The United Kingdom has always been a strong supporter of Estonia’s independence and development. This relationship had its beginning during Estonian War of Independence, when the UK sent a Royal Navy detachment led by Admiral E.A. Sinclair to defend Estonia’s shores. The British seamen who gave their lives defending Estonia's freedom during the conflict were laid to rest in the Tallinn Military Cemetery.
In the 1920s and 1930s, political and trade relations between Estonia and the United Kingdom flourished. More than 30% of Estonia’s exports went to the UK, an important trade partner for Estonia at the time.
The United Kingdom never recognised Estonia’s annexation in 1940. The UK reaffirmed its recognition of Estonia's independence on 27 August 1991 after de facto independence had been restored. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 5 September 1991, following which the embassies were re-opened in Tallinn and London. Since then, relations between Estonia and the UK have been exemplified by their consistency and vigour. In July 1992, the UK restored visa-free travel with Estonia, being thereby the first EU member state to restore the validity of agreements concluded with the Republic of Estonia in the 1920s and 30s.
Current Estonian ambassador in London is Lauri Bambus. The current Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Estonia is Theresa Bubbear (since September 7th, 2016).
Estonia’s interests are also represented by six honorary consuls: John Workman in Cheltenham, in Scotland: Iain Lawson (Paisley), Simpson Buglass (Aberdeen), and Peter Ferry (Edinburgh); Mark J. Ewings in Belfast, and Auberon Ashbrooke on Jersey (Chennel islands). In October 2015 a new Estonian Embassy building was opened in London, which enables to offer better consular services for Estonian citizens who are living and working in the UK.
The relations between Great Britain and Estonia are active and good – communication takes place on the level of ministries and offices as well as on a higher political level. Allied relations in NATO and the mission in Afghanistan are common components in the defence relations of Estonia and the United Kingdom. UK is one of the biggest contributors to NATO. That determines the character of the security policy dialogue between the two countries. UK has provided assistance to Estonia in the implementation of defence reforms.
For both countries, issues on internet governance and freedom are important, which can be reflected by their membership in Freedom Online Coalition. Lately concrete opportunities for co-operation in the cyber realm have been outlined and co-operation in the area of e-state intensified. In February 2013 institutions from Estonia and the United Kingdom that are responsible for developing e-services, signed a co-operation memorandum, which has established a strong cooperation within this area. On 9th December 2014 Digital 5 was introduced, which is based on the UK's initiative. It unifies leading digital governments (Estonia, Israel, South-korea, New-Zealand, United Kingdom) with the goal of strengthening digital economy through changing their experiences and practices.
An integral part of the relations between the two countries is the co-operation between the parliaments. In the UK House of Commons there is an Estonia friendship group led by Gordon Marsden and in the Riigikogu there is a UK friendship group led by Yoko Alender. Several Estonian and British political parties have close ties.
|September 2017||Foreign Minister Sven Mikser at NB8+UK Foreign Minister's meeting|
|July 2017||Prime Minister Jüri Ratas|
|September 2016||Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Major General Riho Terras|
|May 2016||Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand|
|March 2016||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on a working visit|
|October 2015||Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand|
|December 2014||Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Urve Palo (at the Digital 5 launching event)|
|November 2014||Minister of Foreign Trade and Entrepreneurship Anne Sulling|
|October 2014||Speaker of Riigikogu Eiki Nestor|
|September 2014||Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Defence Minister Sven Mikser took part in the NATO summit in Wales|
|September 2014||Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Major General Riho Terras|
|June 2014||Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas|
|June 2014||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|January 2014||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|2.-3.05.2017||HRH The Countess of Wessex|
|20.04.2017||Minister of Defence Michael Fallon, on the occassion of NATO's enhanced forward presence opening ceremony|
|20.02.2017||Secretary of State for exiting the EU David Davis|
|31.05-01.06.2016||HRH The Duke of York, Prince Andrew|
|February 2015||Foreign Minister Philip Hammond|
|May 2014||HRH Prince Harry visited the annual Spring Storm military exercises|
|May 2014||Minister of Defence Philip Hammond|
|April 2014||Minister of State for Europe David Lidington|
|April 2014||Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow|
|December 2013||Defence Minister Philip Hammond|
Chief of the Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces Nicholas Houghton
After being steadily at 9-10th place among Estonia's trade partners, the UK dropped to 11th place in 2016. Bilateral trade with the UK made up 2.5% of Estonia's total trade turnover. The total trade turnover in 2016 was 622 million euros, of which export made up 287 million and import 335 million euros. Exports decreased by 12.4%, imports decreased by 4.7% compared to the numbers the year before.
