Inese Lībiņa-Egnere: international law played an essential role in the restoration of Latvia’s independence


“Latvia strongly believes in international law. This belief is rooted in our experience of being able, under international law, to reinstate our statehood after 50 years of occupation,” stressed Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, Deputy Speaker of the Saeima, on Thursday, 8 September, when opening the 12th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) at the Latvian National Library. This year the prominent legal forum focused on how international law works in times of crisis. 

“The power of international law has indeed been highly decisive for the Baltic States during the 20th century”, noted Lībiņa-Egnere. Due to the fact that a number of countries never recognised Latvia’s incorporation into the Soviet Union, Latvia was able to maintain continuity of its statehood in the early 1990s and reinstate its Constitution of 1922 with its values of Western democracy and the rule of law. Consequently, today, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of full restoration of diplomatic relations with many Western countries, stated Deputy Speaker Lībiņa-Egnere. 

“There are numerous ongoing international conflicts worldwide. One such case is Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, as well as the illegal annexation and occupation of the Crimea peninsula,” emphasised Inese Lībiņa-Egnere. “We see numerous multilateral and bilateral treaties being violated by the Russian Federation. Most notably, the principle of territorial integrity of a state, the principle of the inviolability of state borders, the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes, have all been breached and the doctrines on “humanitarian intervention” and “rescue of nationals abroad” have been misused. Latvia’s experience shows that international law is indeed effective and yields results over time, even if it takes decades. I truly hope that Ukraine will be blessed to restore its de facto territorial integrity in much sooner,” said the Deputy Speaker of the Saeima. 

She also noted that “even in times of crisis and extreme circumstances we must follow both the spirit and the letter of the law and have full respect for the rule of law. However, in the context of international relations there is no universal law enforcement institution. In dealing with international conflicts the international community turns to such international bodies as the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) or OSCE, nevertheless, regretfully some members of the UNSC and OSCE are also participants or even instigators of international conflicts themselves. This complicates conflict settlement, often even deeming it impossible ”. 

“The core value of international law is the individual, whose dignity is inviolable. Unfortunately all crises take a toll on people,” Lībiņa-Egnere pointed out. She went on to stress that alongside solutions provided by international law we also need political will, empathy and solidarity to efficiently tackle the unprecedented challenges poised by international crises. 

The annual conference of the European Society of International Law in Riga is hosted by the Riga Graduate School of Law in cooperation with the Constitutional Court of Latvia. The annual conferences of ESIL have become an integral and widely recognised event for legal scholars across Europe since the founding of the Society. More than 400 participants, including many highly esteemed experts, from 43 countries worldwide have registered for the conference. 

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