Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 107

On the eve of today’s decisive vote by the Latvian parliament on amendments to the citizenship law, Prime Minister Guntars Krasts appealed to the European Union (EU) for a clearer understanding of Latvia’s position vis-a-vis Russia. Addressing a session of the Latvia-European Union interparliamentary committee in Riga, Krasts observed that Latvian-Russian relations would improve if the EU invited Latvia to accession talks. Such a move, demonstrating that “Latvia belongs to Europe,” would “limit Russia’s opportunities to portray Latvia’s internal situation in line with Russian foreign policy interests.” Russian-Latvian relations would then become a part of Russia’s relations with the European Union, Krasts pointed out. He stressed that accession to the EU would be crucial to Latvia’s political and economic security, though no substitute for the military security which only NATO can provide. (BNS, June 3)

EU officials at all levels, including the EU group on the joint committee, are urging Latvia to adopt in toto the changes demanded in parallel by Russia and the OSCE for naturalization of the Russian population. While the EU has come out against Russian economic sanctions on Latvia, EU officials hint that Latvia might not be invited to accession talks if it does not adopt all the changes to the citizenship law. This tactic, aimed at defusing Russian-Latvian tensions, can just as well produce the opposite result by rewarding Russian pressure and inviting further demands. The Latvian government’s draft amendments reportedly meet the OSCE’s recommendations; but the parliament is divided over language qualifications for citizenship and may thus fall short of the demand to adopt the changes “in full.”