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September report on Latvian watchdog NGOs

Right to good administration

In the previous report it was mentioned that on August 30 the Prime Minister established a high level expert group to improve operation of the national anti-corruption agency Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB). Quite atypically the group adjourned to its meeting already in September 5 (‘Expert’ and ‘implementing change’ watchdog functions). According to a statement on the website of the Prosecutor General’s Office (link to text in Latvian), the group agreed on its rules of procedure and deliverables. Another meeting took place at the end of September. However, no information has been made public as to the progress made by the group. The group’s goal is the evaluation of legal framework that governs the work of CPCB in order to draft proposals to improve its efficiency.

In August Transparency International Latvia was reported to criticize the leading coalition political party “Unity” (“Vienotība” in Latvian) because two of its high-level members were appointed to  top-level posts in various state owned enterprises without a competition and in an unclear process (‘Intervening and alerting’ watchdog function). In September TI Latvia continued to address the case and its underlying systemic problems by publishing replies from the institutions it earlier asked clarifications from. The replies were received from the respective political party, the Ministry of Transport, the Latvian Railway and its daughter company LDz Rolling Stock Service. Reply was not yet received from the Ministry of Economy. All the replies stressed that either it’s not their business (Ministry of Transport and Latvian Railway) or that the candidates were qualified and the issue in question is a sound business decision by the respective enterprise board. TI Latvia statement and the institutions’ replies can be read on the NGO’s website (in Latvian).

Integration of persons with disabilities, non-discrimination

On September 13 the Latvian Umbrella Body For Disability Organizations SUSTENTO organized its annual conference “Health for Growth” for people with disabilities and chronic disease. This year the conference addressed a premise of the recently adopted National Development Plan that “Economic growth will bring increased prosperity to every inhabitant of the country”. The organizers pointed out the discrepancy between the country’s fastest economic growth in the EU and stagnating health care budget financing (‘Expert’ and ‘Exerting pressure and reminding’ watchdog functions). The conference attracted the Minister of Health, MEPs and MPs and other dignitaries and effectively served as a high level discussion forum. Announcement of the conference can be read on Sustento website (in Latvian).

Cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, non-discrimination

On September 26 and 27 the Latvian Human Rights Centre organized a conference on the Consultative mechanisms of minorities to influence decision making. Goal of the event was to analyze national and municipal social integration and minority consultative mechanisms, their efficiency and challenges (‘Expert’ and ‘Exerting pressure and reminding’ watchdog functions).  On the second conference day the Centre also presented its shadow report on Latvia’s implementation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The conference had the presence of national policy makers and best practice exchange with Sweden and Estonia. Conference proceedings in Latvian can be viewed here.

Rights of the elderly, social security

On September 7 the Latvian Pensioners Association organized a public protest in the capital under the slogan “About pensioners’ rights” (‘Exerting pressure and reminding’ watchdog function). The protest event seeked to put pressure on the government before the adoption of the 2014 budget, in order to gain concessions for this social group. The organizers gathered around thousand participants from several parts of the country. The event was also attended by the Minister of Social Affairs, who received a generally hostile treatment. Despite the prolonged Association’s activities, the 2014 state budget submitted to the Parliament on October 1, did not take on board most of the Association’s demands.

Right of collective bargaining and action, fair and just working conditions, protection in the event of unjustified dismissal

During June-August The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia collected signatures for its letter campaign “Hands off the Labor Law” (‘Exerting pressure and reminding’ watchdog function). The campaign goal was to preserve the amount of salary premium for overtime work and prevent easing of dismissal procedure of labor union members. On the 25th of September the Head of the Confederation did personally deliver the almost 16 000 thousand signatures to the Speaker of the Parliament (link to article on the Confederation’s website). This is being done while the Parliament continues its review to amendments of the Labor Law.

 

Logo funduszy szwajcarskich, Ecorys oraz Euroregion Bałtyk.

                                                                                                                                                               

This text is a result of a research prepared within the project “Powerful Watchdogs” supported by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union. The report aims to show the up-to-date information regarding activity of watchdog organizations in a given country. The author refers to the classification on watchdog functions, to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the international concepts of the transparent governance.

 

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