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Latvia - Relations

27.08.2015

(last updated: 11.11.2014)

 

The close and friendly relations between Estonia and Latvia are based on their historic and cultural similarities, similar foreign policy goals, and their successfully developing trade and tourism. Estonian and Latvian heads of state and members of government meet regularly. Frequent communication and readiness for co-operation exist also at the state institution level and in the business community.

Estonia and Latvia exchanged diplomatic representatives already in December 1918. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 6 September 1991. Leili Utno presented her credentials in June 1992 as the first Estonian Ambassador to Latvia following the restoration of independence.

Tõnis Nirks is the current Estonian Ambassador to Latvia, having presented his credentials to Latvian President Andris Bērziņš on 2 September 2014. The Embassy of Latvia in Tallinn is headed by the ambassador Juris Bone since 23 October 2013.

Significant Visits and Meetings

To Latvia
May 2015 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the  Estonian-Latvian and Latvian-Estonian dictionary presentation
April 2015 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas on a working visit
April 2015 Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus on her first visit after the official appointment
November 2014 Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus on an official visit
May 2014 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on a visit
February 2013 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip in Riga for the Northern Future Forum
September 2012 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the Riga Conference
June 2012 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on a state visit
February 2012 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on an official visit
October 2011 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on the first working visit of his second term
September 2011 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the Riga Conference
June 2011 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on a working visit
April 2011 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip on a working visit
March 2011 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet 
February 2011 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
December 2010 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the conference on Estonia-Latvia future co-operation
June 2010 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

 

To Estonia
June 2015 President Raimonds Vējonis on his first visit after the official appointment
June 2015 Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on a proclamation of Estonian-Latvian and Latvian Estonian translation award
January 2014 Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma on an official visit
July 2013 President Andris Bērziņš on a working visit in Viljandi
April 2013 Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on an official visit
April 2013 President Andris Bērziņš on a working visit, including meeting with T.H. Ilves at Ärma farm
November 2012 President Andris Bērziņš on a working visit
October 2012 President Andris Bērziņš in Valga
December 2011 Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis at the Co-operation Conference in Tartu
October 2011 Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics on a working visit
July 2011  President Andris Bērziņš on a working visit
January 2011 Speaker of the Saeima Solvita Aboltina on an official visit
November 2010 Working visit of Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis
November 2010 Working visit of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis
May 2010 Working visit of Foreign Minister Aivis Ronis
March 2010 Official visit of Foreign Minister Maris Riekstiņš

In June 2007 the Estonian and Latvian prime ministers originated the idea for an Estonia-Latvia future co-operation report that would outline development directions in the various fields of co-operation between the two countries. This task was assigned to two rapporteurs: Anvar Samost on the Estonian side and Andris Razans on the Latvian side, who presented their report to Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis on 11 June 2010. Estonia-Latvia Future Co-operation Report (645.11 KB, PDF)

On 14 December 2012 the third Estonian-Latvian Strategic Co-operation Conference based on the future Estonia-Latvia co-operation report took placein Riga. The conference focused on the topic of information and communications technologies. The event was opened by Latvian Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional development Edmunds Sprūdžs and Estonian Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts. There were over 80 participants from the public and private sectors of Estonia and Latvia. The conference resulted in the government institutions agreeing to compile an action plan of concrete co-operation initiatives to kick off co-operation in the areas of e-IDs and cross-border services. A week earlier a separate sessions had been held in Valmiera regarding both countries’ use of ICT in the education sector. In April 2015 on the meeting of Estonian-Latvian prime ministers a decision was made, that Estonia-Latvia Future Co-operation Report needs modernisation.

Agreements

Bilateral relations between Estonia and Latvia, primarily economic relations, are regulated by EU internal market rules as of 1 May 2004. The majority of agreements between Estonia and Latvia have been concluded trilaterally between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

An overview of agreements signed between Estonia and Latvia:

  1. Agreement on the Renewal of the State Border and the Additional Protocol (came into force 13.09.93);
  2. Agreement on Organising Common Border Control (came into force 30.08.94);
  3. Agreement on the Activities of Border Representatives (came into force 30.08.94);
  4. Air Services Agreement (came into force 01.02.96);
  5. Agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (came into force 23.05.96);
  6. Agreement on the Maritime Delimitation in the Gulf of Riga, the Strait of Irbe and the Baltic Sea (came into force 10.10.96);
  7. Agreement Regarding Border Points (came into force 21.10.96);
  8. Agreement on Social Security (came into force 29.01.97);
  9. Agreement on the Assessment of the Transboundary Effects on the Environment (came into force 14.03.97);
  10. Agreement on the Transfer of the Right of Use of a Plot (came into force 28.06.99);
  11. Framework Agreement on Mutual Assistance in the Event of Disasters (came into force 19.06.02);
  12. Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (came into force 21.11.02);
  13. Agreement on Railroad Transport (came into force 16.05.04);
  14. Agreement on the Terms of the Use and Maintenance of the Valga1/Valka2 Joint Border Crossing Point (came into force 21.05.04);
  15. Agreement on mutually storing crude oil and oil products (came into force 06.08.09);
  16. Agreement of the Exchange and Mutual Protection of Classified Information (came into force 20.07.11).
     

