Latvian Legal System and Legal Research

By Ieva Miluna

Ieva Miluna, M.Soc.Sc., LL.M. is a lecturer at the Riga Graduate School of Law (RGSL), owns her independent legal consulting company, and serves as a government advisor.

NOTE: This article is a complete rewrite of the original by Baiba Bebre and Ligita Gjortlere.

Published in May/June 2021

(Previously updated by Baiba Bebre and Ligita Gjortlere in November/December 2012 and in April 2016)

See the Archive Version!

1. Geography and Historical Overview

Latvia is located in the Northern Europe along the shores of the Baltic Sea and borders Russia, Belarus, Estonia, and Lithuania. Its territory covers 64,589 square kilometers. The country has a rich nature and wildlife. The population of Latvia is roughly two million, comprising such minorities as Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Lithuanians. The official state language is Latvian.

Historically the territory of Latvia has been in the crossroads of foreign invaders and rule, including German, Swedish, Polish, and Russian. Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. However, in the following two years the country faced fierce Freedom Wars that concluded in 1920. In 1921, Latvia was recognized de jure by the international community and was admitted to the League of Nations. The Constitution of Latvia (Satversme) was adopted in 1922.

The Preamble of the Satversme stipulates that “[t]he State of Latvia, proclaimed on 18 November 1918, has been established by uniting historical Latvian lands and on the basis of the unwavering will of the Latvian nation to have its own State and its inalienable right of self-determination in order to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries, to ensure freedom and promote welfare of the people of Latvia and each individual.”

For a more comprehensive information on the Satversme please check the following:

  • Commentary on the Constitution of Latvia by a collective of authors: Latvijas Republikas Satversmes komentari. Ievads. I nodala. Visparejie noteikumi./autoru kolektivs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2014. ISBN 978-9984-840-33-8; Latvijas Republikas Satversmes komentari. II nodala. Saeima./autoru kolektīvs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2020. ISBN 978-9984-840-65-9; Latvijas Republikas Satversmes komentari. III nodala. Valsts prezidents. IV nodala. Ministru kabinets./autoru kolektivs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2017. ISBN 978-9984-840-50-5; Latvijas Republikas Satversmes komentari. V nodala. Likumdosana./autoru kolektivs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2019. ISBN 978-9984-840-61-1; Latvijas Republikas Satversmes komentari. VI nodala. Tiesa. VII nodala. Valsts kontrole./autoru kolektivs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2013. ISBN 97899840246; Latvijas Republikas Satversmes komentari. VIII nodala. Cilveka pamattiesības./autoru kolektīvs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2011. ISBN 978-9984-840-19-2
  • Latvijas Republikas Satversme. Satversmes tiesas atzinas. – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2019. ISBN 978-9984-840-59-8
  • Konstitucionalas tiesibas./J.Pleps, E.Pastars, I.Plakane – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2014. ISBN 978-9984-840-29-1
  • Satversmes iztulkosana./J.Pleps – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2012. ISBN 978-9984-840-21-5
  • Par Latvijas valsts konstitucionālajiem pamatiem un neaizskaramo Satversmes kodolu./Konstitucionalo tiesibu komisija – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2012. ISBN 9789984840239
  • Valsts prezidenta Konstitucionalo tiesibu komisija. Viedokli 2008-2011 – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2011. ISBN 978-9984-840-17-8

In 1940, Latvia faced aggression and further occupation by the Soviet Union, which lasted for fifty years. In the years 1990-1991, Latvia renewed its independence and statehood. The main laws of 1920s and 1930s were renewed, including the Satversme. Latvia joined the United Nations and upon the renewal of independence ratified the main international human rights instruments. Further on, the country paved its way for accession to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in the year 2004. For the history of the Latvian legal system please check the following: Latvijas tiesibu vesture, 1914-1920 – Riga: Fonds “Latvijas vesture,” 2000. ISBN 9984-643-14-x. For more general information about Latvia, visit the official website of Latvia.

2. The Political System

Latvia is a parliamentary democracy. It has a multi political party system, elected by the people of Latvia to form the Parliament (Saeima). The president, which is elected by the Parliament nominates the Prime Minister, who then proposes his Cabinet to the Parliament. The Parliament votes for the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. The judicial power is vested in the Courts of Justice.

