Baltic presidents meet with UN chief, invite American business investments

The Baltic presidents with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in New York. September 19, 2023.
The Baltic presidents with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in New York. September 19, 2023. Source: Office of the President

Estonian President Alar Karis and his Baltic counterparts met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York, where their discussion focused on issues related to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine. Speaking at a strategic investment summit, the three heads of state also called on American entrepreneurs to invest in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

At their meeting, Karis, Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda spoke with Guterres about the impact of Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine on global food security as well as discussed opportunities for Ukrainian grain exports, according to a press release.

"We must find solutions to the problems that Russia's war has caused and help Ukraine find ways to export its grain, not ease sanctions imposed on Russia as the aggressor state or allow it to run rampant and dictate terms on the Black Sea," the Estonian president said.

He also stressed the need to maintain and, where possible, expand the humanitarian corridor open to Ukraine on the Black Sea, and added that within the EU they must look for solutions to keep alternative channels open for the export of Ukrainian grain.

"The Black Sea is not a Russian territorial sea," he emphasized. "Right now it's acting like a pirate there, restricting the free movement of vessels bearing humanitarian shipments and breaching international rules in doing so, including those of freedom of navigation."

Summarizing their meeting with the UN chief, Karis remarked that the blame for the global food crisis lies squarely with Russia.

"If there were no war, there would be no crisis, and in persisting with its aggression, bombing Ukrainian ports, and stealing and destroying Ukrainian grain, Russia is placing the lives of millions of people in jeopardy," he warned. "The solution on which the UN must focus is to end this war, respecting Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty and the peace plan proposed by President Zelenskyy."

The four leaders also discussed cooperation between EU member states to keep grain transport channels open, including the possibility of using Baltic ports to increase Ukraine's grain exports.

The Estonian head of state reiterated the importance of issuing strong messages condemning Russia's war, and stressed how vital it is that the UN investigate how drones produced by Iran, which is under UN Security. Council sanctions, are being used by Russia to attack Ukrainian cities and their populations.

He also remarked that one of Estonia's objectives at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is to make people worldwide aware of the forced deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia and Belarus.

"We must use all of the means available to us to end this and return these children to Ukraine," he insisted. "Issues pertaining to these deportations should remain the focus of international attention.

Strong US ties behind Baltics' rapid growth since 90s

Speaking at the U.S.-Baltic Strategic Investment Summit likewise taking place in New York this week, Karis, Rinkevics and Nauseda called on American entrepreneurs to invest in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

"Estonia is one of the world's freest countries, and one in which it is very easy to do business; the number of successful, rapidly growing companies it has produced stands as proof of that," Karis remarked. "Per capita, we have more start-ups whose value has topped $1 billion than anywhere else in the world."

The Estonian head of state described the three Baltic countries as dependable EU member states that enjoy extensive economic freedom, straightforward taxation systems as well as high levels of digitalization and transparency.

He also confirmed that American investments are protected on NATO soil.

Asked why companies should invest in the Baltics, Karis cited the region's recent history.

"We launched market economy reforms in the early 1990s, and our rapid growth and the rise in our standard of living since then have been in no small part due to our strong ties to the Nordic countries and the United States," he said.

"We joined the European Union and NATO almost 20 years ago, and we have built up our economies on the basis of economic freedoms," he added.

The Estonian president also highlighted the role of internationalization and cross-border investments.

"Successful companies must think and act globally," he stressed. "There is simply no other way of doing business."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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