Economic Relations

TRADE

According to 2012 economic data, Latvia remains among Estonia’s five main trade partners, being a steadily growing export market for our products as well as services.

According to 2012 data, Estonian goods totalling 1.1 billion EUR (2011: 957 million EUR) were exported to Latvia, with an increase on year of 15%. This placed Latvia in fourth place among Estonia’s export partners (with 8.8% of total exports). Latvian goods totalling 1.3 billion EUR (2011: 1.4 billion EUR) were imported to Estonia in 2012. Latvia ranked as Estonia’s fourth import partner with 9.5% of total imports.


Estonia-Latvia trade 2005-2012 (in millions of EUR)

year Turnover Export Percentage of total export % Import Percentage of total import %
2005 962.7 564.4 9.1 398.3 4.8
2006 1 308.3 699.6 9.1 608.7 5.7
2007 1 775.7 924.5 11.5 851.2 7.4
2008 1 831.5 843.9 10.0 987.6 9.1
2009 1 378.0 613.3 9.5 764.7 10.5
2010 1 789.0 776.8 8.9 1 012.2 11.0
2011 2 091.9 954.1 8.0 1 137.8 8.9
2012 2 412.4 1 099.1 8.8 1 308.9 9
2013 2 576.8 1 274.7 10.4 1 301.8 9.4
2014 2 467.3 1 294.7 10.7 1 172.6 8.5
2015 (first 6 months) 543.9 278.2 9.8 265.7 8.4

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia

 

Main export articles to Latvia in 2014:

  • transport vehicles  - 23.86%
  • mineral products 23.43%
  • machinery and equipment - 4.69%

Main import articles from Latvia in 2014:

  • chemical products - 8.99%
  • transport vehicles - 8.46
  • machinery and equipment - 5.86%

INVESTMENTS

According to Bank of Estonia data, as of 31 December 2012 Estonian companies had invested 755.3 million EUR in Latvia, which makes up 17.2% of all direct investments made in foreign countries. As of 31 December 2012, Latvian direct investments in Estonia made up 1.3% of direct investments in Estonia, with a total value of about 179.1 million EUR. In order to support Estonian businesses in Latvia and facilitate better information exchange, an Estonian Chamber of Commerce (http://www.eesti.lv) was opened in Riga on 18 April 2007. It was the first society of Estonian companies and investors established outside of Estonia. Currently the chamber brings together nearly 40 of the most active companies with Estonian capital in Latvia. In 2012 it celebrated its fifth anniversary.

On 10 September 2012 Latvian businesses that are currently doing business or are interested in doing business in Estonia and the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LTRK) agreed that a Latvian Chamber of Commerce would be established in Estonia.

Cross-border co-operation

Co-operation between local governments on the Estonian and Latvian border has been functioning for years. In 2004, the Estonian and Latvian Governments formed working groups for cross-border co-operation. The joint tasks of these working groups was to develop a cross-border co-operation strategy with the objective of developing Estonian-Latvian co-operation within EU border co-operation programmes, creating a favourable environment for enterprise in the border regions and facilitating the border-crossing procedure. The four working groups addressing more specific areas are social and medical services; transport, energy and environmental protection; education, tourism and sports; and the transport and taxation of people working across the border. The last meeting of the Estonia-Latvia working groups was on February 21th 2015 in Taagepera, where Estonian Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur and Latvian Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development Kaspars Gerhards mapped new co-operation subjects, for instance public health and health related public services in the border regions, vocational education, lifelong learning and retraining of the unemployed, rescue services in the border regions and marine areas and the promotion of cross-border train service nad highways between Estonia and Latvia. The next meeting of the Estonian-Latvian and Latvian-Estonian intergovernmental commissions meeting will be held in Latvia in 2016.

The European Union also supports co-operation between border areas through territorial co-operation programmes. The Estonia-Latvia Programme 2007-2013 funded by the European Regional Development Fund has been a great source of support for many joint projects (http://www.estlat.eu).

At the present the improvement and co-ordination of Estonian-Latvian programme for 2014-2020 is being held with the European Commission. Thematically it is much more focussed from it's predecessor and requires 35 million euros support from European Regional Development Fund.

Defence Co-operation

The three Baltic countries are engaged in active trilateral defence co-operation, which was formalised on 12 February 1995 when the defence ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania endorsed the trilateral agreement on defence co-operation.

