This page provides you with information on the legal system in Latvia.
Latvia has a continental European legal system. Its most important source of law is written legislation.
Relationships between bodies established under public law and private individuals or other right-holders are governed by legislation (ārējie normatīvie akti).
Types of legislation, in descending order of legal status:
Provisions of European Union law are applied in accordance with their position in the hierarchy of legislative acts. When applying provisions of EU law, authorities and courts must also take into account the case-law of the Court of Justice.
Provisions of international law are applied irrespective of their source in accordance with their position in the hierarchy of legislative acts. If a provision of international law and a provision of Latvian law with the same status in the hierarchy are found to be incompatible, the provision of international law is applied.
Statutes and Cabinet Regulations are binding throughout Latvia, and no-one may plead ignorance thereof. Ignorance of statutes and Cabinet Regulations does not release anyone from the duty and responsibility to comply with them.
Binding local government regulations are binding on all private individuals and legal persons within the relevant administrative area.
The entities entitled to issue legislative acts are:
Internal public rules (iekšējie normatīvie akti) are made by a body governed by public law with the purpose of establishing procedures for its own internal operations or those of bodies subordinate to it, or to clarify the procedure for applying general legislation within its own scope of operations. Internal public rules are not binding on private individuals. If a body adopts a decision with regard to a private individual, it may not refer in that decision to an internal public rule.
Types of internal public rules are:
All types of internal public rules have the same legal status. If internal public rules are found to be incompatible with one another, the act issued by the highest-ranking authority or official is applied.
The entities entitled to issue internal public rules are:
The sources of law can be divided into the following classes:
Judgments of the Constitutional Court are binding on all State and local authorities, institutions and officials, including courts, and on both natural and legal persons. A provision of law (or act) deemed by the Constitutional Court to be inconsistent with a provision of law of higher legal status is considered null and void from the date of publication of the Constitutional Court judgment, unless the Constitutional Court rules otherwise.
If the Constitutional Court deems an international agreement signed or concluded by Latvia to be unconstitutional, the Cabinet is obliged to arrange for the agreement to be amended, denounced, its operations to be suspended or accession to the agreement to be withdrawn.
If a decision of the Constitutional Court that puts an end to a case contains an interpretation of a provision of law, the interpretation is binding on all State and local authorities, institutions and officials, courts, and natural and legal persons.
The right to legislate is held by the Saeima and the people of Latvia with the right to participate in referenda.
The Cabinet may issue legislation in the form of regulations (noteikumi) in the following cases:
The Bank of Latvia, the Finance and Capital Market Commission and the Public Utilities Commission may enact legislation (regulations, noteikumi) only on the basis of an authorisation laid down by statute, and within the scope of its remit.
Local authorities may enact legislation (binding regulations) on the basis of statutes or Cabinet Regulations.
This section provides a brief overview of the procedures for drawing up new legislation.
Draft legislation may be submitted to Parliament by the President, the Cabinet, parliamentary committees, no less than five Members of Parliament or, in cases and in accordance with procedures provided for in the Constitution, one tenth of all voters.
Parliament examines draft legislation in three readings. Draft legislation judged to be urgent, the draft State Budget, amendments to the State Budget and draft legislation providing for the adoption of international agreements is adopted at second reading.
Draft legislation is deemed to have been adopted and becomes law if it has been examined in three readings or, in the cases referred to above, it has been examined in two readings and, when the draft is put to a vote, it is supported by the absolute majority of votes of the Members of Parliament present.
All laws adopted are sent by the Steering Committee (Prezidijs) of the Saeima to the President for promulgation.
The President promulgates laws adopted by the Saeima no earlier than the tenth day and no later than the twenty-first day after their adoption. The law enters into force on the fourteenth day after its promulgation (publication) in Latvijas Vēstnesis, the official gazette, unless the law provides for a different deadline.
The President has the power to request reconsideration of a law or to postpone its publication for up to two months.
The President exercises the right to request reconsideration of a law at his or her own initiative, but can only postpone publication of a law if so requested by no less than a third of all Members of Parliament. The President or a third of all Members of Parliament can exercise the abovementioned rights within ten days of adoption of the law by the Saeima.
A law suspended in accordance with the above procedure is referred for a vote to a national referendum, if this is requested by no less than a tenth of all voters during the signature collection procedure. However, if no such request is received within two months, the law is published. A referendum is not held if the Saeima votes on the law in question once again and at least three quarters of all Members of Parliament vote to adopt it.
A law adopted by the Saeima and suspended by the President may be repealed by referendum if at least half of all voters who participated in the previous Saeima elections take part in the referendum and the majority of them vote in favour of repealing the law.
Not all laws can be put to a referendum, however. The Budget and laws on loans, taxes, Customs, railway tariffs, military service, the declaration and initiation of war, the conclusion of a peace treaty, the declaration and repeal of a state of emergency, mobilisation and demobilisation and agreements with foreign countries may not be put to a referendum.