2.1. The Legislative Power

The people of Latvia have delegated their sovereign power to the Latvian Parliament. It consists of 100 MPs and is elected every four years in general, equal and direct elections, and by secret ballot based on proportional representation. The Satversme prescribes that no less than one-tenth of electors has the right to initiate a national referendum regarding recalling of the Parliament. If the majority of voters and at least two-thirds of the voters who participated in the last election of the Parliament vote in favour, the Parliament is deemed to be recalled. Also, the State President can initiate the dissolution of the Parliament. For this purpose, a referendum is to be held. If more than a half of the votes are cast in favour, the Parliament is considered dissolved. However, if more than a half votes are cast against the dissolution of the Parliament, the President is considered dismissed.

The work of the Parliament is organised in Parliamentary Committees, which have been entrusted with the responsibility in legal, foreign affairs, finance, defence, education, governance, sustainable development, migration, social and other spheres. The draft laws are prepared in the Committees and only then are passed on to the respective reading (1-3) in the Plenary of the Parliament. A significant number of draft laws are submitted to the Parliament by the Cabinet of Ministers. Draft laws to the Parliament can also be submitted by one-tenth of the electorate and the State President.

When laws are adopted, it is the State President who proclaims them not earlier than on the tenth day and not later than on the twenty-first day since their adoption. The respective law enters into force fourteen days after this proclamation if the law does not prescribe a different term. During the first ten days since the adoption of a law, the State President may require a review of the law. It must be a reasoned request.

The State President has the right to suspend the proclamation of the law for two months. He or she has an obligation to do it, if it is required by no less than one-third of MPs. This law can even be put to a national referendum, if one-tenth of the electorate requires it. If the referendum does not take place, the law is considered adopted, if three-fourth of MPs vote in favour. However, if a referendum takes place and if the majority of the electorate consisting of one half of the people, who participated in the last Parliamentary elections, votes for repealing of the law, it is considered to be repealed.

However, a referendum cannot be organised on the adoption of state budget, the laws concerning loans, taxes, customs duties, railroad tariffs, military conscription, declaration and commencement of war, peace treaties, declaration of a state of emergency and its termination, mobilisation and demobilisation, as well as agreements with other nations.

2.2. The Executive Power and Municipalities

The Executive Power of Latvia is vested in the Cabinet of Ministers, whose composition is approved by the Parliament. It consists of Ministries and State institutions, which are subordinated to the Cabinet of Ministers. The Cabinet of Ministers enforces the Parliamentary laws by adopting the Cabinet of Ministers regulations, as well is engaged in drafting new laws.

Most of the national regulatory laws are adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers. According to the Satversme the Cabinet of Ministers has the power to examine national policy issues initiated by ministers, but the overall political responsibility for the work of the Cabinet is vested in the Prime Minister. The Cabinet of Ministers has the power to proclaim the state of national emergency and notify it to the Presidium of the Parliament, which convokes the Parliament for its approval.

Municipalities, which are elected by the people of Latvia, enforce the tasks entrusted to them by the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as act on their own free initiatives. They have an obligation to observe the interests of the respective administrative territory. When enforcing the delegated State functions and tasks municipalities represent the Republic of Latvia and are subordinated to the Cabinet of Ministers. On the system of municipalities please check the following:

  • Latvijas pasvaldibu sistemas juridiskais raksturojums un pasvaldibu reformas./A.Stucka – Riga, “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2019. ISBN 978-9984-840-63-5

2.3. The Judicial Power

The Judicial Power being regulated by the Law on Judicial Power (Par tiesu varu) is enforced by a three-level court system in civil, criminal and administrative cases. The court system is organised by established: 1) district or city courts; 2) regional courts; 3) the Supreme Court (Senate); and 4) the Constitutional Court (Satversmes tiesa). The Satversme also prescribes existence of military courts, however, their operation should be set by a separate law. A separate regulation is prescribed for the land register divisions, which belong to the district or city courts. Several independent arbitral tribunals have been established and operate in Latvia. Their existence is governed by the Arbitration Law (Šķīrējtiesu likums).

