Egils Levits
Valsts prezidenta Egila Levita uzruna Saeimas pavasara sesijas noslēguma sēdē

Honourable members of the Saeima,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s sitting marks the end of a very busy parliamentary session. Moreover, for several months you have worked under emergency rules.


Coronavirus has digitalised and transformed us all.

You, dear members of the Saeima, are the first parliamentarians in Europe and the world to build on digital technologies to keep working remotely despite emergency measures.

Constitutionality of such mode is unquestionable, although in 1922, when Satversme was written, there was, of course, no pandemic clause. Satversme is a solid foundation of Latvia and our democratic system. It cannot be influenced by emergency.

To reiterate that, I called a meeting of heads of all four constitutional bodies on 23 March. It was our first joint meeting and we agreed on core principles of how constitutional bodies should work during an emergency. In case of emergency, depending on the type of crisis, all government departments, bodies and officials should find appropriate means to continue fulfilling their mandate and duties in a manner that fits the national objectives and ensures as appropriate delivery of their specific functions and tasks as possible.

Government should be able to switch to remote work or move to digital platforms, if necessary.



Latvia has weathered numerous storms. We have always been hit harder than other countries. That is, however, not the case with this crisis. We have escaped relatively unscathed, mainly because of the following three reasons, which proved decisive.

Firstly, government chose a well-balanced policy response. Instead of ignorance or panic, it based its decisions on rational assumptions. Instead of political positions, it followed the advice of experts.

Secondly, public bodies responded to crisis in a well-coordinated manner, quickly adjusting their decisions to changing situation and needs of the society, and efficiently re-evaluating previously adopted decisions.

But, above all, we have to thank our people for complying with rather mild restrictions and thus stopping the further spread of virus.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank all MPs for expedient adoption of necessary emergency laws, and thank all cabinet members, government and municipal employees. And our courageous healthcare professionals also deserve a special thank you. Their courage, solidarity and coordination enabled them to take care of all those who needed help. I would like to thank our civic society for pooling its resources and helping government handle the crisis.

This crisis was a real test to our people, our government and our democracy. And we can now proudly say that we ‘passed it with flying colours’.


Although crisis brought numerous sectors to a sudden halt, we responded quickly and acted decisively. We showed our ability to cooperate and give meaningful and quick response to emergency. It is extremely important to keep the same standards in future as well.

We must do our best to make our country better, more developed than before crisis, in the medium and long run.

That is what all of us should aspire to. That is what our people, our constitution and we ourselves expect.


Dear members of the Saeima,

Let me also mention several other important areas where parliament has made significant progress, and also raise outstanding issues that require immediate attention, or priorities that I mentioned in my address at the opening sitting of Saeima 2019 autumn session.

Let me start with Administrative Territorial Reform Law, which was finally adopted by Saeima during this session. But I will speak about that at greater length tomorrow.

Heated parliamentary debate around Higher Education Law underlines the significance of this reform. A reform that should have been completed long ago. Latvia wants to be a modern country, and we, the people of Latvia, expect our higher education to be able to compete at the European level.

Various discussions on expected reform have clearly shown that there is considerable consensus regarding university typology based on their profile. A new university governance model is needed. Strategic vision of a university would be formulated by a council comprised of academic staff and members of the public. But these are only some of the proposed reforms.

Let me just add that I believe adequate funding is key for efficiency of our universities and scientific sector.

Covid-19 pandemic has unmasked the deficiencies in Latvia’s tax system. It has unmasked the factors contributing to social inequality and segregation: large share of shadow economy, tax arrangements that have left a large part of our society without social protection during the crisis. Taxes are the price that we all pay for welfare we expect. We must build on lessons learned during the crisis to raise the profile of our country and create an efficient and simple tax system. One that works. We also need to declare zero tolerance towards any tax fraud. That is how Latvia can become more modern and solidary.

And, to become more developed, ruled by the law, Latvia, of course, will have to strengthen its rule of law.

On the one hand, we have the system, and this system needs to become better – we need to fine tune it and expand it.

On the other hand, that is only a part of the solution. We must also know how to manage the system the right way. Without formalism and departmentalism. Every legal professional must be sufficiently qualified and able to discern the meaning and purpose of the law, and then apply them to the implementation of the law.

I am really happy to see that the rule of law has been given a thorough consideration by MPs. I think the discussion about the role of National Council in our legal system is moving in the right direction. Council must be created within the current mandate of the parliament.

It is vital for parliament to keep making the changes in relevant laws to eliminate loopholes that lead to unreasonable delays in court proceedings. We also expect new initiatives from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court recently appointed by you. I hope that aptitude to improve the quality of law and implement reforms will be one of the criteria for the new prosecutor general selected by the parliament.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Our economy has begun to recover. We are relatively well set for it; we have good preconditions and just need to build on them smartly.

We are in an unprecedented situation. Economy is slowing down, but instead of having the usual choice between various austerity measures, we have the opportunity to make strategic investments and quickly invest large sums of money allocated from European Union recovery fund. We now have to come up with a clear investment plan.

