Address by Ināra Mūrniece, Speaker of the Saeima, at the Saeima ceremonial sitting of 4 May 2020 in honour of the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Latvia

(04.05.2020.)

Dear people of Latvia,

Distinguished President, Prime Minister,

Honourable Members of Parliament, ministers,

Members of the Supreme Council,

Excellencies,

Thirty years ago, here, near the Saeima, it was packed to the brim.

A sense of belonging and a feeling of fellowship gave people great strength and courage. Strength to all of them together and to each one individually. It helped transform the fate of Latvia.

Today we – the nation that experiences happiness while singing in the great choir at the Song Festival; that used to assemble for huge manifestations during the Awakening; and that joined hands in the Baltic Way – we are forced to be on our own, with our closest family members only, or at least two metres apart from each other.

I am certain that we can overcome even these circumstances and restore our strength, as we have our Latvia, where we are always together.

 

Honourable Members of the Supreme Council,

Shortly before the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the independence of Latvia, Raivis Ustinovs, one of the children born on 4 May 1990, wrote these words to the Saeima: “I was born and raised in a free Latvia. I have not experienced the Soviet occupation. Life in a free country is the only one I know, and, for me, oppression only exists in the stories of my parents. I am happy to be living in Latvia, where we can foster our traditions and culture.”

Yet, those who were part of the Third Awakening and stood up for freedom, the rule of law, and restoration of Latvia’s statehood, know what it was like to live under oppression. They know the difference.

On 4 May 1990, the Supreme Council also adopted an Appeal to the People of Latvia. It includes a concise description of what exactly happened during the fifty years of occupation. Artificially created migration, forced assimilation, deprecation of Latvian culture, extermination of the culture of minorities living in Latvia, disruption of the natural balance in national relations, not to even mention economic decay and ideological repression.

The essence of the suffering of the people is captured in the historic words of Gunārs Astra, Latvian dissident and freedom fighter. On 15 December 1983, seven years before the restoration of independence, he said in his final statement in front of the court: “I believe these times will vanish as a horrible nightmare. This gives me the strength to stand here and breathe. Our people have suffered a lot and have learned to survive, and they will survive these dark times too.”

Regaining our freedom was not easy, but the vote on 4 May changed everything.

Today we can be proud that we restored our independence taking the parliamentary, democratic route. The world saw us win our freedom twice over a single century.

On that day thirty years ago, 138 members of the Supreme Council proved by their vote their ability to see beyond their personal lives. To exert the will of the people and change the fate of Latvia.

Honourable Members of the Supreme Council, thank you for voting FOR the restoration of independence in this Chamber thirty years ago.

Let us get to our feet and honour them with a round of applause.

Thank you!

 

Dear citizens of Latvia,

In these exceptional times, I would like to emphasise three things.

First. Let us learn and draw strength from our own experience.

Let us be proud of our achievements and Latvia’s growth over the last thirty years.

We are a society where, over these years, outstanding scientists and inventors, diplomats and statespeopl‏‏e, world-class artists, doctors and entrepreneurs have blossomed. A great contribution has come from young people who grew up during the restored independence, received education and gained experience around the world.

Together, we have made Latvia one of the most institutionally developed countries in Europe.

In thirty years, we have become a nation of mobility and creativity, a nation of excellence and determination.

All these years, we have shown perseverance, wisdom, and courage. What has helped us is our love of work. Our ability to agree and make up our minds about what we as a nation need the most. And it will be the same now, too.

Second. Along with devoting special care to the health of the Latvian population, we will continue to strengthen our security, integration in the democratic world, and cooperation with our closest partners in the Baltic States, the Nordic countries, and the European Union.

Europe is in pain during this pandemic; as the most open part of the world it also suffers the most.

Among those most badly hurt are our friends and allies: Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom. The countries that were the first to be hit by the virus and lost thousands of lives. We are with you.

The confusion, however, lasted for only a moment. Everyone in the European Union is aware of the need for cooperation. An exit strategy from the crisis is being jointly developed. Together, we will support researchers and entrepreneurs to better protect human lives in the future, to rebuild one of the world’s strongest economies as soon as possible.

And there are things we will not change no matter what comes our way. Our foreign policy course is one of these core values, and we will stick to it.

We will also be ready for a new world order if one is to emerge from this unprecedented crisis. Let us plan how to improve our defence and our international outreach.

We reaffirm our continued commitment to a strong NATO. Let us continue to defend a national, independent, and democratic Latvia.

Third. After this pandemic and the state of emergency are over, we must be ready for a rapid economic growth. And there is no room for calls to forget about legal norms or good governance principles for a while, or to “get rid of” the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

We are not going back to the chaotic nineties.

We will continue with our commitment to streamlining the financial system, improving the business environment, ensuring equal opportunities, and combating poverty. We will continue to support families with children.

Let us make our economy dynamic, modern, and competitive.

