Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica: moving towards and joining NATO was a joint effort of the whole of Latvian society


“Today, Latvia’s membership in the strongest political and military alliance seems axiomatic. A whole generation of Latvians have enjoyed the security, defence and sense of support provided by NATO. This allows us to develop ourselves, but also allows us to help others,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Deputy Speaker of the Saeima, highlighted on Wednesday, 27 March, opening a photo exhibition at the Saeima dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Latvia’s membership to NATO.

Especially today, we value the importance of the step taken 20 years ago – moving towards and joining NATO was a desire shared by the whole society of Latvia, said Deputy Speaker Kalniņa-Lukaševica, thanking our international allies who at the time took the resolute and courageous decision to welcome Latvia into the organisation, along with the other Baltic States, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The Deputy Speaker of the Saeima especially thanked Canada, highlighting that it was the first NATO member state to ratify Latvia’s accession and today it is leading the NATO enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Latvia. Kalniņa-Lukaševica also thanked the people of Latvia, who at the time gave the mandate to the highest state officials to achieve this objective and were united in strengthening Latvia’s security goals, as well as former President of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, whose personal contribution to the process was invaluable and whose signature lies upon this historical document.

“I thank the professional soldiers who demonstrated that Latvia is trustworthy and that we are willing to defend the values of democracy even before we joined NATO. The ability of the Latvian troops to implement and comply with NATO standards was a crucial prerequisite for our membership to the alliance,” the Deputy Speaker of the Saeima emphasised.

As was stressed by Raimonds Bergmanis, Chair of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Saeima, the historical vote was a confirmation that we would never be alone again, because we are now part of the strongest military alliance in the world. Bergmanis highlighted the decisive role of the parliament over the past 20 years in supporting our armed forces: “Latvia is among the countries urging for an increase in defence spending, and in the current circumstances it is essential.”

Likewise, Bergmanis emphasised that over the course of these years we have participated in missions together with Canada and other allies to safeguard peace and democracy: “The ultimate sacrifice – human lives – has been given in these missions. We are grateful to our soldiers and those of our allies, who have given their lives to ensure peace, democracy and preserving these values.”

At the opening of the exhibition, Brian Szwarc, Ambassador of Canada to Latvia, said that, at the time, truly bold decision had to be taken by society and by politicians to secure Latvia’s membership to NATO. We see that it was the correct decision for Latvia’s overall security and today’s security landscape. Together with our Latvian counterparts, we are increasing our presence by expanding the battlegroup to the level of a brigade. Ambassador Szwarc emphasised Latvia’s capabilities and all the work that we have done as an allied country, proving once again that Latvia is not alone.

The exhibition “Latvia in NATO: The Parliamentary Path” summarises Latvia’s first steps towards NATO, documented in the era of analogue photography, as well as snapshots from the events of recent years, which demonstrate Latvia’s role within the strongest military alliance in the world, as well as the solidarity of our allies.

Latvia’s path to NATO membership began immediately after the restoration of independence – initially as a political and diplomatic process. It was crucial to demonstrate to our Western counterparts that we are not only dreamers, but that we are indeed capable of political and military change at national level, including reforming and developing our National Armed Forces and modernising them to be powerful and trustworthy. The parliament played a pivotal role in this process.

There was a high level of support for NATO membership among the political parties represented in the Saeima. It allowed to take the decisions necessary for Latvia to implement the reforms which were complicated, yet crucial for our integration in NATO. On the path to Latvia’s NATO membership, parliamentary diplomacy played an equally important role – together with other state officials and diplomats, our parliamentarians took part in the campaign to secure support of NATO allies thus paving the way for our accession to the strongest military alliance in the world.

Today the National Armed Forces of Latvia stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies, participating in military exercises, carrying out international missions, and jointly ensuring the security of the whole alliance.


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Saeima Press Service

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