20 October 2011)
Summary of the Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018)
I. Nature of the Matter to be Resolved
The first government policy development document on social integration was the State programme “Social Integration in Latvia” approved by the Cabinet in 2001. Although this programme was for an indefinite period of time and a string of integration directions of the society included therein have become individual policies (lifelong education, social inclusion, culture, State language), the lack of an action plan has created a situation where there has been no single policy for social integration in the State for the last five years. It significantly encumbers systematic solving of integration problems. In order to eliminate this deficiency, a draft development document – the Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018) (hereinafter – Guidelines) – has been prepared, defining the policy in the field of the strengthening of national identity, the development of civil society and the social integration. The succession with the previous integration policy has been observed in the drawn up document, however, concurrently new problems and challenges have been emphasised therein. The document is based on the following basic principles of the policy: open Latvian identity, responsibility and participation, belonging to Europe, preservation of singularity of national minorities, respect towards freedom of choice, compliance with human rights, varied identity.
The main goal of the Guidelines is strong, united Latvian nation – national and democratic community, which ensures the preservation and enrichment of the uniting foundation thereof – the Latvian language, culture and national identity, European democratic values, unique cultural space – for balanced development of Latvia – national democratic state.
The following main problems to be solved have been identified in the Guidelines:
• large part of population in Latvia does not believe in its ability to influence social and political processes;
• non-governmental organisations of Latvia are not sufficiently strong financially and administratively, and lack sustainability;
• there is no comprehensive system for monitoring and prevention of discrimination. There is a lack of regular studies and awareness-raising campaigns on social exclusion and discrimination problems in the society of Latvia;
• children and young people in Latvia have insufficient level of civic education, therefore, there are gaps in collaboration and participation skills;
• the current legal framework of citizenship creates obstacles for maintaining a national link with expatriate Latvians;
• non-citizens are becoming less motivated to acquire the citizenship of Latvia, the pace of naturalisation is slowing down, the possibilities for political participation resulting from the citizenship of Latvia do not provide sufficient motivation to become naturalised;
• although the proficiency of the Latvian language has significantly improved, several tendencies indicate that the use of the Latvian language in the public space does not show similar success. Self-sufficiency of the Russian language in the public space, particularly in cities with large proportion of national minorities, is obvious. Social integration on the basis of the Latvian language is also influenced by the passivity of Latvians to speak Latvian in communication with foreigners;
• unjustified requirements for the Russian language proficiency increase where such request is not justified by the specific nature of work. It creates discriminating obstacles for Latvians in the labour market;
• the efforts of national minority teachers in improvement of the proficiency of the Latvian language are different. In turn, in general education institutions and institutions of higher education with Latvian as the study language teachers do not have experience in work with students of different ethnic backgrounds;
• Latvian cultural space is not reflected in formal and informal education programmes in full variety thereof where aliens could find their attraction to Latvia. The formation of sense of belonging of population and integration in a single cultural space is also hindered by ethnic prejudices;
• there is no targeted State programme, which would support the possibilities of expatriate Latvians to acquire and preserve the Latvian language, culture and traditions. Access to the professional art of Latvia is limited;
• part of the society is governed by misconceptions based on incorrect historical facts regarding occupation of Latvia and the consequences thereof. It creates a gap in the social memory of Latvia and hinders formation of a cohesive society;
• majority of the population have but little idea of the history of Latvia up to the 20th century. It narrows the understanding of the national identity in wider context of European identity.
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