Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 07:59 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Latvia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 22 December 2005
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Latvia, 22 December 2005, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The lack of a comprehensive legal framework and other policy measures for the protection and promotion of minority rights remains a concern in Latvia. This may of course be alleviated by the fact that Latvia has now ratified the FCNM. Latvia initiated in 2001 a comprehensive Integration Programme that did not address minority issues per se but was nevertheless adopted as the result of a public debate on ethnic integration. The Programme focuses on civic participation and political integration; social and regional integration; education, language and culture as well as information; and states that the protection of minorities is one of its objectives. But the fact that several minority rights claimed by civil society and minorities (such as greater access to education in the first language, participation in mass media, greater promotion of a dialogue between minorities and the state, public participation of minorities, and the promotion of minority languages) are not addressed or are insufficiently addressed in the Integration Programme has rendered it ineffective. It has also been noted that protracted delays and low levels of financial support from the state have hindered the rapid adoption and implementation of the Integration Programme.

Naturalization applications have increased significantly since Latvia's accession to the EU, and the government has actively promoted the process by reducing financial and lingual requirements. Nearly one-fifth of Latvia's residents are non-citizens. Latvia's citizenship laws have been criticized for disenfranchising those who immigrated to Latvia during the Soviet period and who must now apply for citizenship, the majority of whom are ethnic Russians. Non-citizens are barred from participating in state and local elections and from holding certain civil service jobs. They are also not allowed to hold some private sector jobs. Political, social and economic discrimination of the Russian-speaking community continues and in December 2003, the European Court of Human Rights charged the Latvian government with restricting the rights of an ethnic Russian family and ordered the state to pay compensation.

Under the Education Law, the Latvian government continues to implement a bilingual education programme at the elementary school level, with the goal of providing more than half of the course content in Russian-language secondary schools in Latvian. However, although all non-Latvian-speaking students in public schools are supposed to learn Latvian and to study a minimum number of subjects in Latvian, there is a shortage of qualified teachers. State-funded university education is in Latvian, and incoming students whose native language is not Latvian must pass a language entrance examination.

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