Activities in the area of legislation
Legislative Initiatives from President of Latvia
President submits draft law to Parliament to amend Law on Treaty Between Republic of Latvia, Holy See
President Andris Bērziņš has consulted with representatives of the country’s government and the Roman Catholic Church and decided to submit a draft law to the Saeima on amending the current treaty between the Republic of Latvia and the Holy See. The purpose is to assure that norms in the treaty are implemented in an equal way. President Bērziņš signed the original law on February 28, 2013, thus addressing three major issues – announcements about the appointment of bishops, the way in which third parties can learn about those who have the right to represent the relevant church institution, and the way in which bishops report on the church’s legal representatives, clergymen who have the right to conduct weddings, and chaplains who provide spiritual care.
President of Latvia calls for amendments to laws in relation to restoration of national flag on Tower of Holy Spirit during Castle’s renovations
On October 31, 2012, President of Latvia Andris Bērziņš sent a draft law to the Presidium of Parliament related to amendments to the law on the Latvian national flag. The draft law said that the flag would be raised above the Tower of the Holy Spirit of the Rīga Castle irrespective of the building’s capital renovations or the renovation of its façade. The draft law also said that the flag must be raised above the tower whenever circumstances are appropriate in terms of respect for the national flag. “The raising of the national flag above the Tower of the Holy Spirit can be suspended for a brief period of time if that is required by urgent renovation work,” the draft law stated. President Bērziņš referred to Section 51.1 of the Rules of Order of the Saeima in asking that the agenda of its meeting on November 1, 2012, be supplemented with the submitted draft law, also asking that parliamentarians decide on whether it is an urgent law.
The draft law spoke to several solutions. The use of the national flag at the residence of the President and above the Tower of the Holy Spirit of the Rīga Castle could be kept separate. This approach would be useful for the President’s temporary and permanent residence. Secondly, the law would speak to the use of the flag irrespective of renovation work. Third, it would make more precise the issue of using the national flags of Lithuania and Estonia. In cases referred to in the law, they would be raised above the Tower of the Holy Spirit of the Rīga Castle together with the Latvian flag. President Bērziņš attached an annotation to the draft law, stressing the fact that after the Strazdumuiža armistice on July 3, 1919, the Rīga Castle became the property of the Latvian state and that the Latvian national flag flew above it until the beginning of the Soviet occupation. The flag was once again raised above the Tower of the Holy Spirit of the Rīga Castle on November 11, 1988. The existing law on the national flag did not identify the Tower of the Holy Spirit as a symbol of statehood in terms of the President’s residence. The law also said clearly that the national flag is not raised above buildings that are undergoing capital renovations or whose facades are being renovated.
Because of renovations of the Rīga Castle, the national flag was moved from the Tower of the Holy Spirit of the Rīga Castle to the House of Blackheads on September 6, 2012. Noting that renovations had not been started as of October 30, 2012, the Presidential Chancery wrote to the legal administrators of the Rīga Castle and to the State Real Estate company, which was responsible for the renovations, calling upon them to raise the flag above the Tower of the Holy Spirit of the Rīga Castle. The President submitted the draft law in full cognisance of the fact that the raising of the flag above the tower would not be long-lasting, also taking into account public calls for the restoration of the process.
President Bērziņš submits Draft Amendments to Administrative Code
On October 29, 2012, President Andris Bērziņš submitted draft amendments to Latvia’s Administrative Code to the Presidium of the Saeima.
President submits Draft Law on Reducing Social Guarantees for Former Presidents
On October 8, 2012, Latvian President Andris Bērziņš wrote to the Presidium of the Saeima, attaching draft amendments to the law on support for the work of the Latvian President. The draft law offered more precise social guarantees for former presidents, also addressing several legal and technical issues such as the legal status of advisors at the Presidential Chancery.
Latvian President proposes limits on use of logo in Place of National Herald
Latvian President Andris Bērziņš has submitted proposals on amendments to the law on the Latvian national herald (No. 213/Lp11) to the Saeima Committee on Education, Culture and Science, doing so in accordance with Section 95 of the Saeima Rules of Order and for second reading consideration of the law.
The proposals spoke to a systematic approach to regulations related to the use of the national herald. It related to the right of various institutions to use various forms of the herald, also stating that government institutions which represent the Republic of Latvia must be unified in terms of their visual identity.
This meant that governance institutions would no longer be allowed to use any logos or emblems other than the national herald for recognition or representation purposes, allowing for certain necessary, sensible and listed exceptions. The President proposed a transitional period during which the Cabinet of Ministers and its subordinate institutions would specify the use of a unified graphic standard that is based on the national herald.
During preparation of the proposal, the Presidential Chancery sought the views of the National Heraldry Commission, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the National Chancery.
President proposes rules on leasing of state, local government land
President Andris Bērziņš has made use of the rights which are given to him in Section 47 of the Latvian Constitution to propose amendments to legal norms which speak to the availability of entrepreneurial accessibility and to the country’s investment environment.
The proposals related to Section 6.1 of the law on preventing the wasting of state and local government financial resources and properties, as well as to Section 22 on the law on completing the privatisation of state and local government properties and the use of privatisation vouchers.
The proposals sought to avoid an mixing up of the regulations in the two laws so as to ensure that the maximum term for the leasing of state and local government land is not limited to 12 years, because in many cases that is not economically justified and leads to various legally illogical situations.
President Bērziņš pointed out that in 2007 and 2009, the Saeima approved seemingly contradictory amendments to various laws, calling for amendments to say that of priority in the leasing of land is the law on completing the privatisation of state and local government properties and the use of privatisation vouchers.
