CM/AS(2007)Rec1772 prov 4 September 20071
1006 Meeting, 10 October 2007
4 Human rights
4.2 Rights of national minorities in Latvia –
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1772 (2006)
Item to be considered by the GR-H at its meeting on 13 September 2007
The Committee of Ministers has carefully examined both Resolution 1527 (2006) and Recommendation 1772 (2006) concerning the rights of national minorities in Latvia. It notes that the matters raised in these texts are of the utmost importance both for the populations concerned and in the interest of the respect of the Council of Europe’s standards.
The Committee endorses the Assembly’s assertion, in paragraph 7 of Resolution 1527 (2006) that “The issue of national minorities’ rights must be broached in its political, social and historical context, and it is necessary to consider how the principles, values and standards upheld by the Council of Europe, which are designed as a universal model, should apply in order to achieve the objective of encouraging balanced inter-ethnic coexistence, the integration of the various communities in society and, over and above that, the development of a country united by a common vision of the future. The Assembly considers that the ultimate objective of policy towards minorities is the cohesion of society and inter-ethnic coexistence based on respect for diversity and a system of rights, obligations and responsibilities negotiated in a rational and constructive spirit by those directly concerned.”
In quoting this paragraph, the Committee underlines the need for a forward-looking and constructive approach in adopting measures to achieve the identified aim.
The Committee recalls that the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his report on his visit to Latvia (document CommDH(2004)3 of 12 February 2004), drew attention to the situation of persons belonging to national minorities in Latvia, having regard in particular to questions related to citizenship, linguistic issues and education. The Ministers’ Deputies, when taking note of this report together with others, encouraged all member states to pursue their constructive dialogue with the Commissioner concerning the recommendations formulated in his reports and noted that the Commissioner might revert to any matter, as he saw fit, arising out of the follow-up to his reports.
The Committee further notes that in his Memorandum to the Latvian Government dated 16 May 2007 (CommDH(2007)9), the Commissioner, with regard to the protection of national minorities, recalled that “The 2003 report went in depth into the issues related to citizen/non-citizen status, naturalisation and integration of national minorities” and went on to state that “These issues are still being hotly debated in Latvian political circles. It should be recognised that progress has been made during the recent years in the field of naturalisation. However, the core problem does remain: the continued existence of the status of non-citizen, which is mainly held by representatives of the national minorities. This is deeply problematic in terms of real or perceived equality and social cohesion.”
The Committee recalls that a number of the issues raised in the Resolution and Recommendation relate to the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which entered into force in respect of Latvia on 1 October 2005. In October 2006, the Latvian authorities transmitted, in accordance with Article 25 of the Convention, their first state report on implementation of the Framework Convention. The next steps in the monitoring procedure include a country-visit and adoption of the first Opinion by the Advisory Committee. This will provide a framework in which the Committee of Ministers will adopt conclusions concerning the implementation of the Framework Convention by Latvia. It will also form part of the ongoing constructive dialogue with the Advisory Committee which forms the basis for monitoring of the implementation of states’ obligations under the framework Convention.
Turning to the specific requests formulated by the Assembly in Recommendation 1772 (2006), the Committee of Ministers wishes to indicate that it does support the process of integration of national minorities in Latvia leading to the steady and quickest possible reduction of the number of non-citizens and has no hesitation in encouraging the implementation in Latvia of recommendations made by the Assembly, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and by relevant bodies of other international organisations; to the extent that these are relevant and in compliance with the standards of the Council of Europe (items 1.1 and 1.2).
In relation to the encouragement of the Latvian authorities to take into account, in the preparation of future elections, the conclusions of the OSCE Election Observation Mission with regard to the elections held on 7 October 2006 (Item 1.3), the Committee is confident that Latvia, as a member state of that Organisation, is taking those conclusions seriously. The Committee furthermore considers that the relevant existing mechanisms and institutions (See for example the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned above, but also the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance) is already providing assistance and expertise to the Latvian authorities in order to “consolidate a civic and multicultural Latvian society and state” (Item 1.4) and in this context the Committee will act as proposed in item 1.5 and transmit the Resolution to the Advisory Committee, to the Commissioner and to ECRI.
Note is duly taken of the encouragement given in item 1.7 to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in relation to State Succession (CETS No. 200).
However, with regard to drawing up guidelines (point 1.6) the Committee of Ministers is confident that the existing instruments should be adequate to deal with the circumstances in question.
Finally, concerning the Parliamentary Assembly’s call in point 1.8 to ensure “the same political approach, the same level of protection of minorities and the same level of inter-ethnic integration in all Council of Europe member states”, the Committee of Ministers stresses that, while “double standards” are to be rejected and human rights are to be guaranteed in a uniform manner throughout the continent, there is no rigid “one-size-fits-all” model for the protection of national minorities. This is also reflected in the formulation of the legal standards of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue; it will be declassified in accordance with Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.