Address by H.E. Mr Gundars Daudze, Speaker of the Saeima, at the Saeima solemn meeting on 4 May 2010 in honour of the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration on the Renewal of Independence of the Republic of Latvia

(04.05.2010.)

Honourable President of the Republic of Latvia,
Honourable President of the Republic of Lithuania,
Honourable Speaker of the Estonian parliament,
Honourable Prime Minister,
Dear colleagues, members of the Saeima,
Ministers,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Today Latvia is celebrating the most significant event in the history of the renewed state. Twenty years have elapsed since the historic event on 4 May 1990. Exactly 20 years ago the majority of members of the Supreme Council supported the Declaration on Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia. Thousands of people who were outside the present-day Saeima building or at their radio receivers listened with bated breath to the text of the Declaration: “To renew the authority of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 15 February 1922, in the entire territory of Latvia. The official name of the state of Latvia is the Republic of Latvia.” The Declaration of 4 May 1990 was the climax of the Third Awakening and the Singing Revolution of the Latvian people because it turned the dream of an independent Latvia into a reality.

The Declaration of 4 May is a historic document which realised the dream and longing for a Latvia that was free again – a state whose memory was kept alive by our nationals in exile during the half-century of Soviet occupation, a state which dissidents in occupied Latvia cherished in their hearts during the Communist era. In the beginning of the Third Awakening, the idea of an independent Latvia was boldly proclaimed by the Plenum of Creative Unions. This idea was turned into a general social movement by activists and leaders of the Popular Front of Latvia, who took the idea of a free Latvia to all farmsteads, villages, and towns. Today we express our gratitude to those leaders and activists of the Popular Front of Latvia who with their courage, power of conviction, and faith in the idea of a free Latvia facilitated the victory of the Popular Front of Latvia in the elections of the Supreme Council of 18 March 1990. Today we thank all the members of the Supreme Council of Latvia who supported the Declaration of 4 May; we thank the former Latvian members of the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union who in Moscow supported the idea of freedom for Latvia and the other Baltic States, as well as the peoples’ right of self-determination.

More than a year elapsed from the declaration of 4 May 1990 to the actual restoration of independence and de facto recognition of the Republic of Latvia by other countries. During that year we defended our choice during the barricade days in January, we won a victory over army and OMON troops in the streets of Riga by peaceful resistance, we mourned people who lost their lives during the barricade days in January, and we experienced an attempted coup in August 1991. All of these events were equally significant on our path to the restoration of an independent Latvia. However, it is 4 May that symbolises the restored state and unity of people which allowed us to achieve a seemingly impossible goal, namely, to regain freedom and to restore the statehood of Latvia.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Much has been accomplished during these 20 years of an independent Latvia. Over this time a new generation which did not experienced the Soviet regime has grown up. It can enjoy the regained freedom, democracy, and the rule of law; it can live in a state which respects the basic rights characteristic of a democratic state, namely, human rights, as well as the freedom of speech, assembly, and movement. Now all of us have a chance to take part in a democratic administration of the state. Already for 6 years our membership in the European Union and NATO has been providing us with security and independence guarantees. We have managed to preserve the Latvian language and culture. Thus, it could be said that the main goals of the Declaration of 4 May 1990 on Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia have been achieved. However, the state cannot stop its development because during this time our understanding of the welfare, stability and future of Latvia has changed. Therefore, today, on the 20th anniversary of the restoration of independence of our state we should assess our achievements, analyse the decisions and events which have influenced the development of our state, and look ahead and ensure that Latvia is a state in which people feel safe, in which they want to live, work, and shape their future and the future of their children.

Economic conditions have brought about changes in the development of Latvia, as well as in other countries in Europe and the rest of the world. Latvia, which has a small and open economy, was one of the first countries to experience painful consequences of the economic crisis. We were forced to take serious and often unpopular decisions and to re-evaluate the path of development we had chosen. However, complicated socio-economic conditions have also taught us several lessons which, I hope, will enable us to reassess previous decisions and ensure stable growth in the future.
- We have understood that economic growth based solely on internal consumption is an illusion and that it is necessary to provide targeted support for exportable products, rural entrepreneurship, and the search for markets for our products.
- We have realised that we have to support production which creates high added value and new jobs in the entire national economy of Latvia.
- We have learned that we can afford to spend only as much as we earn.
- We have identified that we should set education as our priority in order to prepare highly qualified specialists for various spheres of the national economy in order to create innovative products in Latvia.

