Court rules transition to Latvian-only education constitutional

Amendments to the Education Law that stipulate transition to Latvian as the sole instruction language in schools are in line with the Constitution, the Constitutional Court ruled April 23.

The petition contesting the amendments was filed by several 12th Saeima members from Harmony.

The Constitutional Court has not found that the contested amendments constitute an infringement on the right to education, therefore the case was dismissed.

No discriminatory provisions were established in the amendments, therefore the amendments are in line with Article 91 of the Constitution: "All human beings in Latvia shall be equal before the law and the courts. Human rights shall be realized without discrimination of any kind," the Constitutional Court said.

According to the Constitutional Court, every person living in Latvia should be able to understand the Latvian language to participate fully in the life of a democratic society. Members of the public who understand and respect the values upon which the Constitution is based are a prerequisite for the existence of a democratic legal state, the Constitutional Court explained.

The state must support the preservation and development of the individuality of ethnic minorities within the framework of a unified education system, promoting the development of the identity of a common democratic society, rather than opposing the rights of ethnic minorities to common public interests. The state must ensure that state and municipal schools offer education that strengthens the common identity of a democratic society, the Constitutional Court emphasized.

It is a duty of a democratic law-based state to ensure that each person's rights be respected and to create a harmonious framework for the development of a free, educated personality. The rights enshrined in Article 114 of the Constitution are only one of the elements of this framework, which should be balanced with the common values of society. The Constitutional Court found no provisions in the amendments that would confirm the applicants' belief that the amendments infringed on the minorities' rights.

The Constitutional Court's ruling cannot be appealed.

The case was opened following a petition filed by 12th Saeima members Boriss Cilevics, Igors Pimenovs, Ivans Ribakovs, Janis Tutins, Arturs Rubiks, Sergejs Potapkins, Ivars Zarins, Romans Miloslavskis, Jelena Lazareva, Julija Stepanenko, Andris Morozovs, Janis Urbanovics, Raimonds Rubiks, Vladimirs Nikonovs, Janis Adamsons, Vitalijs Orlovs, Mihails Zemlinskis, Igors Zujevs, Sergejs Mirskis and Sergejs Dolgopolovs.

As reported, Saeima approved the amendments, which stipulate gradual transition to Latvian as the in the final reading in March 2018. The amendments will be implemented gradually from September 1, 2019 to September 1, 2021.

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