Guide to Latvian Law and Legal Resources
By Ilona Ceica, Baiba Bebre and Ligita Gjortlere
Published January 2007
Ilona Ceica, LL.M, is a lawyer-linguist at the European Court of Justice; Baiba Bebre, LL.B. is the Legal Research Adviser of the Law Library of the Riga Graduate School of Law (RGSL); Ligita Gjortlere, M.Soc.Sci, is the Head of the Law Library of the RGSL.
A complete revision to an article previously published on LLRX.com on November 4, 2002 http://www.llrx.com/features/latvia.htm
Table of Contents
Legal acts without hyperlink can be found using the search screen in the homepage of State Agency ‘Translation and Terminology Centre'.
The basic legal document that sets the state order in Latvia is the Constitution (Satversme). The Constitutional Convent of Latvia adopted the Constitution in 1922 and therefore it is the oldest Constitution among the three Baltic countries. The Constitution has been changed a few times. The most significant changes were made in 2002 when a very important part of a constitution - a catalogue of human rights – was added. In 2003 and 2004 the Constitution was amended to give a legal basis for the Latvia's membership in the EU (Art. 68, Art. 79, Art. 100).
According to the Latvian Constitution, Latvia is a parliamentary democracy where the highest power belongs to the Latvian nation (full-fledged citizens of both sexes of at least 18 years of age). The nation, by voting, has the highest legislature powers over some of the issues set by the Constitution (e.g., release of the Parliament proposed by the State president). Only the nation has a right to decide on state independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic state order.
By general, equal, direct, secret, proportional voting the citizens of Latvia elect the Parliament (Saeima). The parliament of Latvia consists of 100 MPs. Parliament is elected for four years and any citizen starting from age of 21 can be elected. The Parliament is the highest legislator and it adopts state budget. The legislative power is also balanced with the judicial power since the Parliament approves all judges of Latvia. On June 12, 2004 the first elections of the European Parliament were held in Latvia. The legal basis for these elections (and future European Parliament elections) is the European Parliament Election Law adopted by the Latvian Parliament on 29 January 2004 (transposition of Council Directive 93/109/EC of 6 December 1993 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals).
The Parliament of Latvia elects a President. The president is elected for four years and any citizen of Latvia at least 40 years old can be elected to the post. The functions of the Latvian president if compared to other states are quite limited. The president is more like a representative person than a decision maker. Nevertheless, the state president has rights to initiate a law, as well as in other countries, to grant a pardon. The president appoints diplomatic representatives of Latvia. He/she is the commander-in-chief of the Latvian army in peacetime.
The highest executive power of Latvia lies with the Cabinet of Ministers, which is formed by a person entrusted by the President. The Prime minister candidate forms the rest of the Cabinet. When the Cabinet of Ministers has been formed the Parliament has a vote of confidence. If the voting is positive the person who has been entrusted to form the Cabinet becomes the Prime Minister. Cabinet of Ministers has the rights of legislative initiative. It has competence over any question where the Parliament has not taken any decision. In strictly defined situations (Art. 81 of the Constitution) the acts of Cabinet of Ministers have a power of a law.
The Constitution does not directly and fully regulate the hierarchy of legal acts. The hierarchical system is derived from rules set in the Constitutional Court Law (adopted on 5 June 1996) and the Administrative Procedure Law, which was adopted on 25 October 2001. The hierarchical system of legal acts in Latvia is the following:
2) international agreements approved by the Parliament;
4) acts of the Cabinet of Ministers with a power of law;
5) other acts of the Cabinet of Ministers;
6) municipal rules.
Three years after regaining independence, Latvia's Parliament adopted the Citizenship Law (adopted on 22 June 1994). This law defines Latvian citizenship, as well as sets the necessary requirements to become a Latvian citizen. According to the law, dual citizenship in Latvia is not allowed. Law also reflects upon procedure and regulations of naturalisation, as well as sets rules for loss and restoration of Latvian citizenship.
The Law on Stateless persons (adopted on 29 January 2004) determines legal status of stateless persons in Latvia, as well as their rights and obligations.
