Andrus Ansip (left) and Dmitri Medvedev.
TALLINN – Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and his Russian colleague Dmitry Medvedev focused on the possibilities of warming up relations instead of criticism at their meeting on April 5 in St. Petersburg Public Broadcasting reports.
This was the first planned meeting of Estonian and Russian heads of governments in more than eight years.
The official cause for the meeting was the Baltic Sea States Council meeting in St. Petersburg. Already before the start of the bilateral meeting, Medvedev said that he has a positive attitude towards the meeting. "If we exit partially the ideological restrictions that exist in our relations, we could give a good impetus to developing the economy and connections between people. I hope that happens," said Medvedev.
Ansip said also that it is time to start communicating normally since it isn’t ordinary that Estonian and Russian prime ministers haven't visited their neighboring states in 8 years.
"At today's meeting, Estonia didn’t have any criticism against the Russian Federation nor the Russian Federation against Estonia. Maybe we have been too sensitive in earlier times," said Ansip.
According to the Estonian government's press service, the meeting focused on bilateral relations, economic issues, cooperation possibilities in different spheres and bilateral agreements.
Ansip and Medvedev agreed that positive developments could be seen in bilateral relations, to which their meeting attested. They were pleased about closer cooperation at the departmental level as well as between ordinary people.
Ansip stressed that for Estonia it is important that normal cooperation between Estonia and Russia be present at all levels. “I’m pleased that trade in goods has significantly grown, communication between people has become closer and the number of Russian tourists visiting Estonia has increased a lot each year,” he said.
Ansip noted that visa-free travel between the European Union and Russia would contribute to mutual relationships, but in order to establish this it would be necessary to fulfill the relevant technical conditions, including smooth border crossings. He added that the ever-increasing number of people crossing borders sets the two countries the task of developing infrastructure at border points and more effectively organizing customs and border controls.
“For us it’s important that the movement of people and goods in both directions takes place without any problems,” Ansip said.
The prime ministers agreed that a border agreement would be a prerequisite in promoting cross-border cooperation and developing border infrastructure. Both stated that they have come very close to an agreement during consultations.
The government leaders also welcomed the progress made in the preparation of other bilateral agreements. Agreements on emergencies, diplomatic real estate, higher education and avoiding double taxation were under consideration.
Areas in which Estonia and Russia could deepen cooperation were also discussed during the meeting. Among other things, Prime Minister Ansip showcased IT solutions implemented in Estonia and said that the country was prepared to share its experience with Russia. The government leaders agreed that cooperation in this field could benefit both parties.
At the meeting Medvedev also spoke about Russia’s decision to nominate Yekaterinburg as the organizer of EXPO 2020. Ansip said that Russia would definitely be a strong contender.
The bilateral meeting between Ansip and Medvedev took place after the Summit of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Ansip thanked Russia for the meeting, which focused on environmental cooperation. He said that issues related to the protection and environment of the Baltic Sea were important to all of the countries in the area and that resolving related problems was a common obligation.