Frequently Asked Questions About the Party “For Equal Rights” (Latvia)


“For Equal Rights”

1. Are the political organizations “For Equal Rights” and “For Human Rights in a United Latvia” the same thing?

Party “For Equal Rights” (FER) is a part of the union “For Human Rights in a United Latvia” (FHRUL).

2. Why have the three parties created an association, instead of merging into one?

The 3 parties founding the FHRUL in 1998 have always preserved ideological differences and difference in priorities. These differences and ambitions of the leaders of the People’s Harmony Party and Socialist Party of Latvia combined with their disability for long-term action led these two parties to leave the union in 2003.

The main priorities of the FER are the protection of human rights and creation of equal starting opportunities for realization of each person in a modern society.

In the autumn 2003 the party “Bee” (“BITE”, “Brīvā izvēle tautu Eiropā” i. e. “Free Choice in People’s Europe”) was registered, uniting inter alia those FHRUL supporters who were members of PHP and SPL. After the registration “Bee” has joined FHRUL. Political ideas of the “Bee” are similar to those of the FER. At the end of 2003 both parties have made their coordination closer, so their local organizations and governing bodies work together.

3. Whose interests are taken under protection by the FER first of all?

The interests of all categories of the discriminated people in Latvia. At present it is the Russian community of the country, non-citizens, national minorities and needy people.

4. Does the word “Equal” in the name of the party mean: should all people be equal?

All inhabitants of Latvia should be equal in rights, equal before the law, equal in opportunities to realize their talents independently of the origin, nationality, native language, belief, sex, the social status or convictions.

Equality does not mean equal prosperity for everybody. All people have different abilities from birth; by realizing them, people gain unequal economic prosperity.

5. Is it possible in principle to achieve the social justice?

Social justice is an ideal target. No ideal can be achieved completely, but the society gradually may become fairer if it respects the dignity of a person and human rights, if people treat each other in the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity.

6. How may solidarity improve our life?

Morals and law should oblige the prosperous and gifted people to contribute more to the society than the poor. Any person in need should receive assistance from the society. Any help should have the aim of overcoming temporary difficulties in person’s life. A person should learn to solve own problems as well as to help other people.

7. Why are the problems of equality and solidarity especially acute in modern Latvia?

Because the people of Latvia is artificially divided into unequal categories, people do not trust the justice of the power; they have forgotten to help each other and to work for the benefit of the society.

8. Why is there no unity of people in Latvia?

When Latvia regained independence ten years ago, authorities changed the communist ideology into nationalistic. In order to usurpate power at the most important moment of the formation of the new independent state, the ruling elite deprived political rights of one third of the population by restoring citizenship of the pre-war Republic of Latvia. Thus the population was artificially split into citizens and non-citizens. There are currently about half a million non-citizens in Latvia. It is a unique category of permanent residents. Theoretically they do not have citizenship of any state, in practice they are treated as second-class citizens of Latvia. The non-citizens cannot participate in elections; they have special passports with humiliating inscription “alien”.

In the beginning of the 90s the overwhelming majority of non-Latvians was expelled from the public service, Russian language was excluded from the official use. The state began to destroy the system of Russian education. Thus the authorities aggravated contradictions between the Latvian and the Russian-speaking communities of the country.

The split society could not organize itself effectively to resist the plundering of state property. In the process of privatization, state property was squandered by a narrow circle of the national politicians and oligarchs.

At the present moment stratification of the society into the rich and the poor is going on. Process of social stratification being the objective, however the depth of the gap between the poor and the rich is absolutely aberrant for our country. The well-to-do minority of the population and the right-wing political parties serving them show a dangerous ignorance towards the needs of the majority.

9. FER assumes the protection of interests of the Russian-speaking community. Does it deepen the split of the society?

The Russian community of Latvia is a part of the Latvian nation. Realization of the interests of the Russian community meets the interests of the whole society. Russians in Latvia require only the restoration of equal rights, without asking for privileges or additional resources. Russians need the right to receive education in their native language, use their native language in the official sphere, restore their citizenship and build professional careers without discrimination. These principles are welcomed by many Latvians as well. Therefore FER is not an ethnic Russian party. The advantage of FER lies in the fact that the party is created by people of different ethnic origin united by principles of solidarity and human rights.

