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Relations with Estonia Enlargement

Estonian flag       
This page was archived on the 1st of May 2004.
The information concerning this ex candidate country has not been updated since that date.

Bullet Country profile
Bullet Overview of key documents related to enlargement  
Bullet Press releases/News section

Country profile


2. Snapshot

Estonia lies along the Baltic Sea, just south of Finland and has a climate of icy, snowy winters and long light summers. It is a country about the same size as the Netherlands, and is sparsely populated with around 1.4m people. Tallinn, Estonia's capital city, is about 80 km or 50 miles south of Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland. Sweden is Estonia's western neighbour across the Baltic. Russia lies to the east, Latvia to the south.

The country is mostly flat, with many lakes and islands although in the south there are rolling hills and skiing is possible in towns like Otepää. In the east of Estonia, lake Peipus, the 4th largest lake in Europe, forms a natural frontier with Russia. On the Western Coast, the islands and islets have been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and are a mecca for Estonians and tourists alike during the summer. Across Estonia, much of the land is farmed or forested, with industrial production concentrated around Tallinn and in the Northeast.

Tallinn is an important port and one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. It is a city of grey towers topped with red tiles, of stone stairs beneath arching gateways, of narrow winding streets, cobbled pavement and towering ramparts. Outside the capital, other notable towns include Tartu, an ancient university town in the south-east, Narva with its imposing fortress on the border with Russia in the north and Pärnu with its attractive beach in the south-west.

The ancestors of today's Estonians - a reserved people speaking Estonian, a Finno-Ugric tongue related to Finnish and, distantly, to Hungarian - have lived on the Eastern shores of the Baltic Sea for thousands of years.

Throughout the centuries an integral part of Estonian life has been the sauna. Saunas in Estonia are a national institution. One theory is that the sauna evolved as a sun substitute, giving Estonians the psychological benefits of intense heat during the long, dark months of the year.

A more recent development is the Estonian love of information technology. Estonia is the leading country for internet connections per capita among the associate members of the European Union (with 64.7 internet hosts per 1000 persons in 2002). In August 2002 it ranked ahead of many EU Member States, including the UK, Germany, Belgium and France. The country code is ".ee". The Government has lead the way to E-Estonia, changing its cabinet meetings to paperless sessions using a web-based system back in March 2000. Election laws will include an e-voting option from 2005.

Well known Estonians include the composer Arvo Pärt, the supermodel Carmen Kass, the Olympic decathlon gold medalist Erki Nool and Winter Olympic skiing gold medalist Andrus Veerpalu. In 2001 Tanel Padar won the Eurovision song contest, with the result that the contest was held in Estonia in the following year.

Link to weather site

Link to official Tallinn website

Link to official Tartu website

Link to official Narva website

Link to official Pärnu website

Link to Estonian Institute

Links to civil society organisations

Cultural Endwment of Estonia

Infopoint Estonian Culture

National Library of Estonia

The Estonian National Culture Foundation

Estonian Science Foundation

Estonian Academy of Sciences

Research and Development Council of Estonia

Estonian Academic Library

More information on e-Estonia

Link to official State web centre


3. History

The independent Republic of Estonia was born in the aftermath of the First World War in 1918, when it broke away from the Russian empire. The Proclamation of Independence was followed by the War of Independence in 1918-1920.

Estonia survived for twenty years as an independent country largely on the basis of the export of farm produce, while it attempted to establish its identity as a nation. But the outbreak of World War Two disturbed the peaceful development of the country, which was subsequently occupied by the Soviet Union (1940-41, 1944-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1944).

A resurgence of Estonian national identity began in the late 1980s. The most visible (but peaceful) protests occurred in 1988 when large numbers of Estonians came together to sing national songs in the so-called "singing revolution" and in 1989 when people across all three Baltic countries joined hands together to form a massive human chain.

Following the attempted coup in Moscow in August 1991, Estonia unilaterally declared the restoration of its independence, and was quickly recognised by other countries. On 10 September the same year, Estonia was accepted as a member state of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe; on 17 September it became a member of the United Nations. A new constitution was elaborated on the basis of the principles of a parliamentary republic. On 28 June 1992 the constitution was approved in a referendum, and was subsequently enforced on 3 July 1992.

Since then, Estonian Governments have pursued a liberal free-trade policy and have embraced new technologies, which has resulted in a rapid transformation to a market economy.

More detailed information on Estonian history

Estonian history in brief


4. Current political context

Type of state

Parliamentary democracy

Head of State

Arnold Rüütel has been President since November 2001. He is the second President that Estonia has had since independence, succeeding Lennart Meri. One of President Rüütel´s first jobs was to sign into law a bill removing the requirement that candidates for Parliament and local government councils must be proficient in the Estonian language - a move which will benefit those who are not native Estonian speakers. The President of Estonia is elected for 5 years.


