“Exelencies, the distinguished participants of the General assembly of the 75th International Session of the European Youth Parliament,
Ekselences, Godātie Eiropas jaunatnes parlamenta ģenerālās asamblejas 75. Sesijas dalībnieki!
Sveicu Jūs Latvijā! Sveicu Jūs Rīgā!
Welcome to Latvia! Welcome to Riga!
In a month’s time Latvia will celebrate the 10th anniversary of our accession to the European Union. I remember vividly my feelings on May 1st 2004. When I watched my country’s flag fluttering in the wind outside the EU building, I felt both pride and sadness. I felt a sense of personal triumph at having overcome the historical and geopolitical determinations to which my country and my nation had fallen victim, when in 1940 Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. And yet I also had to think about my grandparents, who senselessly lost their lives in the concentration camps of the Soviet Gulag. I had to think about my mother and father, who lost their health and their youth in Siberia and my birth into the captive world of the Gulag. Yet, history had other plans for me. Forty years later it was my great privilege to serve as one of the leaders of Latvia’s national revolution. We waged a battle on behalf of Latvia’s independence which brought forward the collapse of the “evil empire” which was the Soviet Union. 15 years later, as the Foreign Minister of Latvia, I had the honor to pose my signature on the European Treaty of Latvia and to become the first European Commissioner of my country.
It is precisely this personal experience which turned me into a dedicated European, a woman who considers tolerance and respect for human rights to be principles of the highest order. I am convinced that the Baltic States and the countries of Eastern Europe have no choice but to be members of the European Union and NATO. So, too, I am convinced that under conditions of globalization, the European Union has no choice but to follow the vision of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet about the EU as an “ever closer union.” I see the European Union as an alliance of nation states, one which brings together political and economic potential so as to expand its influence in the world.
I invite you always to remember that we, Europeans, are „united in diversity”, as it is written in the Treaties of the EU. I am proud that my identity has two inseparable sides – I am a Latvian and I am a European. That is a positive value which unites me and my people with other European nations who hold the same values to be true. We, Europeans, we are all Poles, Dutch, Greeks, Hungarians, Ukrainians and Germans, but we are also all Europeans. We must understand that Europe is not just a source of income to enhance welfare; it is not just the common market. Europe is first and foremost a cultural space from which the universal values of our civilization have emerged. It is in the name of these values that we, various European nations have come together voluntarily.
Neither must we ever forget the close links which unify us with other countries, where these same values prevail. Anti-Americanism has become something of a fashion in Europe today. Yet, please do not forget that the values which link our two continents are rooted in the European Age of Enlightenment and that the Americans, like we, the Europeans, are the children of that Age. Europe and the USA are allies, and the Baltic States wish to strengthen co-operation between both continents, between Europe and the United States.
European heritage has always played a very important role in determining Latvia’s destiny. During occupation, awareness of our Latvian and our European identity served simultaneously as a tool of resistance and as an amulet of hope; it explains why we were not assimilated into the Soviet melting pot of nations. Therefore, today Latvia is not a post-Soviet republic; it is a flourishing member state of the European Union and NATO. We have returned to Europe to stand together with other European nations, in defense of European values against threats coming from totalitarian ideologies and regimes. There is a united Europe, whole and free, in which each and every human being is of value.
Your session is taking place at a time when the European and world order, which was formed after World War II and was completed after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union, is destabilized. This order, which is based on international law and international treaties, has been rocked by the crisis in Ukraine and threatened by Russian aggression. Yesterday, a referendum was held in the Crimea and in the near future Russia will apparently annex the Crimea. This illegal act resonates in me a feeling that history repeats itself. On March 5th, 1946, in Fulton the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said: From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent. In this historic speech, he marked the border between the free and democratic world and totalitarian dictatorship. I urge Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, not to descend a new Iron Curtain across Europe, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
We are all aware that the events in Ukraine are not only decisive for the future of the Ukrainian nation, yet also the future of Europe. History has taught us that whenever the freedom of a nation is sacrificed for the sake of stability and appeasement, like in Munich and Yalta, the result is the opposite. Europe was left divided and unstable. Consequently, Russian aggression must be stopped immediately using all international instruments of influence that the European Union and the United States possess. We cannot allow the history which the Baltic countries experienced in 1940, to be repeated in Ukraine in 2014.”