On December 10th, Estonia and Maryland officially gained a new cooperation relationship, when the signature process for the memorandum of cooperation between Pärnu County and St. Mary’s County was completed at the Embassy of Estonia in Washington, DC. The memorandum enables the exploration of “opportunities to cultivate a greater understanding of each other, raise cross-cultural awareness between both areas and generally advance their friendship. Furthermore, we will work together toward sharing information and creative endeavors between St. Mary’s County and The Association of Local Authorities of Pärnumaa.”
The agreement was signed on December 3rd in Leonardtown, Maryland by the Chairman of the Maryland Estonia Exchange Council (MEEC), Toivo Tagamets, and St. Mary’s County Commissioner President James Guy. The final signature took place when Andres Metsoja, Head of County Council of the Association of Local Authorities of Pärnumaa, made a visit to Washington on other government business and the embassy was able to coordinate with his schedule and St. Mary’s County officials to hold a small signing ceremony last week. Mr. Metsoja is also a member of Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) and Chairman of its National Defence Committee.
This agreement is the latest formalized relationship in a partnership that began in the early 1990s with the NATO Partnership for Peace Program. The National Guard State Partnership Program linked the Maryland National Guard with the Estonian Kaitseliit as part of the Guard’s initiative to develop cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships between the U.S. military and the burgeoning defense forces of newly independent nations after the end of the Cold War.
The Maryland-Estonia relationship has grown to include partnerships at the county and city levels thanks to MEEC’s work to promote cultural exchanges and strengthen economic, educational, medical, and political/security links. In addition to the new Pärnu-St. Mary’s relationship, established sister city partnerships include Tallinn and Annapolis, Tartu and Salisbury, Viljandi and Cumberland, and Narva and Bel Air.
More information on the National Guard’s State Partnership Program is available at www.nationalguard.mil/Leadership/Joint-Staff/J-5, under the International Affairs Division link. To learn more about MEEC, please visit www.marylandestoniaexchangecouncil.org. EANC maintains regular contact with MEEC and the Maryland National Guard to support and advance their work.