The Law on Asylum (adopted on 7 March 2002) regulates rights for asylum in Latvia, obtaining of refugee status, temporary protection or alternative status.
The main purpose of the Official Language Law (adopted on 9 December 1999) is to ensure maintenance, development and protection of the Latvian language, as well as the right to freely use the Latvian language in Latvia and facilitate integration of different minorities of Latvia.
The Law on Regulated Professions and Recognition of Professional Qualifications (adopted on 20 June 2001) established that there are two regulated legal professions - sworn advocates (assistant sworn advocates) and sworn notaries.
The Bar Association of Latvia consists of sworn advocates. Any sworn advocate can be a representative in any court instance and pre-trial investigation. Administrative and control function within the Bar is carried out by the Council of sworn advocates. It organizes the admission of new Bar members, controls the work of sworn advocates and assistant sworn advocates, i.e., also reviews complaints and reports, imposes disciplinary measures. The professional and cooperative activities of advocates are regulated by the Advocacy Law of the Republic of Latvia (adopted on 27 April 1993).
Notaries also belong to the legal profession and they act within the regional courts. The Minister of Justice sets the number and places of practice of the notaries. Administrative and control function is carried out by the Council of Sworn Notaries.
The activity of bailiffs in Latvia is regulated by the Law on Bailiffs (adopted on 24 October 2002, came into force on 1 January 2003). Bailiffs belong to the court system; they are registered with a particular regional court of Latvia and are considered as state officials. Bailiffs are appointed for life and may remain in office till the age of 65, with certain options of the office term being prolonged till the age of 70. The number, regions and districts of activity are established by the Minister of Justice. The bailiffs are also appointed by the Minister of Justice.
1. Supreme Court;
2. 6 regional courts;
3. 35 district and city courts.
The Supreme Court consists of a Senate and three court chambers - Civil law chamber, Criminal law chamber and Administrative law chamber. The Senate has the power of cassation in all cases that have been tried in regional and district (city) courts.
At the Senate, three senators try the cases. Chambers are instances of appeal for cases earlier tried by the regional courts as courts of first instance. Three judges try the cases.
There are six regional courts in Latvia. The regional court is court of first instance for civil and criminal cases that according to the law are within its competence. The regional court is instance of appeal when administrative, criminal and civil cases have been tried in the district (city) courts. In the appeal three judges try the case. Alongside with regional courts exist land registers, having a status of a court institution. Land Registers contain inscriptions on immovable property and rights relevant to immovable property.
There are 35 district (city) courts in Latvia. District courts are the first instance for civil, criminal and administrative cases as set by the law. Civil and administrative cases with a few exceptions are tried by one judge. Particularly complicated administrative cases can be tried by three judges.. One judge and two assessors try criminal cases and particular categories of civil cases. Certain criminal cases (if set so by the law) can also be tried by one judge.
Until 2004 administrative cases were tried along with civil cases, but on 1 February 2004 administrative courts were added to the Latvian court system. Administrative court system consists of three levels – Administrative District court, Administrative Regional court, Administrative law department within the Senate of the Latvian Supreme Court.
Besides the courts mentioned, there is the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia. The Constitutional Court was established in 1996 by adopting the Constitutional Court Law (adopted on 5 June 1996). The judges of the Constitutional Court are approved by the parliament by a secret vote. The candidacy of three judges are suggested by at least 10 MPs, two others - by the suggestion of the Cabinet of Ministers, and the remaining two - by the Supreme Court of Latvia. The Constitutional Court of Latvia consists of seven judges and they are appointed for 10 years. During the years the circle of institutions and persons rightful to apply to the Constitutional Court has been significantly improved and now also naturalized citizens have a legal standing.
With the joining of the European Union many areas of law are subordinated to the European Union/European Community requirements, in other words, there are many legal acts in Latvian legal system that include a direct reference to the corresponding EU directive transposition of which they provide. Therefore later in the article you may find reference to the EU/EC law. As well as the court jurisprudence in Latvia now has another important source – European Court of Justice case law. Interpretation of Community legislation provided by the said court is binding for Latvia as an EU member state.