Despite the political and economic turmoil, the Saeima and government have managed to take decisions necessary for stabilising the economy. That would not have been possible without society’s awareness of the situation in the country and its understanding of why painful decisions had to be taken. Now we can see that some larger countries are also facing the same problems which we faced a year or two ago and that they are getting ready to take the same measures which we took recently. International economic and financial experts are praising our state for observing fiscal discipline. Latvia’s international credit rating is slowly being upgraded; that indicates that the economy is becoming stable and that the hardest part is over. Now we have to do our utmost in order to ensure a further progress.

Dear guests,

Currently, it is particularly important to fully realise that Latvia is a can-do country and that our people are competitive in the global arena. We can be proud of Latvia’s success stories and the achievements of our people. Not long ago, we could not have even imagined that in the western part of Latvia a technology would be developed which will be used in the construction of space ships. Our cardiac surgeons, who are ranked among the best in the world, have proved their global-level expertise. Inventions of our researchers in technology, medicine and other spheres are used by major global corporations. There are also globally recognised pharmaceuticals, as well as inventions which are used in the spheres of music, software, physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. The names of Latvian specialists are well known among experts in archaeology and biology. The achievements of our musicians, athletes, and artists are bringing recognition to Latvia. We have managed to preserve Latvia as one of the greenest countries in the world. Our people should know and remember these positive examples in order to believe in themselves and to keep in mind that Latvia’s achievements are appreciated and recognised throughout the world.

Dear colleagues, dear guests,

During the 20 years of independence, the state and society have changed. Over a short period of time we have restored democratic public administration and replaced the socialist planned economy with the basis of a free market economy, which provides the opportunity to develop private businesses and to be competitive in the European and global markets. Just a few years ago our state was an example of rapid economic growth. During these 20 years we achieved results that took other older democracies several decades. Of course, Latvia currently is not spared from complicated global economic processes or shocks, and therefore, now more than ever before we need society’s participation in developing the state.

I am certain that parliamentary democracy has been the right choice, and it cannot be replaced by the policy of a strong hand. History has proved that when one person or a few people have too much power, mistakes which are fatal for the state and its people can be made. Therefore, one of our main tasks is to ensure the stability of parliamentary democracy. On 1 May, 90 years ago the first Constitutional Assembly of Latvia convened and thus established parliamentary democracy in our country. Our parliamentary democracy has had its ups and downs, but still global experience shows that this system provides the representation of the broadest spectrum of public interests. Parliamentary democracy guarantees discussions on issues that are relevant to all social groups. Therefore, all decisions have to be carefully weighed and substantiated, and their adoption often requires compromises so that the interests of various social groups are taken into account. Only parliamentary democracy gives each member of society opportunities to take their own decisions regarding whom to entrust with political power in the state.

This is the year of general elections, and it means that there will be increased political activity, even heightened political passions. Nevertheless, I hope that they will not overshadow the main goals, namely, drafting a stable and balanced state budget and implementing an economic programme that provides a clear and predictable tax policy and a stable business environment, which is the basis for the well-being of inhabitants. In view of the current balance of power among political forces and their mutual relations, we should try to prevent a situation in which political passions, short-term political benefits and minor political Pyrrhic victories bring the state to a dead end. Therefore, the coalition and the opposition parties will have to demonstrate their political wisdom and ability to take responsibility for the decisions made and for aligning these decisions with long-term interests of the state instead of doing what is expedient in the current political situation. That is particularly important when there is a minority government – the ruling coalition has to give especially well-considered and substantiated justifications for their decisions, and the opposition has to be able to look beyond 2 October, when the election of the 10th Saeima will be held. I encourage all the inhabitants of Latvia, when determining to whom the state will be entrusted for the next four years, to disregard loud advertising slogans and to base the decision on the long-term development strategies proposed by the candidates.

