Address by Solvita Āboltiņa, Speaker of the Saeima, at the Saeima ceremonial sitting on 4 May 2014 in honour of the 24th anniversary of the renewal of independence of the Republic of Latvia

(04.05.2014.)

Honourable President of Latvia,

Honourable Prime Minister,

Honourable members of the Saeima,

Ministers,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let us pay no heed to those who say that time always flows the same.

In fact, time can expand and contract. Sometimes it flows calmly and peacefully, but sometimes whole eras seem to be compressed into a very short period of time. Those are historic moments that will forever remain a part of our personal and collective biographies.

This year marks 25 years since one such compression of time – in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, clearly signalling the end of the Cold War in Europe.

That year Latvia also distinctly felt the breath of Europe’s shared history.

In 1989 freedom was still just a dream for us, but it was already clear that there was no turning back; we were on the threshold of a new era when we would have to make decisions on our own.

We were ready for freedom. Any occasional lack of knowledge was always outweighed by decisiveness and firm conviction. With readiness to embrace the new era, we stood in the Baltic Way and set our course towards Latvia’s independence.

The adoption of the Declaration on the Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990 was a special moment when the people’s hope and faith in an independent Latvia that was born during the Third Awakening and the Singing Revolution became a reality. 

Today, when politicians and historians discuss the collapse of the USSR, they mention various causes: weakness of the Soviet system, economic crisis, pressure from the West. All of these are correct, but there are far more reasons behind this historic turning point.

At times something extremely crucial is forgotten – we gained our freedom not because of a weak system but because of our own strength and confidence that we want to live and can live in our own independent country.

It is this strength that I would like to talk about today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

People do not like to admit their weaknesses; weakness is regarded as humiliating and undignified. However, there are also times when we shirk from admitting our strengths – our ability to achieve something and take responsibility. Strength comes with duty. It is easier to pretend to be weak and helpless and simply wait for someone to come to the rescue, to tell us what to do and how to act, whereas strong persons have to acknowledge their strength and assume the accompanying responsibility.

We celebrate this anniversary of the restoration of our country’s independence at a troubled time. A geopolitical power play has begun in our region; there is a feeling of alarm that many had all but forgotten since the Cold War.

The ghosts of geopolitical ambitions of some superpowers cannot be ignored by Latvia, whose peaceful existence in the 20th century was disrupted by two totalitarian regimes.

Latvia must clearly speak up when international law is violated, when pseudo-concerns for compatriots are used as a pretext for annexing foreign territories and when military authorities camouflage themselves as civilians.

Latvia knows how tragic the consequences of such schemes by superpowers can be, just as it knows what it means to have irresponsible politicians at home.

Therefore, we must follow the developments in Ukraine, constantly being mindful of the threats which this escalation poses to Europe and the rest of the world.

In these circumstances, we cannot forget about our strength and remain idle because of gloomy forebodings. Today Latvia is strong; it is stronger than ever before.

Hence, we must promptly put this strength to use in order to safeguard the common future of Latvia and Europe.

Let us not deny that the recent events in Ukraine have left many Europeans confused and puzzled by the fact that today, more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, such a policy of brute force is still possible.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Latvia’s duty in the current circumstances is to remind its partners about the need to vigorously defend the values that are at the heart of the European Union.

Today we have to return to the values of peace, the rule of law and solidarity so that in critical times in the future Europe can speak with one voice.

We must acknowledge our strength. Latvia has successfully overcome the economic crisis, and this year again our country will be the fastest growing economy in the European Union.

By balancing the budget and adopting a number of important laws, we have laid the foundation for long-term growth of our state. Emigration has decreased as well, and a growing number of young people see their future in Latvia. Today we are on the verge of more rapid growth, but this growth will not occur on its own.

Our own inactivity and lack of faith in our strength may be the main obstacle to our growth.

The often-mentioned weakness of Latvia is false; it is rather a state of mind that hinders our development. Let us look at the achievements of our artists and scientists, the wonderful programme of Riga as the European Capital of Culture, the outstanding achievements of our athletes, the Grammy award received by the orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga and Latvian Radio Choir, and the findings in quantum computing theory by Andris Ambainis, who is recognised as one of 300 most prominent European scientists. Such achievements would not be possible in a weak country, and all of them attest to our strength.

Our achievements in economy, science, art and sports are not chance exceptions. On the contrary, they attest to our potential to think, work and create on a global level.

However, it is not enough to merely acknowledge strong potential – it takes hard work to develop and perfect this potential. Therefore, sometimes it is more convenient to ignore it – to pretend that the “big things” happen somewhere else, for example, in Western Europe, the United States, or China. Here again it is more convenient for Latvia to pretend to be weaker than it actually is.

The modern world, especially in the light of the crisis in Ukraine, demonstrates that ignoring one’s potential is irresponsible. The usual rationalisation “Who are we to change anything?” turns our country into a desirable target for various geopolitical schemes.

We should remember this at times when we feel like giving up and forgetting about Latvia’s potential by referring to the “political state of affairs”, lack of public awareness, or our seeming inability to influence the situation.

Members of parliament,

We all remember that the public had heightened expectations from the 11th convocation of the Saeima.

Today, when the tenure of this convocation is gradually coming to an end, we should ask ourselves whether we have lived up to these expectations. 

How many of the announced reforms have we completed, how much have we improved Latvia’s higher education system, tax policy and social care system?

We have accomplished many good deeds, but too often we have neglected to take advantage of opportunities to lay an even stronger foundation for future development because of petty quarrels and personal grudges. Our voters, who will make their choice in October this year, have noticed that.

It is the ability to deliver what we have promised that we, politicians, should focus on before the elections of the 12th Saeima.

