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WARSAW, January 11 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvian must be the only official language in the country, Edgars Rinkevics, the Latvian foreign minister, told a news conference after the meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski here on Wednesday.
Asked by reporters about the referendum, due on February 18, on awarding to the Russian language the status of the second official language in Latvia, he said he had never supported the idea of the referendum. “However, if the Constitutional Court decides that the referendum can be held, Latvian citizens must clearly express their will,” he said.
“I have no doubt that the Latvian language must be the only official language in the country, but if citizens decide differently, this will be their own responsibility,” Rinkevics said.
The action “For the Native Language” aimed to award to the Russian language the status of the second official language in Latvia collected in its support 187,378 signatures of the country’s citizens, that is over 12 percent of the total number of residents having the right to vote.
Latvia’s Saeima (parliament) had earlier refused by a majority vote to award the status of the second official language to the Russian language. Regardless of this decision the matter must be put to the referendum, as the project envisages amendments to the Constitution. It takes the votes of at least half of the voters, that is over 770,000 citizens, for Russian to become the second official language in Latvia.
Thirty deputies of the Saeima last week asked the Constitutional Court of Latvia to decree that the referendum on the granting to the Russian language the status of the second official language is unconstitutional and to suspend or cancel it. If the court decides in favor of the deputies’ request, the Central Election Commission will have to comply with this decision.