The Judicial Power is impartial and subjected to the rule of law. The State ensures that judges are impartial and subordinated only to the law. The Satversme prescribes that state judges are approved by the Parliament and are irrevocable. The laws may determine the age of retirement from judge’s office. The laws stipulate the human right to a fair trial by adjudicating the case according to the procedure prescribed by the laws. The main principles and order of adjudication of cases are stipulated in the Satversme and the relevant civil procedure, criminal procedure and administrative procedure laws. The operation of the Satversmes tiesa is regulated by a special Constitutional Court Law (Satversmes tiesas likums).

Civil, criminal, and administrative cases are adjudicated by nine district or city courts, six regional courts, and the Supreme Court. Courts have been organised in a hierarchical structure so that lower court judgments can be appealed in a court of higher instance. The Constitutional Court examines the cases of compatibility of the laws and other regulatory acts with the Satversme as well as other cases, which fell within its competence by the law.

Selected case-law of the Constitutional Court has been published in a separate edition. For research on a constitutional complaint please check the following: Konstitucionalas sudzibas teorija un prakse Latvija./A.Rodina – Riga, “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2009. ISBN 978-9984-840-04-8. The Latvian courts’ portal provides access to anonymised court decisions. The Supreme Court (Senate) also publishes its case-law.

As a regulatory and advisory body of the judicial system there exists a Council for the Judiciary. It is a collegial institution, which participates in the elaboration of policy and strategy of court system as well as contributes to the enhancement of the organisation of the system of courts. Its purpose is to balance the relationship between the legislative, executive, and judicial power by attributing an important role to questions, which concern the court system.

Separate laws regulate the operation of other legal subjects related to the Judicial Power: 1) prosecutors being regulated by the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office (Prokuratūras likums); 2) attorneys-at-law being regulated by the Advocacy Law of the Republic of Latvia (Latvijas Republikas advokatūras likums) with its supervisory institution, the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates; 3) notaries being regulated by the Notariate Law (Notariāta likums) with their regulatory institution, the Council on Sworn Notaries; 4) bailiffs being regulated by the Law on Bailiffs (Tiesu izpildītāju likums) with their supervisory institution, the Council on Sworn Bailiffs.

3. Main Legal Authorities in Public and Private Law

The Latvian laws provide a rather detailed and robust legal regulation on both public and private law. That is being one of the reasons why the doctrinal analysis and research in English are rather scarce and only address separate aspects of these fields of law.

3.1. Public Law

The State institutional structure is governed by the State Administration Structure Law (Valsts pārvaldes iekārtas likums). Its task it to ensure a democratic, lawful, effective, open, and publicly accessible state administration. The State Administration Structure Law stipulates the institutional system of state administration subordinate to the Cabinet of Ministers and prescribes the basic rules on the operation of State administration. A separate law is devoted to regulating the operation of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Cabinet Structure Law (Ministru kabineta iekārtas likums). The Cabinet Structure Law describes the competence and the authority of the Cabinet. Its purpose is to regulate the operation of the Cabinet system, which complies with the requirements of the rule of law, effectiveness, continuity, and democracy. The Rules of Procedures of the Cabinet of Ministers (Ministru kabineta kārtības rullis) govern the procedure of the government’s decision-making. The regulation of Latvian civil service is prescribed by the State Civil Service Law (Valsts civildienesta likums).

The Latvian legal system also prescribes the operation of the Ombudsman. Its main tasks are to examine the human rights related applications of private individuals, to initiate factual verification procedures and provide State institutions with recommendations on human rights and the rule of law, to intervene in disputes with a view to prevent human rights violations, as well as to provide the State institutions with recommendations on the possible amendments to the laws. The Ombudsman is also very active in initiating the Constitutional Court cases. Its operation is regulated by the Ombudsman Law (Tiesībsarga likums).

A separate Law “On Judicial Power” (Par tiesu varu) regulates the judicial power in Latvia. It prescribes the elements and applicable law related to the judicial power, the independence of courts, the basic case examination principles, accessibility of information, the court system in Latvia, regulation on and ethics of judges as well as court administration. Separate laws are devoted to material criminal law (The Criminal Law (Krimināllikums)) and its procedure (Criminal Procedure Law (Kriminālprocesa likums)). The administrative responsibility and procedure are regulated by the Law on Administrative Liability (Administratīvās atbildības likums) and the Administrative Procedure Law (Administratīvā procesa likums).

