ECHR advances the case on education reform in Latvia

RIGA, March 29 – Sputnik. The European Court of Human Rights has asked the Latvian government to answer questions about the reform of education in schools and kindergartens of national minorities. The program “Personal File” of the Latvian television tells about how the case will be considered and what are the chances of the parents to win.

According to the approved amendments to the law on education, from 2021 all education in secondary schools will be in Latvian, 80% of subjects will be taught in basic schools, and 50% in primary schools. The gradual transition to this proportion has already begun. Also, according to the rules of the Cabinet of Ministers, since September 1 last year, the Latvian language has become the main language in all preschool education institutions, which significantly reduced the opportunities for Russian children to receive education in their native language.

However, many parents did not agree with such a fate for their children and decided to fight against this reform by filing lawsuits with the ECHR. More than one and a half hundred lawsuits of three types went to Strasbourg: against the reform in kindergartens, private schools and public schools. According to the lawyer Tengiz Djibouti, who prepared claims for private schools, the ECHR, in order to speed up the consideration of claims, applied the so-called pilot procedure.

“Usually, in such cases, they take up to 10 lawsuits, which fundamentally characterize the problems, are combined into one case, as happened here: in this case, these are eight initiated cases, which were combined into one, and about 160 more are awaiting consideration of this large joint case (according to all three types of education – ed.) “, – said Djibouti.

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According to the lawyer, the outcome of this common case will set a precedent for all other claims.

Last week, the ECHR sent questions on the claims to the Latvian government.

In particular:

1. Is the right to continue education already begun in a language other than the state guaranteed?

2. Do restrictions on the use of the Russian language prejudice the very essence of the right to education or its effectiveness?

3. Is the right to respect for private and family life affected?

4. Were the restrictions predictable, had a legitimate aim and were proportionate to the aim?

5. Has the state balanced the interests of various groups?

Thus, the stage of business communication started.

“The very fact that the case has been communicated shows that at first glance the court sees problems,” explained Aleksey Dimitrov, a lawyer for the European Parliament and a consultant to the Greens faction. To illustrate the chances, he cited statistics: last year 414 complaints were sent to the ECHR, of which only 22 moved on to the next stage.

The deputy of the Riga Duma from the Russian Union of Latvia, Vladimir Buzaev, who was preparing claims for kindergartens and state schools, noted that the speed with which the case is moving forward in the ECHR is encouraging. “It’s as if we are some kind of collective Navalny. What at the usual pace should have taken five years, was accomplished in almost a year,” he said.

Kristina Lice will defend Latvia’s position in the ECHR. Commenting on the course of the process, she stated that in the information sent by the court, she did not find any indications that this was a pilot process. But the lawyer agreed that the questions from the ECHR are an important stage. Since 1997, it has been reached 396 times. Of these, a verdict was passed in 355 cases. Account 187-178 in favor of the Latvian state.

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The claims in the ECHR will be considered against the background of the assessments of the Venice Commission, which studied the education reform in Latvia, as well as in the light of the Council of Europe report on the situation of national minorities.

According to the Latvian Foreign Ministry, the Venice Commission approved the education reform, but the document states that “the changes cause criticism, since they do not provide a fair balance between the protection of the rights of minorities and their languages ​​and the promotion of the state language.”

Among the commission’s recommendations are:

– to return the previous bilingual approach to game learning throughout preschool education;

– take all measures necessary to ensure that public schools offer minority programs wherever there is sufficient demand;

– abolish the requirement of language proportions for private schools.

In turn, the Council of Europe recommends Latvia “to ensure the availability of teaching and learning in the languages ​​of national minorities throughout the country.”

Experts believe that parents with a high degree of probability will be able to win the case in private schools. Even in the Constitutional Court of Latvia, two judges indicated dissenting opinions, where they criticized the state’s interference in private education.

“I think that with regard to private schools, the situation for Latvia is one-sided, as they say. With regard to private schools, it would be a big surprise if the state won,” Aleksey Dimitrov believes.

It is more difficult with public schools – the court will have to assess whether the state crossed the line when it tightened the language requirements for the already operating education system, and whether the goals of the state justify the methods it has chosen.

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“If the European Court of Human Rights adopts a verdict in which it indicates that there has been a violation of the Convention on Human Rights, then, firstly, my task is to inform the Cabinet of Ministers about such a decision and provide an analysis of why, in the opinion of the court, such a violation occurred. The most important task of the government is to understand the reasoning of the court in order to fulfill the obligations imposed by the Convention on Human Rights, that is, to prevent the repetition of the same violation in the future. The Court of Human Rights does not specify what to do. how the sentence is carried out is under the jurisdiction of the state, “Kristina Lice said.

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