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In U.S., Riga mayor discusses abolishment of Russian schools in Latvia

Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs has travelled to U.S., where he met with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Diplomat – Assistant Secretary of State John Negroponte. He discussed the Latvian government’s plans to abolish bilingual education and change the teaching language to Latvian even at the schools for national minorities, EADaily’s correspondent reports.

“The last business trip ahead of holidays is to Washington this time. Meetings with Senator Lindsey Graham and the first director of the National Intelligence, diplomat John Negroponte, as well as at the National Security Council, Congress and Department of State. The major issue I talked about was the Latvian government’s plans to abolish bilingual education. I expressed my stance clearly as the leader of Harmony Party and Riga Mayor - the reform poses serious risks to domestic stability and security of Latvia, so it should be taken as a political provocation,” Nils Ušakovs said in a statement.

Riga Duma representative Laila Ivana, in turn, said Nils Ušakovs traveled to Washington as the leader of Harmony Party, not as Riga Mayor.

Education Minister Karlis Sadurskis said on RigaTV24 TOP5: “About that message of Ušakovs – it’s fun. My dears, foreign policy is rather a delicate case where professionals should express their views, not an ignoramus from Riga’s Duma.” Sadurskis noted that there are several Ušakovs. “At first, there were two Ušakovs. The one who talked to me and Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis and told us a different story. Afterwards, there was a second Ušakovs, who talked to his voters and supporters in social media,” Karlis Sadurskis said. The visit to Washington has unveiled whom he calls a third Ušakovs.

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“A third Ušakovs has emerged, who in fact poses a serious threat to national security, I think,” Sadirskis said. At the same time, the education minister does not think that they in Washington will take what Ušakovs said seriously.

“I think the U.S. diplomatic services and everyone is very professional and we have professional talks. And finally, all security aspects will be studied and analyzed. Of course, Americans as our strategic partners take an interest in EU and NATO countries bordering with a very aggressive neighbor,” he said.

Noteworthy that after returning from U.S., Ušakovs met with activists of the protests against the school reform: Degi Karayev, Armen Khalatyan, Konstantin Chekusin, Margarita Dragile, Olga Gogina and Irina Fedorova. They discussed the plans of Riga Duma to support the schools for national minorities and public stability and agreed to meet regularly under slogan “How to Live Further.” In a Facebook post, Ušakovs expressed his personal stance on the issue and promised to meet with parents of the schoolchildren studying at schools for national minorities in Riga starting late January.

As it was reported earlier, in early December, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the education ministry’s report on teaching on the state language at the secondary education schools. The ministry anticipates that the reform will be introduced starting 2021/2022 educational year – pre-school education will be bilingual, in 1-6 years, three models of bilingual education will be applied, in 7-9 years, 80% of the education process will be in the state language. The 10-12 grade students will receive education in Latvian only. Activists have already held three protest actions against the planned reform.

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