The ban on the background of USA tanks: Latvia may close a residence permit for the Russians

The ban on the background of USA tanks: Latvia may close a residence permit for the Russians

Latvian ultra-right LNNK party has achieved its goals: on the third try the Seim has supported a proposal to stop the issuance of residence permits to the Russians in exchange for investments in real estate. According to deputies, it’s all the fault of "economic and political influence" of new Russians in Latvia on a background of recent events in Ukraine. However, it’s a bit early to talk about banning: in October 2 the law was sent to the relevant committee for consideration, and then it has to be approved or rejected by the President of Latvia. The final decision is still in process.

The third try

Two previous plenary sessions of the Parliament of Latvia in September 2014, devoted to consideration of radical variant of the ban for residence permit issuance to the Russians, were calm. In September 16, Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, stated that "we can't isolate residents from any single country only because Russian authorities behave this way. Business people still work. I don't think it would be a proper solution.”

However, two weeks later, the project was pushed through. Only on the third try the Latvian Parliament supported the proposal of the ultra-right  LNNK party. The project transfer to the relevant Committee was supported by 48 Latvian deputies, 28 ones were against it (members of the Party of reforms and the "Sakanas centrs") and another six abstained.

Radical deputies fear that the Russians, who are leading in the number of received residence permits in Latvia for the last 4 years, have economic and political influence and also affect the public information turnover in the country. "This is important, given the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine... In this situation, when it is impossible to predict the direction and duration of military conflict, Latvia shouldn’t take unnecessary risks and cause additional threats to national security," said LNNK party ("All for Latvia! For Fatherland and Freedom / Latvian National Independence Movement").

"The ban project should be considered by the President of Latvia, who is known by its moderate views and repeatedly rejected radical proposals of the Seim’s deputies"

It is expected that the issuance of the residence permit will be cancelled for the “period of Russian continuing violation of international legal norms and aggressive actions against Ukraine". “If these reasons will disappear - issuance of a residence permit will be partially or completely renewed,” say Latvian media.

However, there is still no evidence that the issuance of Latvian residence permit for the Russians will be banned. In the near future, the project should be considered by the special Commission and then by President of Latvia Andris Bērziņš, who is famous for his moderate views and has repeatedly rejected few radical projects.

The ban on the background of USA tanks: Latvia may close a residence permit for the Russians | Photo 1 | ee24

The revival of some politicians on the wave of anti-Russian attitude occurred on the eve of parliamentary elections in Latvia, which will be held in October 4, 2014 in Latvia. According to opinion polls, the race leader is "Sakanas centrs" (about 20%), which in particular, protects the rights of Russian-speaking population in Latvia.

It is noteworthy that anti-Russian project was escalated at the moment when heavy American "Abrams" tanks landed in the territory of Latvia. NATO troops will participate in the exercises, demonstrating a “rigid US security support of NATO allies, including Latvia," said the American Embassy. Two columns moved to Adazi city in October 1 and 2.

The ban on the background of USA tanks: Latvia may close a residence permit for the Russians | Photo 2 | ee24
"Abrams" tanks in Latvia, October 1-2,201. Photo:

Nature abhors the vacuum

Over the past three years about 7,300 Russians obtained a residence permit in Latvia. In total 9,659 residence permits has been issued for the Russians in this Baltic country since 2010 when "golden visa” program was launched. The greatest demand was observed in 2014 – there were 2,798 applications! Note that the population of Latvia is about 2 million people; i.e. the share of the wealthy "new Latvians" having a Russian passport counts only 0.5%.

Since the program had been launched in 2010, the "golden residence permit" was obtained by 13,843 investors and their family members from 44 countries. Besides the Russians, Latvia residence permit was actively requested by the residents from China (1,059), Ukraine (1,027), Uzbekistan (567), Kazakhstan (515), Belarus (310), Azerbaijan (190), Israel (61), the United States (45), Kyrgyzstan (43), Georgia (38), Armenia (33), Syria (32), Lebanon (26) and India (22).

The ban on the background of USA tanks: Latvia may close a residence permit for the Russians | Photo 3 | ee24

Investments in the Latvian economy, which suffered from the crisis of 2008-2010 causing new "Immigration" law, amounted to €1.123 billion in 2010-2014, including €93.8 million of investments in real estate. In total the foreigners bought 4887 residential and commercial properties in Latvia.

When the economic situation began to improve, driven also by foreign investments, the restrictions were implemented. "Higher rates" began to work since September 1. According to the amendments, it is necessary to buy a property for €250,000 and pay additional 5% state tax to get a residence permit in Latvia. Purchase of several items in different places and empty land are not permitted. In 2010-2014 this amount was €142,300 in Riga, Riga region and in the country's largest cities and €71,150 - in other regions of Latvia.

"The economy has recovered and residence permit law is getting reconsidered"

The Latvian authorities attitude to the Russians has long been known. In particular, the restrictive measures first appeared in the summer of 2014. Ban for Gazmanov, Kobzon and Valerie are already in force. They cannot visit Latvia because of almost pro-Russian and pro-Crimea attitude. The local Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that these three singers threaten the national security.

A holy place is never empty. If the situation gets even more complicated, it would obviously play in favor of neighbors of Latvia who don’t hide their expectations. Against the background of disputes on banning Latvian residence permits for the Russians, Estonia is developing a project for issuing residence permits for housing purchase and launches electronic citizenship.

Text: Kyrill Ozerov,