RIGA - Over the past four years, I have wholeheartedly tried to make Latvia more secure and competitive and to strengthen its national identity, outgoing President Egils Levits said as he lay flowers at the Freedom Monument on his last day of presidency.
Justine Deicmane, head of the president's press office, informed LETA that the president thanked the National Armed Forces' Guard of Honor, border guards, police officers and firefighters for their work for the benefit of Latvia and its people.
Addressing the soldiers, border guards, policemen and rescuers, the president noted that the Freedom Monument symbolically depicts Latvian soldiers - participants of the Freedom Battles who won statehood for Latvia. Without them, there would be no free and democratic Latvia.
"Today, you are the ones protecting Latvia. Your ancestors - the participants of the Freedom Battles - had to win Latvia. You have the task to protect Latvia. To protect Latvia, which was restored more than 30 years ago, but which is still under threat. In recent years, with Russian aggression, this threat has increased," Levits said.
The president said that Latvia's people rely on them because soldiers, border guards, police officers and rescue workers are professional, disciplined and motivated patriots of Latvia. All Latvian citizens count on Latvia to be defended because this is the task of these forces, which they carry out wholeheartedly, together with Latvia's NATO allies.
"Your professionalism is highly appreciated by our NATO allies. One of the best NATO armies, one of the best NATO armed forces. Not in terms of numbers, because we are a small country, but in terms of professionalism, in terms of the way you carry out your duties," the president said.
Levits added that this was the last time he would address the audience as Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces. He noted that his successor, President-elect Edgars Rinkevics, will continue to perform this task.
"On behalf of the people of Latvia and on my own behalf, I would like to express my deep gratitude to you for your work, for your enthusiasm and for your patriotism. Thank you," the outgoing president said.
He also indicated that Friday is his last day as president. He noted that Latvia's security has been strengthened by being integrated into the NATO alliance, the world's strongest defense alliance. Latvia's security has increased despite the Russian threat. This is also due to the fact that Latvian soldiers are actively participating in strengthening the NATO alliance.
According to Levits, during his presidency he had tried to strengthen the country's Latvian identity. In the president's view, Latvia's national identity has become strong in the four years. It is self-evident for all Latvian citizens that the state language is Latvian, which should dominate the public space, the president stressed.
"This process means decolonization. The process of eliminating the consequences of colonialism is at the same time our process of normalization. We are becoming a fully European country with our own national identity, self-confidence and role in Europe and the world," the president said.
Levits also said that he has been trying to make Latvia more competitive. In his opinion, Latvia can only be competitive if it invests in its people, if they are educated, skilled, and have the abilities to compete in the world. The president acknowledged that there is still a lot to do, but but added Latvia is moving in the right direction.
"I thank the people of Latvia for the opportunity to serve Latvia for these four years as president. I will continue my service as a responsible Latvian citizen and a free man," the president said.
As LETA observed, about 50-60 people watched the flower-laying ceremony by the Freedom Monument.