Address by Ināra Mūrniece, Speaker of the Saeima, at the ceremonial sitting of the Saeima in honour of the 103rd anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia on 18 November 2021

(18.11.2021.)

Honourable President of Latvia,

Honourable Prime Minister,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Ministers, Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear fellow compatriots,

 

One hundred and three years ago, our independent State of Latvia was proclaimed.

Our national self‑identity was established during the First National Awakening in the late 19th century, and by the Second Awakening in the early 20th century, Latvians were confident about their wish for freedom and establishing their own independent state.

Latvian poet Plūdons wrote:

“We want to be the masters of our own homeland,

We want to pass our own laws!”

On 18 November 1918, this wish came true.

Unfortunately, the ink had barely dried on the Act on the Proclamation of the State, when the fierce, complex freedom battles began, also known as the War of Liberation.

However, one thing was clear—Latvians had to defend their state. It would have been impossible without the political shrewdness and passion of the government at that time.

The War of Liberation demonstrated the ability of the Latvian government and people to defend their country.

Following the victory in the War of Liberation, Latvia’s growth and development began. The structure of the state was improved, the national identity grew stronger, and in 1922, after two years of work, the Satversme, Latvian constitution, was completed.

In 2022, one hundred years will have passed since the Constitutional Assembly adopted the fundamental law of our country. The Satversme established the constitutional groundwork for the State of Latvia. It is a written document expressing the purpose for establishing our country and a mutual agreement on how the people would protect and contribute to common and individual welfare, based on greater common values and mutual respect.

During this time, in 1922, Prime Minister Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics announced a public competition for a monument to commemorate the heroes fallen in the War of Liberation. The design by Kārlis Zāle, later titled the Freedom Monument, was an embodiment in stone of the ideals and goals of the War of Liberation and national development.

The Freedom Monument displays traditions and joy, as well as difficult battles and losses. The spirit of the foundation of our country, the War of Liberation, and our Constitution—it is all enshrined in the Freedom Monument. Mother Latvia holds our Three Stars in her raised hands.

They keep reminding us that, throughout history, we have only managed to defend what is most important with mutual agreement and respect and by working together.

To our great satisfaction, this autumn, the Freedom Monument will shine in particular splendour. I would like to thank former president of Latvia Valdis Zatlers for the Monument illumination initiative, as well as his partners and everyone who supported the project.

 

Dear compatriots,

One may ask: did the political shrewdness, foresight, and passion remain alive after the 50 years of occupation?

The Third National Awakening clearly shows that our shrewdness and spirit were still alive. Perhaps, a few spines had been broken. Perhaps, during the occupation, only a few remembered that, according to international law, Latvia had continued existing for all those years. However, during the Third Awakening, every patriot of Latvia realised: the time has come, the portal to freedom has reopened, and everyone must seek ways to restore our country together.

In this new “war for liberation”, the main battles were fought with legal weapons.

The votes of the Supreme Council of 4 May 1990 and 21 August 1991 rendered the restoration of Latvia’s independence a constitutional fact.

Within the legal conceptual framework of the Soviet era, a legal fact was of little significance, but, according to the legal understanding of the West, it was the complete opposite—it was of great importance. The authors of the Declaration On the Restoration of Independence of 4 May were fully aware of this, especially Egils Levits and Romāns Apsītis.

After the Third Awakening, the political shrewdness and passion of the leaders of the Awakening, our excellent lawyers, and our people set Latvia back on the world map—for the second time, after a 50‑year break.

 

Esteemed people of Latvia,

The COVID-19 pandemic has also been compared with war, in particular in the beginning.

In a way, it does seem like a war, since many negative aspects must be countered at once. The disease itself, the refusal of the people to comply with restrictions. We must combat misinformation, conspiracy theories, and malicious fake news.

Just like in the late 18th century, when a kind of propaganda had to be employed to persuade people to vaccinate against smallpox, now we must also inform and convince people in various ways about the necessity to vaccinate against COVID‑19.

As the doctors say: “We are in this war not to take, but to save lives!” And saving lives is that simple—with a vaccine. Please get vaccinated if you have not done so already.

I would like to convey my deepest respect and gratitude to the medical staff working on the front lines of the pandemic, fighting day and night to save people’s lives.

In addition to the highest threat posed by the pandemic—the threat to life—it also embroils political processes.

The pandemic has deteriorated relations between certain social groups and the state. People across Europe are dissatisfied with their governments.

The governments are blamed for their indecisiveness, strictness, restrictions or the lack thereof, vaccination requirements, access to vaccines, and the need for testing. It is tragic that people are still dying because of lies and misinformation.

On a human level, the pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for us, our children, parents, and grandparents. It challenges the ability of our society to cooperate and rely on one another. It is a test of our common sense and critical thinking. It puts the maturity of our society to the test.

Sooner or later, the pandemic will end, but Latvia will remain.

It is important that the war against the pandemic does not irreversibly turn into a battle among ourselves and lead to division and intolerance. Not everything is within our ability to predict and control. However, it is up to us to choose our attitude towards life and the people around us during this time. Everyone is entitled to attention and respect.

If it seems that, in our society, we are losing the ties that have usually been strong and whose beauty we experienced very recently, during the centenary of Latvia, we must find ways to renew and strengthen these ties. Let us be wise and support, not undermine one another!

 

Dear patriots and allies of Latvia, 

Unprecedented hybrid operations are currently taking place at the EU-NATO external border in Poland, deliberately carried out by the Belarusian regime in an attempt to flood the EU with thousands of migrants. Provocations have also been directed against Latvia and Lithuania.

