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Latvia

(last updated: 09.08.2018)

The close and friendly ties between Estonia and Latvia are based on our historic and cultural connections, similar foreign policy goals, and our increasingly developing trade and tourism relations. 

For the first time Estonia and Latvia exchanged diplomatic representatives already in December 1918. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 6 September 1991.

Arti Hilpus is the current Estonian Ambassador to Latvia, having presented his credentials to Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis on 31 July 2018. The Embassy of Latvia in Tallinn is headed by the ambassador Raimonds Jansons since 8 June 2017.

In the current Riigikogu, there is an Estonia-Latvia parliamentary group which is led by Aadu Must and has 12 members.

Over the past year the bilateral relations between Estonia and Latvia have gained a new dimension with the celebration of centenaries of their independence.

 

Visits

To Latvia
February 2018 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas
February 2018 President Kersti Kaljulaid
December 2017 President Kersti Kaljulaid
September 2017 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser
August 2017 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas
July 2017 President Kersti Kaljulaid
June 2017 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser
February 2017 President Kersti Kaljulaid
December 2016 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser
December 2016 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas
October 2016 President Kersti Kaljulaid
October 2016 Minister of Foreign Affairs Jürgen Ligi
August 2016 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
July 2016 President Toomas Hendrik-Ilves
April 2016 Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand
February 2016 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
To Estonia
June 2018 President Raimonds Vējonis at the Estonia 100 celebration in Tartu, at the Baltic Students' Song and Dance Festival "Gaudeamus"
June 2018 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis at the 9th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR
February 2018 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis
December 2017 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis
August 2017 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis
June 2017 Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs
May 2017 Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs for the announcement of the Estonian-Latvian and Latvian-Estonian translation award
May 2017 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis
January 2017 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis
November 2016 President Raimonds Vējonis
July 2016 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on a working visit
March 2016 Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on a working visit

 

Bilateral relations

CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION

Cooperation between local governments on the Estonian and Latvian border has been functioning for years. In 2004, the Estonian-Latvian Intergovernmental Commission was established to further enhance the cross-border cooperation. In the framework of the commission four working groups were formed and tasked to prepare a cross-border cooperation strategy which would enable to develop Estonian-Latvian cooperation within EU border cooperation programmes, to create a favourable environment for enterprise in the border regions and to facilitate the border-crossing procedure.

The four working groups focus on the following areas: 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 intergovernmental commission took place on 10 March 2017 in Smiltene. The public health and health-related public services, taxation, rail traffic and land roads continue to remain important topics for the cross-border cooperation.

The European Union also supports cooperation between border areas through territorial cooperation programmes. The Estonia-Latvia Programme 2012-2020 will receive 38 MEUR  from the European Regional Development Fund to initiate joint projects in the focus areas entrepreneurship, heritage, tourism, environmental awareness, water management, small harbours, labor commuters, Valga-Valka center (www.estlat.eu).

FUTURE COOPERATION REPORT

In June 2007, the Estonian and Latvian Prime Ministers launched the idea for an Estonia-Latvia future cooperation report that would outline development directions in the various fields of cooperation 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 June 11, 2010. Estonia-Latvia Future Cooperation Report (PDF).

DEFENCE COOPERATION

The defence cooperation takes place in the so-called Baltic format (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), based on the agreement concluded by the defence minister on February 12, 1995.

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

At present time, the most important cooperation formats are NATO Baltic air policing, BALTDEFCOL, BALTBAT and joint participation in exercises.

 

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:

  • Agreement on the Renewal of the State Border and the Additional Protocol (came into force 13.09.93);
  • Agreement on Organising Common Border Control (came into force 30.08.94);
  • Agreement on the Activities of Border Representatives (came into force 30.08.94);
  • Air Services Agreement (came into force 01.02.96);
  • Agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (came into force 23.05.96);
  • Agreement on the Maritime Delimitation in the Gulf of Riga, the Strait of Irbe and the Baltic Sea (came into force 10.10.96);
  • Agreement Regarding Border Points (came into force 21.10.96);
  • Agreement on Social Security (came into force 29.01.97);
  • Agreement on the Assessment of the Transboundary Effects on the Environment (came into force 14.03.97);
  • Agreement on the Transfer of the Right of Use of a Plot (came into force 28.06.99);
  • Framework Agreement on Mutual Assistance in the Event of Disasters (came into force 19.06.02);
  • 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);
  • Agreement on Railroad Transport (came into force 16.05.04);
  • Agreement on the Terms of the Use and Maintenance of the Valga1/Valka2 Joint Border Crossing Point (came into force 21.05.04);
  • Agreement on mutually storing crude oil and oil products (came into force 06.08.09);
  • Agreement of the Exchange and Mutual Protection of Classified Information (came into force 20.07.11).

