EU concerned over discrimination against Russian communities in Latvia, Estonia

The European Union seems more and more concerned over continuing discrimination against ethnic Russians living in the former Soviet republics of Latvia and Estonia, officials at Russia's Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti.

A recent letter from Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, is just one indication of the above, ministry officials say. The top diplomat of the country currently holding the rotating EU presidency points out in his letter that the European Union attaches a lot of importance to the problem of the Russian-speaking minority's integration into the Latvian and the Estonian communities. Frattini believes Russia is absolutely right in arguing that public education issues should be solved in full compliance with the European standards for the protection of ethnic minorities' rights. He promises to see to it that Russian speakers living in those two Baltic states have free access to education.

The European Union leadership is becoming increasingly aware that the payload of humanitarian problems that "Riga and Tallinn are trying to surreptitiously sneak into the EU in their luggage" may hinder the progress of EU-Russian cooperation and undermine the EU's image as a "bastion of democracy" in Europe, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti. In Moscow's view, the ruling elites of Latvia and Estonia underestimate this factor, he said.

The Italian Foreign Minister's letter came amidst ongoing mass protests of ethnic Russians against the Latvian government's education reform, which they see as discriminatory.

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