Honourable President of Latvia,
Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear fellow compatriots,
Our people have always had their place in the sun, have always striven for light, yearned to grow and prevail. We have always treasured our core values and our identity - they give purpose to everything we do.
On 18 November 1918, when the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed, the most sacred will of the Latvian people manifested in the form of an independent country, freedom to decide our own future, cherish our culture and language, and belong to the Western political and cultural space.
During the Latvian War of Independence, faith in ideals helped to attain victory in hopeless battles. Many centuries later, idealism gave the courage to liberate ourselves from the yoke of the Soviet occupation and the politically violent Soviet empire that was armed to the teeth.
On 18 November, we celebrate the fulfilment of our ultimate goal - the existence of our state and our people. This is what our predecessors lived through, this is our present and our future. This is Latvia.
We have always chosen the side of light, the side of the sun - a democratic country governed by the rule of law, freedom of spirit and human dignity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year, many events of national and personal importance unfolded in a rather unusual way.
On 4 May, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the independence of Latvia. Unfortunately, similarly to the birthday of our country that we celebrate today, the occasion was marked by a state of emergency. Yet, an immense sense of togetherness enveloped us as we honoured the heroes who restored Latvia's independence.
This year, we marked anniversaries of key events that have driven and strengthened Latvia and its statehood: the centenary of convening the Constitutional Assembly and the 100th anniversary of signing the Latvian-Russian Peace Treaty.
We honoured the statesman and politician Miķelis Valters by reburying him in his homeland.
Miķelis Valters had conceived the idea of an independent Latvia well before the actual founding of our state. He was a democrat and supporter of the idea of Europe, one of the greatest visionaries of Latvia of his time whose political legacy will, hopefully, be studied more widely and in greater depth.
There have been many achievements that have made this nation swell with pride and strengthened the state. These events are important to us as a European country and as a part of Western democracy.
Therefore, we look forward to the important anniversaries to be celebrated next year: in January, the 30th anniversary of the Barricades, when the people stood in defence of the buildings of the Parliament, government, the Latvian Television, and other sites of importance, as well as the centenary of the de jure recognition of Latvia. On 26 January 1921, our country became a full-fledged subject of international law.
Confidence in our values and reliance on the power of international law allowed us to regain statehood even after 50 years of Soviet occupation, and they remain strongholds of Latvia's sovereignty today.
Dear people of Latvia,
As we celebrate in these unusual circumstances, we have learned to use imagination, find alternative ways to be festive and, perhaps, embrace the occasion on a deeper emotional level.
It will take time for us to fully understand the traces left by the challenges we face in our daily lives.
In the spring, when the pandemic had just begun, many opinion leaders said: "This is like being at war!"
Threat of the virus. Self-isolation. Travel restrictions. Loss of cultural events. Limited physical contacts. Face masks. Remote work.
Whatever we call it, a war on the virus or a fight for our lives, we are facing an emergency. And our peacetime life has come to a partial halt.
This war also has its soldiers - the medical staff. They are the ones who are fighting for victory. They have no respite, because every day thousands of people look up at them with hope.
Doctors try to save everyone, regardless of age, nationality, and chances of recovery, and regardless of whether the person believes in COVID-19 or not. Unfortunately, many people open their eyes only when they are hospitalised.
Today, on the birthday of the State of Latvia, let us applaud the medical staff and thank doctors, their assistants, nurses, orderlies, and everyone who selflessly treats patients every day, putting their own health at risk.
It is a hard fight. But it can be won. And everyone can contribute.
What are we prepared to do today to help others and to help the society cope with COVID-19?
At present, it requires even less than at other crucial moments Latvia has faced in the past. We just need to keep our distance, comply with the restrictions, and wear face masks. Because we need to stop the spread of the infection, protect our health and lives so that each and every one of us can return to normal life as soon as possible.
Dear friends and partners,
Although the fight against the pandemic is often compared to a war, it is not an armed conflict.
From the point of view of state and public security, the pandemic and the state of emergency are accompanied by a significant threat - the spread of disinformation.
This has turned out to be a ripe moment for dissemination of false information and conspiracy theories. This is the case in Latvia and in many other parts of the world, because all over the globe people face a complicated and unprecedented situation.
We see false or fake news spreading on social networks, attempts to question the decisions made by experts and the government to limit the spread of the virus, as well as attempts to create chaos.
How is it done? It takes eighty percent of information that is supposedly true, twenty percent of lies, all of it presented in very simple language - a toxic cocktail that stupefies and breaks down boundaries.
Raising political capital at the expense of COVID-19 can, in fact, be compared to plundering. It is immoral and deplorable to use people's confusion and ignorance for selfish political or even geopolitical purposes, thus endangering their health and lives.
We are grateful to the media who work every day to expose false and misleading information.
Truthful, coherent, and reliable information is critical at this time.
The pandemic poses other threats as well. The values of our society are being challenged. The political resilience and defence capabilities of countries are put to a serious test.
While safeguarding state and public security, we continue to maintain our military vigilance, develop defence capabilities, and supplement our resources.
Latvia is a reliable member of NATO. Our security is rooted in close transatlantic ties. Latvia keeps its commitment to devote two percent or more of GDP to national defence.
We appreciate the active involvement of NATO partners in strengthening security and defence in the Baltic region. NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroups continue to serve in Latvia, just as they do in other parts of the Baltic region and Poland. It is a unique and very powerful expression of the solidarity of the allied forces.
A very important contribution to our security and the strengthening of our deterrence capabilities is made by the military presence of our strategic partner, the United States. We have always maintained an active parliamentary dialogue with the U.S. Congress and we are grateful for its unwavering support for the security of the Baltic States. Both Republicans and Democrats have demonstrated a deep understanding of the security situation in the region.
