RIGA, December 5 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvian President Andris Berzins is against the Russian language as the second official language. As long as he is head of state, he will not sign the law on introducing the second official language in Latvia, Berlins said at the meeting with members of the Consultative Council for National Minorities Affairs on Monday, the presidential press service reports.
The head of state said he does not class people as “them and us”. “It has always been ‘us’ with me. We have in common the territory and the language and this is the anchor to hold on to. I will certainly not be the president who will sign the law to establish the status of the second official language,” Berzins said.
He said Latvia needs a closely-knit society that is an earnest of the republic’s development. “We must find the key to rallying society. If we do not do so, others will. Moreover, to find a model of rallying society is the best way to develop the economy. This in no case should be associated with assimilation,” the president said.
Berzins said the other day he is ready to resign if the Russian language becomes the second official language in Latvia. “The only thing I can promise as regards the language is that this will not happen as long as anything in this matter depends on me. If this does happen, I will leave my post,” he said in an interview with local TV-3 channel.
The action For the Native Language, to grant the status of the second official language to the Russian language, began in Latvia on March 7. The collection of notarized signatures was started for the purpose. The Native Language public organization initiated the action. The organizers of the action have collected 12,533 notarized signatures that were referred to the Central Electoral Commission.
According to Latvian legislation the Central Electoral Commission checked the signatures collected for authenticity and absence of errors and announced the official collection of signatures of one-tenth of Latvian voters (some 154,000 people) from November 1 to 30 in order to refer amendments to the country’s Constitution for consideration of the Saeima (parliament) and to a nationwide referendum. The votes of over 770,000 citizens are needed for the Russian language to become the second official language in Latvia. The preliminary data of the Central Electoral Commission indicate that over 183,000 citizens of the republic took part in the collection of signatures.
This action was launched in counteraction to the collection of notarized signatures by the nationalist association “All for Latvia - Fatherland and Freedom / Movement for National Independence of Latvia” that called for switching all state-financed Russian schools in Latvia to tuition in the Latvian language. That action flopped.