A varied and festive programme has been readied for commemoration of the Latvian Foreign Service’s centenary, crediting its diplomats for their role in the building and work of our nation and the international recognition of the Republic of Latvia de iure.
On 9 September 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, will lay flowers at the Freedom Monument, paying tribute to those who founded and shaped the Republic of Latvia and its foreign policy, and without whose efforts and determination the existence of the new state and fruition of its foreign policy aspirations would not have been possible.
For an in-depth view of the work of the Foreign Service over 100 years, Edgars Rinkēvičs, in the presence of the media, will unveil a touring exhibition, “100 years of Latvian Diplomacy and Foreign Service”. The exhibition offers an insight into the milestone events of Latvia’s history and the contribution by the Foreign Service to the formation, international recognition, and existence of Latvia.
The major part of documents, photos and objects have been put on display for the first time. Visitors will have the opportunity to see historical evidence of the establishment of the Latvian state and the first year of its existence until its recognition de iure, the first years of independent statehood, as well as the Soviet and Nazi occupation, the restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia, and the history of the second period of Latvia’s independence.
The first display outside Riga will be at the Tukums Museum of Art on 19 September 2019. Tukums has been chosen as the first site for the travelling exhibition since the town is intrinsically linked to the life of Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, Latvia’s first foreign minister. The exhibition will then travel to Ventspils, Jelgava and Bauska. It is expected that the exhibition will also be on display in Cēsis, Daugavpils, Rēzekne and Valmiera. The exhibition will tour Latvia until January 2021, which represents 100 years from the time that international de iure recognition of the Republic of Latvia was achieved.
On 9 September, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, has invited former and current employees of the Foreign Service, members of the diplomatic corps and the Foreign Ministry’s cooperation partners to an official reception. On the centenary of the Foreign Service, the Foreign Minister is to launch a new tradition by presenting, for the first time, awards for life-long contributions to the foreign policy of Latvia.
From the autumn of 2019 to 2021, in order to foster knowledge of diplomacy, politics and the functioning of the Foreign Service, the higher education institutions in Riga and regions are planning to host lectures by Latvian diplomats and their discussions with the audiences. Latvijas Radio 1 programme will also feature a series of broadcasts on foreign affairs titled “Continuity. 100 Years of the Latvian Foreign Service”.
The personal experiences of diplomats serving in Riga and abroad will be presented in a special collection of articles. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared several video stories on the key events in the history of the Foreign Service and its achievements. They will be published on the Foreign Ministry’s social media accounts and screened during events organised by the Latvian embassies.
The work and efforts of Latvia’s diplomats have always been closely connected with the country’s destiny. Already the day after Latvia declared its independence, the Latvian People’s Council had approved a provisional government, and Zigfrīds Meierovics was entrusted with the post of Latvian Foreign Minister.
On 29 July 1919, Foreign Minister Zigfrīds Meierovics signed the order to appoint four diplomats to the highest positions of the nascent foreign diplomatic service, thereby, in effect, creating the Latvian Foreign Ministry as an institution. And from that date, the structure of the Ministry took shape and developed, gradually adding departments and divisions.
Though Latvia was established, the war for independence continued on Latvian territory into the first half of 1919. Work on Latvia’s foreign relations took place mainly outside of Latvia and this included the sending of a delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, in order to present and defend Latvia’s independence, with the aim of attaining international recognition, and establishing the first diplomatic missions abroad.
Regardless of the dire military and domestic political situation in the country, Latvian diplomats were able to achieve their most important task on 26 January 1921, the de iure recognition of Latvia by the great powers of the time. And the fully-fledged Latvian foreign service, with diplomats including consular officers, operated freely and effectively till the onset of occupation in June of 1940. But even under occupation, the Latvian diplomatic and consular services persisted, harboured in Western countries, reminding the world for half a century that Latvia had never lost its de iure statehood.
The Latvian Foreign Service is in fact the only institution of the Republic of Latvia that has continued to work and operate unceasingly and without interruption since the founding of the state of Latvia. Latvia’s diplomats always endeavour to serve for the benefit of the country and nation and to promote its best interests. The Foreign Service ensures Latvia’s independence and the development of its democracy and national security.
In 2019, Latvia has 47 diplomatic and consular missions worldwide: 37 embassies, 7 permanent missions, one general consulate, two consulates and one consular chancellery. The interests of the state and its nationals are represented by more than 800-strong staff in the Foreign Service in Riga and Latvian diplomatic missions abroad.
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