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Defence and EU among topics discussed at Latvian president visit

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis met with President Kersti Kaljulaid in Kadriorg on Wednesday morning. 10 April 2019.
Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis met with President Kersti Kaljulaid in Kadriorg on Wednesday morning. 10 April 2019. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis was in Tallinn on Wednesday, on his first official visit to Estonia, meeting with both his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid, and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre).

"We are jointly building Rail Baltica, which all states wish to proceed quickly on,'' Kersti Kaljulaid said, according to BNS, after her meeting with the Latvian president.

''This does not have to be the only fast connection between our states, however. We have already singed cooperation agreements for sharing data in our population registries, and this could serve as a basis for interweaving our two e-states," she continued.

As well as cooperation on e-state matters, security and the environment, creating a common packaging deposit system was also covered, and both presidents highlighted the importance of synchronising Baltic electricity grids with with those of continental Europe, also a security issue, it is reported.

President Kaljulaid also stressed bilateral cooperation always springs from contacts between the nations, and welcomed the fact that tourism both ways between Estonia and Latvia is gaining momentum. 

''You can hear Latvian spoken more and more each summer in in Tartu, Pärnu and Saaremaa, just as more and more Estonians visit Sigulda, Jūrmala or Riga each year. This is due both to our entrepreneurs' efforts and our people seeking to engage with their neighbors," Ms Kaljulaid said.

Discussions with Jüri Ratas

President Vējonis also met with de facto Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas (Centre) on Wednesday, similarly discussing cultural and economic relations between the two neighbours, defence, the EU and NATO, according to BNS.

"I was delighted to speak with President Vējonis about our states' relations and our common future,'' Mr Ratas said of the meeting.

''Estonia and Latvia are very close friends and neighbors, and it goes without saying that we cooperate in every area. We are two countries with shared desires, who share the same goals in the world," Mr Ratas continued. 

"We have meaningful cultural contacts, exemplified by, for instance, launching the Baltic Culture Fund and jointly awarding a translation prize. Our activities in improving data exchange between the two states, increased cooperation in the fields of energy and health care, and ensuring good transport links in the region - all of which aim to facilitate our day-to-day lives - are also important. This like-minded way of thinking must continue in the future, too," he continued.

"As small, yet rapidly developing states, we have similar objectives - that the EU's new budget plan should ensure our transition to among the richer states as smoothly as possible," Mr Ratas added. EU budge negotiations for 2021-2027 are in progress at present.

President Vējonis and the Estonian prime minister also touched upon Brexit and strategic issues for the future, and discussed the launch of the Multinational Division North in Latvia and the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Defence College.

Visit continues on Thursday

"Defence capabilities are the drivers of our future, and ensure stable progress in other fields, too. We must cooperate together, in NATO and in the EU, as well as with our allies across the world. Raising defence spending in NATO is one of our priorities. All three Baltic countries set an example here, as our objective is to allocate at least 2% of GDP to defence," Mr Ratas said.

Estonia has consistently met the 2% GDP NATO contributions, one of only a handful of member states to do so.

President Vējonis is accompanied on his two-day state visit by the Latvian first lady Iveta Vējone, as well as his foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs (Unity), economic minister Ralfs Nemiro (KPV LV) and Saeima  MP Jānis Vucāns (Latvijai un Ventspilij).

Mr Vējonis was also scheduled to meet with speaker of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) on Wednesday, and visit the Locked Shields cyberdefence exercise.

His trip continues on Thursday, when he is due to visit Järva County and Tartu.

President Kersti Kaljulaid is scheduled to meet with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin next week, when she visits Moscow to attend the opening of the renovated Estonian embassy building there.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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