Latvian 'loyalty law' amendments take first step in Saeima

On Tuesday, May 30, the State Administration and Local Government Commission of the Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Law on State Administration, which provide for people employed in the civil service to be "loyal to the Republic of Latvia and its Constitution." 

Amendments to the law were initiated by the National Security Commission of the Saeima, taking into account a public petition signed by 13,165 citizens and submitted to the Saeima titled "Prohibit pro-Kremlin-minded persons from holding positions in state and local government institutions" said the Saeima press service.

Earlier, the chairman of the National Security Commission, Jānis Dombrava, said that "democracies must be able to protect their country, the Constitution and its citizens against external and internal threats. In order to achieve this, persons who are disloyal to Latvia and its Constitution cannot work in state and local government institutions". 

With the proposed amendments, it will be forbidden for people to work in state and local government institutions whose activities are aimed at, for example, undermining the territorial unity of Ukraine in the interests of Russia, noted Dombrava. 

"It is intended that those employed in the state administration will be prohibited from expressing a public opinion or taking actions directed against the territorial indivisibility, sovereignty and independence of a democratic state or the constitutional system," said the Saeima press service – which suggests the law, if passed in its present form, would apply to all "democratic" countries – which in turn would suggest that some clarification might be required regarding precisely which countries qualify as being sufficiently democratic. 

Furthermore, it seems likely that very precise and legally-binding definitions of what constitutes demonstrable sarcasm, irony and even indiscretion will be required, with the Saeima information release saying:

"The intended amendment will not apply to cases where a person expresses a critical, ironic or sarcastic opinion about state institutions and officials, to an opinion that has not been expressed publicly, as well as to other situations where a certain lack of discretion could be blamed on the employee of the state administration."

The submitters of the draft law, as well as the Legal Office of the Saeima, emphasize that already several laws that apply to officials and employees of state and local government institutions, especially civil servants, demanding from them loyalty to both the state and the Constitution.

In order for the amendments to enter into force, they must be adopted by the Saeima in three readings, with the first reading likely at the June 1 Saeima session.


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