01:44 GMT28 February 2021
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    Vice-president of the Russian Union in Latvia Aleksandr Gaponenko said that current Latvian ruling elite would never give a green light to the petition to hold the referendum on the country's membership in the European Union.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A vote on Latvia's EU membership is not possible as a petition for holding such a referendum would never be green lit by the Latvian ruling elite as it profits from the country being an EU member, and leaving the bloc would mean an economic collapse, the vice-president of the Russian Union in Latvia Aleksandr Gaponenko told Sputnik on Tuesday.

    Earlier this week, Latvians started collecting signatures in support of the idea that Latvia should leave the European Union following the Brexit vote, with at least 2,186 Latvian nationals signing it by early Tuesday, according to the social initiatives website manabals.lv. If the initiative gains 10,000 signatures, the Latvian parliament will have to consider the issue of holding a referendum on EU membership.

    "This initiative will easily get the support of 10,000 people… But current Latvian ruling elite would never give a green light [to the petition], as it in large part is living on EU subsidies, and leaving the union would mean an economic collapse for Latvia," Gaponenko, who is also the president of the Institute for European Studies in Latvia, said, adding that the country's budget depends on EU money for about a quarter.

    In case the petition garners the needed number of signatures, it is due to be sent to one of the parliament's 16 committees in charge of treating citizens' petitions and complaints, which will later decide whether to let the petition go ahead or not.

    In Gaponenko's words, the other way to halt the initiative may be police detentions of those who started the petition in line with recently adopted clause to the country's criminal code that allows to detain people responsible for "acting against the interests of the Latvian State."

    "I think, tomorrow or after tomorrow we'll see repressions by our security police against those who initiated the collection of signatures. Thus the initiative will be oppressed," the Russian Union in Latvia vice-president warned.

    On June 23, the United Kingdom held a referendum to determine whether or not the country should leave the European Union. According to the final results, 51.9 percent of voters, or 17.4 million people, decided to support Brexit, while about 16.1 million opposed it. The Brexit outcome prompted calls for similar referendum in many other EU states, including Latvia, that joined the bloc in 2004.


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