Administrative law and administrative procedure is governed by the Administrative Procedure Law and the Administrative Breaches Code. The Administrative Procedure Law, which was adopted on 25 October 2001, regulates the administrative procedure in public institutions and administrative courts. It sets the principles of administrative procedure as well as issue and judicial review of administrative acts.
The Administrative Breaches Code (adopted on 7 December 1984) is the most frequently amended law in Latvia. The Administrative Breaches Code defines actions and inactions which constitute administrative breaches, administrative penalties and the institutions competent to inflict administrative penalties.
The Credit Institution Law is the main tool in regulating banking law (adopted on 5 October 1995). As well, there is the Deposit Guarantee Law (adopted on 21 May 1998).
The aim of the Financial Conglomerates law (adopted on 9 June 2005) is to promote protection of interests of clients of commercial societies (members of such conglomeration), as well as promote capital market stability. The law transposes requirements of the Directive 2002/87/EC.
The Law on the Bank of Latvia (adopted on 19 May 1992) regulates functions and operations of the central bank of Latvia.
The bankruptcy procedure in Latvia is guided by the Law on the Insolvency of Undertakings and Companies (adopted on 12 September 1996). Insolvency of a company is established by a court judgement. A company is insolvent if it is not able to fulfil its obligations to its creditors. The law does not apply to the insolvency of credit institutions. There is a special procedure for these institutions. In regard to insurance companies, this law is applicable as far as it does not conflict with the special laws on insurance activities.
There is also the Law on Protection of Employees in Case of Employer’s Bankruptcy (adopted on 20 December 2001), which aims to regulate satisfaction of employees’ claims in case of employer’s bankruptcy and establishment of employees guaranties foundation.
The umbrella law in civil law sphere is the Civil Law of Latvia, which was adopted in 1938 and was reinforced step by step as of 1992. The Civil Law of Latvia consists of the following chapters and regulates the following main issues of civil legislation:
The Civil Procedure Law (adopted on 14 October 1998) replaced the older Civil Procedure Code. It is the legal act exclusively regulating the procedural issues of all levels of courts in Latvia.
In 2001, the Parliament of Latvia adopted the Commercial Law, where several legal concepts have been taken from the German legal system; however, a number of EU directives have also been introduced by this legal act. Prior to this law, the commercial activities, as well as procedure of organizing companies was regulated by several laws adopted at the beginning of the 1990s.
The Commercial Law has invented quite many and so far unknown concepts, e.g., commercial entrepreneur, procura (commercial power of attorney).
Establishing and activity of European commercial corporations is regulated by the European commercial societies` law (adopted on 10 March 2005). The Associations and Foundations Law regulates basic rules of operation, organization structure, liquidation and reorganization of associations and foundations (non-for-profit organizations) in Latvia.
The Competition Law of Latvia was adopted on 4 October 2001. This law transposes the main EU requirements, in particular, Articles 81, 82 and 83 of the EC Treaty. Competition issues are reviewed and decisions are adopted by the Competition Council of Latvia. Every year until 1 March, the Competition Council has to prepare a report on cases reviewed in the previous year. This report is published in the Official Gazette (Latvijas Vestnesis). The decisions of the Council can be appealed to the court.
The field of advertising is also regulated in Latvia and the Advertising Law (adopted on 20 December 1999) sets the requirements for a legal, objective and unfabled advertisement. It is also a tool for ensuring honest competition.
State market of Latvia is protected by the Anti-dumping Law, (adopted on 16 December 1999). The goal of the Law is to prevent dumping provided that according to a legal examination it is established that import for dumping prices causes loss to local (national) producers and manufacturers.
The Law on Control of Commercial Activity Aid (adopted on 19 December 2002) regulates state, municipal and European Community financial aid which creates or may create restrictions to competition.
Consumer protection in Latvia is regulated by a number of laws: the Law on Protection of Consumer Rights (adopted on 18 March 1999); the Product and Services Safety Law (adopted on 7 April 2004); the Law on Liability for Defective Goods and Deficient Services (adopted on 20 June 2000), the Advertising Law, the Standardization Law (adopted on 14 October 1998).
