Latvia | To be or not to be

Article published on May 24, 2009
Article published on May 24, 2009
Concerning our nationality we have no choice. The exception proves the rule. Nearly 400.000 Russians in Latvia are the exception. 17 percent of the whole population. They are non-Latvians. Non-citizens. Stateless. Or at least faceless.
Latvia´s government - after the independance from the former USSR - in 1991 decided that just all those people are Latvian citizens who were born before 1940 in Latvia or are originated from this generation. Hundreds of thousands of Russians, immigrated during the period of the Russian occupation and annexation, were abruptly excluded. Visibly marked with a separate ID card. Although lots of them were even born in Latvia in the meantime.

A so called naturalisation procedure to integrate these people was started in 1995, calling for special standards. Applicants for citizenship had, and still have, to know the Latvian constitution and history and have to speak Latvian - sounds obligatory, but it´s not in generations born and raised in Russian occupied Latvia. It was common and adequate to speak Russian. So what are they? Culprits? Victims? Or maybe just a failure of history. Nevertheless a failure of history corrigible by the European Commission? No. Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission, in February 2009 declared: "The participation in elections of people who are not nationals of an EU country, and are therefore not EU citizens, is not an issue covered by Community law. The Commission therefore cannot talk to Latvia regarding the issue of these people’s participation in local elections. It is up to the Member States to decide such issues." Nonetheless they are facing a wide range of personal rights today, they are not allowed to vote - not in national elections nor in communal ones. No citizen, not vote. No state citizen, no European citizen. No citizen, no European citizen, no vote in the European Parliament election. But born in Latvia. Member of the European Union. And so kind of European...