Pace Chairperson Left Bewildered by Latvian Integration Policy

The chairperson of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's Monitoring Committee, Josette Durrieu, has been left bewildered by the Latvian authorities' integration policy.

Durrieu made a two-day visit to Latvia to view how the rights of national minorities were being observed in the country, after PACE stopped monitoring this sphere in 2001. PACE then thought that Latvia had fulfilled the majority of the obligations it had assumed when it joined the Council of Europe in 1995.

Durrieu said that she had been left slightly bewildered by meetings with Latvian officials who informed her about how non-citizens were naturalised, how schools were preparing to teach basic subjects in Lettish, as well as the reasons for delays in ratifying the Convention on the Rights of National Minorities.

The PACE representative was surprised, in particular, that three departments spoke about integration, but interpreted the term in different ways.

According to Durrieu, the fate of Russian schools after the planned education reforms remains a mystery.

Government representatives gave her assurances that after 2004, 40% of school subjects would be taught in Russian or the languages of other minorities. However, the law on education emphatically states that from September 1st 2002, all state and municipal secondary schools must teach in Lettish alone.

Durrieu will report her conclusions to the PACE Monitoring Committee at a session scheduled for March 4th.

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