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Saturday 23.02.2019 | Name days: Haralds, Almants
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Opinion: «we would like the government to have a stronger spine»; 13th Saeima’s fight with poverty

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis simply thanked his American colleagues for FinCEN report. However, as a state official with self-respect, he should have requested explanations, names and proof of everything detailed in that report. As far as I am aware, he still has not received a thing. With that, I do not understand who is in charge of our country,» said 12 Saeima opposition member Jūlija Stepaņenko in an interview to BNN.

She believes residents often forget that Latvia is their home and they are the ones the government is supposed to serve, not Brussels or orders sent from the other side of the ocean.

«It is not like the opposition has nothing better to do than criticize. The opposition wants to be certain the country’s government works well. We want to be proud of our government – who among our statesmen are able to behave in accordance with and represent Latvia’s best interest,» says Stepaņenko in regards to Latvian prime minister’s reaction to FinCEN report.

When asked what the 13th Saeima should focus on, Stepaņenko said – on Latvia’s survival. «We may be forced to tighten our belts and think about survival. The number of residents who continue leaving the country remains stable, and there is no plan to get them back.»

She says the closure of ABLV Bank is a major factor as well, because this will result in a decline in annual tax revenue by EUR 20 million. Stepaņenko hopes it is the last bank that suffers unexpected closure. «In addition, funding from European funds will be cut considerably for 2020. Projects realized until now have all contributed to economic growth and labour force development.»

It should be mentioned that Prudentia partner Ģirts Rungainis had previously voiced the opposite opinion in an interview to Latvijas Radio, saying that the self-liquidation of ABLV Bank will benefit the country’s economy. «Because most of ABLV Bank’s clients are foreigners, it is not an important institution for the country’s economy.»

Stepaņenko mentions another negative factor in the country’s economy that could potentially affect Latvia’s future – Britain’s exit from the European Union. The Saeima member notes that Brexit will cause a hole in the EU budget. Latvian representatives have promised to perform larger payments to the EU budget. «We will have to think very carefully where we intend to get that money,» says Stepaņenko.

«Šadurskis comes to voters with an empty bag with transition to Latvian language in schools»

«I think this is a very political step by the minister in preparation for elections,» says Stepaņenko.

BNN had previously reported that Harmony members believe Latvia’s Education Minister’s reform is a political step: «Šadurskis openly said that there is no agreement with Russia, and there never will be until the country returns the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. With that, it is clear that amendments to the law have nothing to do with education reform’s goal to improve education in the country. It is a simple political decision.»

It should be said that on 22 March the Saeima approved in the second and third reading amendments to the General Education Law and Education Law, ensuring a gradual transition to education only in Latvian language in the country’s schools.

«This specific reform is a very hard and painful one. Because of that, to preserve political capital, voters were presented with this language reform in schools. This step has played out positively for the minister. Even protests from parents, politicians and different social organizations have only benefited the minister,» says Stepaņenko.

It was previously reported that several days prior to the presentation of the proposal, Kučinskis emphasized that it would be best to have this matter resolved before February, so that it cannot be used as a tool for pre-election campaigns.

Stepaņenko believes national teaching in Russian schools is on a high level. «If you enter a Russian school a day before, say, 18 November, I doubt you will find as many patriotic drawings in even Latvian schools.» The deputy also claims Russian schools understand their belonging to Latvia very well and they are proud to be Latvian residents. «Their only crime, according to Šadurskis, is that they study in two languages.»

Meanwhile, Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis justifies the reform by saying: «A society that consists of two communities is an obstacle, not stimulus for democracy, welfare and strong state development. This is why it is our duty to take care and create conditions for national minorities in Latvia to integrate in Latvian environment as soon as possible».

Jurģis Klotiņš from the National Alliance’s faction in Riga City Council, told BNN that «it is necessary to create a unified state policy to help us strengthen a unified Latvian nation based on Latvian language. Latvia is the only country in the world with such a language and culture. Because of that, these matters should be priority.»

Will this year’s elections go down the ‘Russians for Russians and Latvian for Latvians’ road again?

Russian-speaking residents in Estonia are kept well-informed of everything that happens in the country in their native language. «Yes, people here consider that a negative, but I see positives there. This is because this situation has resulted in a situation when Russian-speaking residents in Estonia are found in nearly all political parties – there is no segregation of the ‘Russians for Russians and Estonians for Estonians’ variety. This has made sure people focus on specific – social and economic – topics,» says Stepaņenko.

«Can Latvia reach this kind of model? It does not look like it. It is more likely people will continue taking sides based on nationality.»

A similar opinion regarding unnecessary national victories was voiced by representative of the National Alliance Jurģis Klotiņš. In an interview to BNN, he expressed hope that political parties will mature and put aside their personal ambitions to reach an agreement in regards to legislation.

Stepaņenko explains that talks regarding possible punishments for not using the country’s official language represent present an obstacle. «Russians look more towards a political power that would not persecute them for using their native language.»

The deputy says that prior to 2014, the ‘Ukrainian event’, society in Latvia had a much larger chance of becoming more consolidated. «Society is consolidated because every time there is some disaster or celebration, no one looks twice if you’re Russian or Latvian. When it comes to political powers, however, people often pick sides.»

Kustība Par! political association’s CEO Mārtiņš Staķis has talked about social consolidation and unification of voters. He mentioned in an interview to BNN: «We know there are people in Latvia that watch Russian independent TV channel Dozhd and believe Latvia is a colossal country. They want to be part of Europe, but no one communicates with them. We want to speak with them. This is why this matter of non-citizens is part of our programme. We are the first to reach out to residents whose votes have been more or less monopolized by Harmony until now.»

Stepaņenko about Staķis’ vision: «Yes, perhaps they [Kustība Par!] will try Estonia’s method here in Latvia. Time will tell how many mandates they will receive.» She is certain that Latvia needs a political power that would be able to unite Latvians and Russians.

«Estonians have successfully ended these nationality games. Maybe someone in Latvia benefits from them,» says Stepaņenko.

One unanswered question remains – will voters allow others to play political games with them?


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