On 10 December 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, sent a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Federal Cultural Institutions of the Kingdom of Belgium, Sophie Wilmès, expressing concerns about developments in Zedelgem in relation to the “Latvian Beehive for Freedom” monument and asking that the Minister follow the matter closely.
Minister Rinkēvičs underlines in his letter that pursuant to an agreement signed between the Museum of Occupation of Latvia and the Municipality of Zedelgem in April of 2017, the monument should symbolically refer to the concept of ‘freedom’ and remind the public of the tragic consequences of World War II – the captivity of more than 12 000 of Latvian prisoners of war in the Zedelgem POW camp during 1945–1946, while showing proper respect to the memory of those soldiers.
In light is this, Edgars Rinkēvičs expresses deep regret over the removal of the monument’s informative plaque, the launch of a formal process to change the name of the Brivibaplein (Freedom Square) and recommendations received from a group of international historians to relocate the monument. The Latvian Foreign Minister voices concern that the Municipality of Zedelgem may have encountered a very strong local and international disinformation of various origin.
“However, for quite some time, democratic European nations, including Latvia, have been experiencing smear campaigns and misuse of their difficult histories for a blunt geopolitical gain by undemocratic and aggressive regimes,” the Minister is pointing out.
The Minister calls on the city of Zedelgem to engage with its cooperation partners in Latvia, especially with the Museum of Occupation, and find an appropriate way forward that respects the very different but tragic WWII histories of Latvia and Belgium.
The Embassy of Latvia in Belgium is in permanent contact with the Municipality of Zedelgem and, on 14 December, the Ambassador of Latvia, Andris Razāns, will make a visit to the municipality. At this point, confirmation has been received from the municipality that a decision on the relocation of the monument has not yet been taken.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to closely follow the developments concerning the matter and address it in cooperation with Belgian authorities. The Foreign Service aims at achieving that a respectful and objective attitude is ensured towards the history of the state and people of Latvia as well as memorials and monuments symbolising it.