10. Are the Russian minority of Latvia and the Russian-speaking community the same thing?

Russian national minority of Latvia is a part of the Russian-speaking community of the country. Apart from the majority of the ethnic Russians, the community objectively includes all the residents for whom the Russian language is their native language or the language of inter-family communication. Each person should have the right to choose keeping his family to the Russian culture or assimilating into the Latvian people. FER supports the choice of multiple identities when you can simultaneously belong to several groups, for example – to the Latvian nation, to the Russian-speaking community and one of the national minorities of the country.

11. Is the FER for or against integration of the Latvian society?

The ruling parties understand integration as a refusal of Russians to use their native language in the most important spheres of life – in public administration, in education and economy for the benefit of the Latvian language. FER is against such integration. FER offers other concept of integration, which is based on Latvian patriotism, tolerance and respect to the cultural and language peculiarities of the country’s inhabitants. The state should stop discrimination of the Russian community and this is a must for their integration in the society.

12. Does your critical attitude towards integration mean that FER calls for Russians not to study the Latvian language?

No. The Latvian language should be studied and used in life. The use of Latvian by the Russian-speaking residents of Latvia shows respect for their Latvian friends, colleagues and relatives, as well as provides a major tool for defending the interests of the Russian-speaking community in politics.

13. What is the attitude of the party towards the term “occupation of Latvia in 1940”?

There is no sense to use this word in relation to the events of 1940 in Latvia, as there were no attributes of occupation: there were neither wars, nor military authorities, nor prisoners of war. Latvia was joined to the Soviet Union by force. This process was supported by one part of the population of the country and resisted by the other part.

The next 50 years the people of Latvia were exposed to repressions, served in the Soviet army, built the economy, received social benefits, high posts in the state administration – they have gone through the same sufferings and victories as all the Soviet people, as equal among the equal. Latvia was one of the most economically advanced republics of the Soviet Union.

14. Is the historical insult of the Latvians justified? Is it an excuse for the present inequality in Latvia?

We condemn mass deportations and repressions towards the residents of Latvia of all nationalities. However the injustice of the past cannot justify the injustice of the present. Only the rights and interests of the people living nowadays may be a reference point for making decisions now. FER stands for mutually respectful compromise between the Latvian and the Russian communities of the country irrespective of insults of the XX century.

15. What is the attitude of FER towards communism and the Communist Party?

We respect people who have kept fidelity to ideas of communism, despite all the persecutions and interdictions.

At the same time FER is against set dogmas. Modern information and post-industrial era challenges us and puts forward new decisions in the eternal dispute between social justice and economic freedom.

16. What is FER’s attitude towards the Soviet times?

There was a lot of good and a lot of bad, as well. Still, it is senseless to live, constantly looking back at the past. There is no sense to return either to the “common” property or to the “only correct” ideology.

At the same time high Soviet standards of education, medicine, science, and social protection unfortunately lost during the past 10 years of contradictory economic reforms. Yet, they could serve as a good example to be followed.

17. Is there democracy in modern Latvia?

Democracy in Latvia is ugly and limited. Due to the several discriminative laws and many unwritten rules the possibility of a person to be occupied in the public service and state administration depends on his/her ethnicity. Only in rare cases can non-Latvians overcome restrictions and get an opportunity to work in executive power.

18. Is FER for the proportional representation of people of different ethnic origins in power?

No, granting privileges to minorities, as quotas on representation, would be another extreme. We are for fair competition – person’s career should depend only on his/her talents and knowledge.

19. What should be the status of the Russian language in Latvia?

The Russian language should be one of the official languages of the Republic of Latvia. The major step in achieving this goal should become the change in the language legislation of the country after ratification of the Framework convention on protection of national minorities. In conformity with the requirements of the given convention, the Russian language should acquire official functions in many local governments of the country.

