Category Archives: History

Soviet Legacy

Non-citizen passport

So here it comes, this is the final TV documentary I have been working on during the last couple of months. As I promised, I uploaded it on Vimeo (it is divided in two parts) so you can watch it any time you want.

However, I have protected it by password. So if you want to check it out, just post your email address in the comments and I will be sending the password to your inbox as soon as I can.

As a sort of intro for newcomers to the blog – and pitch as well – the text below;

Soviet Legacy

Latvia regained its independence in August 1991 and the new elected government updated the country’s citizenship law one month later, creating a new status for the former USSR citizens.
Twenty years later, the country still has 325,000 inhabitants who hold an alien passport, what limits their democratic and social rights.

Non-citizens have been offered the possibility to acquire Latvian citizenship, but most of them just refuse it for different reasons.

Who is to blame for having such a special situation within a EU state member? Is it democratically fair for a state member to have such a large community of people whose rights are limited? Why do not non-citizens apply for the Latvian passport?

I analyze the whole situation in this documentary. Check it out!

Soviet legacy (Part One)

Soviet legacy (Part Two)

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Non-citizenship; a personal battle

Non-citizens and their rights has been one of Tatjana Ždanoka‘s longstanding fights at the international arena.

Non-citizens were included in the Schengen Treaty in 2007 thanks in part to her work. That meant the end of visa applications in order to travel freely throughout Europe. A year later, the same conditions were granted by Russia.

In this short clip, she talks about international assistance and EU/Russia‘s role on the subject of non-citizenship. She points out the lack of commitment from the latter to help out those who have been trying to keep Russian language and culture alive in the Baltic country.

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“Non-citizenship is an artificial controversy”

Tom Schmit is a management teacher, communications consultant and long-term resident. He was born in Buffalo, New York, but moved to Latvia 12 years ago.

He speaks on the issue of non-citizenship in Latvia and the naturalisation procedure – comparing it to the one in the US. He also offers his take on the subject of politics and non-citizens in the Baltic country.

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“There is no political interest to sort the situation”

In August Latvia will celebrate the 20th anniversary since it regained its independence. In October, it will be twenty years since the citizenship law was updated  by the newly elected government.

Back then, more than 700,000 people acquired a new status; non-citizens of Latvia. Nowadays, 14.6% of the Baltic country’s population (325,000) still holds a non-citizen passport.

Nils Muiznieks, director of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute of the University of Latvia and
former Minister for Social Integration, does not hesitate to say that the current situation is “a contradictory picture.

“In the early 90s when the international community got involved here, Bosnia was the reference. Everyone was afraid of violence and mass expulsions. It did not happen and that was a success.

“But the law on citizenship was a controversial issue that almost prevented Latvia joining the Council for Europe, was monitored by international bodies and was highly contested by Russia.”

Due to the international pressure, the Latvian government acted. Lots have been done ever since and some important steps were taken in the previous years to join the EU.

Some 133,000 people have naturalised during this time, but a large number of non-citizens have not “overcome this psychological barrier” and seemed to have got accustomed to their status.

Nils added; “I think non-citizenship in Latvia is still an issue and it will be soon prove by some political parties. However, once we joined the clubs – EU and NATO – international pressure to sort the problem disappeared and therefore there is no political interest within the country.”

More about Nils Muižnieks and the interview in the final documentary!! Don’t miss it out!

Current Law on Citizenship

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The Latvian diaspora; a tough challenge for the future

Riga, Latvia

A total of 6,563 people emigrated from Latvia during the first five months of the year. In other words, 43 persons left the country every day in Jan-May.

The data, which is available in the Central Statistic Bureau’s website, is likely to increase, for the number of emigrants during the month of June is yet to be published.

The figures may help to explain the ‘unexpected’ shrinkage of population in the small Baltic country, which will be confirmed as soon as the Government releases the results of the population census carried out from March to May. Continue reading

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“We have always fulfilled the EU legal framework”

Roberts Zile. ECR group

Non-citizenship in Latvia is an issue that concerns not only non-citizens and pro campaigners, but also those who defend that the naturalisation process is a fair one and it follows the framework of International law.

My idea is not to expose the situation of non-citizens in the Baltic country, but to analyse it from all points of view.

Roberts Zile is chairman of Latvia’s ‘For Fatherland and Freedom’/LNNK party and an MEP in the new European Conservatives and Reformists party in the European parliament. He is former Minister of Finance (1997-1998) and Minister of Transport (2002-2004).

He said; “We have offered them the possibility to become Latvian citizens and it is up to each individual. We have been changing the legislation over the years to adapt it each particular situation. If we had not fulfilled the EU legislation, we would not have become a EU member state.

“I have personally experienced the naturalisation process within my family. My mum came from Ukraine and though she was old when she took the exams, she passed them,” added Roberts Zile.

He believes that the issue of non-citizenship in Latvia has been “exaggerated over the years” and that his country faces other important challenges in the future.

Finally, he pointed out one more thing: “Tell me about a country where non-citizens have the right to vote in national or local elections? There is none, so why should we act differently?”

This is just a short piece extracted from the chat I had with Mr Zile. Stay tuned and don’t miss the best bits!

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Non-citizens label

Nowadays there are some 325,000 people who hold a non-citizen / alien passport in Latvija. There used to be between 700 and 800 thousand when the USSR collapsed.

When talking about the subject, we tend to generalise and put all them under the same umbrella, but after 20 years they have become a very heterogeneous group, according to professor and labour market researcher Mihails Hazans – I could say a lot about him, but I’d rather let you have a look at the link.

Naturalisation, migration movements,… I am not going to upload much videos until the whole piece is done, but I had such an interesting and profitable chat with him that I wanted to share the joy with you all.

Stay tuned to find out more about this interview!

PS. The interview was recorded in an area called Pumpuri, which belongs to the city of Jūrmala. I would strongly recommend to spend some time there to anyone who seeks quiet spaces and open spaces where to go for long walks.

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