Public initiative calls for stopping manganese ore transit through Latvia

Over 3,400 people have signed the initiative submitted this week to stop the transit of manganese ore to Russia via Latvia, which is a third of the necessary signatures for its submission to the Saeima, Latvian Radio reported March 22.

The authors of the initiative are members of Riga City Council's “Code for Riga” faction. Their representative, Riga Vice-Mayor Linda Ozola, said two aspects are important in this topic: it is possible to limit supplies of raw materials to the military industry of the aggressor country and the moral ethical aspect and humiliation that Latvian infrastructure is used for these supplies. The purpose of the initiative – without waiting for joint decisions of European Union countries, Latvia should individually sanction the transportation of raw materials used in the Russian military through Latvia.

"I firmly believe that, as a country, we must unequivocally start with ourselves and set an example before we call on colleagues in the European Union to do so too. Of course, I am glad to see the narrative of government officials change too, but from the citizens' perspective, initiatives are one of the rare opportunities for a wider population to make their case. So it's definitely added value on the government side as well to understand the mood of the population," Ozola said.

Manganese ore is transported from various countries through Ventspils and Riga ports and railways.

Could this process be halted by including this raw material in the list of national sanctions, as expressed in this citizens' initiative? The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary, Saeima National Economy Committee deputy Jānis Patmalnieks of New Unity, said that business ties with Russia should be broken down gradually. By refusing to carry these cargoes through Latvia, they are likely to move over to ports in Lithuania, Estonia or Finland. The solution is to include raw materials used in the Russian military industry in sanctions of all EU countries, Patmalnieks said.

"The rationale is that we want to restrict Russia, not stop the transit of Latvia. Not mutually exclusive. Including manganese ore in the European Union's common sanctions would also mean stopping these activities in Latvia and also in other countries. This will help to stop the transit routes in question to Russia.

"If only Latvia includes it in sanctions, we can predict that other ports in our region will take over this business and this ore will flow to Russia.

"So this is about how to do better. What the government is trying to do is limit the flow of this commodity to Russia," Patmalnieks said.

It is expected that discussions on these topics will also be held in the Saeima after the initiative is on its agenda.

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