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06.05.2005   Euro Parliament to hear of Latvian discrimination

Brussels, 18 April 2005, EFA press release by Tatjana Zdanoka MEP (For Human Rights in a United Latvia) Euro Parliament to hear of Latvian discrimination

The European Parliament's Petitions' Committee will tomorrow (Tuesday) hear petitions highlighting the discrimination faced by the Russian minority in Latvia.

Led by Euro-MP Tatjana Zdanoka, the petitioners will tell European legislators about the discrimination against some 450,000 Russian speakers living in Latvia who are denied Latvian citizenship and classed as 'aliens'. At the present time they represent the largest community of stateless persons in Europe.

The so-called 'aliens' or 'non-citizens' form up to 20% of the total population of Latvia. They were not granted Latvian citizenship after independence in 1991 on the grounds that they or their families had settled in the country after 1945. This group of people are denied many rights including the right to vote and participate in local elections.

Euro-MPs will hear the case of Jurijs Petropavlovskis, a Latvian born ethnic Russian. Mr Petropavlovskis - an activist in favour of the rights of the Russian minority - has been denied Latvian citizenship even though he was born in Latvia and has passed the naturalization exams. The Latvian authorities refused him citizenship on the basis of his lack of loyalty to the government.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Tatjana Zdanoka MEP said:

"This particular case highlights the discrimination faced by Russian speakers in Latvia - people for whom Latvia is their home.

We are talking about people who have worked hard, raised families, paid taxes and made their homes in Latvia, yet they are denied equal citizenship rights for no other reasons than their origins and political convictions.

This is an absolute scandal, and by bringing cases such as that of Jurijs Petropavlovskis to the attention of MEPs we will expose the blatant discrimination practised by the government of the Republic of Latvia."

As well as the petitioners, the Committee will hear from representatives of the Latvian government and the European Commission. On the basis of the hearing, the Petitions Committee will decide how to proceed with the examination of the petitions.

It could decide to ask the European Commission to take action to ensure that EU law is respected by Latvia, it could refer the issue to Parliament in plenary, it could send a fact-finding mission to Latvia, it could address the Latvian Government directly, or could resort to a combination of these measures.


For further press information:
Steven Cornelius
EFA Press Officer
The European Free Alliance in the European Parliament
Mobile: +32 473 56 09 67


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