Council of Europe halts monitoring in Latvia

  • 2001-01-25
  • BNS
STRASBOURG - The Latvian delegation feels satisfied by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's decision to close Latvia's monitoring procedure.The decision was adopted almost unanimously on Jan. 23.

The delegation's representative Vaira Paegle told BNS that Latvia had finally made a moral and spiritual comeback in Europe.

"Now we have made the transition from consumers of European Union services to producers," Paegle said.

She also believes that Latvia is a good example for the creative implementation of social integration programs.

"We can also make a contribution to human rights," she said.

Kristiana Libane, a member of the Latvian delegation, also expressed satisfaction with the Council of Europe decision. She said that few criticisms were made over the report and even Russians had been comparatively reserved as "there was nothing to find fault with."

Russia did not have voting rights at the meeting because commissions have until Jan. 25 to consider the possibility of restoring Russia's voting rights.

With an overwhelming majority of votes, the Council of Europe decided to close the monitoring procedure opened in Latvia several year ago, and by doing so recognized Latvia's achievements on observance of human rights and the integration of non-citizens.

Representatives from Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and even Turkey praised Latvia's achievements pointing at just a few drawbacks that still have not been eliminated, for example, the slow pace of naturalization.

Ahead of the voting, the address to the session was delivered by Terry Davis from Great Britain and Gunnar Janson from Finland, who have conducted the monitoring in Latvia for several years. In the final report, both praised the reforms implemented by Latvia.

Only a few Russian officials, among them former prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin, criticized Latvia and called on the government to think more about the Russian-speaking population.

Chernomyrdin expressed criticism of the slow pace of naturalization, saying that according to estimates, the naturalization process will take at least 100 years if it proceeds at the current speed.

The head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Dmitry Rogozin, said that Russia had behaved openly and asked appropriate questions during the discussion on Jan. 23 about stopping monitoring of Latvia. Russia had also succeeded in keeping in the report a proposal about adopting a special law concerning protection of ethnic and linguistic minorities.

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga expressed her satisfaction with the decision to close Latvia's monitoring procedure.

"The Parliamentary Assembly closed the monitoring procedure in the light of the success Latvia has had since its accession to the organization," the president said Jan. 23 in a 20-minute address to the Council of Europe session.

The president recalled one historic event, that the Council of Europe in a resolution in 1960 clearly voiced a critical attitude towards the violent occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union.

By doing so the Council of Europe proved that it was a just and impartial organization and today too it is continuing to defend democratic values, said Vike-Freiberga.

In her address the president praised Latvia's ability to develop a system where different nationalities can live together, where they not only have given the chance to get an education in their native tongue but also have the chance to take part in their native cultural life.

"The multi-cultural environment of Latvia is reflected in the country's general education system, which provides the opportunity to acquire an education, more or less, in six different languages... In Latvia, there are nearly 200 schools with Russian as the language of instruction as well as Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian and Belarusian schools," the president said.