However, the material norms establishing administrative liability are regulated in the respective fields of law like data protection, finance and taxes, education, culture, welfare, migration, employment, municipalities, governance, politics and elections, public order and security, communications and media, transport, economy, State defence, State language and symbols, health and pharmacy, protection of environment. For literature on criminal law and procedure please check the following:

  • Kriminalprocesa likuma komentari. A dala./autoru kolektīvs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2019. ISBN 978-9984-840-62-8
  • Kriminalprocess. Raksti. 2010-2015./A.Meikalisa, K.Strada-Rozenberga – Riga: “Latvijas Vesnesa” gramatu apgads, 2015. ISBN 978-9984-840-42-0
  • Kriminalprocesa likumam – 10: pagatnes macibas un nakotnes izaicinajumi./autoru kolektīvs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2015. ISBN 978-9984-840-41-3
  • Kriminaltiesibu teorija un prakse. Viedokli, problemas, risinājumi. 2009-2014./U.Krastins – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2015. ISBN 978-9984-840-35-2
  • Kriminallikuma zinatniski praktiskais komentars / U.Krastins, V.Liholaja, A.Niedre, – 1.-3. sej. – Riga: AFS, 2003

For literature on administrative law and procedure please check the following:

  • Administrativais process tiesa./autoru kolektīvs – Riga: “Latvijas Vestnesa” gramatu apgads, 2008. ISBN 978-9984-731-98-8
  • Administrativais process: Likums, prakse, komentari: Rakstu krajums. / D.Gailite – Riga: Latvijas Vestnesis, 2005. ISBN 9984731650
  • Administrativais akts./J.Briede – Riga: Latvijas Vestnesis, 2003. ISBN 9984-731-32-4

The operation of the prosecutors is regulated by the Office of the Prosecutor Law (Prokuratūras likums). Separate laws govern police (Law “On Police” (Par policiju)) and military (Military Service Law (Militārā dienesta likums)) activity. The Law on Public-Private Partnership (Publiskās un privātās partnerības likums) prescribes cooperation between the public and private sector by efficiently using resources of the public and private partner for meeting public needs, ensuring openness of the concession procedure, free competition, and equal and fair attitudes towards private partners.

The Public Procurement Law (Publisko iepirkumu likums) separately regulates public procurement. The intellectual property, the promotion of the activity of inventors and the state industrial development is governed by the Patent Law (Patentu likums). The tax law is regulated by the Law on Taxes and Duties (Par nodokļiem un nodevām). Separate laws further regulate particular taxes in Latvia—personal income tax, enterprise income tax, immovable property tax, value added tax, excise duty, customs duty, natural resources tax, lottery and gambling tax, mandatory State social insurance contributions, electricity tax, micro-enterprise tax, vehicle operation tax, company car tax, subsidised electricity tax, and solidarity tax.

Data protection is governed by the Personal Data Processing Law(Fizisko personu datu apstrādes likums). Environmental protection is regulated by the Environmental Protection Law (Vides aizsardzības likums) and the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (Par ietekmes uz vidi novērtējumu).

3.2. Private Law

The Civil Law (Civillikums) is the main law governing private law aspects in Latvia. It includes sections of family law, contract law, property law, inheritance law, as well as private international law. The civil procedure is regulated by the Civil Procedure Law (Civilprocesa likums). For commentary on the civil law and procedure please check the following:

  • Civilprocesa likuma komentāri./autoru kolektivs – 3.papild.izd. – Riga: Tiesu namu agentura, 2006. ISBN 9984671992
  • Civillikuma komentari: 3.dala. Lietu tiesibas. Ipasums /A.Grutups, E.Kalnins – 2.papild.izd. – Riga: Tiesu namu agentura, 2002. ISBN 9984-671-30-5
  • The Civil Law of Latvia. – Riga: Tiesu namu agentura: Tulkosanas un terminologijas centrs, 2001. ISBN 9984-657-05-1
  • Latvijas Republikas Civillikuma komentari: Saistibu tiesibas (1401.-2400.p.)/autoru kolektivs – 2.parstr.izd. – Riga: Mans ipasums, 2000. ISBN 9984-574-12-1
  • Latvijas Republikas Civillikuma komentari: Gimenes tiesibas (26.-51., 114.-125., 140.-176.p.) /J.Vebers – Riga: Mans ipasums, 2000. ISBN 9984-574-22-9
  • Latvijas Republikas Civillikuma komentari: Lietas. Valdijums. Tiesibas uz svesu lietu (841.-926., 1130.-1400.p.)/G.Visnakova, K.Balodis – Riga: Mans ipasums, 1998. ISBN 9984-574-13-X
  • Latvijas Republikas Civillikuma komentari: Mantojuma tiesibas (382.-840.p.) /R.Krauze (382.-654.p.), Z.Gencs (655.-840.p.) – Riga: Mans ipasums, 1997. ISBN 9984-574-06-7

