Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis (L) and Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid attend the celebration ceremony at a former border crossing between Valka in Latvia and Valga in Estonia, on Dec. 21, 2017. The presidents of Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia met on Thursday to mark their countries' first decade in the Schengen Area. (Xinhua/Janis)
RIGA, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- The presidents of Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia met on Thursday to mark their countries' first decade in the Schengen Area, local media reported.
Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis and his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid met at a former Latvian-Estonian border crossing which used to divide two border towns.
Historically, the Latvian town of Valka and Estonia's Valga had been developing as one town. The restrictions of movement that came with the reestablishing of the Latvian-Estonian border in the early 1990s affected its residents the most.
During the Soviet era, there was no border between Valka and Valga. But as Latvia and Estonia restored their independence in 1991, the border between the two countries divided the town into two, causing various practical inconveniences for local residents.
Dec. 21, 307 was a long-awaited day in the border towns as Latvia and Estonia acceded to the Schengen Agreement, paving the way for closer exchange and integration.
Addressing a gathering the former Valka-Valga crossing point, Vejonis emphasized the necessity of joint efforts aimed at strengthening security in Europe and preserving free movement of people.
He called Valka and Valga "our Schengen", the symbol of the opportunities that come with free movement of people and the abolishing of borders.
Kaljulaid stressed the role of the Schengen in promoting cooperation between communities in the border region.
"As neighbors we communicated closely also before that, but removing border control in the border crossing points of Estonia and Latvia when we joined the Schengen Area made communicating between people even easier and smoother, and gave a push to communities near the border to develop their home regions together," he said.