It was precisely 1919 that became the decisive year in Latvia's fight for independence, Ambassador Heniņš said. "A hundred years ago on November 11, one of the most important battles during the War of Independence was won. It was a battle with the joint forces of monarchists who dreamed of restoration of the German and Russian empires, which was completely at odds with Latvia's goals."

Their army was three times the size of the Latvian new armed forces, which were still poorly armed and equipped, but thanks to the soldiers' heroism and selflessness, as well as artillery support of the British-French fleet operating in the Baltic Sea, Latvia successfully defeated the enemy, the ambassador said.

"As a result, Lativa's capital Riga was protected and this success opened the gates for the liberation of the whole western part of Latvia from foreign troops, and allowed the concentration of all forces for the final battle against Bolsheviks in the eastern part of Latvia.

"Since then, Latvia has been celebrating the Day of Lāčplēsis on this date, when tribute is paid to those who fought for Latvia's freedom. Lāčplēsis (bear-slayer) is a legendary character from the Latvian national epic. He has been depicted in literary works and films, and symbolises the greatness of the nation, human bravery and self-sacrifice in defending one's homeland from the aggressor."

Ambassador Heniņš went on to say that modern Latvia is among the 50 most developed countries of the world, a member of the most influential international organisations, and a reliable and responsible international partner with an open and cooperative approach, always standing up for the respect of international law.

"Latvia as a member of the European Union stands for a united, free and secure Europe, this being a vital element of the existing international order. In the future, we would like to see the EU as a strong and solid union of nation-states, based on values rooted in its historical legacy – human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights.

"It is our genuine belief that an effective EU makes a strong Latvia. The same must be emphasised about the role of NATO and transatlantic ties both in the area of national security and in strengthening international security in Europe and globally. NATO decisions on Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic region have significantly stengthened regional security but it has to be further developed."

The ambassador said Latvia is not only a consumer of security but also a contributor, and this is evidenced by its readiness to provide 2 percent of GDP for defence expenditures and its participation in international missions around the world. In the future, the foreign policy of Latvia would remain based on a strong EU and NATO, as well as the strengthening of international justice.

"Finally, I would like to stress that the bilateral relationship with Hungary is becoming stronger with the years. Latvia and Hungary enjoy excellent and enduring diplomatic relations, active political dialogue bilaterally and in frameworks of different organisations, and exchanges of high-level visits on a regular basis," Ambassador Heniņš said.

"Defence cooperation is substantial and I would like to express our gratitude for Hungary's participation in the NATO Baltic air policing mission this year, thus sending a strong solidarity and deterrence message.

"I am also glad to note that Hungary traditionally has been among Latvia's most important trade partners in Central Europe. We see stable growth of mutual trade, increasing interest of business people to fully utilise existing potential and good perspectives for tourism development.

"Last but not least is development of our cultural relations and people-to-people contacts, which are probably the most intensive.

"We have frequent exchanges with music virtuosos, and audiences of both sides have possibilities to learn more about national traditions and historical experiences by regularly organised exhibitions."

The ambassador said he is convinced that the recently signed cultural cooperation program between the Ministry of Culture of Latvia and the Ministry of Human Capacities of Hungary for 2019-2021 will give new impetus.


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