The Congress examines the situation of "non-citizens" in Latvia



Oskars Kastens, Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration of Latvia, addressing the Chamber of Local Authorities
In a recommendation to the Council of Europe Committee or Ministers, the Congress urged Latvia’s authorities to grant non-citizens the right to vote at local level. The recommendation was adopted following the debate held in the Chamber of Local Authorities on 2 December, with the participation of Oskars Kastens, Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration of Latvia. 

Congress Vice-President Jean-Claude Frécon (France, SOC), presented his report based on the fact-finding mission he guided in April 2008. The report pointed out that the vast majority of non-citizens are long-term residents, often born in the country and largely integrated within the society, but nevertheless excluded from electing representatives in their municipalities of residence.

The Congress took into consideration the need to separate the question of political rights from that of naturalisation, and to grant political rights at local level to all non-citizens, which will foster their integration into Latvian society. It called on local authorities to grant non-citizens voting rights at local level, and to think about the possibility of granting automatic naturalisation to the elderly and those born in Latvia. The Congress also recommended that Latvia sign and ratify the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level.
Speech
 

Granting ‘non-citizens’ voting rights at local level will foster their integration, according to Jean-Claude Frécon
''Some 16 % of the population in Latvia, or 370,000 people, have the so-called “non-citizen” status. Apart from this title which implies their exclusion, they do not possess de facto the same political rights as Latvian citizens,'' stressed Congress Vice-President Jean-Claude Frécon (France, SOC), presenting his report on the situation of local democracy in Latvia. ''We believe that not allowing these Latvian residents to participate in the local life undermines the spirit of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and, in particular, of its Preamble, which Latvia signed and ratified in 1996,'' he emphasised, calling on Latvian authorities to grant ''non-citizens'' the right to vote at local level.
Speech (French)

Oskars Kastens: ''The right to vote is an integral part of citizenship''
''Latvia has made great strides in integrating our society, through educational reform, naturalisation and integration of migrants,'' Oskars Kastens, Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration of Latvia, stated during the debate on the participation of non-citizens at local level his country. ''However, the main obstacle to naturalisation is the lack of motivation. Granting non-citizens the right to vote would slow the naturalisation and therefore integration process even further. At the same time, non-citizens can participate in political life through political parties and NGOs,'' he said, calling on the Congress to adopt recommendations which would truly facilitate integration and reduce polarisation.














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