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Latvia

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1) REFERENCES

Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2005 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 704 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 506 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000) 706 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC(2001) 1749 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002) 700 final - SEC(2001) 1405 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 675 final - SEC(2003) 1203 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 236 of 23.09.2003]

2) SUMMARY

In its Opinion of July 1997, the European Commission considered that the social reforms needed to be pursued, that the public health system had to be significantly improved and that the social dialogue would also have to be reinforced. It also urged Latvia to strive harder to bring its legislation into line with Community requirements in areas such as health and safety, labour law and equal opportunities, and to continue to develop the structures needed for effective enforcement of the legislation. The Commission concluded that Latvia should be able to take on the obligations of new membership in the medium-term, provided it pursued its efforts.

The November 1998 Report confirmed this initial assessment and urged Latvia to continue its drive for social reform and for an improved public health system. As regards health and safety at work, no great headway had been made and therefore a big effort was needed. At institutional level, Latvia would have to further reinforce its employment and labour inspection services.

The October 1999 Report noted Latvia's progress with regard to meeting Community requirements. However, health and safety at work, equality of the sexes and bipartite collective bargaining were sectors in which the criteria were still far from being met.

The November 2001 and October 2002 Reports note substantial progress, notably as regards labour law and equality of treatment between men and women, two areas where remarkable progress has been made.

The 2003 Report states that as regards labour law, equality of treatment between men and women, health and safety at work, social dialogue, employment policy, combating social exclusion and social protection, Latvia basically meets the commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations and should now be in a position to implement the related acquis. On the other hand, Latvia partly meets the requirements of membership in the field of public health, the European Social Fund and combating discrimination and should make further efforts in this direction.
The Treaty of Accession was signed on 16 April 2003 and accession took place on 1 May 2004.

COMMUNITY ACQUIS

In the social affairs field, apart from the various specific action programmes, such as those in the area of public health, and the European Social Fund, EU legislation covers health and safety at work, labour law and working conditions, equal opportunities for men and women, coordination of social security schemes for migrant workers, and tobacco products.

In all these areas, the EU's social legislation lays down minimum requirements, accompanied by safeguard clauses for the most advanced Member States.

In addition, the consultation of the social partners and the social dialogue at European level are enshrined in Articles 138 and 139 of the Treaty (ex-Articles 118a and 118b).

EVALUATION

Unemployment in Latvia fell from 14.2% in 2000 to 13.1% in 2001. According to the October 2003 report, economic growth has contributed to reducing unemployment, which fell from 12.8% in December 2001 to 11.6% in December 2002.

In April 1999, following the adoption of a strategic approach on employment, various measures were taken, notably the adoption of a National Employment Plan in February 2000. Besides, a network of 27 regional branches was set up to reinforce the administrative capacity of the National Employment Service.

As from 2001, Latvia and the Commission have begun a study on the joint organisation of employment policy priorities.

The 2003 report calls on Latvia effectively to implement the conclusions of the Joint Assessment of Employment Priorities, notably as regards education, training and lifelong learning. Latvia should also take particular care to ensure that its tax and social benefit systems are such as to encourage job creation and job incentives, as well as the integration of the ethnic minorities.

As far as health and safety at work is concerned, the legal framework introduced by Latvia in 1993 takes account of the Community framework Directive. The labour inspection structures meet the International Labour Organisation's standards of independence. In December 1998, legislation concerning the analysis and recording of industrial accidents was adopted. Provisions relating to safety signs also entered into force in January of the following year. In the November 2000 report, the Commission notes that alignment in this area has continued.
In January 2002 the law on the protection of workers entered into force, transposing de facto the Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work. One month previously, the new law on labour inspection had been adopted.
The 2003 report notes that as regards health and safety at work, the basic legislation has been transposed, except for chemical agents at work. Latvia benefits from three transitional periods concerning the use of work equipment (until end June 2004), workplaces and display screen equipment (until end December 2004). On the other hand, the National Labour Inspectorate must be reinforced in terms of staff, wages, training and technical equipment.

With regard to public health, amendments to Latvian legislation have brought it into line with the requirements of the acquis as regards the maximum tar content of cigarettes and the labelling of tobacco products. In 2001 the implementation of the public health strategy was adopted. The state of health of the Latvian population is still below the EU average. The 2002 report notes that public health expenditure needs to be increased substantially. The 2003 report also includes these two comments and recalls that transposition of the acquis should be completed as regards tobacco addiction and communicable diseases.

As regards equal opportunities, Latvia has sought to promote the implementation of the concept of equality between men and women since October 2001. An action plan was adopted in March 2002.
Latvia has transposed the bulk of the acquis as regards equality of treatment between men and women. Certain legal adaptations will still be necessary before accession - for example, the elimination of any overprotection of women against night work.

The 2002 report regrets that social dialogue in Latvia continues to be based essentially on the tripartite model. In its 2003 report the Commission recalls that it is important to promote bipartite dialogue and that the conclusion of collective agreements should be facilitated.

The 2003 report addresses transposition of the acquis in the field of labour law. There are some minor gaps as regards transposition of legislation governing collective redundancies, the organization of working time, young people at work and the working time of seafarers. After accession it is planned to transpose the recent acquis concerning the involvement of employees in the European company and the information and consultation of workers.

In the course of 2004 the Commission and Latvia must finalise the Joint Memorandum on Social Inclusion, which identifies key challenges and possible policy orientations for promoting social inclusion. On this basis, a national integrated strategy and a National Action Plan on social inclusion will have to be developed.

As regards the European Social Fund (ESF), the national rules defining the responsibilities and associated tasks and delegating certain functions to various institutions were adopted in September 2003. In the 2003 report, Latvia is also urged to accelerate its preparatory work with a view to participation in transnational operations under the EQUAL initiative.

The 2003 report recalls that Latvia has incorporated anti-discrimination rules in its new employment legislation, but that major shortcomings persist. Efforts have to be made to promote integration of the Russian minority and to guarantee that application of the language legislation respects the principles of public interest and proportionality.

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

Last updated: 09.01.2004
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