Travel

Estonia Country Brief

Introduction

Estonia is the smallest of the three Baltic Republics covering an area of 45,227 square kilometres, about two-thirds the size of Tasmania. Situated on the north-eastern edge of the Baltic Sea, Estonia borders Latvia in the south and the Russian Federation in the east.

Estonia’s population is approximately 1.3 million. The capital of Estonia is Tallinn.

Estonia celebrates its national day on 24 February each year.

Political Overview

Estonia regained its independence on 20 August 1991 following the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Fourth Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted on 28 June 1992, established a democratic system based on a Presidency and a unicameral 101-seat parliament, known as The Riigikogu.

In the March 2007 parliamentary elections, the mandate of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's centre-right Reform Party was renewed with 27.8 per cent of the vote, the highest level of electoral support for a governing party since independence was regained in 1991.  The new governing coalition consists of the Estonian Reform Party, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union and the Social Democratic Party. The coalition controls 60 seats in the 101-seat Parliament. The next Parliamentary election is due in 2011.

The President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, was elected in an Electoral College vote on 23 September 2006 for a five-year term. The President has mainly ceremonial powers.

Estonia joined NATO on 2 April 2004 and acceded to the European Union  on 1 May 2004 .  Estonia joined the Schengen group of European countries on 21 December 2007.

Despite its small size, Estonia has contributed actively to international peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Lebanon, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Economic overview

Estonia, like neighbours Latvia and Lithuania, is expecting sharp falls in the economy due to a slide in domestic demand and weak exports arising from the global economic crisis.  GDP is expected to shrink by 8.5 per cent in 2009, which is likely to force further budget cuts and a re-evaluation of Estonia’s goal to join the eurozone in 2011.

Bilateral relationship

Australia was one of the first countries to recognize Estonia's return to independence in August 1991 and supported the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Estonian territory in the period that followed. Australia is host to one of the largest communities of Estonians abroad, with 8,232 people identifying as Estonian in the 2006 Australian Census.

Australia has signed a Working Holiday Maker arrangement with Estonia, which came into effect in May 2005.

In July 1998 Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann visited Australia. A parliamentary delegation from Estonia visited Australia in March 2008. An Australian Parliamentary delegation, led by the former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Sue West, visited Tallinn in October 1999 and in April the following year an Estonian Parliamentary Delegation, led by Mr Savi Toomas, MP, President of the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament), paid a return visit to Australia. The most recent high-level visit was by the then Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Mr Philip Ruddock, in April 2002.

The Australian Ambassador to Estonia is accredited from Stockholm. Australia also has an Honorary Consul in Tallinn. Estonia is represented in Australia by Honorary Consuls based in Sydney, Perth and Hobart. As of November 2007, the Estonian Ambassador in Tokyo is also accredited to Australia.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

Two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Estonia was a modest $29 million in 2007-08.

Australian institutions are actively working to develop education links and student exchange arrangements with Estonia. Australia has two arrangements with Estonia involving the Estonian Business School, Monash University and Swinburne University of Technology.

Last updated: 02/04/2009