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Latvia’s president against referendum on citizenship for non-citizens

June 12, 2012, 16:21 UTC+3

“There are many advantages in the status of non-citizens,” he added

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RIGA, June 12 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia’s President Andris Berzins does not support the initiative to organise a national referendum on granting citizenship to all local, mostly Russian-speaking, non-citizens.

“I believe that the existing system should be adjusted to the realistic situation, including the issues of taking exams for obtaining citizenship,” he said in an interview with the First Baltic television channel on Tuesday. “After the referendum about two state languages, we have undertaken measures to improve opportunities for studying the Latvian language. These steps are necessary and I do not see a real demand to do it.”

“There are many advantages in the status of non-citizens,” he added.

The president is against more strict regulations for initiating referendums in Latvia. He is sure it would be enough to have five percent of the vote instead of ten for organising a referendum.

“I believe, it should be five percent – the barrier we use during parliamentary elections. This could be a normal clear barrier. This could be clear for everyone. And ten percent means about 150,000 votes, which is unrealistic. Unrealistic barriers are not useful,” Berzins said.

For Equal Rights movement collects notarised signatures of Latvia’s citizens for granting citizenship to local non-citizens. They have collected over 5,000 out of 10,000 signatures required to organise a referendum. To be sure non-citizens are granted citizenship. 230,000 votes at the referendum should support the initiative.

Latvia’s population is over two million, where about 320,000, mostly Russian-speaking, do not have the country’s citizenship. From the moment Latvia separated from the USSR back in 1991, they have been deprived of most political rights, including participation in municipal and parliamentary elections as well as in elections to the European Parliament.

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