Estonian speaker to Latvian speaker: We need Tartu-Rīga rail connection

October 3 saw speaker of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Lauri Hussar hosting speaker of the Saeima (Parliament) of Latvia Daiga Mieriņa, who was on her first official visit abroad.

At the meeting in the Riigikogu, the Speakers stated that Estonia and Latvia had very much in common, and cooperation between the two countries was also becoming even closer. Hussar pointed out that the joint procurement for medium-range air defence systems was an excellent example of cooperation in the field of security, according to a Riigikogu release.

According to Hussar, the largest joint project of the two countries is the construction of Rail Baltic, but he said it is also necessary to think about the rail connection between Tartu and Rīga through the twin town Valga-Valka.

“People living near the border go to work across the border, and aligning the mobility issues, digital solutions and school networks between the two countries would help unlock the region’s huge potential,” Hussar noted.

Mieriņa said that cooperation in the digitalisation of state services should continue as well – for example, in February, a common e-prescriptions system should be in place in Estonia and Latvia. She also underlined the need to support teaching of Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian both in border regions and in general, in the context of termination of Russian-language education.

"She added that it was absolutely right to learn big languages instead of Russian, but learning of small languages should also be supported," the Riigikogu release said.

A similar release from the Saeima attributed the following sentiments to Mieriņa – who has said she will speak via an interpreter into English on her foreign trips – without directly quoting her: "We want to strengthen close cross-border cooperation with the Baltic neighboring countries. By abandoning the Russian language in Latvian schools, the place of the second foreign language in the border regions in the north of the country could be taken by the Estonian language in the future."

During her visit to Estonia, Mieriņa also met with the Prime Minister and the President of Estonia, and visited the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. On Friday she will visit Lithuania.

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