The Commercial Law (Komerclikums) regulates commercial activity, including the operation of merchants, the regulation of undertakings and branches, procuration and commercial powers of attorney, commercial agents, brokers, kinds of merchants (individual merchants, general partnerships, limited partnerships, capital companies (limited liability companies and stock companies)), reorganization of merchants, as well as provisions of general and specific commercial activity. For the commentary on the commercial law please check the following:

  • Komerclikuma komentari/A.Strupiss – Riga: A.Strupisa juridiskais birojs, 2003. ISBN 9984194140; ISBN 998973204

The Credit Institution Law (Kredītiestāžu likums) establishes regulation on the legal status of credit institutions, governs their operation, responsibility and supervision as well as rights, obligations and responsibility of the involved subjects. Separate laws in Latvian private law regulate the matters of competition (Competition Law (Konkurences likums)), copyright (Copyright Law (Autortiesību likums)), labor law (Labour Law (Darba likums)) and consumer law (Consumer Rights Protection Law (Patērētāju tiesību aizsardzības likums)).

4. Sources of Law

Latvia belongs to the Roman-German continental legal system. The Latvian law does not explicitly prescribe or enumerate a comprehensive list of sources of law that are applicable in the territory of Latvia. They have rather been discussed in legal doctrine. The exception is separate laws, like the Law on Official Publications and Legal Information (Oficiālo publikāciju un tiesiskās informācijas likums), the Constitutional Court Law (Satversmes tiesas likums) and the Administrative Procedure Law (Administratīvā procesa likums), which either for the purposes of the specific proceedings or enforcement of legal certainty enumerate and even prescribe the hierarchy of the sources of law. However, these stipulations, with the exception of the Law on Official Publications and Legal Information (which prescribes the legal hierarchy of normative rules) only serve to establish the order of applicability of the sources of law in specific legal proceedings. A more comprehensive debate on the sources of law and the hierarchy according to their legal force is carried out in legal doctrine of Latvia.

4.1. Written Law

Latvia belongs to the country where still as a relic from the Soviet times and the socialist legal system, a great priority is attributed to the law that has been written. However, the society and the legal system have gradually moved towards the acceptance of legal rules that may not have developed or be presented as having been written down.

4.1.1. The Constitution

The Constitution of Latvia (Satversme) was adopted in 1922 and was renewed in 1993. The main sections of the Satversme contain the provisions on the general constituent elements of the state, the rules on the legislative power, state president, the executive power, the legislative process and the judicial power. A section on human rights was added to the Satversme in 1998. In 2014, the Satversme was amended to add a preamble, which encapsulates the Latvian state identity. It stresses the will of the state and the relevance of the right to self-determination, when the Latvian State was established in 1918. The preamble also touches upon the main historic events of Latvia, State values and the sovereignty of the nation. It describes the characteristics of identify of Latvia (like the Latvian wisdom of life, Latvian language, general human and Christian values, inclusive society) and denominates the place and role of the country in the international community. The Latvian society highly values its Constitution for it being concise and coherent.

4.1.2. Regulatory Law

The laws, the Cabinet of Ministers regulations and the binding regulations of municipalities form the main body of regulatory laws in Latvia. Each of them has a legally prescribed procedure of their adoption by the respective state institution as well as the possibility of general public to express their opinion on a particular law. Access all general laws and regulations of the Republic of Latvia in Latvian, English and Russian.

The Law on Official Publications and Legal Information prescribes the hierarchy of sources of law according to their legal force. The hierarchy is as follows: 1) The Constitution of Latvia; 2) Laws adopted by the Parliament; 3) the Cabinet of Ministers regulations; 4) binding regulations of municipalities.

