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27.02.2006   Report on the comprehensive monitoring report of the European Commission on the state of preparedness for EU membership of Latvia

73.   Recognises that citizenship, language and education policies in their legal framework have been brought into line with international standards; calls, however, on the Latvian authorities to ensure bilingual education during school age, including the final exams, according to the current rules, which envisage 60% of teaching in the state language and 40% in the minority language, and stresses the necessity of maintaining adequate scope for minority language teaching; considers that flexible application of the education law could contribute to social and economic integration of the Russian-speaking minority in Latvian society and promote dialogue so as to soften tensions with this minority, which represents a significant part of the population;

74.   Welcomes the increase in the naturalisation rate in 2003 mainly due to the referendum campaign for the EU accession, even if the naturalisation process of the non-citizen part of society remains too slow; therefore invites the Latvian authorities to promote the naturalisation process and considers that minimum language requirements for elderly people may contribute to it; encourages the Latvian authorities to overcome the existing split in society and to favour the genuine integration of ‘non-citizens’ ensuring an equal competitive chance in education and labour; proposes that the Latvian authorities envisage the possibility of allowing non-citizens who are long-time inhabitants to take part in local self-government elections; welcomes the continuing dialogue between representatives of government and civil society regarding the ratification of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as well as the establishment of a specific sub commission on society integration in the Saeima’s Human Rights Commission; recommends the Latvian authorities to ratify quickly this Framework Convention.

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