20. What should the state guarantee to the national minorities?

according to the present international standards, the state should guarantee the national minorities of Latvia free education in their native languages, the right to use their native language in contacts with the state and municipal authorities and in publicly accessible information, the right to receive official recognition of their names, patronymics and surnames in the original form.

21. Is it possible to settle national problems by means of improvement of social-economical situation in the country?

It is impossible, and it is proved by experience of such countries as Canada and Belgium. Despite the high living standards in these countries, conflict among national communities there is even more acute than in Latvia. In the near future economic and Human Rights problems in Latvia should be solved in parallel.

22. What is FER’s concern about naturalization?

Division of residents of the country into citizens and non-citizens is initially unfair. The state should restore citizenship to all non-citizens, and it will become possible if FER (FHRUL) comes into power.

The support of the major number of voters is necessary to achieve this purpose. The more non-citizens will pass naturalization and become citizens, the faster they can help to receive citizenship for the rest, on much easier terms. Therefore the moral duty of every non-citizen, who has at least the slightest chance to pass examinations and become a citizen – is to do it.

23. Is the Party “For Equal Rights” a left-wing or right-wing party?

In order to prevent misunderstanding, it is better not to use words “right” or “left” to any party in Latvia. The political spectrum of our county is deformed by the ethnic issue. The majority of parties including the left-wing Latvian parties are extremely right concerning the ethnic matters.

24. What is FER’s attitude towards privatization?

The privatization in Latvia was carried out inexcusably inefficiently. Instead of improving the work of the enterprises, privatization has resulted in liquidation of the majority of them.

Income from the sale of state property is uselessly wasted for mending the budget.

Now the country is slowly recovering, overcoming disorder in economy of the beginning of the 90s. New economic shocks are not admissible. FER is against revision of the results of privatization and stands for a long-term stabilization of economic rules.

25. What economic problems does FER consider to be most important?

– Refusal of the state to assign priority to the industry and to allot state investments in this sphere.

– Dictatorship of the bank interests and the interests of importers to the detriment of the industrial capital.

– Regional disproportions. Discrimination of Latgale in the sphere of investments. Concentration of the financial resources in Riga.

– Absence of the market of cheap housing in the largest cities.

– Discrepancy between officially declared high rates of development of economy and the absence of improvement of the living standards of the majority of the population.

26. Why these problems are not solved by the Parties in power?

Stagnation and moral decay is observed in the ruling national elite. There is no due competition, there are no fresh ideas, there is no opportunity to cope with egoism and corruption. One of the necessary conditions to overcome stagnation is the removal of ethnic restrictions for governing the state.

27. What economic policy will be implemented by the FER after coming into power?

Formalities concerning regulation of the small and middle business will be simplified at maximum. The Party will eliminate corruption in the bids for the state and municipal contracts. This process will be as objective and open as possible.

We will give state preferences to the industrial sector. In particular, investments in manufacturing and personnel training will be completely free from profit tax.

The state will create innovation agency to attract foreign capital under the state guarantees in modern hi-tech production sphere and the subsequent sale of the state share of these enterprises. Innovation activity will be concentrated in the regions having the highest rate of unemployment.

Our government will establish special economic relations with Russia and thus will provide strategic stability of the Russian transit in Latvia, as well as concessionary conditions for the export of Latvian goods to Russia. Russian tourists will return to Latvia.

The state will promote concentration of agricultural production, including stimulation of farmers’ cooperation in order to support strong commodity production.

28. What is required to improve the situation concerning medical service?

In the short term it is necessary to increase the share of expenses for medicine up to 9-12 % of the budget volume. It will really ensure the free-of-charge basic medical aid for all the population. The next step is to raise salaries of the junior medical staff and to reform the system of family physicians. In the long term it is necessary to establish a separate budgetary medical fund financed by a fixed share of the social tax and a part of the VAT.