This would create better prerequisites for Latvia’s investment environment, allowing the relevant institutions to enjoy necessary freedom of activity in relation to the law on completing the privatisation of state and local government properties and the use of privatisation vouchers, as approved by the Saeima on June 21, 2007.
The initiative was prepared at the request of many local governments and in partnership with the Latvian Association of Big Cities. The President wrote that this initiative would be followed by others, which would also apply to legal amendments aimed at improving the investment environment and strengthening the role of local governments.
President proposes reinstitution, legal strengthening of heralds of Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme, Zemgale
After consultations with the National Heraldry Commission, President Bērziņš has made use of the rights which are given to him in Section 65 of the Constitution to submit a draft law on the heralds of Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale to the Saeima.
The draft law spoke to the legal status of the heralds and will ensure legal clarity about their use. This will make it possible to facilitate the legally proper use of the heralds to a greater extent, thus helping to shape and strengthen the statehood-related consciousness of the public at large.
Heralds for these cultural and historical regions of Latvia were approved on April 26, 1930, in accordance with Section 81 of the Constitution. The rules described the herald for each region and specified rules on its use.
During the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Latvia, state symbols such as the national herald, flag and anthem were reinstated and included in relevant legal regulations. Also reinstated were city heralds, with new heralds created for administrative and territorial units at various levels. Still, the heralds of the aforementioned cultural and historical regions were not restored during or after the period of restoring Latvia’s independence, nor were they enshrined in legal regulations.
The draft law did not link heralds to specific units of administrative and territorial units in the country, instead allowing them to be used under specific circumstances by state and local government institutions, as well as by private individuals.
This was the first draft law submitted to Parliament by President Andris Bērziņš. On November 30, 2011, when he submitted proposals on the law on official publications, he was making his first use of the right of the President to table draft legal amendments, as enshrined in Section 95 of the Saeima Rules of Order.
Latvian President proposes Amendments to Law on Official Publications
On November 30, 2011, in accordance with Section 95 of the Saeima Rules of Order, President Andris Bērziņš wrote to the Legal Committee of the Saeima to make proposals about the draft law on official publications. The draft law had everything to do with the legislative functions that are enshrined for the President in the Constitution. This was the first time in Latvia’s history that the President made use of his right to submit proposals on a draft law for second or third reading consideration.
Amendments to Law on Preventing Conflicts of Interest among Government Officials
President Andris Bērziņš has proposed two amendments to the law on preventing conflicts of interest in the work of government officials. They relate to the combination of jobs on presidential commissions and councils, as well as the Chapter of National Orders. Second, the amendments proposed more precise rules on the registration, appraisal, use and purchase of gifts given to state officials.
Amendments to Law on Latvian National Herald
After consulting with the National Heraldry Commission, Latvian President Andris Bērziņš today made use of the rights that are given to him in Section 65 of the Latvian Constitution, submitting a draft law to Parliament on amendments to the law on Latvia’s national herald.
During the drafting of the amendments, it was found that the practices of government institutions in the use of the herald and various logos is often out of line with the purpose and essence of utilising the national herald as a symbol of state. For that reason, the proposal spoke to the instances in which governance institutions must use the national herald in accordance with their status. The law stated that institutions would not be allowed to use the herald and other logos simultaneously and that institutions which are part of the national government will not be allowed to refuse to use the national herald on their various forms.
The President has also proposed more precise rules in relation to the use of the national herald by private individuals, specifying that under certain circumstances, this would require special approval. The draft amendments also seek changes to certain norms so as to make it easier to ensure the unified application of the law, thus making it easier to bring people who are guilty of violating the rules to justice.
Latvian President proposes lower land leasing fees to attract new investors
On April 25, 2012, Latvian President Andris Bērziņš wrote to Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis on amendments to Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No. 735, 30 October 2007, which speaks to the leasing of land by public entities. The President sought rules which say that when local governments approve binding regulations, they have the right to reduce land leasing fees by no more than 50% in terms of normal fees during the period when construction is occurring, but no longer than for five years and only if the land is being used to build an industrial building. Leasing agreements should also speak to cases in which the reduced fee can be ended unilaterally (e.g., if the businessperson is not doing any work or is violating the law), the President wrote.
President Bērziņš has met with local government representatives to talk about ways in which local governments can support entrepreneurship and attract investments to Latvia’s economy. On several occasions there has been a discussion about the possibility of lowering land leasing fees. Because of economic trends and in cognisance of the fact that investment resources are among the most important driving engines for territorial economic development, the President has concluded that one priority in this regard would be to grant greater initiative to local governments specifically in the area of attracting investments. Section 15.1.10 of the law on local governments says that the autonomous function of local governments is to facilitate economic activities in the relevant administrative territories whilst also seeking to reduce unemployment. At the same time, however, there are various norms which limit the ability of local governments to successfully develop economic activity and attract investment resources for the development of manufacturing.
In his letter to the prime minister, President Bērziņš wrote that after analysing the existing situation and the experience of local governments in attracting investments, he concluded that the leasing fee set in relevant norms (1.5% of the cadastral value of the land) and the absence of any opportunities for the local government to reduce the fee (e.g., in cases in which the investor is building a major manufacturing facility and cannot be exempted from the leasing fee during the period of construction) are a factor which hinders the ability of local governments to attract investments. When new manufacturing facilities are built after the conclusion of a leasing agreement, there must be time for architectural work, construction processes, launching of manufacturing, and the sale of the relevant products in the market. A reduced land leasing fee during the period in which companies usually do not earn profits from their manufacturing processes and must make major investments, the President wrote, would stimulate the development of entrepreneurship in the country.