Representatives of Latvia’s ethnic minority organizations have called on Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis to not close the country’s integration secretariat as part of a plan to trim the state budget.
Godmanis has been considering laying off 5 percent of government workers and eliminating three special assignment ministries, including the Secretariat of the Special Assignment Minister for Social Integration Affairs (Īpašu uzdevuma ministra sabiedrības integrācijas lietās sekretariāts, or ĪUMSILS).
Among other functions, ĪUMSILS also works with Latvian groups in the diaspora and helps fund educational and cultural projects.
Godmanis, according to media reports, has been considering liquidating ĪUMSILS, the Minister for Special Assignments for Electronic Government Affairs and the Minister for Special Assignments for Administration of European Union Funds. But after a Sept. 2 meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, it appears the plan is on hold, in part because of politicians’ concerns that cutting the three secretariats could upset the balance of power in the coalition government.
In their letter, the ethnic minority representatives said they were concerned about reports the integration secretariat might be on the chopping block, according ĪUMSILS spokesperson Zane Šneidere.
“Latvia is a multinational state in which 41 percent of inhabitants are members of minorities,” the representatives said in their open letter to the prime minister. Eliminating ĪUMSILS would be a wrong step in Latvia’s state politics that could negatively affect development of civil society, they said.
“Thanks to the support of the secretariat, Latvia’s minorities have should themselves as an integral part of Latvia’s society,” the letter continued, “which has in turn reduced the divide between Latvians and members of other ethnic groups.”
The letter was signed by representatives of the Russian, Belarussian, Estonian, Lithuanian, German, Polish, Georgian, Old Believer, Arab, Jewish and Balto-Slavic communities.
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