In Riga yesterday, the European Union (EU)’s External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek offered assurances that Latvia would face no further demands regarding citizenship and related issues, once the changes to the citizenship law take effect. The EU does not ask Latvia to exceed OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel’s recommendations, van den Broek said. Van der Stoel himself issued a formal statement, pronouncing himself satisfied that the amendments “essentially” fulfill his recommendations.
According to van den Broek, he and other European officials have told the Russian leadership to “stop economic and political pressures on Latvia–a country aspiring to EU membership,” and to “assess the changes to the citizenship law objectively.” The EU, he stated, is concerned that Russian pressure on Latvia can defeat, instead of promoting, the “integration” of local Russians in Latvian society. (BNS, July 20)
The Latvian parliament approved the changes last month (see the Monitor, June 30). However, the critics–including Fatherland and Freedom, leading party in the coalition government–seem headed for success in gathering sufficient signatures for a national referendum next month on this vital issue. Even President Guntis Ulmanis, who supports the amendments, echoes the critics’ concern that further Russian and West European demands might follow, which Latvia could not possibly fulfill. West European chancelleries are concerned that this perception increases the chances of a “no” in the referendum, and may correspondingly affect Latvia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
POLITICAL ELITE GROUPS IN RUSSIA RALLY TO LUKASHENKA’S SUPPORT.