Mr. Speaker, Mr. Prime Minster, Senator Sessions from the great State of Alabama who is with us. Marc Leland, my friend from a long period of time. I want to thank the rector of this important university, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, thank you for your warm welcome. I am delighted to be back in Riga.
in Riga Castle
PRESIDENT VĪĶE-FREIBERGA: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's been a great pleasure to have the President of the United States here in Riga for the second time in less than two years. And I expressed how delighted we are to be receiving him and his delegation here on the occasion of the Riga 2006 summit.
in the Olympic Centre
It is a pleasure for Latvia to be receiving this extraordinary event and also to be providing the facilities for this remarkable exhibition. I think that as you walk through these halls you will see to what extent NATO as an alliance has been up to the challenges of the modern age; how it is reacting and reacting radically to the changing needs, to the changing threats and responding in a way that is compatible with a democratic traditions of its members and in fact corresponding to this need to inform their own citizens. I think we have all this outreach of information which is part and parcel of the military in a democratic society being subject to civilian rule.
Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the opportunity to appear before this Young Leaders Forum. I want to thank you for taking an interest in NATO and joining the Alliance's political leaders here at their Summit in Riga.
of the Riga Conference 2006 at the Small Guild
It is truly a pleasure for me as President of Latvia to welcome you here on this extraordinary event. Truly the NATO Summit 2006 here in Riga is a very special one for a variety of reasons, not least of which the fact that it demonstrates how the alliance from being a very defensive one holding the line of what was then the iron curtain has moved beyond the territory. I think the presence of NATO here in Latvia is another reminder how changed the world is, how fortunate we are in no longer having that division across the European Continent, how fortunate we are in so many countries beside Latvia having now regained their freedom, their opportunity to determine their own fate and their direction and live in peace, security and in democracy.
I think that a special word of gratitude to Craig Kennedy, Ron Asmus and the German Marshall Fund is in order here. There is simply no other major think thank that has done more to foster a strong and healthy transatlantic relationship.
For example, the Brussels Forum has become an indispensable transatlantic marketplace for ideas. And the success of the previous think tank conferences at our recent Summits has already turned this format into a cherished tradition. In addition to their political dimension, NATO Summits now also have a very strong public diplomacy dimension, and this is not least due to the strong engagement by the GMF in Istanbul and now in Riga.
Riga is the centre of the international security debate for these three days. Tomorrow, the heads of 26 member states will take crucial decisions on the transformation of NATO in the XXI century. Transformation is not the final goal, but a process. A process that involves politicians, experts, academics, and NGO representatives discussing new visions, strategies and thinking. Ideas drive transformation! A Think-Tank conference has gathered the brightest minds from all over the world to offer new, innovative, provocative, challenging, and brave ideas that will contribute to a better understanding of what the international community can deliver to make the world more secure.
To begin with, let me thank you all for coming to Riga where - it is no secret - the NATO Summit is taking place.
It is of the utmost significance for our country that – one would say – the most important gathering of state leaders is being held in Riga right now.
However spectacular and even awesome official NATO meetings may be, it is in the very interests of NATO that alongside, there should be an alternative, fresh and even provocative think-tank or forum for discussing global security concerns and developing new solutions or critically investigating the old ones.
- Aivis Ronis,
Former Latvia's Ambassador to NATO