The Russian side intends to discuss in detail on June 17-18 with UN High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus the situation with the observance of the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states. This is what the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
As the diplomat said, the negotiations will also focus on the issues of inter-ethnic relations in the entire OSCE space.
Moscow believes that "the level of the development of good neighborly relations with Latvia and Estonia is conditioned by the degree these countries observe the rights of ethnic Russians who comprise an overwhelming part of national minorities there." These countries are home to about 700,000 representatives of national minorities that do not have citizenship and are deprived of the possibility to enjoy some basic social, economic, political and cultural rights, Yakovenko pointed out. Thus, Latvia, in particular, continues to apply discriminatory laws on the language and education. "The Russian language, which is the native tongue for 40 per cent of the population, has been declared a foreign language," Yakovenko said. He added that the Latvian parliament did not want to ratify the framework convention of the Council of Europe on the protection of national minorities signed by Latvia.
Touching upon the position of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia, the diplomat stressed that "despite some positive shifts, the situation is a long way off from the international standards established for the observance of the rights of national minorities." As the diplomat explained, the laws on foreigners, elections, the language, and many by-laws create linguistic and other filters for the participation of representatives of non-eponymous nations in the political and economic life.