On 26 May 2005, the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe. With the ratification of the convention, another significant step has been made towards the protection of rights of persons belonging to national minorities. Since the restoration of its independence, Latvia has been guaranteeing its minorities all fundamental rights under the Law "On the Unrestricted Development and Right to Cultural Autonomy of Latvia's National and Ethnic Groups" passed in 1991, and under other regulatory enactments.
Since the term 'national minorities' has not been defined in the convention, the Saeima came to an agreement that under the convention this term refers to those citizens of Latvia who differ from Latvians in terms of culture, religion or language, who have been traditionally living in Latvia for generations, who consider themselves as belonging to the state of Latvia and the Latvian society, and who would like to preserve and develop their culture, religion and language.
Latvia has based its definition on those of the member states of the convention, including an additional significant item, namely, that persons who are not citizens of Latvia or other country but have been living in Latvia permanently and legally and do not belong to a national minority based on the definition of the term by the Framework Convention, but who identify themselves with a national minority corresponding to the said definition, are entitled to the rights determined by the Framework Convention, unless otherwise provided by the law.
Upon ratifying the convention, the Saeima also passed two declarations, which state that Latvia considers binding Part 2 of Article 10 and Part 3 of Article 11 of the convention regulating separate spheres of the use of minority languages, provided they do not contradict the Satversme (Latvian Constitution) and other regulatory enactments defining the use of the state language effective in the Republic of Latvia.
By ratifying the Convention, Latvia has once again attested that the protection of human rights in Latvia conforms to the highest international human rights standards.
(end of text)