It is important for us to identify and name the skill that sets Latvia apart – the one that will make us the best in Europe and the world. And there is no room here for rivalry among industries. We need to boost the areas where we can excel and compete with the best.

 

Dear compatriots,

History has attested to the selflessness, foresight, and patriotism of our people in the most difficult of times. Latvia has so many intelligent, talented, and inspiring individuals.

During the pandemic, the course of our country is decided by doctors and experts, not by political motives. Our people appreciate and trust these decisions, which helps the society help itself.

We are profoundly, sincerely grateful to doctors and paramedics on emergency medical teams, as well as the police, border guards, and rescue services. They do their duty day after day and are often overstretched, but we trust that we can rely on them. They perform their work with confidence and without interruption.

The measures we have chosen to take during the COVID-19 pandemic are among the most successful ones. Without introducing strict prohibitions or a full lock-down, we have achieved the most important goal – to flatten the infection curve. This ensures, most importantly, that each patient receives the best medical care possible.

We thank all the teachers who had to rapidly overhaul their teaching methods for schoolchildren of various ages. Their workload has increased significantly due to the situation.

We are particularly grateful to all the families. We are grateful to those who keep fulfilling their duties despite the heightened risk they have to face; we are grateful to those who successfully work from home and help their children keep up with studies at the same time.

We thank everyone who helps our senior citizens, provides transportation services, and works in shops, pharmacies, and other places essential for the society.

We would like to thank our government, who has taken active, open‑minded, and united steps during the pandemic. Our people also commend the work of the government. Providing consistent, detailed information has proven to be crucial in this time, and so is a fast and flexible response to the needs of the state and the society. Although there is room for improvement, the government has provided swift and comprehensive solutions.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has done excellent work, including in its cooperation with the Ministry of Transport. The two ministries help Latvian nationals return home from across the world, and our work is not done yet.

I would like to extend my gratitude to our partners in the European Union, especially the Baltic and Nordic countries, Germany, and Poland, for their consular assistance and support in bringing our people home. Equally close coordination of activities will be needed to gradually open our borders, as soon as the situation allows it.

This is a new experience for all of us. Therefore, our mutual support and coordination is crucial.

 

Honourable Members of the Saeima, dear colleagues,

Thank you for your work. We continue to fulfil our legislative function successfully. The Saeima is one of the best examples in Europe of a parliament continuing its work even in the most complicated of times.

When the majority of Members of Parliament suddenly needed to self-isolate, we immediately examined options for remote work. It was of utmost importance that we found a way for the Saeima to continue its work in full composition. Our parliament will be one of the first in Europe to function using digital solutions, as we are in the process of introducing e-Saeima.

Thank you for your active engagement, coordination, and patience!

The President of Latvia, the Saeima, the Constitutional Court, and the Supreme Court made it their goal to ensure full functioning of the constitutional bodies during the state of emergency. The Saeima also continues law-making as well as parliamentary scrutiny of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Ensuring safe and effective work of our Parliament is of great importance to me as the Speaker of the Saeima.

1 May marked one hundred years since the first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly. It was a temporary parliament that represented a wide variety of groups of the Latvian society. Along with convening the Constitutional Assembly, parliamentary democracy was established in Latvia.

Parliamentarianism was a decisive factor in maintaining the continuity of Latvia’s independence. The principle of parliamentarianism helped restore the independence of Latvia after fifty years of Soviet occupation. For this reason, the Saeima, the Parliament of Latvia, must continue its work regardless of the circumstances.

Similarly, our national anthem has been kept alive and unchanged for a century. This June marks one hundred years since the song “God, bless Latvia!” by Baumaņu Kārlis was officially established as the national anthem.

Our constitution, parliamentarianism, our flag, and our anthem are treasures that remain in our possession to this day.

 

Dear people of Latvia, dear patriots of Latvia,

Our country is in its second century. Thirty years have passed since the restoration of our independence. Thirty years is a brief moment in history, but a substantial period of a person’s life.

Today, it is our great fortune and advantage to have multiple generations who have grown up with our country – those who were born with Latvia in 1918, and young people born on 4 May 1990. Four or five different generations, each with their own perspective, their own experience and history of Latvia.

Those who were born on 4 May are now adults, many with children of their own. Many of them sent words of sincere gratitude to Members of the Supreme Council and their wishes for the future generations.

Anita Ivčenko wrote: “May we all love and appreciate Latvia. When I returned from abroad, I saw our country in a different light. All of a sudden, I noticed many unique things that cannot be found anywhere else. We have many reasons to be grateful. I wish for my generation and the future ones as well to be optimistic and remain united in our efforts to advance our country even further.”

We are doing it and will continue to do so, all together and each and every one of us, sharing our knowledge and experience.

Congratulations to all of you on the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the independence of Latvia!

 

Long live Latvia!

God bless Latvia!

Sestdien, 30.maijā

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