Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
4 May is a celebration of our own making. We ourselves engraved this day in history for eternity.
We were the ones who formed the Baltic Way, took part in the singing revolution and stood guard at the Barricades.
We ourselves achieved this celebration – with our longing for freedom, our dream of an independent Latvia with a strong national culture, and love for our language and land.
It was people from amongst us who adopted the Declaration on the Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia right here in this room 27 years ago.
We ourselves, our parents and grandparents were among the thousands who stood here outside the Saeima and later by the river Daugava welcoming the rebirth of our independent country with tears of joy in our eyes.
Since that moment, our children have been born in an independent Latvia. Since that moment, our fate is in our own hands. It is our strength and determination that will allow Latvia to exist forever and not let the sun in our coat of arms ever set.
What can we be proud of today?
We can be proud of the fact that twice within one century the people of Latvia have demonstrated our desire for own state. We have manifested our ability to take responsibility for the state that is the Republic of Latvia.
We are proud that 27 years ago we were able to restore the principles and values upon which Latvia was founded on 18 November 1918.
We restored the Constitution, which states that the sovereign power of the state of Latvia is vested in the people of Latvia. We restored the state that consists of Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale; the state whose official language is Latvian.
For the second time in one century, we demonstrated that our choice is and always will be an independent, democratic and Latvian state.
We are not only proud, but also joyful, because every time we return home from a foreign trip we can thank God or Fate that we live in Latvia. This is our home, we are safe here, we hear our own language all around, surrounded by friends and family. We have our own little corner of the Earth, we have our fatherland. It is beautiful and we love it, because it is ours.
We can be proud of having managed to implement immense economic reforms. From the Soviet Empire, which was so far-gone that even basic food items were unavailable, we have made the journey to an open economy integrated within the economic area of the European Union. Latvia has joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which unites 35 developed countries forming 80% of the global economy. We have been determined in our course towards improving our economic situation and well-being.
Yes, we have made our share of mistakes along this journey.
Following the restoration of independence, the privatisation process, including the privatisation of strategic infrastructure, and the concept of privatisation certificates were implemented in a manner that has left long-term negative consequences.
For years, these mistakes have hindered the development of a normal middle class. They have created a chasm between social groups of differing wealth that is difficult to bridge. And, unfortunately, hard work is often not the decisive factor for attaining wealth in our country.
We had to endure the economic crisis created by Russia in 1998 and the global financial crisis of 2007-2010, which was only amplified by the real estate bubble bursting.
The last crisis cut our society deep and the scars remain – in the fates of our people and their attitude towards the state. Thousands of people left to live and work in other countries just so they could support their families, pay off their mortgages, keep their heads above water.
Latvia has paid and continues to pay a tough price for these mistakes.
Unfortunately, we have failed to demand personal responsibility for these mistakes so as to avoid them in future. This is not fair.
I urge us to never forget the hard lessons learned in the crises! The leaders of the state need to work in a way that lets people trust their decisions and feel that they have been made in the interests of the public.
Dear people of Latvia,
We have been a part of the Euro Area for three years already. This was a correct and necessary decision for Latvia. Economists promise the next three years to be rather successful for business. The situation in the Euro Area and the world promises better conditions, which will be further improved by the availability of EU funds. We need to use this time to even out the incurred losses and reinforce our financial security.
This year has begun well for the national economy. Latvian exports are increasing, investments are returning, several industries are showing steady growth. It is especially pleasing to see good results in industries with a high added value and intellectual input. This is the right direction for Latvia – smart technologies, small but valuable companies able to export their products. Experience shows that products created in Latvia are innovative, competitive and excellent. We must promote their further development.
Everything that is good in Latvia, we have created ourselves. We must not belittle our achievements, but rather applaud them and take pride in them just as we praise the success of our children and loved ones, as we pride ourselves for a good harvest grown from seedlings we have planted with our own hands. We must recognize, nurture and proudly display our abilities.
Latvia has a National Development Plan, which was elaborated for medium-term national development purposes and covers the period from 2014 – 2020. The main objective of this Plan is an economic breakthrough.
The government now needs to show the public that there will indeed be a breakthrough, that we know how to achieve it, and that everyone will be a winner.
The entire society must take an active part in discussing these reforms, but with a steadfast understanding that in order for the state to have more money, taxes must be collected better and paid by everyone. We must keep in mind that a long-term vision is superior to short-term whims. We must look beyond just our own back yard, we must think of Latvia as a whole.
Positive change will favour all of us, because we ourselves are the doctors and the patients who lack financing in health care, we are the students and educators who need a reformed education system, we ourselves, our family and friends are the civil servants, firefighters, farmers and entrepreneurs who require an environment that will allow Latvia to flourish economically.
We ourselves are the ones awaiting our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to return to Latvia from working abroad.
Politicians must develop reforms that contribute to a better future and expands the wealth of the nation.
Unless Latvia urgently comes up with a new paradigm for the development of its economy, we may be facing the risk of stagnation in the coming years.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The world is changing as we speak. We are facing the challenges of the 21st century. It is not just the global economy, unrestricted exchange of information, and freedom of movement, which has both positive and negative effect. It is also Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea. It is Brexit and the blatant attempts of Kremlin to divide and weaken the unity of Europe, and the interference with the elections in Western democracies.
We are also on the brink of a different epochal change. I am talking about the mass migration in Europe, tools for stopping of which are yet to be found.
