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Mihkelson at HBC20

Estonian Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Marko Mihkelson addressing the gathering.

 

The House Baltic Caucus (HBC) turned 20 this year and was recognized with an elegant reception on Capitol Hill attended by members of Congress, Baltic parliamentarians, embassy officials and other friends of the Baltics.

 

The event was organized by the embassies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), to thank caucus members for their support over the years and to welcome new members. Distinguished participants included caucus co-chair, Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), and caucus members Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), along with Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the Estonian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee; Solvita Aboltiņa, Chairwoman of the Latvian parliament’s National Security Committee; and Emanuelis Zingeris, Chairman, United States Caucus, Lithuanian Parliament.

 

HBC20 parl group by photog

Distinguished guests from left: Emanuelis Zingeris, John Shimkus, Solvita Aboltiņa, Marko Mihkelson,Andy Barr, Karl Altau. Photo by Peteris Aluna

 

After welcome remarks by JBANC managing director Karl Altau, Mr. Mihkelson thanked the HBC especially for its work during the process of NATO enlargement. He noted that Estonia is not just a consumer of security but has also become a provider. Estonian troops have been active members of many NATO deployments and are currently increasing their presence in Afghanistan. As Russia is testing the West wherever it can, we can’t take the world order for granted and the HBC’s role will remain as important as ever.

 

Rep. Barr thanked the three Baltic governments for their commitment to allocating 2% of their budgets to defense and outlined areas where continued cooperation will be important. Working together on deterrence, sanctions oversight, and pressing the Administration on the importance of energy security are key areas of focus. He stressed that Article 5 is alive and well, and the U.S. will continue to be side by side with its allies, standing united in bipartisan, bicameral support.

 

Rep. Shimkus thanked the audience for remembering their ancestry and pushing their members of Congress to remain engaged in the region. He also applauded the Baltic nations for helping their neighbors as they struggle with evolving democracies. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have set commendable examples for other countries that  yearn to be free.

 

The HBC’s membership now stands at 74, with 22 of those joining in 2017, thanks at least in part to outreach by JBANC, its parent organizations, and their constituents. EANC is proud to actively support these efforts and will continue to do so. We also invite Estonian Americans to check the list of HBC members at http://housebalticcaucus.webs.com and make a call to thank caucus members or ask Representatives not listed to join. The last 20 years have shown that Congress supports the Baltic region and welcomes engagement from their Baltic-American constituents. We look forward to the next two decades of security, stability and progress bolstered by continued strong U.S.-Baltic cooperation.

 

Karin Shuey

Washington, DC

Director Estonian American NationalCouncil

www.estosite.org

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