29. What changes are put forward by the Party for the system of education?

In the field of social guarantees, teachers should be equal to the state officials. Within 5 years teachers’ salary should be increased up to a double level of the average salary in the country.

The FER stands for introduction of compulsory secondary education. The party is for maintenance of full state financing of students in the strategically important professions and for development of the system of state crediting for all universities’ students.

30. How does the FER treat the process of globalization?

There are both positive and negative aspects in the process of globalization. It is necessary to take the maximum benefit from this process. Participation of Latvia in the process of globalization makes the national elite adopt not only economic standards, but also modern standards in the field of Human Rights and protection of national minorities.

Inclusion of Latvia into the world-wide economic system stimulates our enterprises to be in the process of constant improvement. They have to reduce industrial costs and to implement the modern quality standards.

The inhabitants of Latvia will benefit receiving the opportunity for self-realization on the international labour market.

31. What is the attitude of the FER to the NATO?

The FER is against Latvia’s membership in the NATO. The NATO integration demands radical increase in military expenses. When the majority of population lives in poverty, the financing of medicine and education is unsatisfactory, the annual growth of the military budget is a crime of the authorities against the people. At present there is no threat of military aggression for our state. At the same time the recent experience shows, that the NATO is not able to protect against real-life threat of the international terrorism.

The FER supports a constant neutral status for our country.

32. What is the position of the Party concerning compulsory military service?

The FER is for cancellation of the compulsory military service. The army should be considerably reduced and transferred to professional basis. Thanks to the reduction of military expenditure it would be possible to increase financing of the state police. The police should be the basic guarantor of the law and order and security of the residents of the country.

33. Does FER stand for Latvia’s membership in the European Union?

The national economy has undergone great changes during the last 10 years, and the issue of Latvia joining a more viable economic structure became a condition of the survival of the nation.

The process of integration into the European Union is useful as far as it provides bringing the legislation in line with the European standards in the field of Human Rights.

34. With what parties are you willing to cooperate (in addition to the FHRUL parties)?

Cooperation is possible with every party, which is ready to promote implementation of the principles of equal rights and solidarity in the Latvian society.

In a number of cities FHRUL cooperates with social democrats within the framework of the ruling coalition. At the same time interaction with them is often complicated because of a nationalistic position of a part of the social democrats.

35. What is the attitude of the Party towards the church?

The modern society of Latvia includes both atheists and followers of many confessions. FER is ready to support relations with all confessions in the country.

Historically the closest relations of the Party have developed with the Orthodox and Old Orthodox churches.

36. With which Non-Governmental Organizations does the Party cooperate?

The Party cooperates with NGO Coordination Council. Several dozens of national-cultural, Human Rights, veteran, youth and social organizations are represented in the Council. The party has the most intensive contacts with two NGOs: “Latvian Human Rights Committee” and “Russian Community of Latvia”.

37. How is the Party represented in the State power bodies?

In the Saeima (the parliament of Latvia) the Union FHRUL is represented by the faction of 6 persons. In the Riga City Council the fraction FHRUL totals 9 persons. In total, the FER is represented in 18 local bodies.

38. What are the main achievements of FER in the course of 10 years of existence of the movement?

– Together with its partners in FHRUL, the Party has achieved actualization of the problems of Latvian non-citizens and national minorities both in Latvia, Europe and Russia.

– We forced the state to replace its policy of ousting the non-Latvian population by an official policy of integration. Non-citizens have received much higher legal status in comparison to real foreigners. Non-citizens obtained the possibility to restore political rights by means of naturalization.

– The tendency of tightening the language restrictions has been broken, language pressure on private enterprises and in the public sphere has become essentially weaker, the process of cancellation of certificates on the State language knowledge has been stopped, the right on advertisements and signboards in Russian has been returned.

– The opposition has stopped the most rigid governmental amendments to the pension law; the state guarantees are given to the workers for whom the employer has not paid the social tax; the period of validity of the unfair contract of the state with monopolistic enterprise the Lattelekom has been essentially reduced; the privatization of Latvenergo is prevented, thus the price increase for electric power was prevented.

