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Latvia explains to Europe what a national minority is

Latvian officials insist that European norms are not applicable to the Russian-speaking minority.

Latvia plans to ratify a European Convention for the Protection of National Minorities until the 23d of June. However this document will include an important reservation: this convention will not apply to the immigrants from the former USSR.

The Latvian foreign minister Artis Pabriks announced in briefing on Tuesday, that reservations would deal with the question who can be considered as a national minority and what kind of rights national minorities would enjoy on the territory of Latvia.

According to the minister, the Latvian government intends to formulate the definition of a national minority as follows: "Among the national minorities are the citizens of Latvia, living in Latvia and having a long bond with her while being distinct by ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics". But for all that a long bond implies that "the ancestors of the representatives of these national minorities must live in Latvia for more than a hundred years", - quotes RIA Novosti the words of Mr. Pabriks.

Besides, the Convention's reservations will deal with the right of the national minorities to use their native languages in local governments of the places which they compactly inhabit and the right to have street name signs in their languages.

It has remained unclear which Latvia's minorities will enjoy the benefits of all these rules, if, as the prime-minister Aigar Kalvitis announced earlier, "the convention must not apply to the immigrants from the former USSR, since they are not national minorities". The Russian-speaking minority in Latvia (mostly deprived of Latvia’s citizenship and having an official status of "aliens"!) numbers almost 40% of Latvia's population.

On the photo: Russian-speaking schoolchildren protesting agains national discrimination in Latvia. On the poster: "No to the language restrictions!"

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