However, we should not forget that this loan will be repaid by future generations. That is why we need to invest in future. These investments must add the highest possible value, promote exports and competitiveness, attract more investment, create better preconditions for integration in international supply chains and segments, and give maximum return overall.

To achieve that, political parties that formulate national policies need to make decisions based on strategic assumptions and common national interests. There must be a well-structured discussion on how to invest this funding. Discussion driven by strong concern for development of our society and economy. That should be the only investment decision criteria. No election campaign promises or vested interests of their ‘clients’ should influence these decisions.


Dear members of the Saeima,

Post-Coronavirus economic development of Latvia depends on our foresight, determination, smart and dynamic decision-making. European Union has already embarked on the Green Deal.

That means that Latvia must build on its strengths and become the EU champion of green transformation. It should be one of the key drivers of our economic policy and one of the criteria for allocation of additional EU funding earmarked for Latvia.

Green Deal fits well with our culture and mindset. With EU’s financial backing, transition is ready to take off. It would be foolish not to jump on the bandwagon.



This crisis showed that we are capable of coming together and acting decisively. It also pinpointed sectors where such capacity is missing. Crisis exposed weaknesses of our governance system and democracy.

Our government has always focused on traditional sectors. We all know what our foreign policy, defence policy, fiscal and other policies look like, and the purpose of our regular discussions is to decide where these policies are headed.

However, this traditional governance model, developed in 19th and 20th century, no longer meets all needs of a modern and high-growth oriented country. We need stronger culture of cooperation among government institutions and the so-called horizontal policies must be backed by institutional framework and political leadership.

Let me mention two areas that are suffering from political and structural limitations.


One of the constraints is information space policy. This policy often goes beyond mere media policy.

We live our lives in both the real and virtual environment at the same time. Influence of social media is constantly growing. Social media fuel fragmentation of public domain and filter bubbles. These filter bubbles can easily be manipulated and used for spreading disinformation.

Democratic discourse space is a vital element of society. Such space is crucial for meaningful exchange of ideas between homo sapiens and not trolls or bots.

Information we choose to consume shapes our worldviews. And worldviews determine our social behaviour. When the information space around us is good, we can make well-informed decisions, whereas information fabric speckled with junk will lead to ill-advised conclusions. Quality of information space, therefore, can be seen as a factor that strongly influences the life of a country.

Latvia needs a meaningful information space policy that reflects the realities of the third decade of 21st century and the social significance of information. Policy that fosters digital literacy across all age groups, prevents hate speech and supports quality, and let me emphasise, quality and only quality media, as well as countering of disinformation.

In absence of clear and comprehensive information space policy, and let me reiterate, without an institution with political and in fact sole mandate to implement such policy, our democracy, security and also long-term growth is in danger.


The other area where we hardly see any consistent government policy is new technology and digital policy. I intentionally used the term ‘technology policy’ instead of somewhat more restrictive ‘digital policy’. Technology policy includes innovation and social dimensions of technology.

Modern states, modern economies and modern societies are preoccupied with a question of what technologies should do instead of what they can do. I other words, societies want to control technologies instead of technologies ruling their life.

And digital policy, of course, is a major part of that. Covid-19 crisis has shown that Latvia is capable of implementing new digital solutions in the government and private sector. Together with the world’s leading technology giants Google and Apple, our experts have developed a unique application ‘Stop Covid’, a powerful tool that will stop the spread of Coronavirus.

However, compared to both our Baltic neighbours and other European Union member states, we are in many respects lagging behind in terms of digital transformation, especially development of e-commerce, and thus missing out on opportunities presented by the European digital single market.

Digital transformation should not be naively narrowed down to blind digitisation of all areas of life. It involves thorough and honest, and let me emphasise, honest assessment of digital opportunities and associated risks. All risks: technical and social.

Digital transformation requires careful consideration of appropriate privacy policy response. Policy that recognises that integration of big data and artificial intelligence may lead to unwarranted surveillance and manipulation. Risks that may eventually tarnish freedom and democracy.

In order to convert the potential of new technologies and digital transformation into long-term gains, Latvia needs an integrated national policy and action plan. But, more importantly, we need an institution that has the competence and capacity to bring this policy to life.

Currently our digital space is fragmented. There is no common vision, objective or plan of activities. We can be proud about a number of excellent ‘stand-alone’ solutions. They are really excellent. Yet, many unsolved issues often get bogged down in an institutional quagmire. Technology will help only if all its wheels turn at the same time.

Rapid social development compels me to urge the government and the Saeima to start thinking about how to integrate these important policy areas, i.e. new technologies, digital transformation, information space, under single coordination umbrella with an institution at the helm of this system that has the appropriate political mandate and is capable of representing its interests at the highest political level.

Dear colleagues,

Parliament is the beating heart of our political system. It is rooted in our constitution and our parliamentary democracy. Crisis has shown that Saeima is capable of doing its job well even when faced with unforeseen challenges.

I hope you will draw the inspiration from Latvian summer, enjoy the historic Latvian lands, Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme, Zemgale and Sēlija, and will come back ready for another spell of hard work in autumn!

Let us work together as a nation!

Thank you!