Saeima rejects bill to ban issue of resident permits to Russian citizens

At its regular Thursday plenary session, Saeima rejected a bill proposed by the right-wing National Alliance (NA) to deny the issuance of residency permits to citizens of the Russian Federation.

Only 20 MPs in total – from the NA faction, a handful of independent deputies and two from the Greens and Farmers’ Union (ZZS) group voted in favor of sending the amendments on to parliamentary commissions for further vetting. The bill was defeated from moving onto the Saeima agenda by the nay-votes of 34 Harmony Center and Reform Party (RP) deputies, as well as a broad swath of members from Unity, the Reform Party and ZZS who abstained or were absent from session.

Dzintars Rasnačs, one of the bill’s sponsors explained the reasoning behind restricting the giving of permits to citizens of Russia:

“Russia as an aggressor nation is being sanctioned internationally by various measures. The EU has completely halted talks on a visa-free travel regime with Russia even for the long-term. The North Atlantic alliance has stopped all partnership activities with the aggressor state. And a whole series of further measures are being taken, also to limit the activities of the aggressor in Ukraine.”

Independent deputy Irina Cvetkova sharply opposed the proposal, stressing the significance of residency permit fees to the state budget. She pointed out that the current peace lull between Russia and the international community is reason enough for Latvia not to provoke Russia.

“In my view this bill is a nightmare, a dangerous idea,” she addressed the parliament, citing a Chinese proverb that it’s best to know what kind of animal the tail you’re about to pull belongs to.

“Instead of following such ancient wisdom, you are wantonly taunting the beast in your conviction that Latvia, excuse me, Russia is some kind of teddy bear – that just is incomprehensible. I urge you not to escalate this conflict and vote against.”

Chairman Ainars Latkovskis (Unity) of the parliamentary Committee on Defense, Internal and Anti-Corruption affairs argued that amendments to the Immigration Law have just gone into effect at the beginning of September, which doubled the investment requirements for real estate purchases entitling a third-country citizen to apply for a residency permit. Therefore it would be too soon to introduce new restrictions like those proposed in the NA bill.

The exact breakdown of the results of the vote can be viewed here.

 

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