INTEGRATION OF SOCIETY IN LATVIA: FROM PLANS TO IMPLEMENTATION
December, 2001 (20)
- OSCE Mission to Latvia Closed
- National Budget for 2002 Envisages Increased Financial Support for Society Integration
- Society Integration Foundation Launches Its Work
- Naturalisation Board Information Centre Premises Officially Opened
- Sharp Increase in the Number of Naturalisation Applications in the Second Half of the Year
- Society Integration Conference Held in Aluksne
- Ethnic Minorities of the City of Jurmala Come Together in a Concert Organised by Society Integration Committee
OSCE Mission to Latvia Closed
On 18 December the OSCE Permanent Council decided not to extend the mandate of the OSCE Mission to Latvia. Consequently, the Mission will discontinue its activities in Latvia as of 1 January 2002.
Head of the OSCE Mission to Latvia Ambassador Peter Semneby presented his report to the Permanent Council. Ambassador Semneby informed about the steps taken by Latvia to build democratic and integrated society - naturalisation process continues smoothly, the Latvian Language Training Programme continues as a success, Society Integration Foundation has started its work, the National Human Rights Office has streamlined its work. Ambassador Semneby highly evaluated the initiative of the President of Latvia to delete from election legislation the requirement for persons running for elected office to know the state language at a certain level. Ambassador Semneby concluded that stable civil society has emerged in Latvia and participates actively in the political processes.
Ambassador Semneby recommended to consider the mandate of the Mission as completed. A majority of the OSCE Participating States agreed with the Head of the Mission's evaluation of the situation in Latvia.
The conclusion reached by the organisation and its Participating States that the presence of the Mission should be discontinued, reflects the positive appraisal of Latvia's work in the field of protecting human rights since the establishment of the OSCE Mission in 1993. Since then, the Mission has assisted Latvia to develop democratic citizenship legislation and has promoted the process of naturalisation in accordance with its mandate; the Mission has also followed the development of Latvia's society integration policy, including education policy and language policy.
The successful end of the work of the OSCE Mission confirms once again that Latvia's legislation and its implementation corresponds to the international standards. It also shows Latvia's readiness to become full member of the alliances of democratic states - NATO and the European Union.
Latvia will continue to participate actively in the work of the OSCE. Latvia will co-operate closely with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the ODIHR and other structures of the OSCE to continue improving the mechanisms for protection and promotion of human rights.
National Budget for 2002 Adopted by Saeima Envisages Increased Financial Support for Society Integration
On 29 November the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) adopted the national budget for 2002 envisaging a considerable increase in the field of society integration by 40%.
The budget for bonus payments to minority schools' teachers who teach bilingually and in Latvian will grow by 10%. A stable amount of financial resources is also set for the Naturalisation Board and the National Programme for Latvian Language Training. The budget allocation for the National Human Rights Office will grow by 10%. Financial resources will be allocated to Latvia National Culture Societies' Association, ethnic minority culture societies, and among them to Roma Ethnic Society for establishing of 10 Roma regional centres in Latvia.
Society Integration Foundation Launches Its Work
The Society Integration Foundation (SIF) has evaluated the submitted society integration projects and supported 22 projects that are included in the National Programme "Integration of Society in Latvia" allocating LVL 127,000 from the national budget of 2001.
This year the supported projects were of two kinds: social integration projects (54%) and ethnic integration projects (46%), that can be divided in language projects (75%), culture projects (22%) and other projects (4%). The culture projects include ethnic minority promotion projects and projects introducing the ethnic minorities with the Latvian culture. From the ethnic integration projects, largest financing has been granted to the Latvian language training projects such as language training for the naturalisation applicants to be promulgated next year, transition to education in the state language in secondary schools: ensuring resources in Preili secondary school No. 2, pupils' exchange programme among the minority schools in Riga and regions of Latvia etc.
This year more than 60 projects were submitted to the SIF and projects that did not get support this year will have an opportunity to be submitted again. Next year LVL 280,000 will be allocated for the SIF.
On 5 December the opening ceremony of the SIF premises was held with participation of the SIF Council members, state officials, representatives of NGOs, international organisations and foreign embassies in Latvia. The Prime Minister of Latvia Mr Andris Berzins stressed that establishing of the Foundation is a logical consecutive step after the long discussions about building a consolidated society in Latvia. The Prime Minister thanked all who supported elaboration and implementation of society integration policy and establishing of the Society Integration Foundation.
Naturalisation Board Information Centre Premises Officially Opened
On 7 December within the framework of the EU programme PHARE and the Naturalisation Board (NB) project "Integration of Society through Information and Education" elaborated in 1998, improved premises of the NB Information Centre were officially opened. The project envisaged establishing a modern information centre aimed at serving public interests by developing the library, preparing information materials, implementing several pilot projects and raising qualification of the administration's employees.
