Address of H.E., Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, at the Inauguration of the Summit Exhibition Transformation in and through Action
Picture by Kaspars Znotiņš
November 28, 2006
Mrs Hoops Scheffer,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
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.
I can speak to this as a person who is a titullar head of the armed forces in Latvia and when I took office I was asked by some people how could I possibly assume such a role never having done any military service or not having gone to military college. That is not the point. We have military capabilities and armed forces who are manned and also have women in them who are professionals, who are prepared for it, but in democratic societies they are under the guidance and leadership of heads of state and government and their elected representatives. But the decisions taken by their representatives such as will be taken here starting tonight at the NATO Summit will have to be implemented in real life and what you see around here in this exhibition are some of the aspects of that implementation.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation for all the staff of the NATO Headquarters for preparing this exhibition, but also my deepest appreciation for the military traditions of NATO because as NATO has been transforming and transforming itself it has helped Latvia as a country with a newly acquired independence only 15 years ago to build up its armed forces basically starting from scratch and to do so with continuous adjustments and transformations to the modern world. We are now proud to be part of this alliance, proud to be coming with our contribution, we have our exhibition here, we will show also Latvia’s ability to adapt to the changing world what is most important to us, is that we are part of the family of like-minded democratic nations whose concern about security means that we all must work together – politicians, military personnel, the press, media, the citizens – the citizens who go to the polls and who elect their elected representatives, people in their daily lives. In an open, democratic society all of us have a role and in an alliance such as NATO all countries have a role – large or small – all in proportion to their ability to contribute and we in the case of Latvia feel that we are contributing according to our size and this truly collegial joining of likeminds, countries with similar values and I am convinced that this alliance will continue to transform itself in future years. It has this fantastic capability to do great things, it has the capability to adjust to changing challenges and we all have to work together to achieve this goal. Thank you very much.