Egils Levits Domestic policy
Valsts prezidents Egils Levits

Dear Latgalians, dear friends of Latgale,

I

Let me sincerely congratulate everyone celebrating the anniversary of Latgale congress today all over Latvia and Latgale!

Momentous decisions of the Rēzekne Latgale Congress in 1917 paved the way for unification of the Latvian nation and lands.

It was a historic moment in the formation of the Latvian State. It was the moment when we clearly declared that Latvians from Latgale, Vidzeme and Kurzeme belong to the single nation of Latvians.

We expressed our will to live as one nation from now on at the Latgale Congress.

II

I want to thank everyone who has been a part of bringing the Latgale Congress back into our collective memory. I am also thankful to those who mark the congress with various events every year to pay tribute to the Latgale Congress and promote the heritage of Latgale.

I would also like to praise Saeima for its annual Latgale Congress anniversary remembrance events that are held on this day every year, bringing us together for a discussion on what has already been achieved and what we still need to do.

III

The responsible Saeima committee is finalising the legislative proposal on historical Latvian lands prepared by me and it will soon be available for the second reading in the parliament.

I greatly encourage parliamentarians to adopt the historical Latvian Lands law before the end of this session, so that I could enact it before the 1 July 2021.

The purpose of the historical Latvian lands bill is to highlight the many sides of being a Latvian, to make the identity of historical Latvian lands stronger and support the preservation and development of unique cultural and historical landscape.

Law contains several provisions that are crucial for Latgale. Provisions that I have supported and proposed when drafting the law.

First, this law stipulates that preservation and sustainable development of Latgalian identity and its cultural and historical landscape is an autonomous responsibility of the national and local governments.

Second, according to the law, national and local governments will have the duty to encourage people to learn and use Latgalian as one of the dialects of Latvian language, and also encourage the restoring and use of Latgalian place names.

Third, the law stipulates the obligation of the state to support the use of Latgalian in the information space, including electronic public service broadcasting companies.

Four, this law will form the basis of historical Latvian lands and culture spaces development plan, which will offer specific initiatives and programmes supporting the Latgalian identity and preservation and development of its unique cultural and historical landscape.

Five, the bill puts forth a procedure for authorising the use of flags of historical Latvian lands. I know that many of you are very fond of the Latgalian flag and its colours, so this law will give the official procedure for the approval of flags for each of the historical Latvian lands.

And, last but not least, the new law will offer a map and description of historical Latvian lands prepared by experts. Map shows exactly which towns and rural settlements, or their parts, belong to Latgale – where Latgale starts and where it ends.

IV

Adoption of the historical Latvian lands law is not the end of the road. It does not mean that everything will work out itself and national or local government will take care of everything.

Local communities, cultural spaces and active community groups in various historical Latvian lands will continue to play a big part in implementation of the law.

Preservation of the Latgalian identity and unique cultural and historical landscape primarily depends on you – your civic engagement and initiatives, your willingness to become volunteers working for the common good.

However, by adopting the law our country will recognise that we do care about the diversity of Latvianness, in all of its form, and we want to preserve it and pass it on to the next generations.

Diversity of Latvianness, including Latgalian identity, is a value that our state and the nation should treasure. We should nurture it to let the future generations enjoy it in all of its richness and depth.

Let’s do this together! Thank you.

Address of the President of Latvia, Egils Levits, at the meeting of the Latgale Sub-committee of the Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee marking the anniversary of Latgale Congress