It is our duty to protect our country, and we are fulfilling it.

A state of emergency has been declared in several Latvian border municipalities, equipment and increased resources have been provided for guarding the Latvian‑Belarusian border. Other services – the police, the National Guard, soldiers of the Armed Forces – have also come to the aid of border guards. Coordination between our security services and ministries is taking place at the highest level and down to the smallest detail.

We also keep our international partners constantly informed about the situation. We have a duty to explain the situation, and their awareness of its gravity is growing. I can assure you that we have reliable partners both within the EU and NATO.

The situation on the Belarusian border is addressed by the Baltic States in a spirit of great unanimity and in support of Poland. Work is on-going at several political levels – this week a meeting of the Presidents of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania took place with the participation of the President of Poland.

Baltic and Polish parliamentarians are in close dialogue as well. Intensive work is carried out at the level of prime ministers, foreign, interior, and defence ministers.

We know that every state begins with its border. Protecting one’s border is a top priority. Currently, our responsibility is even greater. We are protecting not only our own external border, but also that of the EU and NATO. I am convinced that we will receive international financial support to strengthen our border.

European cooperation is rooted in respect for democratic values. We must continue supporting the democratic opposition in Belarus, which is facing ever more brutal persecution and oppression in its own homeland. Even if the situation in Belarus might seem hopeless and any change impossible, let us remember the national resistance movement of Latvia during the darkest days of the Soviet occupation and the symbol of our resistance – Gunārs Astra. Just like he did back then, the freedom fighters in Belarus today are taking a stand on justice, believing that this time in their country will fade like a terrible nightmare.

 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Latvian National Guard. It continues to develop. The National Guard and the Youth Guard are worthy heirs of the spirit of our mythical hero Lāčplēsis, and they will preserve this spirit for the generations to come.

On our Proclamation Day, I would like to specially thank the border guards, the national guard, and our soldiers, who defend our country and, of particular relevance at the moment, the eastern border of the EU and NATO.

The security landscape in the Baltic region, Europe, and the world is changing.

Sadly, Crimea is still occupied by Russia. There are regular ceasefire violations and shots are fired in eastern Ukraine. The USA has warned its European partners about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine during the migration crisis implemented by Lukashenko.

It is important for NATO to successfully and swiftly adapt to the shifting security landscape.

Soon, on 30 November and 1 December, Latvia will host the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs for the first time. In the Meeting in Riga, in addition to solving topical security challenges, NATO allies will discuss cooperation with partners and the EU and launch talks about the new strategic concept of the alliance. It will be an important event for our capital city.

We are grateful and appreciative of the contribution of our allies to the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Latvia, and to the Baltic Air Policing Mission. We must do everything in our power to keep contributing to a strong collective defence presence of NATO, as well as deterrence policy, which will help reinforce the security in our region.

Latvia highly appreciates the unwavering support of the USA for the security and defence of the Baltics. We call on the USA to strengthen their presence in the Baltic states.

 

Dear people of Latvia,

Everyone is concerned about the economic development of our country.

According to the conclusions by the Bank of Latvia, this year, there has been rapid growth of some economic sectors, meaning that the economic development forecast for 2021 could be raised to 5.3 %. These are great news.

Despite the favourable forecasts, the Latvian economy lags behind its Baltic neighbours. With the help of employment policies, targeted structural reforms, and also industrial development, Latvia may catch up—unfortunately, having spent already 15 years in the third place.

The pursuit of economic development does not end along with the government mandate. It is a matter of sustainability for our nation.

This autumn also brings us a worrisome situation: the energy prices in world stock exchanges have risen. The Ministry of Economics has found good ways to support the people of Latvia, by increasing the amount of assistance available to protected groups, including families with three or more children.

In addition, every person in Latvia will hopefully feel the positive effect of raising the non‑taxable minimum to 350 euros from 1 January 2022, and to 500 euros from 1 July 2022.

 

Esteemed colleagues, Members of the Saeima,

This is the last time that the 13th Saeima celebrates 18 November, the anniversary of our country, together. In less than a year, the election of the 14th Saeima will take place. Let us take stock of our accomplishments, as well as complete the planned tasks that remain unfinished.

The pandemic has also influenced the work of the Saeima. We shifted from in‑person to remote work several times, and we have dedicated a lot of our time to solutions for the situation caused by COVID‑19.

Admittedly, it would have gone better if several MPs had shown greater respect towards the Saeima and their fellow parliamentarians. Likewise, honesty and willingness to admit one’s mistakes would have helped establish mutual trust between the politicians and the society. The ability to admit one’s mistakes and offer new solutions is a sign of political maturity and strength.

When the world around us becomes ever more unpredictable and uncertain, we must draw strength from within. If we return to our own roots and sources of strength, our identity will not be dictated by external conditions. Nobody said that building a country would only involve uninterrupted growth. Sometimes we must face greater challenges than we can seemingly overcome. Good moments are often mixed with harder times.

The next year will mark one hundred years since the first convocation of the Saeima started its work.

The history of our democracy has been comparatively short, but the principles of democracy and the spirit of parliamentarism are the basis of our country. Let us reinforce them with respectful attitude towards one another and our society!

 

Dear compatriots,

History shows that trust in the Latvian state and its people and supporting one another for the sake of a greater objective has consistently helped us overcome the most difficult of times. This belief and faith have never failed us. It has given us wisdom, foresight, and passion that we have used whenever we faced a decisive moment.

Long live Latvia!

God bless Latvia!

Svētdien, 28.novembrī