Currently, there is a significant debate in Latvia on the fact that too many issues are regulated by the laws, which creates a too detailed regulation, leaving no space for the role of a subject applying the respective legal rule. The debate also relates to the diminished quality of laws. The interested stakeholders are now in the process of identifying a suitable solution to improve the quality of laws.

4.1.3. General Principles of Law

The general principles of law form an integral part of the Latvian legal system. They can be written or unwritten and prescribe a certain law rule. All the main laws governing the state constitution, governance and court proceedings contain general principles of law like the principles of rule of law and democratic society, equality, legal certainty, proportionality, non-discrimination, separation of power, good governance, good faith, prohibition of analogy. For a more comprehensive research on general principles of law please check the following:

  • Visparejo tiesibu principu nozime un piemerosana/D.Rezevska – Riga: Tiesu namu agentura, 2015. ISBN 978-9934-14-583-4

4.1.4. Case-law and Legal Doctrine

In the Latvian legal system, case-law and legal doctrine are considered as subsidiary sources of law which help to clarify the generally binding independent sources of law like laws, Cabinet of Ministers regulations, binding regulations of municipalities, general principles of law, and customary international law rules. Their existence and the binding character, however, are not stipulated in any laws of Latvia. It is also considered that the list of subsidiary sources of law is not exhaustive.

It has to be said that the mentioned does not apply to the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights and the Latvian Constitutional Court, whose case-law is considered as a supplementary sources of law, which contain generally binding rules of law.

4.1.5. Preparatory Legislative Materials

The preparatory legislative materials for laws and Cabinet of Ministers regulations (only in Latvian) are available to general public so as to give them a chance to get acquainted with the proposed regulations and express their opinions. These documents contain a comprehensive impact assessment of the proposed legislative instrument, so that stakeholders and general public can acquaint themselves with the prospective regulation and its impact on the society and the particular field.

4.2. Customary law

Only the Law on the Administrative Procedure (Administratīvā procesa likums) mentions that the Latvian courts can apply customary law. However, there are cases, when national courts resort to applying customary law. The concept of customary law is not alien to the Latvian legal system. However, it has been more referred to by the legal doctrine, rather than the laws or judgments themselves.

4.3. European Union law

With the accession of Latvia to the European Union in 2004, the EU law has become an integral part of the Latvian legal system and has the primacy over the national laws. Before the accession the Latvian laws were transposed according to the acquis communautaire so that the Latvian legal system could freely operate in the EU legal space.

To join the EU, Latvia had to amend its Satversme to ensure that Latvia’s membership complies with national sovereignty requirements. The Satversme prescribes that upon entering into international agreements Latvia with the purpose of strengthening democracy, may delegate a part of its State institution competencies to international institutions. To ratify the international agreement by which State competences are delegated, a requirement of participation of at least two-thirds of MPs at the Parliament session is prescribed, and two-thirds majority vote is necessary for this kind of ratification.

Thereby, the Satversme organized a national referendum so that the nation could decide on the membership in the EU. Also, if substantial changes in the terms of the Latvian membership in the EU are required, they shall be decided in a referendum, which is requested by at least one-half of the MPs. In cases, where the EU laws have been implemented in the Latvian legislation, the respective Latvian laws provide the necessary reference to the respective EU law. As to the EU courts, Latvia is active in submitting national court questions for a preliminary ruling, is involved in cases as an interested party and leads the representation of the country in its own cases.

4.4. Human Rights and International Law

Latvia belongs to a monist country so that its national legal system and international legal systems forms a unified body of law and all its international law commitments are applied directly. Latvia has joined the great majority of international human rights instruments since the renewal of independence in 1990-1991. In Latvia, international law has primacy over national law, as stipulated in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the Law on International Treaties of the Republic of Latvia (Par Latvijas Republikas starptautiskajiem līgumiem).

The Satversme prescribes that all international agreements, which deal with the issues that are to be decided by the legislature, need the approval by the Parliament. Thus, in Latvia all principal international agreements are ratified by the Parliament. Latvia can be considered as an open-minded member of the international community in terms of relying on the strength of international law and the authority it has to offer. Latvia is active at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and others.