Tag Archives: EU

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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Filed under Citizenship, Ethnicity, History, Language, Project, Videos

Latvia fires its Parliament

Latvians have voted massively to dissolve their parliament after a historical referendum. Almost 95 percent of voters want new general elections and the dismissal of the current Saeima.

Counting began shortly after ballots were closed – 23 hours local time – and according to the Central Election Commission participants have expressed their wish to dissolve the the Latvian Parliament.

More than 682,000 citizens voted in the referendum that saw an important turnout along the Gulf of Rīga. Saulkrasti County, on the gulf’s eastern side, registered a turnout of nearly 143 percent thanks, partly, to voters from outside the district who casted ballots there.

Vidzeme province had the highest participation – 54.16 percent – followed by Kurzeme at 53.04 and Zemgale at 47.61 percent. On the other hand, Latgale had the lowest, 34.60 percent. The capital of Rīga also had a low turnout: 36.46 percent.

Latvians living abroad had also the opportunity to take part in the historical referendum, the first of such kind in the Baltic country’s history.

“I voted for the dissolution of the Saeima. I want to bring to an end the influence of oligarchs in Latvia,” said student Ilze Zake.

“Hopefully, today’s result will help to draw a different political map in Latvia. However, we have to vote smartly, making sure that a new political elite takes over.”

CORRUPTION

Former president Valdis Zatlers called for the vote in late May. The Parliament had refused to lift the immunity of MPs after the anti-corruption office, KNAB, requested to search the house of parliament deputy and businessman Ainars Slesers, suspected of being involved in corruption deals.

He also denounced the influence of “business oligarchs” in Latvian politics. Mr Zatlers was ousted just one week later by the parliament, but has since founded a new political party.

“I had enough of living in a Latvia based on lies, cynicism and greed,” said the former president.

“We need to be honest before ourselves; Latvia is considered a small mafia state, and this is not the best reputation for a country,” Mr Zatlers told the LNT.

Latvia, who joined the EU in 2004, has long been dogged by corruption. The country is still emerging from the economic crunch – its economy fell 18 percent in 2009 due to strict budget cuts.

Elections are now expected to be held in September.

The last election in Latvia was only last October. It is expected that Mr Zatlers and allies – including PM Valdis Dombrovskis – will do well.

Mr Dombrovskis said this week; “A main goal of the elections will be to ensure that oligarchs, and the parties supporting oligarchs, do not control a majority in the next parliament. If this happens, then I would say the former president’s initiative of dissolving the parliament will pay off.”

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Filed under Citizenship, News, Saeima

“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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Filed under Citizenship, History, Project, Social Integration

The journey; the beginning

Sv. Pētera baznīca (Riga, Latvia)

Well, I have been posting a lot about the issue I am covering on my documentary so far. But nothing at all about the current situation of the project.

To be honest, I have been working on it for almost six months already. I got to know about non-citizens in Latvia thanks to my partner (she is Latvian) and made up my mind quickly.

Why?? Because pretty much everyone I told about it, knew nothing about 1) Baltic countries 2) Latvia 3) Non-citizens, so I realized there was (and is) an important gap that I can cover.

Believe it or not, I have come across some individuals who have questioned my decision.

They said: “Why should I care about it?”.

It seems to me that nowadays one HAS to go to a poor country (ie any in Africa) to shoot a journalistic documentary. But I would like to quote a friend of mine in the trade…

“Why should I go to a poor country to patronise people there?”

Altogether, it made me feel even more stronger and sure of my decision. Europe offers plenty of opportunities for journalist to develop their work. We tend to take for granted that Europe is an uniform continent where several countries (especially those who joined the EU the last) have a completely different background to what we know as Western states.

Therefore, we have to bear in mind that no everyone enjoys the same standards of life and accessibility to necessary services.

Anyway, I know I took the right decision and I am going to prove it with my final output. Yet, I have plenty of things to sort out, the main ones are already arranged. The most important interviewees have booked me some of their time and I have even contacted non-citizens whose cases are being dealt at an international level.

So far so good… Keep following me to see how things go!!

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Filed under Project