Tag Archives: Rubén Martínez

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)

19 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethnicity, History, Human side, Language, Project, Social Integration, Videos

“My voice” is also important

Mana Balss

Can you imagine being able to launch a public initiative through an online network and that the parliament of your country comes even to hear the proposal? Can you imagine that it can even become a new national law?

This imaginary scenario is actually something for real in Latvia, where a group of youths launched the portal “Manabalss.lv” -“My voice” – earlier this summer. We are talking about an online tool that allows citizens of this small Baltic country to be part of the policy making process.

Members of this virtual community have in this tool the possibility of launching their social and political proposals that can later be heard in parliament, as it has happened twice since early summer. 

In just three months, Mana Balss has gained a lot of popularity among Latvians.

“The truth is that we are a little overwhelmed by how quickly it has all gone. We did not expect to have such hectic first months, but it reinforces our idea and its utility. In Latvia there was a lack of citizen involvement in politics, especially because of the lack of results and the absence of a bridge to connect them to the political elite,”said Kristofs Blaus, one of the founders of this project.

IMPACT 

The first steps of Mana Balss were taken in summer of 2010, but it took almost a year for it to see the light.

At this time, this online tool has had a great media coverage in the country thanks in part to the former president, Valdis Zatlers, who used his influence to bring up one of the initiatives launched at Mana Balss. The result, a new law that requires the information about the owners of foreign companies to be disclosed. And it only took the proposal three weeks to become a law.

Now, the founders of this project are waiting to see if the government approves another initiative launched in the website, an initiative which in fact would legitimize the work of Mana Balss.

Latvians who want to make their proposals to change the laws of the country have to collect at least 90,000 signatures in order to be heard by the Parliament. At the moment, authorities are considering reducing this figure to 10,000. “We do not know whether it will arrive on time, since the country is holding parliamentary elections in mid September,” says Janis Erts, one of the founders of Mana Balss.

THE PROCESS 

Anyone can sign up and give their support to the proposals that are being discussed in it. However, there is a difference in relation to other socio-political tools like this; all users are tied to their real identity, since to register you have to provide your bank details.

Kristofs says: “It is just a way to ensure that no one has multiple identities, is trying to disrupt the process and fill Mana Balss with scam. We ensure that the identity of the user is real.”

Most of the banks that operate in Latvia are now supporting the project, but “at first it was hard to convince them of the potential future the project hides.”

Once registered, anyone can launch their proposals – no matter what type of initiatives they are – or campaign to improve something in the country. The process then gets started.

It takes about a month to see these proposals available online, for  a group of up to 15 experts in different fields (all volunteers) get in touch with the authors and offer their knowledge for the cause.

Then, the proponent must collect 100 signatures by themselves, showing that there are people supporting it. If they make the cut,  different lawyers give a legal shape to the initiative. It is only then that the proposal makes it to the website. And from there, anyone can support it just by giving their electronic signature.

This whole process does not ensure that the initiative would be heard by Parliament, but according to some political experts this online tool helps to reduce the distance between the public and politicians. In addition, you can track the evolution of the proposals at all times.

Mana Balss had over 100,000 visitors in two months and just over ten initiatives are currently available online. Altogether, it proves the success of the idea in Latvia. And now its founders want to export the idea to other countries. Lithuania will join them soon, Estonia may also, but the icing in the cake could be the UK.

Blaus Kristofs said: “We hope to see Mana Balss in Lithuania by the end of the year. And we are also in talks with people in the UK to launch this tool there. Although it will take time, given the country’s legislative complexity, we are optimistic for the future. “

2 Comments

Filed under News, Saeima

Hitting the end of the road

Non-citizen passport

Few months after I made up my mind and decided to work on the non-citizenship subject for my first tv news documentary, and also after dozens of interviews and posts in this blog, I can say that the job is done.

The final piece is finished, though I am now gathering some important – for me – reviews before handing it in.

I am chuffed as nuts to see that all the hard work has finally paid off. Intense months where people around me had to bear with my ups and downs due to the stressing process of such a big project.

Of course there are always bits in the final output that I – and whoever knows about these things would agree with me –
would change. I keep thinking… “Should I move some clips around or change anything? Do I need more footage?” and so on.

I am an extremely perfectionist person, so I know this little bugger will always be whispering such thing into my ears. No matter where I am or what I do.

In the next couple of weeks I will be posting up some more bits of each interviewee, so you can get a broader glimpse of all what they say.  At the same time, the final documentary will be available to watch online any time soon – probably at the beginning of September.

Finally, I want to say that while writing this post, I noticed that this site has reached the 2,000 visitors since it was created back in February. Honestly, thank you so much. I never expected to have that many views. However, that also means that people have been getting engaged with the project as it was growing month by month. Thank you so much again for your patience and dedication to read and watch all what I’ve been sharing with you!

3 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Project

All things come in their due seasons

Alex was born in Latvia within a family of people later on became non-citizens. Therefore he is a non-citizen himself.

He is cheerful and optimistic. He is one of the scarce number of people here in Latvia that give you a smile as soon as you see him – at least people I have met and come across so far.

He is about to apply for citizenship because he says: “I do not have to do the military service and I have established myself in the private business.

Now I feel it is the right time to do so, since I can devote some time into naturalising and I have worked on my future too. I did not feel the need to become a citizen before.”

Although his infectious character and positive attitude towards life, Alex does not take for granted the current situation of non-citizens in Latvia.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Citizenship, Human side, Project, Social Integration, Videos

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.

1 Comment

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.”

1 Comment

Filed under Citizenship, News, Saeima

“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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Citizenship, Ethnicity, History, Opinion, Project