The main objectives of the NB Information Centre are to raise the public awareness and knowledge about citizenship and integration issues, and to promote the public involvement in the social and political processes. The basic tasks include collecting, systematising and analysing information on citizenship and integration issues in Latvia and abroad, as well as preparing and circulating informative materials and forming dialogue with society.
At the opening of the Centre, the Head of the European Commission Delegation in Latvia Mr Gunter Weiss called on Latvia's non-citizens to become naturalised and therefore become future citizens of the European Union. Mr Weiss added that the NB has been doing an excellent job in integrating and informing society.
Minister of Justice Ms Ingrida Labucka said that our common goal is a democratic state with a consolidated and loyal community of citizens. Ms Labucka handed diplomas to the Acting Head of the NB Information Centre Ms Ilona Stalidzane and an employer of the NB Foreign Relations Department Mr Juris Cibulis for their efforts in the work of the NB and promotion of the society integration process. The Head of the European Commission Delegation in Latvia was also granted a letter of recognition.
The Prime Minister of Latvia Mr Andris Berzins highly appreciated the opening of the Information Centre and expressed gratitude to foreign partners contributing to the society integration in Latvia and to all people who have participated in the setting up the Centre.
In the framework of the informative campaign motivating non-citizens to naturalise that was launched in late November 2001, a website in the Russian language on the naturalisation procedure and all other citizenship related information was launched on 14 December. The website address is http://www.pilsoniba.lv and it will function also after the end of the campaign.
Society Integration Newsletter No. 19 "Wide Informative Campaign Motivating Non-citizens to Naturalise Launched": http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4238
Sharp Increase in the Number of Naturalisation Applications in the Second Half of the Year
The Naturalisation Board statistics shows that the number of naturalisation applications in order to obtain the citizenship of Latvia has rapidly increased in the last months of 2001 owing to the Government's decision of 5 June 2001 to lower the applicable fees for naturalisation and simplify the Latvian language test procedure. In June altogether 386 applications were submitted, whereas in July 636, in August 680, in September 884, in October 1,053 and in November 865. As of 1 December, altogether 7,980 naturalisation applications have been submitted and 9,839 persons have been naturalised and obtained Latvia's citizenship. Information days on the citizenship and naturalisation issues in the framework of the campaign motivating non-citizens to naturalise are being held in different cities in Latvia and attract many people's interest helping to make their choice and decision.
Society Integration Conference Held in the City of Aluksne
On 30 November a society integration conference held in the city of Aluksne (eastern Latvia) with a motto "From Split to Participation" was joined by the Head of the Naturalisation Board (NB), representatives of Aluksne district municipalities, educational institutions, social groups and the NB, as well as pupils and others interested in the society integration issues.
Aluksne District Council has established a society integration task force and has launched work on the elaboration of a society integration programme for Aluksne district. The Head of the NB Ms Eizenija Aldermane commended the educational work in the schools and acknowledged that society integration in Aluksne district is on the right track as it is important to set tasks for society integration process by accentuating the most actual aspects of the region.
Three working groups discussed civic participation and political integration, social integration and cultures' interaction and integration issues, as well as analysed situation in Aluksne district and came out with suggestions for the further work of the society integration task force in order to lay foundation for Aluksne district society integration programme elaboration.
Ethnic Minorities of the City of Jurmala Come Together in a Concert Organised by Society Integration Committee
On 1 December in the framework of the Naturalisation Board information campaign on naturalisation, a concert "We All in Jurmala" was organised in the city of Jurmala (central Latvia) where various ethnicity choirs and ensembles as well as ethnic minority culture societies of Jurmala were taking part. It was expressed during the event that we all can be interesting for each other with the features that belong to the ethnicities we come from.
This was the first public event organised by the recently established Society Integration Committee of the city of Jurmala to launch its work in the city aimed at making the residents of Jurmala feel comfortable and consolidated.
Society Integration Newsletter No. 18 "Society Integration Committee of the City of Jurmala Established": http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4237
For more information:
The Latvian Institute fact sheet "Multiethnic Latvia" comprising information about the ethnic situation in Latvia and its history, the Latvian language training, ethnic minority schools and the bilingual education reform, ethnic minorities' culture in Latvia, the naturalisation process in Latvia: http://www.latinst.lv/multiethnic.htm
The Naturalisation Board of the Republic of Latvia
Smilsu 1/3, Riga,
LV 1050, Latvia
Tel.: (+371) 7 814 001
Fax: (+371) 7 814 005
Information newsletter "Integration of Society in Latvia: From Plans to Implementation" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the mass media and official sources.