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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvia Cabinet Passes Rules To Disputed Language Law

RIGA, Latvia — Latvia’s Cabinet has approved a set of rules to accompany a controversial language law that threatens to derail the nation’s drive for EU membership.

The government press office said Wednesday that the law and the rules, which entrench the use of Latvian language in official matters, will take effect Sept. 1, 2000.

Latvia has about 650,000 Russian-speakers, or just over a quarter of the population, most of whom arrived in the Baltic nation before it won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Moscow has accused Latvia of trying to push the Russian-speaking minority to the fringe of economic and social life.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said the language law might not meet EU norms and intrudes into the private lives of citizens by forcing Latvian to be used in nonpublic spheres.

The OSCE has worked closely with officials in drawing up both the law and the rules, but not all of its recommendations have been heeded.

An OSCE official said Wednesday that the organization would not comment on the final version of the rules until an English translation had been provided and analyzed.

The rules retain a set of language proficiency levels — a point OSCE had advised against — but an employer will be free to determine what level of Latvian an employee has to have.

The rules require the names of private firms to be given in Latvian and non-Latvian personal names in official identification documents to be spelled out according to Latvian grammatical rules, a Cabinet press office spokeswoman said.

On the OSCE’s recommendation, the rules allow for international public events to be held in languages other than Latvian.

Late last year, Latvia was invited to begin detailed talks on membership of the European Union but is not expected to be invited to join the 15-nation bloc until 2005 at the earliest.