 

Economic relations

TRADE

According to the latest data, Latvia remains among Estonia’s five main cooperation partners, being a steadily growing export market for our products, as well as services. Latvia was the third trade partner with Estonia at 8.8%. The export of Estonian goods to Latvia amounted to 46%.

In 2017, the import of Latvian products to Estonia amounted to 8,4% of total imports (the fifth import partner for Estonia).

The Latvian-Estonian trade balance was positive during 2014-2015, but began to decline again in 2016.

Estonia-Latvia trade 2012-2017 (million euros):

Year Turnover Export Percentage of total export % Import Percentage of total import %
2012 2376.1 1103.0 8.8 1272.7 9.0
2013 2576.5 1274.7 10.4 1301.8 9.4
2014 2466.7 1294.5 10.8 1167.6 8.5
2015 2317.3 1202.8 10.4 1114.5 8.5
2016 2223.7 1096.0 9.2 1127.7 8.4
2017 2222.6 1182.0 9.2 1251.0 8.5

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia.

Primary articles of export in 2017:

  • Mineral products - 17%
  • Transport vehicles - 15%
  • Machinery and mechanical equipment - 12%
  • Prepared food prducts - 9%

Primary articles of import in 2017:

  • Machinery and equipment - 20%
  • Prepared food prducts ja beverages - 10%
  • Chemical products - 8%
  • Metals and metal products - 8%

INVESTMENTS

As of 31 December 2017, Estonian companies had invested 1.2 billion euros in Latvia, which makes up 18% of all direct investments made in foreign countries. At the same time Latvian direct investments in Estonia made up 3.34% of direct investments in Estonia, with a total value of 641 million euros.

On 18 April 2007, the estonian Business Chamber in Latvia (www.eesti.lv) was opened in Riga. It has been the first association established of Estonian companies and enterpreneurs abroad investors in their activities.

TOURISM

The interest of the Latvian tourists towards Estonia has grown. In 2015, 127 864 Latvian tourists were accommodated in Estonia, in 2017 the number was already 161 250. Popular travel destinations among Latvian tourists in addition to Tallinn are Pärnu and Tartu.

Visits to Latvia by Estonian residents have also grown, from 315 000 in 2013 to 351 436 in 2017.

 

Cultural relations

The cultural and educational contacts between Estonia and Latvia have been traditionally very frequent. Already in the 19th century some of Estonia’s future statesmen and intellectuals were educated at the Seminary of Janis Cimze, the Higher Technical School of Riga and the Ecclesiastical Seminary of Riga. In recent days this kind of cross-border study contacts have been advanced further thanks to the Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Documents Certifying Higher Education signed by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2000. The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga has developed into one of the most popular educational institutions for Estonians.

Approximately 2 300 ethnic Estonians live currently 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 also an Estonian-Latvian Institute in Valga, which among other activities also teaches the Latvian language. In close co-operation, the Estonian and Latvian language experts have composed a new Latvian-Estonian and Estonian-Latvian dictionary. The presentation of the dictionary in Riga on 11 May 2015 was attended also by the presidents of both countries Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Mr. Andris Berzinš.

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 as the secondary school 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 study 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. The award which goal was to emphasize the importance of the Estonian and Latvian languages and of cultural exchange was first given on March 10, 2010 to Latvian translator Maima Grinberga. In 2015, the Estonian and Latvian Foreign Ministers decided to expand the scope of award and signed on July 3, 2015 a new statute governing the contest. In addition to the translations of literature the new statute, enables, also to submit translations from other fields, such as politics, science, art, history and sociology. Language teachers and linguists from Estonian and Latvian schools and universities, who have contributed to the promotion of the Estonian and Latvian languages in both countries in the last year may also be nominated for the award.


On 12 May 2017, Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser and Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs announced in Tallinn, as the winner of the Estonian-Latvian language prize Livia Viitol, the poetess, translator and literary scientist. More information about this year’s contest can be found here.

In 2018, the exhibition „Symbolism of the Baltic States“ was opened at Orsay Museum in Paris.

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