A law enters into force on the fourteenth day following its publication in Latvijas Vēstnesis, unless the law specifies another deadline. The time limit for entry into force of a law begins the day following publication of that law.
A statute ceases to be in force in the following circumstances:
A draft Regulation drawn up by a Ministry, the State Chancellery or a public administrative body answerable to the Prime Minister may be submitted to the Cabinet by a member of the Cabinet.
A draft Regulation drawn up by another State or local authority, NGO or social partner organisation may be submitted to the Cabinet by the head of the relevant body or via the member of the Cabinet politically responsible for the relevant area, sector or subsector.
Draft Cabinet Regulations submitted to the Cabinet are notified and discussed at meetings of State Secretaries. Once a draft Cabinet Regulation has been notified, it is sent to the relevant Ministries for their approval and, if necessary, to other relevant institutions. The Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance give their opinion on all draft legislation. NGO representatives may also submit their opinions during the approval process.
Draft Regulations which have been agreed upon are examined at a meeting of the Cabinet, whereas those on which agreement has not been reached are discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee. Any projects agreed upon at the Cabinet Committee meeting are referred to a meeting of the Cabinet for further consideration. If the Cabinet meeting endorses the draft Regulation, it is deemed to have been adopted and becomes a Cabinet Regulation.
Cabinet Regulations are promulgated by publication in Latvijas Vēstnesis, the official gazette.
Cabinet Regulations enter into force on the day following their publication in Latvijas Vēstnesis, unless they specify otherwise.
Cabinet Regulations cease to be in force in the following circumstances:
The procedure for the promulgation, entry into force and cancellation of regulations of the Bank of Latvia, the Finance and Capital Market Commission and the Public Utilities Commission is equivalent to the procedures for the promulgation, entry into force and cancellation of Cabinet Regulations.
Draft binding local government regulations may be submitted to a local council by the Chair of the Council, the Council Committee, the Members of the Council, the initiator of an extraordinary meeting or the head of a city, town or civil parish administration.
Draft binding local government regulations are adopted and become binding if more than half of the members of the local council present vote in favour, unless otherwise provided by statute.
The council sends the regulations and an explanatory memorandum to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development in written and electronic form within three days of the date of signature. The Ministry evaluates the legality of the regulations within a month of receiving them and sends the local council its opinion.
If the opinion of the Ministry contains no objections with regard to the legality of the regulations, or no opinion is sent to the local council within the specified time limit, the local council issues the binding regulations as adopted.
If an opinion from the Ministry is received which finds that the regulations are illegal in whole or in part, the local council makes improvements to the regulations in line with the opinion and issues amended regulations. If the local council does not agree with the opinion in whole or in part, it provides justification for this in its decision and issues the regulations. The regulations are sent to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development in written and electronic form within three days of the date on which they are signed.
The local council promulgates the binding regulations by publishing them in a local newspaper or free publication. A city council (Republikas pilsētas dome) promulgates binding regulations by publishing them in Latvijas Vēstnesis, the official gazette of Latvia. The explanatory memorandum is published along with the regulations.
Once they have entered into force, the regulations are published on the internet on the local authority’s website. Binding regulations of municipal councils (novada domes) are also made available in the municipal council building and in civil parish or city administrative offices.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development publishes binding local government regulations on its website.
Binding regulations enter into force on the day following their publication in a newspaper or free publication, unless they specify a later date of entry into force.
Binding local government regulations cease to be in force in the following circumstances:
The official publication Latvijas Vēstnesis is the official gazette of the Republic of Latvia. Publication of information therein constitutes its official publication.
Since 1 July 2012, the official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis is published officially in electronic form on the website https://www.vestnesis.lv/. Information published on the website https://www.vestnesis.lv/ prior to that date is for information purposes only. Publication of this information in the print version of Latvijas Vēstnesis constituted its official publication.
Consolidated statutes, Cabinet Regulations and other laws and regulations are available on the Latvian legislative website http://www.likumi.lv/. All of the consolidated laws and regulations published on the website are for information purposes only. The website is maintained by the official publisher VSIA Latvijas Vēstnesis.
The publisher of the official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis is the same as for the previous official newspaper of the same name: VSIA Latvijas Vēstnesis.
The official publisher operates in accordance with international standards ISO 9001:2008 (management system) and ISO 270001:2005 (information security).
Yes, Latvijas Vēstnesis is available free of charge. The electronic archive of the Latvijas Vēstnesis newspaper is also available free of charge. Access to the website of consolidated legal acts is also free.
Saeima (Parliament) of the Republic of Latvia, Cabinet of the Republic of Latvia, Bank of Latvia, Financial and Capital Market Commission, Public Utilities Commission, Latvian local authorities, Official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis, http://www.likumi.lv/
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