RIGA - One hundred years after the de jure recognition of Latvia, the situation across the globe is volatile, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) said during today's foreign policy debates at Saeima.
He said that the democratic order that helped establish and then, later, restore the Latvian state is currently, just like it was then, threatened by the proliferation of expansionist authoritarian ideologies that are espousing philosophy of power and spheres of influence.
''In Europe and Asia alike, as it was during the 1920s and 1930s, revisionist great powers make their presence felt, while isolationist tendencies are growing in the traditional pillars of liberal democracy,'' he said.
''Latvia’s foreign policy formula is simple and complex at the same time – to analyze the global international environment, define its interests and then combine them with the means at our disposal. The experience of Latvia and similar states demonstrates that when approaching issues of global policy, priorities should be chosen, focused on. and we must be ready to pay for and defend those priorities,'' Rinkevics went on to say.
He said that experience shows that history moves in cycles. Both in the period between the wars and at present, it is completely clear that independence and freedom is first and foremost Latvia's own responsibility. Therefore, the DNA of Latvia’s foreign policy is found in an international order which is based on the rule of law around the world and international organizations.
''Our main challenge is with revisionist countries that have always attempted to undermine the international order politically, ideologically and through military means. Add to this the present-day challenges, where a society acting on passing emotions and feelings of the moment is ready to give up their most important and fundamental principles and values,'' the foreign minister said.
''After the regaining of its independence, Latvia finished its political, institutional and legal integration into the Western world. Nevertheless, Latvian society as a whole has much ground to cover so that we could integrate ourselves mentally into the European model of thinking, as well as promoting a world outlook that places Latvia in Europe. This is not only a narrative of our history but also a story about the path of the future,'' Rinkevics emphasized.
''Latvia has experienced and survived occupation and totalitarian regimes; therefore, the United Nations system as a whole and UN membership is essential for us. As a full member of this international organization for 30 years, Latvia has been able to clearly demonstrate to the international community that we are a western-oriented, democratic country that honors human rights, and at the same time, stand up for democratic values worldwide,'' the foreign minister emphasized.
He said that in the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the economy, a surge of populism in many places worldwide, and a post-Brexit European Union confirm that Latvian diplomacy will also have to continue on its classic tasks – preservation and strengthening of independence of the country with circumstances in a state of flux.
''The COVID-19 pandemic has left a huge and still not fully understood influence on the world in 2020 and will continue to exert its influence this year as well – on the health situation, movement of persons, goods and services, an increasing use of digital solutions in all realms of our daily lives. However, the pandemic has not reduced the need for also addressing issues that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue after the virus has been brought under control,'' he went on to say.
''It will still be important to oppose attempts at undermining the system based on international law. Traditional threats to the security of countries and regions will still need to be tackled. We still have to be prepared to respond to new challenges including those that cannot be predicted at present,'' Rinkevics pointed out.
''To be free means to be vigilant. Latvia has integrated itself into the circle of like-minded countries and we can rely on our Allies and closest cooperation partners acting jointly and responding jointly to new and old challenges on the basis of shared values,'' the Latvian foreign minister said.
He went on to say that the global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has been an endurance test for the Latvian diplomatic and consular service, a test of its abilities and skills. The largest event for the repatriation and homecoming of Latvian nationals in the history of Latvia was arranged – it was meant for Latvia nationals who live in Latvia on a permanent basis and whose stay abroad posed threat to their life, health or security.
''I would like to illustrate the situation with just a few figures. In the first half of 2020 alone, our Consular Service responded to almost forty four thousand calls, and the intensity even exceeded more than fourteen thousand calls in one day in March. In addition, about ten thousand email messages were received in March and April,'' said Rinkevics.
''I would like to thank the entire Latvian Foreign Service, its diplomats and consular officers, who still manage to come up with effective and even creative, innovative and digital solutions under these circumstances so as to offer expedited assistance to Latvian nationals worldwide,'' he said, thanking them for a job well done.