26.08.2014
State Chancellery

Government urges to strengthen the national minorities’ sense of belonging to Latvia

On Tuesday, August 26, the government familiarised itself with the results of the national minorities’ survey “Sense of Belonging to Latvia” and assigned the line ministries to prepare proposals for the provision of the Latvian language training free of charge, for enhancing the motivation to obtain the Latvian citizenship, solutions to information availability in the Latgale region, for more efficient government communication that encourages the sense of belonging, as well as other measures contributing to community cohesion.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma explains that the decision regarding the minorities’ survey was adopted in relation to the situation in Ukraine, as the result of which, the public space of Latvia was filled with different opinions and expressions, incl. expressing the support to non-democratic values and Russian propaganda. Moreover, such views are often expressed as if on behalf of the large part of society.

Comparing the results of surveys carried out over last six years, one can conclude that the proportion of residents who have agreed with the statement “I am proud of being the citizen/resident of Latvia” is increasing – if in 2009, 35% of respondents agreed with it, then in 2014 – already 58% of respondents.

The survey results are also indicative of artificially created pseudo problem issues among national minorities, which are discussed at local and international level. Most often the respondents of different national minorities mentioned social protection and social policy related issues (pensions, benefits, support for families with children etc.), the problem of unemployment and job creation, as well as raising the standard of living  in general, as the most urgent problems, rather than education, language and  rights of non-nationals.  The survey reveals that, in general, the people themselves have not faced torts.

“Results of the study are indicative of the fact that 64% of respondents feel like patriots of Latvia – it is a good indicator that should be appreciated, but there is still much work to be done in this field.  In general, too little has been done in the field of community cohesion. We finally have to be aware of it, and real work needs to be done. One of the tasks, on which the government agreed today, is to prepare proposals for the provision of the Latvian language training for minorities. The government has also assigned to improve the process of acquisition of citizenship by providing clear information about the benefits and advantages, because the study shows that people do not know and have not though about it,” says  L.Straujuma.

“In present situation where within a stone’s throw away from us the lives of innocent people are daily taken away, where geo-political situation is extremely hot, there is nothing more important than a unified and cohesive society in our country. Last week we all celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way – an event that was attended by all, regardless of ethnic origin.  The strengths of Latvia lies in community and unity, and we have to live with such confidence, ideals and faith in an independent state of Latvia,” emphasizes the Prime Minister.

The public opinion pool of national minorities “Sense of Belonging to Latvia” confirms that 20.7% of respondents have excellent knowledge of language, 27.6% assess their knowledge as good, 27.5% - satisfactory, while 18.8% of residents acknowledge poor knowledge of language, and 4.2% of respondents do not know the Latvian language.

As regards the acquisition of citizenship, 80% of national minority respondents admitted that they do not intend to acquire the Latvian citizenship within next 12 months, 11.3% plan to obtain, while for 8.1% it is difficult to say. As the main reasons for the acquisition of citizenship, the respondents mention lack of motivation, age, poor knowledge of the Latvian language etc.

The survey clarified the respondents’ opinion about the community cohesion activities. In opinion of the national minorities of Latvia, the cohesion is mostly enhanced through activities for children, (93.8%), the Latvian language training (86.7%), the festivals of ethnic minorities (86.2%), broadcasting of significant events in Russian (85%), support for organizations in preserving the ethnic identity (80%), exchange programs for children, (76.8%), granting of citizenship in a solemn ceremony (64.2%) and bilingual education (62.7%).

Within the framework of the survey, the residents of national minorities were asked to name three problems, which, in their opinion, should be addressed in Latvia first and foremost. In the opinion of national minority residents, the most pressing problems in Latvia are related to social protection and social policy – they were mentioned by 38% of respondents, incl. (19%) called for raising pensions, (6%) – for increasing child care, family benefits, (4%) – for providing the support to families with children, etc.

Next most topical areas, in the opinion of respondents, are the problems of unemployment, job creation (34%) and raising the standard of living (27%, incl. raising salaries 20%, raising the standard of living, fight against poverty 7% etc.). Not less than 1/10 of respondents have called for improving health protection, care (19%), developing economy (18%), addressing national financial policy issues (14% incl. tax reduction 9%), citizenship problems and national issues (13%), regulating the prices and paying attention to inflation (12%), addressing the problems in the field of education (11%).

Within the framework of the study, the interest of national minority residents of Latvia in the events in Ukraine was also clarified. 41% of respondents have sympathy to neither Russian nor Ukrainian side. When assessing their attitude towards the authorization of Russia’s upper House of Parliament of March 1, 2014 to deploy Russian forces in the territory of Ukraine, the majority – 45% expressed negative attitude, while 29% of national minority residents of Latvia – the support. Characterizing the opinion of respondents how objectively the mass media of the Russian Federation reflect the developments in Ukraine, the majority – (43%) admit that that events are reflected objectively, while 36% believe that events are not covered objectively.

800 respondents participated in the surveys, of which 68.9% were of Russian nationality, 11.4% - Belarusian nationality, 7.2% - Ukrainian nationality, 5.8% - Polish nationality and 6.6% other nationalities. The survey was conducted by the research centre “SKDS” in May and June 2014. The main objective of the survey was an in-depth understanding of community cohesion problems and potential solutions, which can be implemented in cooperation with the society.

Results of the study are available at: pdf & video 
Recording of the Prime Minister’s press conference is available at:
http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/aktuali/tiesraides/videoarhivs/?v=bc6j43G3

Signe Znotiņa - Znota 
Press Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers
Phone: +371 28803639 / 67082919 
E-mail: Signe.Znotina@mk.gov.lv

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