Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have different historical experiences. 25 years ago I was watching the fall of Berlin Wall on news program broadcast from Moscow and my country Latvia was still occupied by Soviet Union. For me and my compatriots the Second World War has not been ended.
Looking back to the revolutions of the 90s, I would like to particularly highlight the role of popular democratic movements in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries bringing down the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union. I am grateful to the Chancellor Angela Merkel who recognised our contribution to the reunification of Germany in her speech at the ceremony in Berlin on November 9: “We, Germans, will never forget that the freedom and democracy movements in Central and Eastern Europe paved the way for the happiest moment in our recent history.”
Most Europeans today have forgotten that after the defeat of Solidarity in Poland, in 1981, in the summer of 1988, the freedom struggle was resumed with new force directly in the Soviet occupied countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It was precisely the Baltic countries that formed hundreds of thousands of national liberation manifestations, organized by the Latvian Peoples Front (LTF), “Sajudis” of Lithuania and “Rahvarinne” in Estonia. The Baltic Way became the most important and symbolic demonstration for the liberation in the Baltic States and this event is still remembered all around the world. It was a chain of people, 600 kilometres through the three Baltic republics, to commemorate the terrible anniversary of 50 years since the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; which divided Europe in two zones of influence between the Communist Soviets and Nazi Germany and laid the foundation for the Second World War.
Back then, on August 23rd 1989, when we joined hands for the Baltic Way, only a few of us were able to assess the historical significance of this event. For us, the Baltic people, this was yet another large manifestation to remind the world that for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania World War II had not yet ended and that our countries were still occupied. During the Baltic Revolution we would demonstrate often, because only with our overwhelming majority we were able to confront the Soviet repressive machine. This peaceful image was so strong that the Baltic Way came to symbolize the Baltic Singing Revolution.
The Baltic Way was the turning point in the attitude of the international community towards the Baltic Revolution. Until this manifestation, we were largely perceived as nationalists who threatened Gorbachev’s reforms, the reunification of Germany and disarmament. However, the message of the Baltic Way was so strong that it was heard by the world. We were only insisting that which was justly owed to us. We wanted back our freedom! We wanted to return to Europe, where we had always belonged. The Baltic Way was our road to freedom and Europe.
Looking back on the 25 years since the historic changes in Europe, it is important for us to understand why the Iron curtain fell and the Soviet Union collapsed; to understand the successes and failures of these 25 years. Such an understanding and research will help us build a better European policy and avoid future failures in our support for the building of democracy in our neighbourhood.
We are celebrating the fall of Iron Curtain at a time when the European and world order, which was formed after World War II and was completed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is destabilized. This order, which is based on international law and international treaties, has been rocked by the annexation of Crimea and by Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine. These illegal acts 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 for 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 dangerous behaviour must be stopped using all international instruments of influence that the European Union and the United States possess.
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. We have to prevent Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, to descend a new Iron Curtain across Europe, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.