Ladies and gentlemen,

During 20 years of renewed independence, Latvia has acquired numerous friends and partners and has achieved major goals together with them. Twenty years ago the three Baltic States united in order to attain a common goal, namely, their independence. Now our cooperation is oriented mainly towards the economy and regional development. We share problems that need to be solved jointly, including, social problems, security problems and problems related to energy independence. But we also have joint opportunities for regional development. Next step in the Baltic cooperation is the development of closer ties with our Nordic neighbours; therefore, strategic cooperation with the Nordic countries is one of the priorities that Latvia has identified when it took over the presidency of the Baltic Assembly. In order to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by greater regional cooperation, Latvia has also become actively involved in drafting and adopting the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. These diverse levels of cooperation have a sound basis, and each of us will benefit if our sea becomes cleaner, the energy supply becomes more reliable, and if greater opportunities to study and conduct business arise. This is the basis on which Latvia is developing constructive relations with all of its neighbouring countries.

When Latvia became a full-fledged EU and NATO member six years ago, it made its choice regarding the strategic partners and allies with whom it will seek solutions to global problems of the 21st century. It is therefore in our vital interests to share responsibility and to ensure that NATO remains the world’s most powerful collective military defence alliance which is based on strong transatlantic links. It is also in our interests to ensure that the EU becomes more and more powerful economically, more united in its foreign policy, closer to its citizens, and better able to provide equal opportunities.

At the same time, it is essential for us to ensure that the inhabitants do not regret the decision they made six years ago and that Latvia’s interests are embodied in concrete decisions. In order to achieve that, we must define our national interests in a clear and timely fashion, our legislative and executive branches should harmonise their work, and social partners, Latvian members to the European Parliament, and representatives in other institutions should become involved in this process to the maximum extent. Only thus we will be able to ensure that decisions favourable for Latvia’s national economy are made when it comes to outlining the financial framework or to allocation of equitable support payments to farmers. In defending national positions which are a priority for the development of the state, political consensus and consolidation of available resources should be ensured on the same level as they were during the period of pre-accession to the EU and NATO.

Latvia’s security guarantor, namely, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, faces significant changes. The new Strategic Concept of NATO which has been drafted with the active involvement of Latvia will enable the Alliance to meet the threats of the 21st century. At the same time, it is in our interests to make sure that the collective defence principle, which is set forth in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, continues to be the core of this military alliance. 

In about a month, Latvia will welcome hundreds of influential foreign politicians, NATO officials and journalists at the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Since Latvia joined NATO, we have proved ourselves to be a trustworthy ally. In this regard, we express our gratitude to our soldiers who have fulfilled and still are fulfilling important tasks in international missions, especially in Afghanistan. The Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Riga will be a chance for Latvia once again to demonstrate its organisational skills, to show that it is a NATO member state which can take on and fulfil commitments and that it is willing to actively participate in solving security problems.

Dear guests,

Twenty years ago, when people were united in a common action aimed at regaining independence, it was very important to make sure that people understood what was happening, what was the goal and the path for achieving the goal. It is also essential now. Back then, the most significant tasks were politics; now they have shifted to economics. Therefore let’s remember that when we choose to buy Latvia’s products we support our manufacturers. When we pay taxes we help to fund our children’s education, provide pensions to our parents and grandparents, and pay salaries of those who take care of our health and security. By taking part in the Great Spring Cleaning, we take care of the environment in which we live. By taking active part in political processes, voting in the elections and involving ourselves in NGOs, we strengthen Latvia’s democracy. By being actively interested in the development and flourishing of our state, we are strengthening the security and welfare of our families. Twenty years ago it was imperative for each individual to participate in processes taking place in the state. Likewise today I call on all the inhabitants of Latvia to remember that Latvia is our native land and our only country. Nobody will advance the development of our country instead of us. It will not be the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the European Commission. We have to do it ourselves. Latvia’s future depends on each inhabitant’s faith in themselves, in their families, in their country – their Latvia.

People of Latvia,

We are celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of 4 May 1990 on the Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia in the bright springtime. I hope that spring will awaken not only nature but also the minds and hearts of all the inhabitants of Latvia. We are Latvia – all together and each individually. Therefore we should find the strength in ourselves to agree upon joint action, we should restore mutual trust, and understand that success can be achieved only by joint effort. May the time of celebration, spring, and hope give us the strength to endure daily life and give us faith in success, faith in the future, faith in Latvia.

God bless Latvia!

Piektdien, 30.oktobrī
09:00  Eiropas lietu komisijas sēde
10:00  Izglītības, kultūras un zinātnes komisijas sēde (turpinājums)
10:00  Eiropas lietu komisijas sēde
12:15  Izglītības, kultūras un zinātnes komisijas sēde