We should not only refrain from making unrealistic promises in election campaigns but also work with greater efficiency so that in the future Latvian voters can judge their political representatives by their accomplishments instead of populist slogans.

Naturally, the developments in Ukraine during recent months have raised the issue of Latvia’s military capability. Ukraine has taught us a clear lesson – we have to be more responsible when allocating the defence budget, and we have to strengthen the National Guard.

We cannot expect someone else to pay for our security. We must keep in mind that it is not just armaments that make a country strong; today strength also depends on effective strategic cooperation with our international allies.

Unfortunately, in the context of the European Union and NATO, we still make a distinction between “us” and “them”. In reality, these organisations are not divided into “us” and “them” – there is just “we”.

Our strength lies in the ability to persuade and to cooperate rather than in isolation and witch-hunting. The strength of the European Union and NATO is our strength, which comes with obligations but which also makes Latvia stronger and more secure.

With great strength comes great responsibility.

Therefore, our primary responsibility is to consider practical matters.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The best protection from the ambitions of other countries is a firm conviction that Latvia is needed and cherished by each and every resident of our country and that our people’s minds are fortified against foreign demagoguery and propaganda.

However, we all must build this conviction. The level of social inequality in Latvia is still high, and the government has declared the resolution of this issue a priority.

We want the average Latvian, not just a small fraction of society, to be prosperous and confident about his future.  We should eradicate the misguided notion that the average Latvian expects the state and local governments to provide for his well-being. Quite the opposite – the average Latvian is prepared to engage in creative work, to educate himself, as well as to invest in his own and his children’s future.

The average Latvian does not want to subsist on welfare benefits. He wants to be able to work and to provide his family a standard of living like that of 21st-century Europe; he wants to have a good job here in his motherland, and he wants to retire without fear of poverty.

Members of parliament,

The toughest task for us – politicians – is to ensure a diversity of opportunities and a feeling of security; this task is more difficult than simply giving people money or offering discounts.

We need a strong middle class because only it can cultivate patriotism and a feeling of being a part of the state. Our patriots are and will be the people who have something to lose in Latvia; the more such people we have, the more secure and strong our state will be.

Latvia is home to all the people who live here, who abide by and acknowledge the fundamental principles of our state, who speak and honour the Latvian language, and who recognise our geopolitical place in the European and Western cultural space.

However, let us not deny that there is still enormous untapped potential for integration of ethnic minorities and that we are unwilling to admit the extent of our strength and ability. Sometimes it is more convenient for politicians to create an atmosphere of a besieged fortress and to look for enemies instead of helping foreign nationals to escape from the aggressive propaganda of another state.

In my opinion, this is the obligation of Latvians as a titular nation. Latvians have been strong enough to found and defend their own state, and they are strong enough to take care of and assume responsibility for everyone who lives in our state and has a sense of belonging here.

During the past months, we have learned that only a regionally balanced Latvia can be strong.

The doors of Riga should be always open to other municipalities and regions because Riga is weak unless they are strong. People living in Latvia’s municipalities are an essential source of common sense because they make us match our lofty goals with reality and with the needs of each municipality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Undoubtedly, the current geopolitical reality raises concerns. However, let us not forget that true patriotism is not rooted in fear – it stems from a quiet certainty about the rightness of one’s goals.

The state of Latvia did not come into being by accident; it is a deliberately formed and selflessly strengthened political project which we have inherited. We want to enshrine this certainty in the preamble of our Constitution, which will be adopted by this Saeima.

Furthermore, putting the fundamental principles of the state on paper will raise our awareness of our strength and thus increase our sense of responsibility for the future of Latvia.

Today, when once again somebody in our region is using tanks and guns to solve problems, we have to be wise and alert. We have to be aware of our strength and the responsibility that comes with it.

We have inherited an ancient tradition of freedom in our independent state whose glory days are yet to come.

Our strength is accurately captured by Latvian poet Jānis Peters, whose 75th birthday we will celebrate this year:

On the road walked by Curonians and Yotvingians

An amber strand is shining;

On the road where resin melted,

Now the River Daugava runs.

On the road walked by Finnish, Ugric and Baltic peoples,

Which is the Baltic Way,

The strand like an amber snake

Will bite the enemy’s sword.

On the road walked by Curonians and Yotvingians

The wind of the Fatherland blows,

Wolves howl toward the sky,

And language crushes a rock.

God bless Latvia! 

Otrdien, 26.maijā
08:30  Cilvēktiesību un sabiedrisko lietu komisijas Mediju politikas apakškomisijas sēde
08:30  Juridiskās komisijas Krimināltiesību politikas apakškomisijas sēde
09:00  Tautsaimniecības, agrārās, vides un reģionālās politikas komisijas Amatniecības un mazās uzņēmējdarbības apakškomisijas sēde
10:00  Budžeta un finanšu (nodokļu) komisijas sēde
10:00  Juridiskās komisijas sēde
10:00  Cilvēktiesību un sabiedrisko lietu komisijas sēde
10:00  Izglītības, kultūras un zinātnes komisijas sēde
10:00  Aizsardzības, iekšlietu un korupcijas novēršanas komisijas un Nacionālās drošības komisijas kopsēde
10:00  Valsts pārvaldes un pašvaldības komisijas sēde
10:00  Tautsaimniecības, agrārās, vides un reģionālās politikas komisijas sēde
10:00  Sociālo un darba lietu komisijas sēde
10:00  Nacionālās drošības komisijas un Aizsardzības, iekšlietu un korupcijas novēršanas komisijas kopsēde
12:00  Francijas Republikas ārkārtējās un pilnvarotās vēstnieces Latvijas Republikā V.E. Odile Soupison atvadu vizīte pie Saeimas priekšsēdētājas V.E. Ināras Mūrnieces
14:00  Saeimas attālinātā ārkārtas sēde

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