Daugavpils mayor has six months to improve his Latvian

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The mayor of Latvia's second-largest city, Daugavpils, has been given six months to improve his Latvian language skills or face the possibility of being disbarred from office, reports Latvian Radio.

The State Language Center (VVC) responded to Latvian Radio after Eigims' greetings to the population in connection with independence day attracted widespread derision for his lack of Latvian language skills and accent.

Although Eigims has a 1997 document certifying knowledge of the state language at the second level of higher education, a VVC check at the end of September found that he was some way short of the level required to carry out his official duties effectively.

Notwithstanding that fact, he has in the past served as a member of the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, for the Greens and Farmers' Union. Saeima conducts all its business in Latvian and much of it quite advanced and technical into the bargain.

VVC spokeswoman Sarmīte Paulēna said that following the assessment, Eigims had been fined, but did not disclose the amount.

"But I think it is enough to serve as a motivation to learn [the language] in the future," she said.

Ironically, it was the man Eigims ousted from the position of Daugavpils mayor, Andrejs Elksniņš, who was among the first to point out his replacement's lack of linguistic credentials.

"I think that quite literally, when he is speaking in the name of Daugavpils to the Large Cities Association, the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, the Cabinet of Ministers and with representatives of the government, he needs to make himself understood so people can tell what he wants to say about the city," said Elksniņš of the rival Harmony party.

Members of the council coalition including another former mayor, Janis Lāčplēsis (Latgale party), said Eigims understands Latvian and there is no communication problem, reported Latvian Radio.

Eigims has recognized his knowledge of the Latvian language needs improvement and has promised to improve the knowledge of the state language. He is reportedly already taking regular lessons.

Located close to Latvia's eastern border with Belarus, Russian is widely spoken in Daugavpils, but as with all municipalities, Latvian remains the only state language for official business.


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