On 30 September 2020, the Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, welcomed the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Reinsalu, who was in Latvia on an official visit. During the meeting, both officials discussed bilateral relations between Latvia and Estonia, regional cooperation and developments in Belarus. The Ministers also presented the Languages Award bestowed by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and Estonia.
We praise the efforts of the Latvian-Estonian Intergovernmental Commission, which is an excellent opportunity for jointly addressing practical matters and promoting cooperation of border regions, said Edgars Rinkēvičs. He also welcomed the fact that, starting already in May 2020, the holders of Latvian eID cards can use services of more than 30 Estonian public authorities electronically.
Discussing cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Edgars Rinkēvičs noted that public health was a priority for the European Union. It is vital to find the right balance between public health interests, the recovery of national economies and restoring the integrity of the Schengen Area, the Latvian Foreign Minister noted. The formation of the Baltic Bubble and applying a solution for border cities like Valka and Valga are proof, he said, of our ability to effectively cooperate under complicated conditions at the regional level.
In Europe and around the world, the epidemiological situation is in flux and we must learn the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, we welcome discussions at the EU level about a coordinated approach concerning application of restrictions to freedom of movement. Sufficient flexibility must be further retained to enable the Member States to respond appropriately to trends in the spread of COVID-19 at the national level. Decisions about lifting travel restrictions at the EU’s external borders should be based first and foremost on epidemiological criteria, Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined.
Discussing the state of affairs in Belarus, Edgars Rinkēvičs pointed out that the EU should be decisive and speaking with one voice concerning sanctions against Belarusian officials, and a single country should not be standing in the way of the adoption of sanctions. The EU must listen to Belarusian society demanding respect for their human rights; the EU must also support new presidential elections in the presence of international observers. Latvia does not recognise Alexander Lukashenko as a legitimate President of Belarus, and his “inauguration” ceremony only deepens the crisis, the Latvian Foreign Minister noted.
The Ministers then discussed the close cooperation between Latvia and Estonia in the field of security policy and their joint participation in military exercises, since Russia’s military activities in the Baltic Sea region and developments in Belarus confirm that security in the region should be further strengthened through various cooperation formats. Thus the presence of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence continues to make a crucial and inestimable contribution to strengthening security in the Baltic region.
To promote and highlight the economic achievements of both countries, the Ministers committed themselves to working on the establishment of an award for the facilitation of economic cooperation between Latvia and Estonia.
As part of the visit, the Ministers presented the annual Languages Award by the Latvian and Estonian Foreign Ministries to Ilze Tālberga, teacher of the Latvian language and culture at Tartu University.
It is a true honour for me, said Minister Rinkēvičs, to open the ceremony for the Languages Award bestowed by the Latvian and Estonian Foreign Ministries. I am happy, the Minister continued, that this beautiful tradition has enabled our countries to become even closer and raised our mutual awareness about what is happening in each of our countries. The Languages Award has great significance in promoting the literature and academic research in both countries. At the same time, it is an opportunity to appreciate the role of our academic staff and translators in promoting bilateral relations. Therefore, we thank the teachers and linguists in Riga, Tallinn, Tartu and other Latvian and Estonian cities, who enhance our knowledge of one another and attract new talented minds to the Latvian and Estonian languages. We should continue to further inspire our translators, the Latvian language teachers in Estonia and the Estonian Language teachers in Latvia, as well as researchers in the Latvian and Estonian languages for their contribution to promoting the languages. And, speaking at the awards ceremony, “I have the honour,” Edgars Rinkēvičs said, “to announce the recipient of the award – Ilze Tālberga, teacher of the Latvian language and culture at Tartu University.”
Ilze Tālberga has been lecturer at Tartu University since 2006 introducing her students to the Latvian language and culture and focusing on research in the Latvian and Estonian languages and preparation of teaching materials. Ilze Tālberga has produced a textbook, “Latvian language for Estonian students” which is an invaluable support in language learning, given that the first textbook of Latvian was written more than 80 years ago. This past April 1st, Ms Tālberga defended her doctoral thesis “On the equivalents to the Latvian language prepositions in the Estonian language” and in 2019, she translated into Estonian a novel by Nora Ikstena, “Soviet Milk” (Mātes piens) together with the Estonian poet Margus Konnula (Contra), and a novel by Ieva Melgalve, “A Literary Academy” (Literārā akadēmija).
The Joint Award for the Promotion of Latvian and Estonian Languages was presented for the 11th time. The aim of the Languages Award is to strengthen bilateral cooperation through enhancing the learning and use of the Latvian and Estonian languages, facilitating the work of Latvian-Estonian and Estonian-Latvian translators of literary, political, scientific and other texts and to recognize the achievements of Latvian and Estonian linguists and teachers in the promotion of the Latvian language in Estonia and the Estonian language in Latvia. The Languages Award also contributes to strengthening Latvian and Estonian cultural cooperation and this year it will be awarded for the eleventh time. The monetary value of the prize is 3,000 euros and the Award Fund receives equal contributions from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and Estonia.
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