Trilaterally several joint projects have been initiated, of which some have survived until the present and some have been terminated upon the achievement of their goals (BALTBAT, BALTSEA).

Currently the following co-operation projects can be highlighted:

BALTDEFCOL (the Baltic Defence College) is the joint military education institution established in 1998 for the training of senior staff officers in compliance with the uniform NATO standards. Of the high-level courses at BALTDEFCOL, some worth mentioning are the third-level course for staff officers Joint Command and General Staff Course (JCGSC), which is the only course of its level offered in English in all of continental Europe, and the Higher Command Studies Course (HCSC), which provides education on a strategic level. For civil servants there is also a Civil Service Course (CSC), which aims to provide in-depth knowledge of defence and security policy planning and implementation in the Baltic states and NATO.

BALTNET (Baltic Airspace Surveillance Network) is a joint air surveillance system established in 1998. Its main task is to identify, monitor and control air traffic in the Baltic airspace and supply guidance to the NATO aircraft performing air policing in the Baltics. Officers and NCOs from all three Baltic countries serve at the tactical Air Command and Control Centre in Karmelava, Lithuania.

More than ever, the defence forces of the Baltic countries strive to take advantage of training and exercise opportunities in their neighbouring countries. For example, Estonian units attend exercises in Adazi, Latvia. In recent years Baltic defence co-operation has also included the organisation of larger joint exercises, for example Baltic Host, Baltic Regional Training Event, Sabre Strike, BALTOPS, etc.

Culture and Education

Thanks to their being neighbours, the cultural and educational contacts between Estonia and Latvia have been close. Already in the 19th century some of Estonia’s future leaders of state and church were educated at the Seminary of Janis Cimze, the Higher Technical School of Riga and the Ecclesiastical Seminary of Riga. Due to the Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Documents Certifying Higher Education signed by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2000, several Estonian students study at Latvian post-secondary institutions. The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga has developed into one of the most popular educational institutions for Estonians.

On 30 March 2012 a Latvian and Lithuanian auditorium and library were opened in the Tartu University Language Centre. The opening was attended by the ambassadors of Latvia and Lithuania in Estonia and representatives of the Latvian State Language Agency, Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Research, Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, Vilnius University, and other organisations.

Approximately 2 300 ethnic Estonians currently live in Latvia. Cross-border economic activities have added several thousand Estonians to that niche, as they reside in Estonia but spend most of their working hours in Latvia. There is an Estonian-Latvian Institute in Valga, which among other activities also teaches the Latvian language. In Co-operation language experts of Estonia and Latvia produced a new Latvian-Estonian and Estonian-Latvian dictionary. The premiere, in the presence of the presidents of both countries, Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Andris Berzinš, took place on 11.05.15 in Riga.

The Latvian Estonian Society was restored in 1988 as the legal successor to the Estonian Society of Education and Assistance, which was established in Riga in 1908. The Riga Estonian School restarted its work in 1989 and currently offers education to close to 170 students. The school, which is financed by the Latvian state, conducts most of its studies in Latvian; however, the Estonian language, culture and regional studies are also taught there. Estonia has provided the school with support over the years, mainly in the form of materials and computers but also by sending Estonian language teachers.

On 18 February 2009 Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Latvian Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš signed an agreement establishing the Estonian-Latvian and Latvian-Estonian translation award, with the goal of emphasising the importance of the Estonian and Latvian languages and of cultural exchange. The first award was given on 10 March 2010 and went to Latvian translator Maima Grinberga. In 2015 the award was granted to Margus Konnula (aka Contra) for the translation of the collection of poetry of Latvian poet Eduards Veidenbaums entitled “Don’t Read Me”.

On 13 February 2012 a renewed trilateral agreement between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania regarding the Baltic Chamber Orchestra “Kremerata Baltica” was signed in Riga. The orchestra was founded 15 years ago by world-famous Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer. In accordance with the agreement, the three Baltic states all provide funding for the orchestra. On 7 February 2013 a joint concert took place in Tallinn, during which the 40-year-old ensemble Hortus Musicus and the 15-year-old Kremerata Baltica met on stage for the first time.

From 15-17 June 2012 the Nordic and Baltic Men’s Choir Festival took place in Tartu. After Estonia Latvia was there with the second-biggest number of participants.

At the beginning of September 2012 the biggest Livonian dictionary ever was published thanks to the co-operation of Estonia and Latvia. The author of the Livonian-Estonian-Latvian dictionary is University of Tartu professor Tiit-Rein Viitso and the editor is his colleague at the University of Tartu Valts Ernštreits. The materials used in compiling the dictionary were collected in co-operation by the two countries since 1976 and experts in both countries have been working with the materials since 2003.

 

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