Estonia-Great Britain trade 2005-2016
Source: Statistical Office of Estonia
Main export articles to the UK in 2016:
- Wood and wood products, wood coal (lumber, prefab articles, wood granules) - 29,7%
- Machinery and equipment - 21,4%
- Other manufactured goods - 21%
Main import articles from the UK in 2016:
- Machinery and equipment - 33,2%
- Prepared foodstuffs - 12,9%
- Transport vehicles - 12,3%
According to Bank of Estonia, as of 31 December 2016, the total of the UK direct investments in Estonia was 338,2 million euros, which made up 1.9% of all foreign direct investments in Estonia. Investments have primarily been made in financial and insurance related activity (56%), real estate (23%), and wholesale and retail trade (21%).
During 2016 the total of Estonia's direct investments in the UK increased by 108% and accounted for 46.8 million euros by the end of the year, which was 0.8% of all Estonia's investments abroad.
According to the Estonian Business Register there were 527 entirely or partially UK-owned enterprises registered in Estonia as of April 2016. The biggest ones being GlaxoSmithKline Eesti OÜ, Seesam Insurance AS, AS Remedia, AS TREV-2 Grupp, OÜ Tonybet, AS G4S Baltics. There are around 40 Estonian companies established in London, which keep their manufacturing and/or developing in Estonia. Of companies started in Estonia, the ones that have earned the most attention in the UK are start-ups or companies offering new IT solutions. Estonian business interests are represented in London by the Enterprise Estonia office and by the Estonian Guild in London (Eesti Gild Londonis). In December 2015 UK branch of the BECC (British-Estonian Chamber of Commerce) in London was opened.
Tallinn and Estonia’s reputation as a tourist destination has grown in Great Britain over the past few years. Great Britain is classified as a high potential market in Estonia’s tourism development plan. In 2015 around 110 000 british tourists visited Estonia, in 2016 the number increased to 116 000. EAS is planning to further intensify its marketing activities towards the UK market in connection with the opening of British Airways direct line between Tallinn and London (Heathrow) in March 2017.
The UK was visited by 75 700 visitors form Estonia in 2016, in 2015 the number was around 85 000.
Estonia’s visibility on the global cultural map can be attributed to many great artists. The works of Arvo Pärt, the Järvi family, Age Oks and Toomas Edur, and Priit Pärn are a visible cultural phenomenon in the world’s artistic metropolises – they are introduced to the world by professional agencies, choice networks, and prominent and powerful institutions. The direct connections of different professionals from different areas promote the cultural relations. Therefore, the experts from UK are present at the biggest Estonian cultural events and festivals (Tallinn Music Week, PÖFF, Draamamaa). An Estonian actor Sergo Vares took the stage in Barbican theatre with Benedict Cumberbatch (one of the most famous actor from the UK), when he played the role of Fortinbras in ‘Hamlet’. However, throughout the year of 2015 the main theme in the UK was about 80th birthday of Arvo Pärt and his music. Many concerts dedicated to Pärt’s music took place by various well-known performers (e.g. The Choir of King’s College). The cover person of September number of BBC Music Magazine was Pärt, BBC4 also showed documentary called ‘Arvo Pärt/Robert Wilson: The Lost Paradise’.
In 1996 Estonia and the UK signed an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in education, science, and culture. Within the past dozen years we have developed a systematic and carefully planned strategy for introducing Estonian culture in the United Kingdom.