The two basic acts regulating this area of law are the Criminal Law (adopted on 17 June 1998), and the law adopted by the Parliament of Latvia on 21 April 2004 – the Criminal Procedure Law. Legal norms regulating criminal law and criminal procedure can be found also in several other legal acts: the Law On Prevention of the Laundering of the Proceeds from Crime (adopted on 18 December 1997), the Office of the Prosecutor Law (adopted on 19 May 1994) the Investigatory Operations Law (adopted on 16 December 1993).
Environmental law is regulated by a variety of general and special legal acts. The basis of environmental legislation in Latvia is the Law on Environmental Protection (adopted on 6 August 1991), which sets the basic principles of environmental protection and introduces the competence of governmental organizations in environmental issues.
Other important legal acts are the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (adopted on 14 October 1998), the Law on the Protection of Species and Habitats (adopted on 16 March 2000), the Law on Specially Protected Nature Territories (adopted on 2 March 1993), the Protection Zone Law (adopted on 5 February 1997), and the Law on Pollution (adopted on 15 March 2001).
The Law on Insurance Contracts (adopted on 10 June 1998) regulates insurance activities in Latvia. This law applies to insurance against losses (material values of interest), civil liability (personal civil liability) insurance and personal insurance (life, health, physical condition).
This law does not apply to the social insurance, as well as to reinsurance.
Activities of insurance companies are regulated by the Law on Insurance Companies and Supervision Thereof (adopted on 10 June 1998). The insurance market in Latvia is supervised by the Financial and Capital Market Commission. The establishment and operation of the Financial and Capital Market Commission is regulated by the Financial and Capital Market Commission Law (adopted on 1 June 2000).
The Activities of Insurance and Reinsurance Intermediaries Law (adopted on 17 March 2005) defines the legal status of the insurance and reinsurance intermediaries and determines their activities and supervision. The law includes regulations set by EU Directive 2002/92/EC.
Intellectual property issues are regulated by several laws in Latvia: the Copyright Law (adopted on 6 April 2000); the Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications (adopted on 16 June 1999); the Patent Law (adopted on 30 March 1995); the Law on Industrial Designs regulates registration, use and protection of designs (adopted on 28 October 2004, came into force on 18 November 2004). The law transposes requirements of the EU Directive 98/71/EEC on the legal protection of designs. Latvia is a member of several international conventions in this field, e.g., the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property, WIPO, etc.
The Labour Law of Latvia was adopted in 2001. Before this Law, a Code of Labour Laws adopted in 1972 by the Supreme Council of the Soviet Republic of Latvia regulated employment issues. The Labour Law of 2001 has been elaborated based on EU requirements; therefore many new issues have been incorporated into the law, e.g., non-discrimination on a sexual basis, rights to an extra vacation for fathers.
The aim of the Labour Dispute Law (adopted on 26 September 2002) is to ensure fair and rapid settlement of labour disputes, determine labour dispute settlement bodies and the procedures for settlement of labour disputes. In settling individual and collective disputes regarding rights, the Labour Law and the Civil Procedure Law shall be applied unless otherwise prescribed by Labour Dispute Law. In settling collective disputes, the Labour Law and the Strike Law shall be applied unless provided otherwise by Labour Dispute Law.
The Support for Unemployed Persons and Persons Seeking Employment Law (adopted on 9 May 2002) determines the active employment measures and preventative measures for unemployment reduction intended for unemployed persons and persons seeking employment, the competence of the State and local governments in the implementation of these measures, as well as the status, rights and obligations of unemployed persons and persons seeking employment.
The Law on Work Safety (adopted on 20 June 2001, came into force of 1 January 2002) sets the work safety requirements.
The Maritime Code (adopted on 29 May 2003) regulates the administrative and private legal relations which arise between legal entities in the field of legal relations connected with maritime matters.
