I would like to congratulate you on the 100th anniversary of foreign service as President of Latvia and your former colleague. I prefer to think of myself as one of you. I have had the privilege of being the first ambassador to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary after the restoration of Latvia’s independence. I still vividly remember the challenges, freedom and sense of responsibility I had back then.
Although our job back then was difficult, it was never as demanding as that of Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics and his colleagues. So, today we salute his courage and wit. He achieved the de iure recognition of Latvia and built the diplomatic service from scratch.
We salute all our colleagues who were deported, fought and resisted the totalitarian rule that followed the World War II and occupation.
We salute our diplomats Kārlis Zariņš, Alfrēds Bīlmanis, Arnolds Spekke, Anatols Dinbergs and others who tirelessly, despite the grimmest and darkest of times, kept Latvian diplomatic missions in London and Washington running throughout the years of soviet occupation as tangible, real proof of continuity of the Latvian state. Not only did they work at the political level, they also continued the official business through consular services. Back in 1970-ies, I myself went to the embassy in Washington to renew my brown Latvian passport that I could, not without having to explain what it is from time to time, use to travel. Due to non-recognition of the occupation, it was possible to convince border guard and customs officers that Latvia does exist.
I would also like to use this opportunity to thank those Latvians abroad who voluntarily acquired Latvian passports. Not only did it clearly demonstrate that they represent the Latvian population, but also proved and reminded other countries that Latvia continues to exist de iure.
I would also like point out that the 13 May 2010 Constitutional Court judgement, which all diplomats should read, validates what Latvian diplomatic service did during the occupation, it’s contra legem extended interpretation of 1919 Citizenship Law and issuing of Latvian passports to diaspora. According to the Constitutional Court, given the occupation and the ultimate goal of ensuring continuity and preservation of Latvia’s statehood, such acts were justified. By doing so, diplomatic service pursued this ultimate goal without any assurance of whether such acts will be accepted or condemned by Latvia later on. It took 20 years for the Constitutional Court to recognise and properly assess such civic and political acts.
I see a lot of young, determined and committed professionals among you tonight. Compared to the old days, present-day diplomatic service has an impressive number of women working in it. However, this is generally a case when our public administration is concerned. Our foreign service is modern, active and has acquired almost 30 years of modern experience.
Today’s tasks of the Latvian diplomatic service are different than in 1920-ies, and even 1990-ies. Today’s task of the Latvian diplomatic service is to promote our national interest in the globalised world which is growing increasingly complex. To promote and defend national interest under such circumstances, we, I think, as Foreign Minister Meierovics said in 1921, really need wit. And Latvian foreign service has plenty of it, in abundance.
In representing modern Latvia, our diplomatic service has ensured that our country can consider itself and, in fact, is already considered an integral part of the Western world. Latvia is a Western country which shares responsibility for the future of the EU and the world. And our foreign service fulfils this joint responsibility through various policies. So, thank you for that on behalf of Latvia, its people and me personally.
I wish you to continue pursuing the most ambitious foreign policy goals and highest standards of diplomacy and Latvia’s global presence in the next hundred years!