European Socialists concerned over moves to sack Rīga City Council

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The Party of European Socialists (PES) on December 20 expressed concerns about the recent attempt to sack the Rīga City Council with a bill that is currently scrutinized by cabinet legal experts.

In a response to a corruption scandal involving people connected to the ruling Harmony and Honor to Serve Rīga parties, Environment Minister Kaspars Gerhards (National Alliance) drafted the bill following a decision at his party's congress. 

An announcement on the PES (Harmony is a member) website opines that this puts local democracy under threat in Latvia. 

"The PES is deeply concerned about the attempts of government members in Latvia to dismiss elected local representatives in the country.

"The attempt to suspend the democratically elected city council comes at a moment when the conservatives and the right wing are failing to form a government in Latvia after the last national elections," the announcement reads.

It also includes a statement by PES president Sergei Stanishev:

“It is unacceptable for the central government of any EU country to introduce a law that targets local government and local democracy. If there are corruption charges against members of the city council, or against the mayor, they should be put before a court,” said Stanishev.

PES also said it will inform the EU's Committee of the Regions about this "obvious attempt to violate the rights of a democratically elected local authority under the guise of anti-corruption measures".

The Party of European Socialists is comprised of Socialist, Social Democratic, Labour and Democratic Parties from all Europe and Norway.

According to the Harmony party, at a December PES meeting in Lisbon, Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs (Harmony) was named the president of a cooperation network between cities ruled by PES mayors. 

High-ranking officials including the president and PM have called Ušakovs to resign in response to the corruption scandal.

Latvia's PM Māris Kučinskis nevertheless said that his government will not put the bill up for vote in the Saeima if it will not be okayed by the cabinet's legal team.

Meanwhile on December 19 Ušakovs told the press that, should the bill make it into the Saeima and be adopted, he would appeal with the Constitutional Court.

As reported, Rīga deputy mayor Andris Ameriks (Honor to Serve Rīga) stepped down on December 17 after news broke out that his house was searched in connection with an ongoing corruption probe into the municipal transport company Rīgas satiksme.

Officials of Rīgas satiksme and the Rīga City Council have been arrested in a case centered on claims of bribery and profiteering from procurement contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros. 

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