Egils Levits
Egils Levits

Esteemed Madam Nagobads-Ābola,

Congratulations on your birthday! As minister just said, you are as old as our country and have gone through the same perils.

I do believe you are the role model for other Latvian diplomats. Every diplomatic service employee should study your work and how you used your charm, wits and agility to better represent Latvia abroad.

You became a diplomat at the age of 70, which means it is never too late to start something new. You worked as a diplomat for 10 years, and that is incredible. You grew up in the newly founded Latvian State, were then forced into exile where you continued to be an active member of the diaspora and did a lot to support Latvia’s independence aspirations, and, of course, actively engaged in diplomacy, which has been depicted in the works that we can see here at this exhibition.

Let me recount three separate occasions when I had the pleasure of working with you.

First, in 1990, when the then foreign minister of Latvia met with the staff of Latvia’s diplomatic service. Latvian government was not recognised yet and Latvian State was still represented by its diplomatic service, which was led from Washington by the Latvian ambassador Anatols Dinbergs. You were very actively engaged in negotiations aimed at achieving recognition of the Latvian government by Latvian diplomatic service. That may seem strange from today’s perspective, but back then diplomatic service had to recognise the government, which our foreign service, of course, did, and I should say that you, Madam Nagobads-Ābola, played a major role in these diplomatic negotiations, and I mean diplomatic negotiations in the truest sense of the word. These talks took place in Germany and others who are also present here today took part in them, and I assume that there should also be photos from these historic negotiations somewhere among today’s exhibits.

Second, in August of 1991, when my wife and I visited you in Paris. We were also joined by the then leader of the Popular Front of Latvia. We talked about the apparent need to restart the government, appointment of government members and the forming of the cabinet. As we all now know, that was unnecessary because of the 21 August events that followed.

Third, when you, Madam Nagobads-Ābola, were already Latvia’s ambassador to France and had to supervise the retrieval of our gold reserve. Latvia had held its gold in France, and when the state could access these reserves again, they had to be retrieved swiftly. Again, you played a major role in the retrieval because you personally knew the right French government members and the then head of the French State. Retrieval of its gold was absolutely essential for Latvia, which had no national currency back then.

As far as Latvian gold is concerned, let me focus on another important, yet less obvious, fact that attests to your enormous role and Baltic solidarity and cooperation even before the regaining of independence and recognition of the renewed Latvian State. I am talking about a time when Lithuanian and Estonians had run out of their gold reserves and Latvian diplomatic service agreed to finance Lithuanian and Estonian diplomatic mission from its own gold reserves (interest rate). We were helping our neighbours already in 1970s and 1980s.

Your role, Madam Nagobads-Ābola, in restoring Latvia’s national independence before becoming an ambassador and especially after being appointed to this position has been enormous, and you are a unique person both for Latvia and the whole Europe.

Big thank you to everyone who helped put this exhibition together, especially its curator, Mr Lappuķe. This exhibition is a vital part of our collective memory now.