For most of the world, the 8th of May is the day of the defeat of Nazism and commemoration of victims of World War II. It is also a day when we can recollect the complicated history of Latvia. On 8 May, we pay tribute to the innocent victims of this terrible war, all those who were killed on the field of battle, those murdered, those forced into exile and those sent to do slave labour in prison camps. On 8 May we reflect on Latvia’s destiny and on what this nation and this land have had torn away, and of wars waged by foreign powers, and the inhuman, malevolent ideologies that have decimated whole generations of people.
Ravaged and overpowered, Latvia has always been able to rise from the ashes. Latvia can only be secure and thrive in an environment which reinforces peace, mutual respect and mutual support.
Our country draws its power from people’s confidence in their state and the government’s accountability to the people.
On 8 May 1945, World War II came to an end and peace was restored in Europe. In the west of Europe, nations regained their freedom and independence. This was not the case with Latvia and the Baltic States where occupation and violence were perpetuated. For Latvia, independence was restored only on 4 May 1990 and confirmed in the passage of the Constitutional Law on Latvia’s statehood on 21 August 1991.
On 9 May 1950 in Paris, French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann, being aware of the threat of a possible third world war, urged democratic European countries to pool their coal and steel production with the aim of safeguarding peace and raising living standards. This is the day when the European project was launched with the conviction that that development of the countries on the continent can only be fostered by peace not war. The first step was taken towards the creation of the European Union.
Three decades ago in 1985, the European Community decided that 9 May would be celebrated as "Europe Day". This day symbolises unity and solidarity among different countries, including those that once fought against each other. Since 1 May 2004, when Latvia joined the European Union, the 9th of May is also celebrated in Latvia as “Europe Day”. As generations renew themselves, Latvia will remain a free and proud European nation.