anniversary of the EU Eastern enlargement, and Latvia is not the only country that still has not achieved human rights standards agreed by accession ten years ago. Unfortunately we have to agree with CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, that human rights in the European Union remain more often an issue "for export" than for domestic consumption." said Elizabete Krivcova, head of Latvian Non-citizens' Congress.

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