Rīga mayor Staķis: "This is Europe, here are European values"

All of Latvia’s integration programs for Russian-speakers over the past thirty years have been ineffective, according to Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis. With more Russians coming to the country, Staķis says the choice is simple – “if you don't want to be integrated, or you want to live here but you still believe in Russia in your heart and mind, maybe this is not the best place for you.”

In a wide-ranging interview with our colleagues at Lithuanian public media, LRT English, Staķis talks about which sorts of Russians are welcome in Latvia and which are not, the potential economic benefits of skilled migration, positive change being generated by Ukrainian schoolchildren and the issue of how and why to remove Soviet-era memorials from public spaces.

"If there's one guy I can call my friend, it is [Vilnius Mayor] Remigijus Šimašius. We were also discussing what happened in Vilnius when he demolished the monument [Soviet statues on the Green Bridge] when he became mayor [in 2015]," says Staķis.

"Of course, I discussed this question with the mayor of Tallinn, Mikhail [Kõlvart]. But the difference is in politics because Remigijus and I are on the same political path, but the mayor of Tallinn [is] on another, let’s call it like this politely.

"The mayor of Tallinn said [relocating the Soviet statue] was the worst decision made by Estonia in the history of Estonia, or at least in the history of Tallinn. And the mayor of Vilnius said to me – just do it."

You can read the full interview at LRT English.  

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