It is the unconventional security threats, the unconventional policy-making approaches, and the new political perception.
It is essential for us to comprehend and also learn to manage these developments. We must be certain about how to defend Latvia in the second centenary of its statehood.
I belong to those who are convinced that Europe will find a way to endure this pressure. Europe cannot be destroyed. Europe is rational. Europe will remain united, continue its existence and development. Europe will remain faithful to its values.
Likewise, Latvia will live and prosper, remaining faithful to its values.
European freedoms have become an integral part of our lives, and we will not give up on them.
However, the great changes inevitably make us enhance our strengths and mobilise our spirit. We must now think about security from a completely different point of view.
Both our past and present experience attests to the fact that Latvian soldiers have always been and still remain the role models of patriotism and vitality admired not only at home but also worldwide.
It is the high level of trust in the National Armed Forces that has inspired nearly half of Latvia’s population to express readiness to form an armed defence line against potential intruders.
Furthermore, Latvia has initiated the total or comprehensive defence principle, included in its National Defence Strategy. It implies the involvement of the entire population in the national defence, thereby expanding the task of protecting Latvia’s statehood and security beyond the military domain.
Our NATO allies are also prepared to defend Latvia, and they have defined the security of the Baltic States as one of their priorities.
A total of 17 allied states will take part in NATO’s enhanced forward presence in the Baltics and Poland. Together with the three Baltic States that makes 20 NATO nations – is this not a clear signal of solidarity and deterrence?
We highly appreciate the strengthening of NATO forces in the Baltic region. However, to address current security challenges, it is crucial to ensure continuous US military presence.
The United States is a trusted ally and partner, which was once again confirmed a couple of days ago in Washington, when I met with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives. I received from Mr Ryan steadfast assurance that the United States will continue its support for the security of the Baltic States.
Latvia has taken long strides in strengthening its defence capabilities, and 2% of GDP will be earmarked for national defence by 2018.
We only have one message: in the event of either military or non-military offence Latvia will fight back and will not surrender. We have never surrendered and never will.
Of course, weapons alone do not a sound defence make.
We must ask whether we are prepared for and capable of defending ourselves. Whether we are a capable of taking care of our children and family. This applies not only to emergency situations, but also every other part of our daily life.
The conviction that we are capable of standing up for ourselves is the cornerstone of feeling secure. It is equally important to think about tomorrow instead of living just for today. We must always have a plan B.
Inspiring people with the feeling of security is the greatest challenge that still requires much effort.
In recent years, we have been making efforts to achieve an in-depth understanding of our individual and national identity, to find connections between our shared national values and universal human values. Sociologists and psychologists, philosophers and lawyers have all voiced their views on what it means to be Latvian and what are our inherent psychological features.
Sometimes the answers to these questions take a rather tangible form – suggesting that it is the national flag, the traditional costume, a rural homestead or grey peas with bacon.
Other approaches suggest that everything Latvian is rather gloomy – people are sceptical, overly cautious and suspicious. It was even claimed in a recent theatre play that Latvians are like shrubs rather than noble trees.
But what is it that unites and mobilises a nation? What is it that drives and maintains one’s ethnic identity throughout centuries? What is it that makes a Latvian proud of their state although it is not perfect?
I think it is everything that can never be taken away from a human being.
It is the ancestral legacy, the sense of belonging, thoughts and the way of life. It is the lifelong way to one’s home. It is the love for one’s fatherland. It is something that resides deep in one’s heart.
It is the awareness of one’s spirit that has given undefeatable strength to the Latvian people. For it resides deep within us.
We may be rather tongue-tied when it comes to professing love, praising someone’s achievements, or taking pride in our own accomplishments.
Maybe we have not done enough in explaining to everyone why we are celebrating 4 May and 18 November. Why do we light candles on 11 November and make flower wreaths on Midsummer Eve? Why do two million Latvians have their own state, a living language, a unique culture and so many distinguished personalities? Why do we have all of this?
Our spirit is the answer. It is our ability to change the path of history. This is what happened in 1918 and 1990.
The answer also lies within our ability to silently and discretely make a stronghold of solidarity, as soon as the security of Latvia is threatened.
These things are intangible. Throughout centuries Latvians have demonstrated their ability to take charge of their destiny at the decisive turns of events. All thanks to our love for our state, our love for Latvia.
Latvians can rely on themselves and one other. We are not victims of historical events. We are the winners of history.
Dear Parliamentarians, Excellences, Compatriots,
In a couple of hours, the MPs will leave for Rēzekne, where we will celebrate another historic event – the centennial of the Latgale Congress.
It was 100 years ago when it was decided that the people of Latgale, Vidzeme and Kurzeme shall form a single nation and that Latgale shall join the other regions of the Latvian state in the making to form a single country.
Bishop Jāzeps Rancāns, one of the inspirers of the event, said that “the Latgale Congress is one of the cornerstones of the independent state of Latvia”. It was the Latgale Congress that brought the third star to the wreath of Latvia.
The Latgale Congress is another example of Latvians making the right decision at a historically decisive moment. Besides, it was a decision that was made in a democratic, united and committed manner. This is what happened at the Latgale Congress 100 years ago, this is what happened on 18 November 1918, and also on 4 May 1990.
We ourselves created the state of Latvia, restored its independence and will make it live for eternity.
God bless Latvia!