The Maritime Administration and Marine Safety Law (adopted on 31 October 2002) specifies the State administration institutional system of maritime matters and ensures the implementation of and compliance with the requirements of international agreements and standards binding on the Republic of Latvia in the field of maritime safety in order to prevent environmental pollution from ships and ensure the efficiency of maritime traffic. This Law is applied to all means of navigation included in the Ship Register of Latvia notwithstanding their location, foreign ships, while in waters under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Latvia, and to all natural persons and legal persons, as well as other legal entities associated with maritime safety that shall be guaranteed in conformity with requirements of international agreements and includes the safety of personnel, cargo, navigation and ships.
The Financial Instrument Market Law (adopted on 20 November 2003) regulates the procedures for making a public offer of financial instruments, public circulation of financial instruments, provision of investment services and non-core investment services and licensing and supervision of financial instrument market participants, determines the rights and duties of financial instrument market participants, as well as the liability for failure to comply with the requirements laid down in the law.
Supervision of public circulation of securities is carried out by the Financial and Capital Market Commission of Latvia.
The following are taxes applicable in Latvia:
· Law on Taxes and Duties (adopted on 2 February 1995).
· Personal income tax – regulated by the Law on Personal Income Tax (adopted on 11 May 1993);
· Company income tax – regulated by the Law on Enterprise Income Tax (adopted on 9 February 1995);
· Real estate tax – regulated by the Law on Immovable Property Tax (adopted on 4 June 1997);
· Value added tax – regulated by the Law on Value Added Tax (adopted on 9 March 1995);
· Excise tax – regulated by Law on Excise Duties (adopted on 30 October 2003). There are special laws on excise tax for oil products, tobacco goods, alcohol, beer;
· Customs duty – regulated by the Customs Law (adopted on 18 March 2004);
· Natural resources tax – regulated by the Law on Natural Resources Tax (adopted on 15 December 2005);
· Raffle and gambling tax - regulated by the Law on Lotteries and Gambling Tax and Fee (adopted on 16 June 1994);
· State social insurance obligatory payment – regulated by the Law on State Social Insurance (adopted on 1 October 1997);
· Taxes in free ports and special economic zones – regulated by the Law on the Application of Taxes in Free Ports and Special Economic Zones (adopted on 27 July 2001).
Tax payment supervision authority in Latvia is the State Revenue Service.
Juridica is the main source for legal research on internet related to Latvian legal resources. Juridica is legal information internet catalogue in Latvian and English languages maintained by the Riga Graduate School of Law which offers annotated information on good quality Latvian and world legal information. The catalogue is browsable or searchable by resource type, subjects, language and regions.
Laws (likumi), government regulations (noteikumi) and other legislation is published in “Latvijas Republikas Saeimas un Ministru Kabineta Zinotajs”, before it was called: “Latvijas Republikas Augstakas Padomes un Valdibas Zinotajs” (until July 1993). It contains all government laws, decisions, regulations, official announcements, and information about state accession to international agreements and conventions.
Government documents come into force after their publication in the newspaper "Latvijas Vestnesis” (The Official Gazette) (1993- ). Documents are published only in Latvian. “Latvijas Vestnesis” continues the traditions of “Valdibas Vestnesis” (The Government Herald) which was the official state gazette from 1919-1940.
Laws and government documents in pre-war period (1919-1941) were published by the Saeima as annual editions “Likumu un Ministru kabineta noteikumu krajums”.
Currently Latvian laws in loose-leaf format are published by Business Information Service (Lietiskas informacijas dienests). Business Information Service publishes specialized collections of laws in different areas – legal codes, collections of normative documentation on credit institutions, entrepreneurship, customs, tax system, court system and others in Latvian and Russian languages.
In the 1990s, there were several glossaries published, e.g., Glossary of legal terms, Glossary of legal terms, Glossary of legislation terms.
Juridica - legal information internet catalogue which offers annotated information on good quality Latvian and world legal information. Browsable or searchable by resource type, subjects, language and regions.
Translation and Terminology Centre offers TTC Terminology Database - Internet term bank which has been developed in a translation process.
