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 Tiina Intelmann who presented her credentials to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 22. November 2017. 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, Adam Beaumont in Leeds, in Scotland: Simpson Buglass (Aberdeen), and Peter Ferry (Edinburgh); Mark J. Ewings in Belfast, and Auberon Ashbrooke on Jersey (Channel 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 United Kingdom 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.
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. Several Estonian and British political parties have close ties.
|April 2018||Foreign Minister Sven Mikser|
|March 2018||President Kersti Kaljulaid on a working visit|
|January 2018||Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, in connection with Estonian centenary celebrations|
|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|
|7.-9.10.2018||HRH The Earl of Wessex and HRH The Countess of Wessex|
|25.-26.03.2018||Minister of Defence Gavin Williamson|
|23.11.2017||Secretary of State for exiting the EU David Davis|
|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
The UK has steadily been Estonia's 10-11th trade partner. While the UK was on 10th place in 2017, in 2018 the UK had dropped one place being Estonia's 11th biggest trading partner. The overall trade volume however increased from 658 mln euros (2017) to 749 mln euros (+13%), which made up 2.4% of Estonia's total trade turnover. Exports increased by 11% compared to the year before, forming 318 mln euros (2,2% of Estonia's total export volume). The share of Estonian origin products in exports was as high as 90%. Imports increased by 15% forming 431 mln euros (2,7% of Estonia's overall import volume) in 2018.
Bilateral trade 2010-2018
Source: Statistical Office of Estonia
Main export articles to the UK in 2018:
- Wood and wood products (lumber, prefab articles, wood granules) - 26%
- Other manufactured goods - 18%
- Mineral products - 17%
- Machinery and equipment - 16%
Main import articles from the UK in 2018:
- Machinery and equipment - 48%
- Mineral products - 13%
- Chemical products - 9%
As of 31 December 2018, the UK was Estonia's 12th biggest foreign investor. UK's direct investments in Estonia totalled 400 million euros, which made up 1,9% of Estonia's FDI (source: Bank of Estonia). The investments went down 8,1% compared to the year before. Investments have primarily been made in financial and insurance related activity (56%), real estate (23%), and wholesale and retail trade (21%). According to the Estonian Business Register there were approximately 600 entirely or partially UK-owned enterprises registered in Estonia as of May 2018. The biggest ones being GlaxoSmithKline Eesti OÜ, Seesam Insurance AS, AS Remedia, AS TREV-2 Grupp, OÜ Tonybet, AS G4S Baltics.
Estonia's direct investments in the UK have jumped in recent years. The increase in 2017 was 51,2% and 67% in 2018. As of 31.12.2018 Estonia's investments in the UK accounted for 120,3 million euros, which made up 1,6% of all Estonia's investments abroad. 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. LHV bank opened its subsidiary in London in March 2018.
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.
For both countries, issues related to internet governance and freedom are important, which can be reflected by their membership in Freedom Online Coalition. Practical opportunities for co-operation in cyber affairs and e-governance have also been outlined. In February 2013 a co-operation memorandum between Estonian and UK was signed, and after that good working relations in this area have been established. In 2014 UK introduced a Digital 5 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.
Tallinn and Estonia’s reputation as a tourist destination has grown in United Kingdom over the years. The UK is classified as a high potential market in Estonia’s tourism development plan. The increase from 110 000 british tourists in 2015 has grown to 145 000 visits in 2018 (source: Bank of Estonia). Visits of Estonian residents to the UK have however decreased. When the UK was visited by 85 000 Estonian residents in 2015, in 2018 the figure was 75 000.
There are several airlines that operate directly between Tallinn and London, e.g EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air. According to Tallinn Airport data, London is the top one destination among passengers flying from Tallinn Airport.
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’.
Estonia and the UK have signed an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in education, science, and culture (1996). Within the past decade we have developed a systematic and carefully planned strategy for introducing Estonian culture in the United Kingdom.
The most translated Estonian author whose works have been released by British publishers is Jaan Kross. Following works of Kross have been published in the UK: “The Czar’s Madman” (“Keisri hull”) (1992), “Professor Martens’ Departure” (“Professor Martensi ärasõit”) (1994), “The Conspiracy” (“Vandenõu”)(1995), and “Treading Air” (“Paigallend”) (2003).
Recently, more Estonian authors have been published e.g Tõnu Õnnepalu’s “Border State” (“Piiririik”)(2000, Northwestern University Press). The works of Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Imbi Paju, Ly Seppel, A.-H. Tammsaare, Mati Unt, and Livia Viitol have been published by 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, and the Association of Estonians in Great Britain.
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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