Latvian Parliament Forbade Non-Citizens to Participate in Referendum on Latvia's Entry into EU

On Friday by the majority of votes the Latvian Parliament turned down the proposal of left-wing factions to allow non-citizens among permanent residents of the country to participate in the forthcoming on September 20 referendum on Latvia's joining the European Union.

Parliamentarians from right-wing parties explained the refusal by the Latvian constitution. Solvita Mellupe, a deputy from the ruling "New Times" party stated that according to the Fundamental Law "sovereign power belongs to the Latvian people and the people means citizens." At the same time the ruling majority did not object to former Latvian citizens who reside abroad taking part in the EU referendum. After restoration of independence all Latvians who were citizens of Western countries were able to obtain the so-called "civic certificates" the validity period of which was extended until January 2004. Thus foreigners were granted the opportunity to participate in the "European referendum." The Parliament also rejected the proposal to hold national voting on the issue of Latvian membership in NATO.

This refusal was also explained be references to the country's constitution as the North Atlantic Alliance did not request to transfer to its headquarters control over the Latvian Armed Forces. That was why the majority of Latvian parliamentarians were of the opinion that it was not necessary to hold nation-wide voting in connection with entry into NATO.