ICELANDIC SQUARE: Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis (right) and Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson shake hands over the new monument.
RIGA - Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Unity) participated on Aug. 22 in the opening ceremony for Riga’s Iceland Square, saying that it would be difficult to talk about Latvia’s actual independence without international recognition, reports news agency LETA. Kristovskis pointed out that August 1991 ended the artificial division of Europe and should be considered a lesson that state leaders cannot disregard the people.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson in turn pointed out that, even though Latvia lost so much, it maintained its desire for freedom. The minister added that he has been involved in Iceland’s politics since 1991 and will never forget the signing of the document on recognition of the Baltic States’ independence.
The new square is located in Riga’s Pardaugava area on Kipsala, between Krisjana Valdemara, Azenes and Kipsalas streets, where the Baltic prime ministers planted linden trees in 2004.
“Twenty years ago, on August 22, Iceland made a historic decision to recognize the restored independence of the Baltic States. This decision was extremely important, because Iceland also inspired other countries to follow its example,” emphasized the minister. “However, Iceland’s role in the regaining of Latvia’s independence was even more significant. On December 18, 1990, the Althing [Iceland’s Parliament] adopted a resolution ‘On Support to the Baltic States in the Struggle for Independence,’ which states that the conflicts in Europe will not be solved until the Baltic States will have fully regained their independence.”
To pay tribute to Iceland’s historic role in restoring Latvia’s independence and sovereignty, Kristovskis sent a letter to the Riga City Council earlier this year, proposing to dedicate to Iceland a street or a square in Riga. The new square on Kipsala was recognized as the most suitable. “I am delighted that the Riga City Council handled the matter efficiently and supported the proposal,” pointed out Kristovskis.
Bilateral relations between Latvia and Iceland are traditionally close. Both countries cooperate in education and culture. Latvian-Icelandic economic relations are also well-developed. The cooperation between both states is based on their regional identity, shared values and interests in the economic and political integration of Europe and its security.
On July 16, 2009, Iceland applied for accession to the European Union. On July 27, 2010, the accession negotiations were launched. Latvia is satisfied that these negotiations have begun and supports the process of Iceland’s integration into the EU.
The square was unveiled together with a small monument.
One day earlier, Aug. 21, marked the 20th anniversary of the de facto restoration of the independence of Latvia. On Aug. 21, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia adopted the Constitutional Law on the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia, thus restoring the de facto independence of Latvia and marking the country’s return to the family of democratic countries of Europe.
This law reinstated the Constitution of Latvia (Satversme) of 1922, with its values of Western democracy and the rule of law. With the adoption of the Constitutional Law, the laws of the USSR became null and void in Latvia. On the basis of the law of Aug. 21, other countries began recognizing the restoration of Latvia’s independence.