Tallinn, Estonia - Kevin Rex, Ambassador of Canada to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
Excellencies, parlamendiliikmed, Daamid ja härrad, chers amis
My Fellow Canadians! Welcome, Bienvenue, Tere tulemast
Bonne fête du Canada HAPPY CANADA DAY!
As I approach the one-year mark since my arrival last August, I cannot help but to marvel at today’s dynamic Estonian –Canadian relationship. It is a relationship that is anchored in Canada’s proud Estonian diaspora community, one of the largest in the world. This week alone several hundred Canadians are here in Tallinn, participating in the ESTO and Song and Dance Festivals. They hosted a very special Canada Day celebration on July 1. Many are here with us today, and I would like to welcome them.
It was just a little over a year ago that Prime Minister Ratas visited Canada. On that occasion, our countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Digital Cooperation. In the year following we have seen a dramatic rise in Canadian and Estonian cooperation across this and many other fields. In May, we were pleased to welcome the Commander of the Canadian Army and on a separate visit Rear-Admiral Cassivi, Champion of Gender and Diversity for Operations within our Department of National Defence. Tallinn Music Week featured a “Made in Canada” night with 6 Canadian bands, and the most fun I had all year! And this year’s Black Nights Film Festival featured 13 Canadian Films and 4 visiting Canadian Directors.
We do all of this in cooperation with our superb Estonian partners, both government and non-governmental organizations, many of whom are here today. To you I say, aitäh, thank you for your friendship and cooperation.
The culmination of this cooperation will be the deployment of a permanent Chargé d’Affaires here to Tallinn in September. My friend and colleague, Michael Eyestone, has managed Canada’s bilateral relationship with Estonia for the past three years from Ottawa. It is fitting then that he will be our first permanent diplomatic presence here in Tallinn, where he will also serve as Canada’s Senior Trade Commissioner.
On Trade – Estonia was among the first EU countries to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU. CETA has now been provisionally in force for just under 2 years, and since its September 2017 ratification, bilateral trade between Canada and Estonia has increased by 84.3%!
In fact, Canada is now the only G7 country with free trade links to the entire G7. In total, 14 free trade agreements with 51 countries connecting us to 1.5 billion world consumers.
Finally, on security – Canada, as I am sure everyone here knows, is proud to play the role of framework Nation for the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. With the eFP as our anchor, we are now some 662 Canadian personnel, operating in 13 different offices across all three Baltic States. Here in Estonia, we are proud to have officers at the Baltic Defence College in Tartu, here in Tallinn at the NATO Force Integration unit, and soon at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. Simply put, this is Canada’s largest deployment anywhere in the world!
This is a stunning accomplishment, and its message is one we have proudly taken on the road all over Estonia.
As a non-resident Ambassador, however, none of this would be possible were it not for our amazing team here in Tallinn! To the wonderful staff at the Embassy, you serve Canada with such pride and distinction, it is humbling. Kairi-Liis and Janna you have been the heart of Canada in Estonia for years. You have Canada’s and my most sincere thanks. And to Hanna and Kristin welcome and thank you for your support.
My deep appreciation as well to our Defence Attaché, Col Mike Minor, who has been there with me through all three of our Canada Day events, and who so superbly embodies the Canadian military presence in all 3 Baltic countries.
Now, time to enjoy the food! This has been specially prepared for us by Head Chef Michael Holman, a proud native of Vancouver, British Columbia. He wooed me with his talk of coast to coast Canadian cuisine. Thank you as well to Kerli and the Pohjala Team for inviting us into your wonderful Tap Room today.
Please join me in raising a glass. Bonne fête du Canada, Happy Canada Day!