Yesterday our Member of the European Parliament Tatjana Ždanoka addressed her colleagues to remind that it has been a 30 years since Latvian population was divided to citizens and non-citizens (aliens), this problem is still not solved and requires reaction from European authorities:

Dear colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to the still pending problem of mass statelessness in my country, Latvia. Last Friday there was a very sad “anniversary” of division of the permanent residents into two categories on the grounds of their origin.

In fact, on October 15, 1991, a month after recognition of Latvia by most of UN Member States, the Supreme Council of Latvia adopted the resolution “On the Renewal of the Republic of Latvia Citizens’ Rights and Fundamental Principles of Naturalization”. By this act, citizenship of Latvia was admitted only to those residents who had it on the 17 June 1940 as well as their descendants. One third of the population of Latvia were deprived of all political rights in spite of possessing these rights at the moment of the previous elections. This is a unique case in parliamentary history: a parliament deprived its own voters of citizenship and, thus, voting rights.

In 2004, Latvia successfully joined the EU bearing on the board the 450.000 so called Latvian non-citizens (or “aliens”, as it is written in their Latvian passports). At that time the European Parliament in its resolution on the comprehensive monitoring report of the European Commission on the state of preparedness for EU membership of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. (P5_TA(2004)0180, 11 March 2004) expressed its awareness of the situation: “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”.

These recommendations were not fulfilled. Latvian non-citizens are still excluded from local government elections. The recent municipal elections held on June 5, 2021, as well as all previous ones, were offered for Latvian citizens and citizens of other EU MS only.

The EP in the very same 2004 resolution regrets that “naturalisation process remains too slow”. Now, this process is almost invisible: the number of naturalised persons in 2020 was 725 comparing with 10.049 in 2003. In total, the 148.161 persons were naturalised during the past 30 years.

There are still 252.000 non-citizens in Latvia making 13% of the whole population. The European Commission and the European Parliament must not keep taking a blind eye to this shameful situation. They have to encourage the Latvian authorities to overcome the existing split in society. The first step in this direction could be the alignment of the rights of Latvian non-citizens with those of EU citizens when implementing Union law.

Tatjana Ždanoka