Honourable President of Estonia,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On 28 January 1921, at the ceremonial sitting of the Constitutional Assembly held in honour of the de iure recognition of Latvia, Jānis Čakste, who was then the President of the Constitutional Assembly and later the President of Latvia, made this significant statement: “In order to join the community of long-established countries, the Latvian people had to prove that they are able to sustain their state.”
Sustaining their state. Being able to govern themselves. That takes enormous capacity and hard, persistent work; not all nations have been able to do that.
Not every society can become so mature that it can govern itself, as well as create, observe and improve the written and unwritten norms and rules that a state needs in order to exist. The ability to sustain the state can be evaluated both from internal and external perspective – it reflects our achievements, and shows the opinion and assessment of our partners.
Two times we have proved that we have this ability – first in 1921, when our statehood was recognised de iure internationally, and 50 years later in 1991, when after a long period of occupation our independence and sovereignty were renewed.
Today, we extend our gratitude to the Baltic diplomats because the struggle for freedom might not have had the expected results without masterly performance of diplomats at the Paris Peace Conference. We also extend our gratitude to diplomats who during the entire period of occupation represented the Baltic States and kept them in public view.
The years 1921 and 1991 remind us of our cultural and geopolitical affiliation. The countries which were the first to recognise our statehood de iure as a way of honouring our efforts and expressing their affinity with us confirm that. The early support of democratic Western countries to the Baltic States in our aspirations to regain independence at the time when the Soviet empire started to collapse also confirms that.
Both 90 and 20 years ago we wanted to belong to the Western community and culture. Western countries have recognised our desire and ability to be integrated into the family of confident, peace-loving and democratic countries.
Today we are celebrating an important anniversary. On 26 January 1921, the Supreme Council of the Entente unanimously recognised the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Estonia de iure. Five countries – the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Belgium and Italy – unconditionally recognised Latvia’s independence.
This significant event has been a topic of discussion among historians, experts on international law and political scientists, as well as politicians and journalists. But I wish that all Baltic patriots had their own emotional, well-grounded opinion about this event.
I wish that our people would regard the international de iure recognition of our countries not merely as a legal fact but also as evidence of our capacity, maturity, culture, partners and deliberately chosen place in the world.
I also wish that the Baltic people would see that this significant event of de iure recognition determines the future destinies of our nations.
Our statehood was recognised internationally in 1921. But our states could not be independent and free for long. With the Soviet occupation, the Baltic States were illegitimately incorporated into the Soviet Union. These facts have been recognised in several judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.
De iure recognition of a sovereign country can become null and void only if the country ceases to exist. If it ceases to exist totally and unmistakably. But the Baltic States are a special case in the world’s history and international law. For 50 years the citizens of the Baltic States both in the occupied territories and around the free world kept the idea of an independent state alive. Embassies of the Baltic States continued to work abroad during these years. Diplomats from the Baltic Sates and the people in exile constantly reminded the world about our rights to independent statehood.
Today I would like to remind you that during 50 years the international community did not recognise the unlawful act committed by the Soviet Union. The international community continued to regard the Baltic States as de iure independent.
By refusing to recognise the occupation of the Baltic States by the Soviet empire, countries that were friendly to us thus expressed their position that under international law the incorporation was illegitimate. There were more than 50 friendly nations. They never recognised the occupation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and they did not establish official relations with the Soviet authorities in occupied Baltic states. It was an act of protest. It was as affirmation of values and ideals. It was also an expression of faith in our ability to endure, to resist and to keep our sense of belonging to Western culture and values, and to govern our own state even after several decades of occupation.
This position and non-recognition policy of friendly nations enabled us to survive the totalitarian regime. It encouraged us back in the 1990’s to restore our statehood instead of forming a new Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania, which again for years would have to fight for their de iure recognition.
Dear friends and allies!
By recognising a country’s status de iure, the international community not only recognises the country as a full-fledged subject of international law but also expresses confidence that the country will be able to sustain its sovereignty and freedom in the long-term. It is the same sustainability that nowadays is being constantly mentioned in the context of economic, social or other types of development.
The existence and development of a state should also be sustainable. We live in today's world, we deal with problems and we perform our daily tasks. But in doing so we must see beyond today – we must think about the future of our children and grandchildren, think about the next steps to be taken and higher goals to be achieved. A society that can focus on the present while seeking future challenges will never lose its state.
Honourable President of Estonia!
Ladies and gentlemen!
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to be with you on this special day. It means a lot to me. Freedom is not something that can be given. Freedom is desired, requested, defended and protected. Freedom is kept alive during difficult and hard times, as well as during times of growth and prosperity.
Fellow Baltic people, may we all cherish the idea of independence in our hearts every day! We should bear in mind that the Baltic States renewed their de iure status by joint efforts in fights for freedom and in diplomacy. May our true friends around the world always keep their faith and reliance in the Baltic States as equal partners!
May Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania be free and flourishing forever!
Tallinn, Estonia, 25 January 2011