President in Austria: Our countries can lead green, digital transformations

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President Kersti Kaljulaid was on an official visit to Austria on Wednesday, meeting with that country's head of state on the occasion of 100 years of bilateral relations between the two states. The president also took part in a panel discussion with her Austrian counterpart Thursday morning, viewable by clicking the link above.

The president said on her social media account that the visit was a special one.

"There are not many countries in the world whose president is Estonian, but Austria is one of them," she wrote.

President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen's mother was Estonian while his father became a naturalized Estonian citizen in 1934, during the period of the First Estonian Republic. Both fled the Soviet Occupation, settling in Vienna, where the President Van der Bellen was born in 1944. He was last on an official visit to Estonia in 2018.

"Today, in addition to meeting with President Van der Bellen, I have met many people and discussed a lot of things. The purpose of the visit is to increase cooperation between the two countries, especially regarding the digital and green revolutions, and to mark the centenary of diplomatic relations."

The Estonian president's foreign advisor, Lauri Kuusing, said ahead of the trip that: "Estonia has already achieved the digital transition and is happy to share the experiences with other countries."

"Austria on the other hand is one of the more advanced countries in the EU when it comes to climate ambitions and green transition. By combining our knowledge and experience we can jointly offer smart and sustainable solutions. This is also why many Estonian companies are interested in the Austrian market and Austrian partners," Kuusing went on, according to the president's official website.

The heads of state also spoke out on their condemnation of the recent hijacking of a civilian airliner by Belarusian authorities and the subsequent detention and reported maltreatment of a Belarusian opposition leader who had been a passenger on the flight.

Kaljulaid was also scheduled to meet Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the speaker of the the Austrian parliament, and the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, while on Thursday morning at 11.45 a.m. Estonian time, a debate takes place on the main topics focused on in the trip and involving both heads of state and moderated by Martin Selmayr, European Commission Representative in Austria.

Entitled "Green, digital & geo-politics: Europe's next frontiers after the pandemic, the debate, in English, can be viewed here.

Both countries are also participants of the Three Seas Initiative, an organization of EU member states which aim to improve transport links, digitization and other aspects of infrastructure and which includes several of the present-day successor states which had made up the old Austro-Hungarian empire.

The president was accompanied by her husband, first gentleman of Estonia Georgi-Rene Maksimovski, as well as a business delegation which included IT and trade minister Andres Sutt (Reform) and Riigikogu foreign affairs chair Marko Mihkelson (Reform), as well as business chiefs from the smart transportation and logistics fields.

This article was updated to include the video of the panel discussion involving Kersti Kaljulaid and Alexander Van der Bellen.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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