Participation in the Norwegian democracy festival "Arendalsuka"

From August 15 to 17, we visited the Norwegian democracy festival "Arendalsuka" ("Arendal Week"), which has been taking place every summer since 2012 in the southern Norwegian city of Arendal. We have been cooperating with the organizers of the festival for several years within the framework of the Democracy Festival Association, but this year have launched a bilateral cooperation initiative "Bridges between Latvian and Norwegian Democracy Festivals and Municipalities" supported by the Bilateral Cooperation Financial Fund of the EEA and Norway Finance Mechanism.

We went to Arendal together with our cooperation partners and co-organizers of the LAMPA Conversation Festival, representatives of the Cēsis County Municipality - Vice Mayor Atis Egliņš-Eglītis and Deputy Head of the Communications and Customer Service Department Aleksandrs Abramovs - as well as Agnese Cimdiņa, representative of the Embassy of Norway in Riga and TV3 journalist Ieva Vārna. During the visit, we met with the organizers of the festival from Arendal municipality, among them the mayor of the city Robert Cornels Nordli, looked into the organization of the festival, enjoyed its atmosphere and supplemented the rich program of the festival with our own event.

The mission of the DOTS Foundation for an Open Society is to strengthen the quality and culture of democracy, and we thought it important to talk about the struggle of the Ukrainian people for democracy and freedom, and what it means not only for Latvia, but also for Europe and the entire democratic world. The conversation was moderated by the Executive Director of the DOTS Foundation for an Open Society and Director of the LAMPA Conversation festival Ieva Morica but among the speakers were TV3 journalist and war reporter Ieva Vārna, Cēsis County Deputy Mayor Atis Egliņš-Eglītis and Latvian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway Mārtiņš Klīve.

Ieva Varna shared her personal account about what she saw and experienced in Ukraine, emphasizing that she is going there because "it is not only a Ukrainian war, but also my war. Ukrainians are currently fighting for the security of all of Europe." She admits that experiencing and seeing the horrors of war with her own eyes is emotionally difficult; but this is the only way she can deliver the truth to the people of Latvia and fight against Russian propaganda.

Atis Egliņš-Eglītis said that in his view the last six months could be divided into three stages. In the first stage, there has been shock, great ignorance, but also great public mobilization and solidarity with the people of Ukraine. This lasted for a month or two, and was followed by a phase of disinformation and a battle over values. In Latvia, you can still see Ukrainian flags near many buildings and houses, and in this way the Latvian society expresses its support for the Ukrainian people. However, the municipality must also negotiate with various groups of society, explaining the allocation of funds to the citizens of Ukraine. According to him, currently, we all - Ukrainians, the Baltic states, Latvia and the whole of Europe - are in the third stage that he calls “an endurance stage”. High inflation and rising energy prices mean that a very difficult winter awaits us – a long period that we have to endure.

Mārtiņš Klīve emphasized that this war is about values ​​and the rules-based international world order. Russia's attack on Ukraine is a totally unprovoked aggression, and it is responsible for the damage it caused and the war crimes it committed. In general, international community has condemned Russian aggression. The UN General Assembly has adopted a relevant resolution, but the reaction of NATO and the European Union was exceptionally good, unprecedented and very clear. Latvia and its people has proven to be a huge supporter of Ukraine, donating 1/3 of its defense budget and accepting tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, while donating money, goods and even cars. Currently, Latvia is collecting testimonies of war crimes from Ukrainian refugees who fled to Latvia, and it is hoped that an international war tribunal will be established to hold Russia accountable. The ambassador also emphasized the importance of democracy, expressing the opinion that if Russia and Belarus had been democratic countries, there would have been no war.