TALLINN - The Latvian and Estonian presidents have highlighted the close relations that the two countries enjoy and pledged to deepen their cooperation in the spheres of culture and defense.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves received Latvian President Valdis Zatlers on April 7.
"Your state visit symbolizes the close political relations between two neighboring countries 's Estonia and Latvia 's and the frequent communications between our peoples," said Ilves after receiving the Latvian president.
The defense and culture ministers of the two countries took part in the presidential meeting. The discussion focused on co-operation in both areas, particularly in terms of song festivals. The two sides also agreed that the Baltic Defence College, which is a joint project for all three Baltic States, is an outstanding example of partnership for other NATO member states.
"Estonia and Latvia are good allies and firm partners with many common interests and overlapping foreign policy positions. Currently, our common goal is to help our countries recover from the general economic crisis that has hits Estonia and Latvia hard," said President Ilves. "This also entails restoring our peoples' trust in their governments and strengthening international confidence in the Baltic region."
At the meeting, Heads of State Ilves and Zatlers stressed that comprehensive international cooperation is needed in order to restore the trustworthiness of the global financial sector and to guarantee its normal functioning. This is how the current crisis can be overcome and future crises avoided.
"We feel that increasing IMF loan resources would be an important step toward guaranteeing the IMF's ability to help countries that need assistance. We support giving the IMF a greater role in global problems," said President Ilves. "We also support having the supervision of the Estonian financial sector, as well as systematic risk assessment and prevention, brought under the management of the European Central Bank. This would be an important step in reforming Europe's financial monitoring."
Zatlers, for his part, also highlighted the close relationship of the two countries.
"The residents of our neighbouring countries have been linked tightly for years and even centuries, both in economic terms and in everyday situations," he said.
The two presidents also touched on relations with Russia. They agreed that dialogue between the European Union and Russia is important, but that it should not damage the Community's own values and their strengthening internationally.
"Estonia hopes that the negotiations for a new treaty between the European Union and Russia will be constructive. The result should be an all-encompassing and legally binding treaty with the greatest emphasis on commercial matters," said President Ilves.
Ilves had been less optimistic about the relationship in an interview with Austria's Der Standard a few days before. RIA Novosti reported that the Estonian president said cooperation between the alliance and Russia as one of it major partners was spoiled by the military conflict in Georgia in August 2008.
"The least NATO wants in order to restore confidence in its relations with Russia is that it stops bullying its neighbors," he said.
Ilves also reportedly criticized Russia's proposal to build a new security system in Europe.