AuthorKamenska, Anhelita
The national legal system
Latvia’s legal system belongs to the continental (Romano-Germanic) law system. Latvia’s
law was significantly influenced by German (and subsequently, Roman) law, especially in
areas of civil, administrative and constitutional law. The Constitution (Satversme),
adopted in 1922, was drafted using the Weimar Constitution, the constitutions of German
states and the Constitution of France as primary models. The most important source of
law in Latvia is legal acts, which can be divided into two categories: external and
internal. External legal a cts are universally binding. The main types of external legal ac ts
are laws, regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers and binding regulations of local
municipalities. Internal legal acts bind only the issuing state institution. Examples of
internal legal acts are statutes, instructions and recommendations.
The hierarchical system of legal acts in Latvia is as follows: 1) the Constitution; 2) laws;
3) regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers; 4) binding regulations of local authorities.
International and EU legal norms are applied in accordance with their ranking in the
hierarchy of external regulat ory enactments. In cases of conflicts between Latvi an and
international or EU statute of the same legal force, the in ternational or EU law or
provision must be applied.49
Latvia is a multi-ethnic country, although the proportion of the different ethnic groups
among its population has varied. In 2011, of a population of 2 067 887, 62.1 % were
Latvians, 26.9 % Russians, 3.3 % Belarusians, 2.2 % Ukrainians, 2.2 % Poles; 1.2 %
Lithuanians, 0.3 % Jewish, 0.3 % Roma, 0.1 % Estonians, 0.1 % Germans, and 1.3 %
others.50 Latvian citizens number 1 775 839 or 84.74 % of the population; of these,
ethnic Latvians constitute 71.08 %. Some 10.72 % or 224 670 inhabitants are non-
citizens,51 of which et hnic Russians are the larg est group. Therefore, issues relating t o
non-citizens are often treated a s mainly concerning Ru ssians or Russian-speakers, and
the rights of citizens and non-citizens, as well as linguistic issues, remain sensitive. There
are more than 73 000 third-country nationals; the largest group are citizens of Russia
(53 934), many of whom are long-term residents in Latvia, followed by citizens of
Ukraine (8 188) and citizens of Belarus (3 518). There are also 174 stateless persons
living in Latvia.52
List of main legislation transp osing and implementing the directives
Latvian anti-discrimination law remains scattered across many pieces of legislation. The
main problem, however, is that, while most fields covered by th e directives are cove red
in Latvia, the law often does not apply to all grounds which results in incomplete
protection. The older laws containing an equality clause never include all of the grounds
required by the dir ectives, and not all of them leave the list of grounds open.
Furthermore, the l aws that are supp osed to implement th e directives leav e some grounds
49 Bebre, B., and Gjortlere, L. (2012), ‘Update: Guide to Latvian Legal System and Legal Research’, Riga
Graduate School of Law, available at: ia1.html.
50 2011 Population Census.
51 Non-citizens are a special category of people – former USSR citizens who were resident in Latvia on
01.07.1991 and have not obtained citizenship of any other country, thus this term does not encomp ass
foreign citizens and stateless persons . Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, Statistics of the Population
Register (01.01.2019), Latvian population breakdown by nationality, availa ble at: P_Latvija_pec_VPD.pdf.
52 Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, Statistics of the Population Register.
53 Sexual orientation has remained a controversial topic, with Latvian legislation eventually broug ht into line
with the directives through the inclusion of specific provisions in the Labou r Law on 21 September 2006.
However, even bef ore this specific reference, in the first case where discrimination b ased on sexual
orientation was alleged in the area of employment, in 2003, the court held that the discrimination based on

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