Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012–2018)
Maintening uniqueness of national minorities - national minorities and their culture are an integral and important component of the Latvian society and its cultural space. In Latvia every member of a national minority has the right to maintain and develop his or her own language, ethnic and cultural individuality and the State supports it. Latvia has state funded bilingual education system in minority schools which enables the minority children and adults to fully participate in the life of society while ensuring the sustainability of their ethnic identities. The policy emphasizes the principle of identities being complementary, in accordance with which, the various identities do not exclude but rather enrich each other (simultaneously having a number of identities - that of a national minority, Latvian, European, global).
Latvia is also a member of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ratified by Latvia on 6 June 2005).
The Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018) were adopted by the Cabinet on 13 October 2011.
National education system includes state funded schools for seven national minorities (Russian, Polish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Jewish, Ukrainian, Byelorussian) schools. These schools, besides basic subjects envisaged by the national education programmes, provide learning of national minority’s language, culture and traditions.
Within the professional art framework, the Latvian cultural education system operates as a good integration mechanism – music and art schools at all levels where children and young people of various nationalities are integrated by a common base of music and art values by joining the Latvian cultural space and after finishing the school continue to participate in its development.
Radio 4 of public service broadcaster Latvijas Radio is positioned as “social integration radio”. It is a news channel broadcasting mainly in the Russian language. Apart from its own productions, the station also broadcasts programmes created by the cultural societies of the various national minorities. These include broadcasts in the Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish, Byelorussian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Georgian, Armenian, Azeri, Greek, Tatar-Bashkir and German languages. Main topics of the broadcasts – cultural news, national traditions, news of the organisations, contacts with countries of origin. Most of the station’s audience is in the capital Riga and the eastern part of Latvia, Latgale and it correlates with the ethnic composition of the territory. Although the channel can be received in only 40% of the territory of Latvia, it has a 6% audience share (7.7% in Riga, rising to 14.2% in Latgale).
Latvian Association of National Minority Culture Societies’ is operating since 1988 and currently unites 22 minority organisations. The Association is recieving financial support from the state budget for covering maintenance costs for premises used by the organisation. Individual organizations are taking opportunities proposed by the state social integration budget as well as international financial programmes implemented by the state and self-government institutions or Latvian Society Integration Fund and apply for funding to implement their cultural programmes. It includes supporting national dance and song groups, educating on traditions, history, organising exhibitions of the Latvian national minority's or minority’s origin countries artists.
Challenges identified in the implementation of this measure:
A challenge for society as a whole is to see the culture and cultural events of minorities’ organizations as an opportunity and tool for enriching the cultural space of the country but for the minorities’ organizations – to find a way to reach outside the boundaries of their organisation and ethnic group.