27 December 201716:04

Comment by Director of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights and Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Anatoly Viktorov on the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

2522-27-12-2017

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We have taken note of the Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which analyses the situation regarding ethnic minorities and migrants in EU member states.

The target groups chosen for this survey include respondents with Sub-Saharan, North African, South Asian and Turkish backgrounds, Roma respondents, recent immigrants from other countries, as well as representatives of Russian minority target groups in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The survey is based on the results of questioning participants about discrimination they encounter in the areas of employment, education, healthcare and public services.

Although this is the first FRA survey in the past few years that gives considerable attention to the Russian minorities in the Baltic states, it is obvious that the authors deliberately violated methodological principles by putting recent immigrants in the same category as the Russian minorities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, regardless of differences in the legal status of these groups. The authors go as far as to suggest that respondents from the Russian minority groups in the Baltics encounter less discrimination than Roma respondents and immigrants. According to the survey, the Russian minority feels the least discriminated against based on ethnic origin, and finding employment does not depend on language proficiency. It looks as if the data in this survey has been deliberately adjusted to suit the desired result.

At the same time, the authors turn a blind eye to the shameful phenomenon of large-scale statelessness, which has deprived hundreds of thousands of people in Latvia and Estonia of access to political, social and economic rights for more than 20 years. There is also ethnic-based intolerance with regard to the students and teachers at Russian-language schools, as well as the punitive practice of the Latvian State Language Centre that fines Russian speakers for using their native tongue. A glaring example of these openly discriminatory policies is the Riga authorities’ plans to convert minority language schools to tuition in the national language by 2021. The government has turned a deaf ear to the appeals made by public organisations to preserve Russian-language schools and the autonomy of minority schools.

The publication of this FRA survey looks especially cynical in light of the numerous recommendations to the Baltic states made by various human rights agencies and institutions, such as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We urge the FRA and EU leaders to take a more objective and nonpartisan approach to their surveys, to give more attention to human rights problems that have existed in the EU for decades, and to take practical steps to settle them.

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