President Kersti Kaljulaid is to pay an official visit to Chile on January 16-17, after which she will pay a working visit to Antarctica to attend the closing event of the bicentennial of the discovery of Antarctica and the final events of the expedition of the Estonian S/Y Admiral Bellingshausen.
Kaljulaid's official visit to Chile will focus primarily on digital cooperation between the two countries as well as the development of business diplomacy, which will create new opportunities for Estonian companies, the Office of the President said in a press release.
She will also meet with the president of Chile and representatives of the National Congress of Chile, as well as open the Chilean National Institute of Cybersecurity and visit several companies.
"There has already been talk of deepening digital cooperation between the two countries, and agreements for an official visit were made at the September meeting of the heads of state in New York," said Lauri Kuusing, foreign policy adviser to the president. "While Estonia is the world's digital tiger, Chile is the locomotive of Latin America, so there are quite a lot of opportunities for cooperation. There are also several Estonian companies in Chile whose activities President Kaljulaid can support."
The official Estonian delegation will include Kuusing, MP Ivari Padar (SDE), chairman of the Estonia-Chile Parliamentary Group, Estonian Ambassador to Chile Mart Tarmak, and representatives of the Estonian companies Cleveron and Timbeter.
Following her official visit, Kaljulaid will then travel to the Southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, from where she will depart for a working visit to Antarctica on January 20. She will join the Admiral Bellingshausen expedition, which was organized by the Estonian Maritime Museum and the nonprofit Thetis.
Throughout the yacht's six-month expedition, various scientists deployed by the Maritime Museum have been on board to recall the most important chapters in Earth exploration in history as well as highlight current climate change issues.
During her visit, the president will visit various research stations on King George's Island and attend the bicentennial event marking the discovery of Antarctica on January 27-28.
"President Kaljulaid's participation in the expedition to Antarctica will again make Estonia a little bigger than its national borders," Kuusing said. "This will give us the opportunity to tell the world Estonia's story as a seafaring nation, but also draw attention to important global environmental issues, since neither ocean waters nor atmospheric air recognize national borders. This will be a good opportunity to emphasize Estonia's image as a digital nation and demonstrate that e-governance is independent of geography."
The Admiral Bellingshausen expedition was organized in honor of the Estonian-born explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who was one of the first people to see Antarctica in 1820. The excursion began in Kronstadt on July 4, 1819, and reached the Antarctic coast on January 27 or 28, 1820. This year's expedition is repeating that journey.
Kaljulaid will be accompanied on her visit to Antarctica by Timo Palo, the president's climate adviser and one of Estonia's leading polar scientists.
According to Palo, Estonian scientists have been involved in Antarctic exploration for decades, and their knowledge is appreciated today.
"For a small country that does not have the means to establish its own polar station, international cooperation is the only opportunity to have a say in polar science," he explained, noting that the Estonian head of state will visit several polar stations that have had, or still have, cooperation projects with Estonian scientists.
"The polar regions are particularly vulnerable to climate change, making them the forefront of global warming — a kind of litmus paper where the consequences are most evident: shrinking sea ice, accelerating melting of glaciers, and evergreens," Palo continued. "Technological developments have made it possible to study in particular continental glaciers in recent years, and it has been found that the melting of the ice both in Greenland and Antarctica has increased significantly. According to scientists, this may mean that warming is reaching a point where the continental glaciers are becoming so unstable that there is no return. While the first act of global warming began in the Arctic, signs suggest that Antarctica will play a key role in the second act. Many important answers are expected in the near future."
Kaljulaid is scheduled to return to Estonia on January 31.
Editor: Aili Vahtla