I would like to highlight our ally Canada and its invaluable contribution to NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia. Latvia hosts the largest number of Canadian military staff serving abroad.
The sun rose from the sword - this is the title of one of the most popular dance performances in Latvia. It is a story of trials bestowed by the destiny, struggles, sacrifice and victories. This story has a happy ending, but it also talks about making choices, loss, and courage.
Let us remember that there is a reason why the sun is depicted in the coat of arms of our country. The sun is also on the emblem of our National Armed Forces.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Our membership in the EU and NATO is based on shared democratic values, common ideals, and a strong rule of law. Thirty years ago, the faith of Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians in freedom and democracy awakened the Baltics.
Today, we witness the rise of democracy in our neighbouring country Belarus. The Belarusian people have been demanding the right to free and fair election for already 100 days. We admire the courage of Belarusian students, women, and the entire civil society in standing up for their rights.
Together, the Baltic States have strongly condemned the falsification of the presidential election results and violence against peaceful protesters in Belarus. We must insist on stronger European Union sanctions against the Belarusian officials responsible for violence against peaceful protesters.
The support of the European Union for civil society and independent media in Belarus is vital.
We will continue supporting Belarus.
At the same time, let us not forget Ukraine. It is our duty to strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and help implement democratic reforms in the country. Moldova has also made a choice for democracy. A new pro-European candidate has been elected president in a landslide victory.
We must maintain strong support for the European integration of Eastern Partnership countries.
In overcoming the crisis caused by the pandemic, European solidarity has proven to be alive and well.
The European Union is allocating large funds to the economies of its Member States, including Latvia. A significant amount of support is allotted to the maintenance of employment. It is estimated that approximately 10 billion euros will be made available for the recovery and growth of Latvia’s economy over the next seven years. It is our responsibility to make smart and responsible investments using these funds.
Let us make active efforts to overcome long term challenges, implementing the European Green Deal and fostering digitalisation. Latvia is one of the greenest countries in Europe, and we support ambitious climate policy targets. The pursuit of these targets will provide extensive opportunities for the development and application of increasingly advanced technologies and the acceleration of economic growth.
Esteemed Members of Parliament,
We are the first convocation of the Saeima since Latvia has entered its second century. After the last election, it was emphasised that many young people had become Members of the Saeima.
They bring a new drive and fresh ideas. They may have less experience in parliamentary work, but they are also less exposed to political routine.
The past two years have shown that the 13th Saeima is capable of functioning under arduous circumstances; it has adopted several important laws and made decisions in firm accordance with our country’s system of values.
Together with the government, we have made our best efforts to improve the financial crime prevention framework and recover the reputation of Latvia’s financial system.
The Saeima was one of the first parliaments in the world to implement a special technological solution, the e-Saeima platform, to ensure that the Parliament remains fully operational throughout the state of emergency during the pandemic.
We adopted the Law on Administrative Territories and Populated Areas in complicated circumstances, working remotely.
We have made important decisions that will help strengthen the position of the official language in education, provide effective social support for the vulnerable members of our society, and support families with children. We have adopted significant improvements in strengthening the rule of law.
We have made mistakes, but we also seek to correct them. The Parliament works for the common good of the people, and this objective will not change.
This year, several important tasks remain to be done for the Saeima – the adoption of the State Budget, the adoption of the medium-term budget framework for the next three years, and amendments related to the Budget.
Dear colleagues, may our work on the Draft Budget be productive and successful! Despite the heated debates, the goal of the Draft Budget is to fulfil the promises made to healthcare professionals and teachers, improve social guarantees, increase the competitiveness of our country, and strengthen social justice.
Patriots of Latvia,
Language and culture are our intangible values. The self-awareness and self-identification of every nation relies on its culture and language. Culture and language preserve and develop a nation’s character, way of thought, interpersonal relations, and philosophical ideas.
Singing our national anthem “God bless Latvia” in the Latvian language fills us with pride and joy. In two years, we will celebrate the centenary of our Constitution, the Satversme. It is written in a laconic, conceptually substantive, beautiful Latvian language. Our state language, the Latvian language, strengthens and consolidates the statehood of Latvia.
Ever since the foundation of our country, we have been supportive of fostering the identity of national minorities; however, the common language of communication is Latvian for all the people of Latvia, according to the principles of a national state.
The occupation of Latvia has been the greatest tragedy and devastation in the history of our state. Not only did the loss of statehood bring political violence, deportations, and the denial of Latvian national history, but the Latvian language and culture were abused and considered inferior, irrelevant by the regime.
Eight years ago, in the constitutional referendum on introducing a second official language, Latvian citizens reaffirmed their loyalty to the Latvian language. But are we satisfied with the present situation?
Our language is like a garden that requires upkeep. We must preserve, cultivate, and cherish our language. Our language needs to have a place in the sun. There can be no replacement for the Latvian language.
Politicians in Latvia must discuss their policies in Latvian, and they must address our citizens in the official language.
Today, we call on everyone who calls Latvia their home to speak Latvian.
Latvia has many talented, hardworking people with unique ideas. We live in a country with strong public safety, scenic nature, and healthy food.
We can successfully accomplish work that has never been done before and come up with innovative solutions. We are creative, we strive for excellence, and we know how to change for the better.
We have our freedom, and we have our own country. We have a clear system of values, and we are there for each other.
Let us protect, strengthen, and love Latvia!
We are strong. We have our place in the sun.
Long live Latvia!
God bless Latvia!