The Ministry of Children and family Affairs of Latvia, a chronically absurd institution born out of the political ambitions of the First Party, is working on new Integration Guidelines. Again. Before its demise, the late Secretariat of the Minister for Social Integration had conducted public discussions of the previous Guidelines, and seemed set to submit those Guidelines for government approval. The Guidelines themselves left something to be desired but were, on the whole, a workable basis for some sort of policy. Their authors had been, on the whole, mindful of the need for diversity mainstreaming (without using the word). They even proposed tentative measures to increase the presence of ethnic minorities in public administration (a leap in political thinking for Latvia).
Alas, now those guidelines are discarded – as were the previous ones, created by a working group that had been careless (or naive) enough to include the word ‘multiculturalism’ twice in the project. The first Guidelines were duly ostracised by the nationalist newspaper Latvijas Avize and by the former Minister of Culture Helena Demakova, a lady generally prone to categorical rejection of concepts she did not bother to understand. And now, also the second project of the Guidelines, created by private consultants for the now defunct Secretariat, have been rejected for some reason (no serious explanation of that given to public – why?).
And here we are, in the midst of budget cuts and econimic decline, with a bunch of officials transplanted from the late Secretariat of Integration to the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs writing the third version of the Integration Guidelines. Doing that in their working time paid for by the taxpayers. At a moment when it is absolutely clear that there will be no funds in the budget to implement whatever gidelines they write – as there is no money to implement the already existing Programme for Tolerance (a weak substitute for anti-discrimination policy).
Meanwhile, funds available from the EU for Latvia for the integration of third country citizens and for the integration of refugees lie unrequested due to the lack of meagre government co-funding. Meanwhile, a dozen or so capable NGOs and government agencies are waiting for a chance to implement in practice integration measures of which they have much better understanding than the potential authors of the new Guidelines. Meanwhile, those ministry officials’ salaries, even after the ubiquetous 20% cut across the public sector, would probably add up to more than is needed for government co-funding for the EU integration funds. At the moment, however, it seems that REAL integration measures, even when funded 75% by the EU, are unaffordable for Latvia. Or is inclusion itself unaffordable?