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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Bel Air signs agreement with first sister city - Narva, Estonia

Bel Air residents, say hello to your new sister city: Narva, Estonia.

The "friendly exchange relationship" with Narva, a first for The Town of Bel Air, got underway Wednesday morning at Town Hall with a little high-tech help.

Mayor Robert Reier and other town officials were joined by Maryland-Estonia Exchange Council Chairman Toivo Tagamets. They chatted via Skype with several Narva officials, including Mayor Eduard East, who signed the exchange document in the Baltic city.

The three-way Skype also included Deputy Chief of Mission Tanel Sepp and several representatives from Maryland-Estonia Exchange Council, who were at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C., an embassy spokesperson said.

Narva officials invited Bel Air leaders to visit this summer or fall, and Reier likewise extended the invitation for them to visit Bel Air.

Reier gave Tagamets a drawing of town hall, while Tagamets gave the town a picture of Hermann Castle in Narva.

The exchange may first consist of individuals or small groups from each country and getting to know more about each other, officials said after the signing ceremony.

"This is a start," Tagamets said, explaining Bel Air and Narva could make cultural exchanges.

The arrangement could also include future business exchanges or hosting exchange students, two examples of what the partnership can offer.

Bel Air town commissioners Robert Preston, Patrick Richards and Edward Hopkins joined in the signing. Commissioner Susan Burdette was unable to attend.

Narva is Estonia's third-largest city, with a population of about 60,000, and is on the border with Russia. Narva has about six times as many residents as the Town of Bel Air.

Estonia has sister-city arrangements with a number of cities in the U.S., including several in Maryland, according to the Estonian embassy.

Havre de Grace also has an Estonian sister city, Sillamae. Havre de Grace has a similar relationship with its namesake, Le Havre in France.

A delegation from Estonia's Harju County visited Harford in November 2012 as part of an effort to strengthen ties between the Baltic nation and the U.S.

Narva also has similar exchanges in Sweden, Finland, Poland, Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and China.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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