Although previously the only Estonian author whose works had been released by British publishers were Jaan Kross’s “The Czar’s Madman” (“Keisri hull”) (1992), “Professor Martens’ Departure” (“Professor Martensi ärasõit”) (1994), “The Conspiracy” (“Vandenõu”)(1995), and “Treading Air” (“Paigallend”) (2003) as well as Tõnu Õnnepalu’s “Border State” (“Piiririik”)(2000, Northwestern University Press), by the year 2011 works by many other authors had also been published - Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Imbi Paju, Ly Seppel, A.-H. Tammsaare, Mati Unt, and Livia Viitol - by the publishers Norvik Press, Oleander Press, Lapwing Publications, Coiscéim, and others. In 2005, Andres Ehin’s “Poems” (“Luuletused”)(Southword Editions) was published, in 2007 Viivi Luik’s novel “The Beauty of History” (“Ajaloo ilu”)(Norvik Press), in 2009 Tammsaare’s “The New Devil of Põrgupõhja”. In 2009 Kristiina Ehin’s poetry compilation in Welsh was published by Barddas Publications. In 2010 the Arc Publications published two books of Estonian poetry: Kristiina Ehin’s “The Scent of Your Shadow” and Doris Kareva’s “A Shape of Time”. In recent years Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Jürgen Rooste, Asko Künnap and Karl Martin Sinijärv have participated in the well-known Cheltenham and Ledbury festivals.
Estonian publishers have been present at the London Book Fair for several years, where they have also concluded many international co-operation projects. In 2018, Estonian literature will be in the focus of London Book Fair. At the initiative of the embassy a project involving Estonian children’s books for iPhone has also been launched. As of 2009 there have been close ties with creative writing professor at the University of Glamorgan and winner of the T.S. Eliot prize Philip Gross (who has Estonian roots).
Both Great Britain and Estonia have striven to record and to publicise historical events important to both countries. The Laidoner Museum has conducted research on the operations of the British Navy in the Gulf of Finland after the end of World War I, where the Navy blocked the further advance of the Bolsheviks. In 1936 the Republic of Estonia purchased two identical submarines from England – Lembit and Kalev. Lembit is now an exhibit in Estonia’s Maritime Museum – in 2011 drawings for the construction of the submarine were found in an archive in England, which allowed the museum to recreate the submarine’s original interior. On the isles of Naissaar and Vaindloo, the tombs of British soldiers have been marked. On 28 May 1998, a plaque in memory of the British seaman who served and gave their lives during the Estonian War of Independence from 1918-1920 was unveiled on the wall of the Maritime Museum by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. In the summer of 2003, a memorial tablet for all the British soldiers who perished in 1918-1920 during the Estonian War of Independence was unveiled in Tallinn's Holy Spirit Church. In Great Britain, an equivalent memorial plaque was opened on 16 December 2005 in Portsmouth Cathedral by Prince Andrew and Chief of Estonian Defence Forces Admiral Kõuts.
Estonians in the UK
An estimated 10 000-15 000 Estonian citizens live in the UK, about 3 000-5 000 of them in London. The most active communities are in London, Bradford and Leicester. There are a total of 13 Estonian societies in the UK, the oldest being the London Estonian Society established in 1921. There is an Estonian School, Estonian Guild, Estonian Houses in London, Bradford and Leicester, the Association of Estonians in Great Britain, and the British-Estonian Association (BEST), which brings together those interested in Estonia. Once a month the newspaper “Eesti Hääl” is published. BEST unites members of the British community who take an interest in Estonia and who want to contribute to enhancing Estonia’s reputation in the United Kingdom. BEST has organised events to present various sides of Estonian public life, where guests from Estonia have as a rule participated. The magazine Lennuk is published twice a year for members and other interested parties.
It is possible to study Estonian as an elective through the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSES) at University College London. With the support and help of the Estonian Embassy, the Estonian School in London started up in 2009, which offers supplementary Estonian-language education to children.
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