On the Occasion of the Signing of the Sister State Agreement between Maryland and Harju County, Estonia
May 18, 2009
Ambassador Väino Reinart
On the Occasion of the Signing of the
Sister State Agreement between
Maryland and Harju County, Estonia
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Little more than 16 years ago, right after the end of the Cold War, the American State of Maryland offered a bold gesture of partnership to the then recently re-emerged independent country of Estonia: The State Partnership Program between the Estonian Defense League and the Maryland National Guard.
This partnership—unique in its inception and in its scope—has since grown to encompass all manners of educational, cultural and economic exchanges between your great state and our grateful nation.
The signing of the Sister State Agreement between Maryland and Estonia’s largest and most economically developed county, including the capital City of Tallinn, continues our tradition of close ties and commemorates our shared desire to learn about other cultures, while we sharing our own experiences with others.
Of course, this particular arrangement is not the first between Maryland and Estonia; there are already over ten city partnerships between our two lands and of those, six have official Sister City relationships. The Memorandum of Cooperation between the State of Maryland and the Association of Municipalities of Estonia along with the Association of Estonian Cities signed in April of 2006 has paved the way for this signing today.
Our cooperative efforts, while certainly obvious between Maryland and Estonia, extend far beyond our endeavors here and into lands much further away. Due in part by American willingness to enlarge NATO, you now have Estonia as a staunch ally, and our soldiers are fighting to secure democratic freedoms to people in Afghanistan alongside with American soldiers. Estonia is a small country, but we have become the largest contributor on a per capita basis to NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Like Americans, Estonians know full well that that the gift of freedom is not received without having to earn it, and we are proud to help Afghanis—as we were Iraqis—earn their right to democratic government and freedom from oppression and persecution.
I hope that this agreement signed today gives new energy to the many cooperative projects under way between our two lands and our citizens. I am sure Governor O’Malley will agree that both our states will benefit from the cross-cultural, economic, and social endeavors that will open up as a result of this agreement.
I am delighted to see so many people here today who have been directly responsible for developing this cooperation on both sides of the ocean. I would like to thank Governor O’Malley, Secretary of State McDonough, The Maryland National Guard, The Estonian Community in Maryland, and the Maryland/Estonian Exchange Council for making today’s event possible.