– An open liquidation of minority schools was stopped in Riga. The monument to Liberators in Riga is rescued from destruction. FER promoted the creation of the municipal centers of national culture in Daugavpils.

– Representatives of FER in executive power successfully solve social and economic problems in local governments of several cities.

39. What is the structure of the Party?

Two supreme officials, the leader and the chairman, share the representative and managerial functions.

Vice-chairmen manage the sectors of activity. There are five sectors – ideology, economical policy, organizational work, mass actions, and public relations. The Republican Centre is the controlling institution, functioning between the congresses. Operative management is carried out by the Board of the Party. Regional branches work independently; they are managed by the Branch Councils headed by a chairman.

40. Who and how may become a member of FER?

Any citizen or non-citizen of Latvia who is not younger than 18. Initially, one must fill in the standard application. Then a two-month period of probation starts. In case there is no objection on the part of any member of the local organization or the Republican Center at the end of the probation, the candidate automatically becomes a member of the Party. In case of objections, the question is settled by the Board.

41. What are the duties and rights of the member of the Party?

FER is not and does not aspire to become a purely parliamentary party, although it is represented in the power institutions. It is more difficult to be a member of FER than of any other party, as it requires a greater personal contribution, as well as quite often a degree of civic courage. The Party requires that its members participate not only in election campaigns and official conferences, but also in street protest actions.

The Party member regularly participates in party meetings. His duty is to explain to other people the principles and the purposes of the FER as well as activities of those representatives of the Party, who work in legislative and executive institutions. The member of the FER should constantly follow the situation in economic and political life of the country, improve his/her knowledge of different languages, observe the moral standards; his/her relations with other people should proceed from principles of equal rights and solidarity.

42. Don’t such terms slow down the growth of the Party?

The FER does not consider growth of the number of party members to be an end in itself. Nowadays the capacity of the organization depends mostly on the quality of its structures. FER aspires to be an active and mobile organization. The FER is a party of action.

43. How does FER operate?

Deputies of the Party work in the Saeima and local governments. They participate in formulating laws and decisions concerning all inhabitants of the country, thus asserting interests of their voters. Members of the Party participate in the realization of pre-election campaigns and in the development of the programs, which are realized by representatives of the party in the power institutions. Top management of FER regularly meets foreign diplomats and experts. The party cooperates with NGOs in realization of the projects rendering legal assistance to the population, promoting naturalization and state language studies. Regular publication in mass media is also an important aspect of the Party activities.

44. What may the Party give to its member?

Our Party offers an opportunity to realize one’s abilities and openly assert the principles, opportunity to learn from experienced people, opportunity to be integrated into the political life of Latvia and to change it according to our principles. The Party protects its members from attempts of pressure and persecution.

Being a Party member does not bring wealth and it will never bring a quiet life. The FER opens opportunities for its members to make their way up alongside with the Party approaching the power.

45. What are the slogans of the party?

The main slogan of the Party is conformable to its name. It emphasizes the target of its creation, of spiritual and economic transformation of the country:

“Equal rights, Solidarity, Development!”

FER has also taken mottos of those movements and organizations, whose moral principles at certain historical stages were most close to our Party:

From the Afro-American movement for equal rights:

“We shall overcome!”

From the Cuban revolution which has dethroned the corrupted regime:

“Venseremos!” (Victory will be ours)

From the Latvian committee on human rights:

“Citizenship to everybody – without examinations and the oath!”

From the Popular Front of Latvia which proclaimed noble purposes in the beginning of its existence:

“Latvia – our common home”

From the European Council – the most respected Human Rights organization of the continent:

«Unity is in Diversity».

46. Is it possible to make life better without FER?

Sooner or later the basic problems of Latvia will be solved. People will feel growth of the economy; the rights of national minorities will be guaranteed, and the Russian language will obtain the official functions. Still our desire is to achieve all this tomorrow but not in 50 years period. It is the mission of the party “For Equal Rigts”.

Riga 2004