President of Estonia praised Egils Levits for visiting Kuressaare, Estonia, in person. President Levits replied that he is happy to visit Kuressaare on his first foreign outing since the world and the Baltics were hit by Coronavirus pandemic.
Egils Levits underlined that ‘compared to the rest of the world, all three Baltic countries have handled Covid-19 pandemic relatively well. Governments chose the right response: to follow the recommendations of epidemiologists and implement precautions early on’. President of Latvia also pointed out that one of the factors that made the response of Baltic countries to pandemic so successful was people’s positive reaction to restrictions and responsible attitude towards changing their everyday patterns.
President Kaljulaid stressed that the ‘close cooperation between the Baltic countries is our Coronavirus crisis response success story’. President of Estonia praised airBaltic and Tallink for being a good example of cross-border cooperation in bringing residents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia home. ‘It shows that by uniting our efforts small economies can also overcome massive challenges,’ said Kersti Kaljulaid.
Egils Levits agreed with his Estonian counterpart, saying that ‘cooperation formats set up by Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia during the Covid-19 pandemic have proven to be effective, sustainable and will continue to be used after the crisis. President Kaljulaid mentioned that cooperation between Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in bringing citizens of Baltic countries home is a good example for the rest of the European Union’.
Presidents of Estonia and Latvia also agreed that funding of European Commission allocated to member states in scope of Recovery Plan for Europe must be invested wisely and in line with digital transformation and European Green Deal guidelines.
President of Latvia also mentioned the rise of disinformation during Coronavirus pandemic, which affected both the Baltic countries and the rest of the world. Egils Levits believes that disinformation poses a special threat during a crisis like this.
‘In the past months, Latvia has completed a number of valuable studies and initiated the adoption of United Nations (UN) Cross-Regional Statement on countering widespread disinformation, or the Infodemic, in the Context of COVID-19, signed by 130 world countries in New York on 12 June,’ said President Levits. According to the Statement, states, regional organizations, the UN system and other stakeholders such as media workers, social media platforms and NGOs have a clear role and responsibility in helping people to deal with the ‘infodemic’.
Presidents of Estonia and Latvia discussed EU’s policy towards its neighbours and recalled the Statement of the Presidents of the Baltic states about the end of World War II adopted on 7 May. Kersti Kaljulaid and Egils Levits also talked about current developments within the EU and Eastern Partnership initiative, praising the successful European integration processes in Ukraine and Georgia.
Bilateral meeting of the Presidents focused on RailBaltica project, a direct connection between the Baltic states and the Central European railway network. Egils Levits stressed that RailBaltica is a strategic project and a connection that all three Baltic states need, and any delays may be detrimental. President is convinced, however, that construction will be completed on time and modern, fast-speed railway connection between Baltic countries and Western Europe in line with European standards will be available as projected.
Presidents of Estonia and Latvia discussed also the Three Seas Initiative and need for further infrastructure investments to better integrate Baltic states into Europe.
President of Latvia thanked the President of Estonia for opportunity to meet. He also thanked people of Sāmsala (Saaremaa) for the warm welcome and hospitality.
After the official meeting, Kersti Kaljulaid and Egils Levits proceeded to plant oak trees in Kuressaare Town Park and visited Kaali Meteorite Crater Field.