Dear friends and fellow Latvians,
I am happy to see you here and that you are a part of the Latvian nation, part of Latvian diaspora. Diaspora has become a normal phenomenon in modern societies because there will always be a part of the nation living abroad.
I have come to Munich for the Munich Security Conference and yesterday a delegate from Greece was telling during one of the discussions that a substantial number of Greeks live abroad and have built a strong Greek diaspora. Diaspora is key for them because it helps maintain their ties with Greece. So, it is important to have diaspora, but it is even more important that diaspora is active in supporting interactions, bringing people together and uniting them for the common cause. Working for the common cause instead of pursuing individual goals is one of the key traits of a modern society. There are different ways of how we work together for a common cause, for example, during the war, by going to church, school, being a part of association, stakeholder and other organisations.
I am deeply grateful for what you do. Your efforts contribute to critical mass and I see that there are many of you here who are constantly and actively engaged in maintaining these ties. It is important not only at the individual level but also for Latvia and the whole Latvian nation.
Let me share with my thoughts on how Latvia is doing right now. If you would ask me, ‘How is Latvia doing?’, I would say, ‘Good.’ And that is a fair description. If we look at some objective factors, Latvia has recorded constant growth over the past decade. On average, we have been growing two times faster than the rest of Europe and two-and-a-half times faster than Germany. We are quickly catching up with the rest of Europe in terms of average levels.
Latvia is implementing various reforms, and I have to underline that any state requires constant reforms. It is absolutely clear that you do not build a state once and it just continues to exist. All states need reforms from time to time, so governments must constantly think about new reforms that are needed. Reforms are also the responsibility of a parliament. Every law that is adopted is aimed at reforming the existing structures. That is how it works. Some of the reforms, of course, are more actively challenged. For example, regional reform has been debated very actively. Those who are not from Riga are following these discussions very closely because some of the municipalities might soon no longer look the way you remember them when you left. There is also a quite heated debate about health and education reform, but that is normal and that is how it should be.
Looking at so many colleagues, friends and fellow Latvians here today, I am convinced that 30 years after the regaining of our independence, in 2020, Latvia is opening a new chapter in its history. Basically, we have ‘swept’ all the legacy of occupation into a ‘pile somewhere in the corner’ and it no longer bothers us so much. Of course, there still remains some ‘legacy’ that we have to deal with, but a new generation of Latvians has grown up in democratic and free Latvia where Latvian is the official language and that will not change. Of course, not all residents of Latvia use Latvian, but it depends on Latvians and whether we consistently speak only Latvian when approached.
By the way, one of the topics discussed during the Munich Security Conference was Westlessness, i.e. whether the family of Western countries that represents certain values is facing a decline in the modern world. Participants of the discussion agreed that there is no decline, but what was more interesting is that Latvia is automatically considered a ‘Western’ country in this context. In early ‘90s it was strange for some that we are considered a part of Western civilisation, whereas now all Latvians, those who live in Latvia and abroad, consider themselves a part of Western civilisation beyond any doubt. Moreover, other nations now also believe beyond doubt that we are a part of the bigger system of values we know as Western world.
I will now be happy to answer your questions and hear your suggestions and views on how you see the future of Europe and Latvia from here, from Munich.