Following elections on 2 March 2003 a new Government was sworn into office on 10 April. The Government is made up of a coalition of Res Publica (centre-right), the Reform Party (liberal/right of centre) and the People's Union (left-wing rural party).

Head of Government

Mr Juhan Parts, Chairman of Res Publica, was sworn into office as Prime Minister on 10 April 2003. Mr Parts, born in 1966, had been State Auditor from 1998 to 2002. The previous Prime Minister, Mr Siim Kallas (Reform Party) had been in office since 28 January 2002.

Other Ministers

Link to official State web centre

Link to President Rüütel's official website

Link to official Government site
Link to State Chancellory
Links to Ministries
Finance Mr Taavi Veskimägi (Res Publica)
Justice Mr Ken-Marti Vaher (Res Publica)
Education and Science Mr Toivo Maimets (Res Publica)
Social Affairs Mr Marko Pomerants (Res Publica)
Foreign Affairs Ms Kristiina Ojuland (Reform Party)
Defence Mr Margus Hanson (Reform Party)
Economy and Communications Mr Meelis Atonen (Reform Party)
Culture Mr Urmas Paet (Reform Party)
Population Mr Paul-Eerik Rummo (Reform Party)
Environment Mr Villu Reiljan (People's Union)
Agriculture Mr Tiit Tammsaar (People's Union)
Interior-Public Security Mr Margus Leivo (People's Union)
Interior- Regional Affairs Mr Jaan Õunapuu (People's Union)



The Riigikogu, a single chamber parliament of 101 members, is elected every four years. The last national parliamentary elections were held on 2 March 2003. The new parliament sat for the first time on 31 March 2003.


Universal for citizens who have attained 18 years of age for national elections. Legal residents who have lived in Estonia for longer than 5 years, can, regardless of citizenship, vote in local elections.

Administrative regions

The country is currently divided into 15 counties and 241 rural municipalities (of which 202 parishes and 39 towns). Local elections last took place in October 2002.

Judicial system

There are 2 city courts, 14 county courts and 4 administrative courts in Estonia (20 courts of first instance).

The Supreme Court is the High Court.

Link to official Parliament (Riigikogu) website

Link to Estonian National Electoral Committee

Link to official local government websites

Link to Supreme Court's official website

Estonian Law Centre Foundation

Link to State Audit Office of Estonia


5. The economy

In Estonia, the transition from a planned economy to a market economy started at the beginning of the 1990s. Reforms carried out after monetary reform in 1992 were comprehensive and systematic.

In June 1992, the Estonian national currency was taken into use and became the legal currency of Estonia. Monetary stability was one of the most important preconditions for carrying out reforms in other areas. Most prices were liberalised by 1992: the government only maintains control over the price of energy, certain services and rents.

In order to restructure the business sector, an appropriate legal framework was established and privatisation process launched. Estonia's success in attracting foreign investment has been a continuous feature of the transition process.

As a result of the transition to a new economic system, Estonia's gross domestic product (GDP) decreased sharply in the years 1991-1994. By 1995, the recession phase was over. However, due to a crisis in the financial sector, derived from the Russian crisis, foreign demand began to decline in 1998. As a result, Estonia's GDP slightly decreased in 1999.

In 2000, the growth rate of Estonia's economy again increased rapidly, to 7.1%, largely driven by economic integration with EU Member States. Estonia's economic performance continued to show resilience in the face of slowdown in its major EU trading partners in 2001. GDP growth slowed moderately to 5.0% in 2001. The budget registered a small surplus of 0.2 % of GDP in 2001. The current account deficit stabilised at 6.1 per cent of GDP in 2001 and was entirely covered by strong foreign direct investment inflows.

Important exports from Estonia are machinery and electrical equipment, wood and textiles products. Tourism and transit trade also make important contributions to the economy. Finland and Sweden are amongst Estonia's biggest partners in business, investment and tourism.

Estonia continues to be what the IMF describes as "an outstanding performer among the transition economies", with continued commitment to market based reforms, pursuit of sound macroeconomic policies, emphasis on institution-building, and a commitment to transparency. In May 2001, the owner of the Helsinki Stock Exchange, HEX Group, acquired a majority holding in the Tallinn Stock Exchange. The integration was completed in February 2002, with the creation of a common trading environment for securities listed on the Helsinki and Tallinn bourses.

However, Estonia will continue to face a number of challenges in the economic field over the coming years, such as continuing to lower unemployment (especially long-term unemployment), and ensuring the balanced regional development of the country. In particular, the oil-shale sector located in the north-east of the country still needs significant restructuring.

