The European Union will support any initiatives aimed at improving the life of ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republic of Latvia, assures Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner leading the expansion talks. On Monday, he met in Moscow with Dmitri Rogozin, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the State Duma, or Russia's lower house of parliament.
At the same time, the EC official pointed out that the decision on Latvia's would-be membership in the European Union was not to be revoked despite the Russian complaints about that country's poor human rights record.
During their Monday talks, the EU commissioner and the Russian MP reportedly focused on issues of citizenship and education in Latvia. According to Rogozin, Verheugen promised to shortly meet with Latvian human rights campaigners and activists of an advocacy group trying to preserve native-language education for Latvia's Russian speakers.
Rogozin said he was hopeful the hard-hearted European bureaucrats eventually come to realize that the passenger the EU train is about to get on board should be cut down to size first, otherwise sentiments now raging in the Latvian government-such as nationalism, xenophobia, and the desire to revisit the outcome of the Second World War-will plague the other train cars.
Despite EU commissioners' efforts to avoid the topic, Russian officials will continue to bring it up until something is done to resolve the situation, Rogozin warned Verheugen. "This issue is shifting to the Russia-EU relationship agenda. It used to be a problem between Moscow and Riga, but now it's one between Moscow and Brussels," the Russian lawmaker stressed.