Integration Policy in Latvia: A Multi-Faceted Approach

16.01.2015. 10:06

 

Since Latvia regained its independence in 1991, integration policy has been a key issue in its domestic affairs. Through the implementation of sound policies in the area of integration and national minority issues, Latvia has demonstrated its ability to be a reliable partner in the building of a united Europe. There are numerous examples demonstrating success of the integration policy in Latvia. The most significant factors and processes have been presented further on this site.

Ethnic structure and promotion of national minorities culture identity

Latvia is proud of its multi – ethnic society - more than 150 ethnicities live here. The Latvian Constitution and legislation guarantee and protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities to preserve and develop their language and their ethnic and cultural identity. Latvia not only protects but also widely supports national minority languages, education and culture.

Latvian Language Learning Programme

The Latvian language is the only official language in Latvia, which is the only country in the world where the Latvian language can develop and fulfil its functions. Therefore, consistent implementation of reasonable language policy principles is essential for the maintenance of the language.Language policy is aimed at preservation, protection and development of the Latvian language, but at the same time provides for the integration of national minorities in the society of Latvia by observing their rights to use their native or any other language.The official language proficiency facilitates the social, cultural, economic and political integration of non-Latvians, whilst also increasing their competitiveness in the labour market. From 1995 onwards, persons interested in learning Latvian are provided with an opportunity to learn the language free of charge.

Minority Education in Latvia

Education in national minority languages is a precondition for maintaining the cultural identity of national minorities in Latvia and ensuring society integration. Latvia continues to develop and finance its generally recognised liberal education model. The state support for education in minority languages in Latvia exceeds that of many other European countries. State financed national minority education programmes in Latvia are available in seven languages.Representatives from international organizations have reiterated their positive evaluation of the national minority education reform carried out in Latvia.

Citizenship

Citizenship is an enduring legal link between an individual and a state. Therefore an integral part of restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia was the restoration of the status and rights of those persons who were recognized as Latvia’s citizens under the 1919 Law on Citizenship, as well as their descendants. A special temporary status was established for former USSR citizens – “former citizens of the USSR without the citizenship of the Republic of Latvia or any other country” (so called non-citizens). Latvia is dealing successfully with the legacy of the Soviet era within a democratic framework, and with due respect for the rule of law, human rights and international practice. The Government has been implementing a consistent policy and unified approach in the area of society integration and promoting naturalization. All preconditions for a successful naturalization process have been created. Furthermore, the naturalisation process in Latvia is amongst the most liberal in Europe.

National Identity and Society Integration Guidelines

The primary goal of the National Identity and Society Integration Guidelines for 2012-2018 is a strong and united nation of Latvia – a national and democratic community ensuring the preservation and enrichment of its unifying foundation – the Latvian language, culture and national identity, European democratic values, and a unique cultural space – for a balanced development of Latvia as a national and democratic state. The Guidelines define society integration as social inclusion of all people living in Latvia, disregarding their ethnic background.

Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

In May 2005, the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) ratified the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. On 7 July 2014, the Ministers’ Deputies of the Council of Europe adopted the Committee of Ministers Resolution on the implementation of the Convention in Latvia, thereby concluding the second monitoring cycle.