13th Jul 2020

Latvia changes its constitution to enter the EU

Today (8 May) the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima, approved amendments to the Latvian Constitution, enabling the Baltic State to hold a referendum on the country's EU membership on 20 September. With this step, Latvia has removed a serious judicial obstacle to joining the EU.

Until now Latvia's Constitution did not allow a referendum to be held on international matters. It also said that only Latvian institutions have the mandate for decision-making. The Constitution was established during the first years of the country's independence in 1922.

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With the current amendments, Latvia's Constitution allows for some competencies to be handled by international institutions in Brussels. It also says that a referendum must be held if the conditions for EU membership change significantly.

Threshold for EU referendum set

Constitutional changes also set the necessary threshold for the EU referendum to be held on 20 September. According to the amendments, the referendum will be valid if at least 50 per cent of the citizens that participated in the last general elections take part. The majority of those participating will decide the outcome of the referendum.

The turnout of the last general elections in October 2002 was 71.5% which means that theoretically the decision on EU membership can be taken by approximately 40% of the voters taking part in the referendum, as long as there is a majority that vote either Yes or No to the EU.

Public support on the increase

If the referendum was held in April, 53.8% of Latvian citizens would have supported the country's EU membership, 30% would have said No. The rest were still undecided on the matter, according to the latest opinion poll results published by research centre SKDS.

In comparison to the figures of last summer, the Yes side has increased by almost 10% with the number of undecided voters slowly decreasing. The EU-sceptics have also lost some ground.

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