Latvia and Estonia fall out over Hepatitis A scare
Feb 25, 2009, 14:23 GMT
Riga/Tallinn - Estonia and Latvia displayed a notable lack of Baltic brotherhood Wednesday in the wake of an Estonian government decision to advise citizens against visiting the country's southern neighbour.
The Latvian embassy in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, was moved to deliver a note to the Estonian foreign ministry, requesting the Estonian authorities to 'retract forthwith' advice that Estonians should avoid visits or risk catching Hepatitis A.
On February 18 the Estonian Health Protection Inspectorate published information about the spread of Hepatitis A in Latvia, and recommended that Estonians should not plan visits to Latvia.
'It is pointed out in the note that these announcements are not in keeping with international practice, have a negative impact on the flow of tourists between both states, and in addition, are harmful to Latvia's image abroad,' said a statement from the Latvian foreign ministry.
A spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa the Estonian action was 'not a friendly gesture'.
'They should not have issued such a warning. We are not the only country to have been affected - for example the Czech Republic currently has a similar problem,' he said.
There was even a hint that the Estonians may be running a dirty tricks campaign to poach tourists when the Latvian foreign ministry mentioned in its statement that it was monitoring 'unfair competition.'
Estonian tourists made up nearly 10 per cent of visitors to Latvia in the fourth quarter of 2008 according to official statistics.
Latvia's foreign ministry had already been contacted by businesses that have noticed a drop in Estonian visitors since the announcement was made public, it said.
With the Latvian hospitality sector already suffering the effects of a deep recession, a block on visitors from the north is the last thing Riga's hotels and restaurants need.
But on Wednesday afternoon the website of the Estonian Healh Inspectorate was still describing the rate of Hepatitis infection in Latvia as 'quite high' and advised all visitors to undergo immunisation at least two weeks before venturing across the border into its fellow EU member state.