Civil Law of Latvia and Commentaries
· Grutups Andris. Civillikuma komentari : 3. dala. Lietu tiesibas. ipasums / Andris Grutups, Erlens Kalnins. - 2.papild.izd. - Riga: Tiesu namu agentura, 2002. - ISBN 9984-671-30-5
· Latvijas Republikas Civillikuma komentari: Saistibu tiesibas (1401.-2400.p.) / aut.kol.; K.Torgana visp.zin.red. - [2.parstr.izd.]. - Riga : Mans ipasums, . ISBN 9984-574-12-1
· Civilprocesa likuma komentāri / Autoru kolekt. ; K.Torgāna visp.zin.red. - 3.papild.izd. - Riga : Tiesu namu agentura, 2006. - 976 lpp. ISBN 9984671992
Criminal Law and Commentaries
Commentary on Administrative procedure law
The history of Latvian legal system
· Latvijas tiesibu vesture, 1914-1920 – Riga: Fonds “Latvijas vesture”, 2000. – 528 lpp. – ISBN 9984-643-14-x
Commentary on Commercial law
Decisions of the Constitutional Court are published annually in Latvian, Russian and English languages by the Tiesu namu agentura (Courthouse Agency) and covers court cases from 1997.
Decisions of the Senate of the Supreme Court of Latvia (“Latvijas Senata spriedumi”) for 1918-1940 were published in 16 volumes during the pre-war period, 1919-1941. This publication has a facsimile edition, 1997-1998, published by the Supreme Court with the support of the August Loeber Foundation (ISBN 9984-616-00-2).
Current decisions of the Supreme Court of Latvia starting with 1996 are published annually by the Latvian Judicial Training Center and from 2005 by Courthouse Agency:
Procurement Monitoring Bureau - legislative acts in the field of public procurement. Explanatory aid on procurement procedure, as well as samples of documents. Published announcements on procurements and statistics.
The Treasury of the Republic of Latvia - state budget fulfilment reviews, central and local government reports, government securities, regulations on securities.
State Enterprise Register - basic information on establishing enterprises, registration of enterprises, legal acts in this area.
State Revenue Service - legal acts in the area of taxes and duties, customs and customs procedure, application of customs tariffs, observation of import and export permits system of the goods and other articles.
Latvian Investment and Development Agency - information about Latvia and doing business with Latvia. For Latvian and foreign entrepreneurs and investors, information on legal environment for foreign investors.
Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs - includes information about legislative acts, regulations and conventions in the field of citizenship and migration. Guidance information for asylum seeking and repatriation. Different kind of statistics on citizenship and migration.
Translation and Terminology Centre - State Agency providing translations of Latvian legislation into English; translations of EC legislation and judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Communities and the Court of First Instance into Latvian.
Saeima (Parliament) EU Information Center - ensures access to a wide range of information resources in EU matters - basic EU agreements, agreements between the EU and Latvia, as well as links to EU institutions. Access to the Saeima's EU related information database SERID.
Information on European Union at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Latvia as a member state of the European Union, programmes and policy documents.
The European Commission’s representation in Latvia, the EU Information Agency - information on the European Union, representation of the European Commission in Latvia
Latvian Centre for Human Rights (LCHR) - main focus on two broad areas: human rights in places of imprisonment, and social integration, which includes all minority-related and tolerance issues. Information and publications on main activities in the field of human rights in Latvia.
Policy.lv - Latvian public policy site offers policy studies, reviews and articles on public policy issues in Latvia covering the following topics: policy process, social integration, rule of law, human rights, information society, civil society, education and employment, foreign affairs.
Providus - centre for public policy providing expertise in the following fields of activities: good governance, including anti-corruption; criminal justice policy; education policy; European policy.
Civic Alliance Latvia - promoting the development of a democratic and integrated civil society in Latvia, programmes, description of activities.
Copyright and Neighbouring Rights in Latvia are administered by the following non-governmental organizations: AKKA/LAA (Copyright and Communication Consultation Agency/Latvian Copyright Agency) which administers intellectual property rights of national and international authors in Latvia; and LaIPA - society of performers and phonogram producers. Publication of Commentaries on Copyright Law (in Latvian).
The full text of articles from law journals is available only in print format.