Link to Bank of Estonia official website (Eesti Pank)

Enterprise Estonia

Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Estonian Business Information Gateway

Estonian Investment Agency

Credit and Export Guarantee Fund

Estonian Employers' Confederation

Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions

Estonian Business Association

UNICE June 2002 report on Estonia

Link to IMF pages on Estonia

Tallinn Stock Exchange


6. Estonia-EU relations

In August 1991 the European Community recognised the Republic of Estonia after it had regained its independence. The following year the European Commission accredited the Estonian Ambassador in Brussels. The European Commission officially opened its Delegation in Tallinn in 1996.

Relationships between the Republic of Estonia and the European Communities are regulated by the following agreements:

  • Europe Agreement, i.e. the association agreement between the European Communities and its member states and the Republic of Estonia, which was concluded on 12 June 1995 and entered into force on 1 February 1998.
  • Free trade agreement is incorporated into the Europe Agreement (concluded on 18 July 1994, entered into force on 1 January 1995).

These agreements provide a basis for regular discussions on specific issues, high-level meetings of senior officials, and the implementation of pre-accession assistance. They also function as an umbrella for Estonia's preparations for EU membership.

Estonia submitted its application to accede to the EU in November 1995 and started negotiations in March 1998. These were concluded at Copenhagen in December 2002. More information on the negotiations can be found here.

The draft Accession Treaty was approved by the Estonian Government on 8 April 2002. President Arnold Rüütel and Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland participated in the signing of the Treaty in Athens on 16 April 2002.

A referendum on Estonia’s entry into the EU was held on 14 September 2003. The ballot carried first of all the text of the new “Third Act” to the Constitution, establishing legal basis for accession. It was followed by the question: "Do you support accession to the European Union and adoption of a law of amendments to the constitution of the Republic of Estonia?" and two answers: "Yes" and "No." 66.84% of the voters supported EU accession. Turnout was 64.02% The Parliament now needs to ratify the Accession Treaty by simple majority.

Estonian SPD and Programme Complement

Delegation website

EU Information Centre

Pre-accession assistance

EC Tender Opportunities in Estonia

Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonian Foreign Ministry site on results of the negotiations

Estonian Government's Office of European Integration

Estonian Government's European Union Information Secretariat

Estonian EU Information Centre

European Documentation Centre of Tartu University

Estonian Legal Translation Centre

The Institute for European Studies

Estonian European Communities Studies Association

News and media links

Gallup website

7. Estonia in figures

Population 1.36 million (2002), 80% citizens of
Estonia, 7% citizens of other countries
and 13% stateless
Link to Eurostat
Life expectancy Male: 64.7 (2002); Female: 76.2 (2002) Statistical Office of Estonia
Area 45 227 km² Estonian Human Development Reports from the period of 1998-2002
Density 30 inhabitants per km²  
Distribution 67.4% urban population,
32.6% rural population
Neighbours bordering Estonia Latvia (339), Russia (294)
(border in km).
Ethnic profile Estonians (67.9%), Russians (25.6%), Ukrainians (2.1%), Belorussians (1.2%), Finns (0.9%), others (2.3%) Link to Integration Foundation
Languages Estonian is the official state language,
Russian and English are also widely
Emor surveys
Religions Predominantly Lutheran, Orthodox  
GDP/capita 4,500 EUR (2001)
9,800 EUR (2001) in PPS
Currency 1 EEK = 100 cents (15.65 EEK = 1 EUR)  
National Budget 2003 budget foresees revenues of 38.434
billion kroons (2.46 billion EUR).
Expenditure totals 38.758
kroons (2.48 billion EUR).
Trade with EU Exports to the EU in 2001:
3 billion EUR (69% of total exports)
Imports from the EU in 2001:
3 billion EUR (56% of total imports)
National holidays 24 February (Independence Day)
20 August (Day of Restoration of
23 June (Victory Day)

Overview of key documents related to enlargement

PDF format


Regular Report -  November 5, 2003 210kb 465kb 233kb All
Regular Report -  October 9, 2002 630kb 683kb 683kb All
Regular Report -  November 13, 2001 294kb 331kb 334kb All
Regular Report - November 8, 2000 453kb 496kb 493kb All
Progress Report - October 13, 1999 220kb  250kb 243kb All
Progress Report - November 1998 145kb 159kb 176kb All
Accession Partnership - November 13, 2001 pdf file
English 36kb

All countries

French 40kb
German 39kb
Accession Partnership - October 13, 1999 (revised February 2000) 
English pdf file 51kb

All countries

French pdf file 55kb
German pdf file 59kb
Opinion on Estonia's Application for Membership of the European Union - July 1997


pdf file 473kb
German pdf file 702kb
Greek NA 
English pdf file 656kb
Spanish pdf file 403kb
Finnish pdf file 411kb
French pdf file 723kb
Italian pdf file 427kb
Dutch pdf file 428kb
Swedish pdf file 387kb

Press releases / News section

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