Estonia (08/02)

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Republic of Estonia 

Area: 45,226 sq. km. (17,462 sq. mi.); about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont.
Cities: Capital--Tallinn (pop. 399,850). Other cities--Tartu (101,240); Narva (68,538); Kohtla-Jarve (47,484); Parnu (44,978); Viljandi (20,718).
Terrain: Flat, average elevation 50m. Elevation is slightly higher in the east and southeast. Steep limestone banks and 1,520 islands mark the coastline. Land use--9.5% arable land, 47.4% forest and woodland, 22% swamps and bogs, 21.5% other. Coastal waters are somewhat polluted.
Climate: Temperate, with four seasons of near-equal length. Annual precipitation averages 50-75 cm.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Estonian(s).
Population: 1.367 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.4%. Birth rate--9.3/1,000. Death rate--13.6/1,000. Migration--616 persons (1999).
Density--30/sq. km. Urban dwellers--70%.
Ethnic groups: Estonians 65%, Russians 28%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Belarusians 1.4%, Finns 0.9%, other 2.2%.
Religions: Lutheran, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople, the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist.
Languages: Official language is Estonian.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy--98.2%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8.4 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--65 yrs. men, 76 yrs. women.
Work force: 704,500.

Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: On June 28, 1992 Estonians ratified a constitution based on the 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state), elected by Parliament every 5 years; Prime Minister (head of government).
Legislative--Riigikogu (Parliament--101 members, 4-year term). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative regions: 15 counties, 42 towns, and 205 municipalities.
Political parties/coalitions: Estonian Center Party [Chairman Edgar Savisaar/Coalition]; Estonian Reform Party [Chairman Siim Kallas/Coalition]; Pro Patria Union [Chairman Mart Laar]; Estonian People's Union [Chairman Villu Reiljan], Moderates [Chairman Andres Tarand]; Estonian United People's Party [Acting Chairman Jevgeni Tomberg]; Estonian Social Democratic Labor Party [Chairman Tiit Toomsalu]; Russian Baltic Party [Chairman Sergei Ivanov], Estonian Independence Party [Chairman Vello Leito]; Res Publica [Chairman Rein Taagepera]; Estonian Christian People's Party [Chairman Aldo Vinkel]; Russian Party in Estonia [Chairman Nikolai Maspanov]; Estonian Democratic Party [Chairman Jaan Laas], Estonian Unity Party [Chairman Igor Pissarev]; Republican Party [Chairman Kristjan-Olari Leping], New Estonia Party [Chairman �lo Nugis]. Suffrage: 18 years-universal; noncitizen residents may vote in municipal elections.
Government budget: $2 billion.
Defense: 2% of GDP.
National holidays: Jan. 1 (New Year's Day), Feb. 24 (Independence Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (May Day), Whitsunday, June 23 (Victory Day-anniversary of Battle of Vonnu in 1919). June 24 (Midsummer Day), Aug.20 (Day of Restoration of Independence), Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day)

Flag: flag of estonia

GDP (2001): $5.4 billion.
Growth rate: 5.4%.
Per capita GDP: $4,000.
Consumer price index (2001): 5.8%.
Unemployment (2001): 12.6%.
Natural resources: Oil shale, phosphorite, limestone, blue clay.
Agriculture (4% of 2001 GDP): Products--livestock production (milk, meat, eggs) and crop production (cereals and legumes, potatoes, forage crops). Cultivable land--433,100 hectares.
Industry (26% of 2001 GDP): Types--engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, and textiles.
Services: 70% of 2001 GDP (transit, IT, telecommunications) Trade: Exports (2001)--partners: Finland 27.6%, Sweden 11%, Russia 8%, Latvia 7%, Germany 6%, U.S. 2%. Total (2001)--$4.4 billion. Imports--partners: Finland 27%, Germany 10%, Russia (10%), Sweden 8%. Total--$5.8 billion.
Foreign direct investment as of 2001: Sweden 37.6%, Finland 28.8%, Netherlands 5.7%, U.S. 5%, Denmark 3.9%, Norway 3%, Germany 3%, United Kingdom 2.6%, others 10.4%.

Between 57.3 and 59.5 latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level northwestern part of the rising east European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50m (160 ft.).

The climate resembles New England's. Oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests which cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts over 1,500 lakes, numerous bogs, and 3,794 kilometers of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Tallinn's Muuga port offers one of Europe's finest warm-water harbor facilities.

Estonia's strategic location has precipitated many wars that were fought on its territory between other rival powers at its expense. In 1944 the U.S.S.R. granted Russia the trans-Narva and Petseri regions on Estonia's eastern frontier, which still remain contested bilaterally.

The name "Eesti," or Estonia, is derived from the word "Aestii," the name given by the ancient Germans to the peoples living northeast of the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in 98 A.D. was the first to mention the "Aestii" people, and early Scandinavians called the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland," and the people "eistr." Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and Hungarians. Archaeological research supports the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC, but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.

Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. The first book in Estonian was printed in 1525.

Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words. The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.

About 20% of population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church and others.

From 1945-89 the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin's mass deportations and executions.

Estonians are one of the longest settled European peoples, whose forebearers, known as the "comb pottery" people, lived on the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea over 5,000 years ago. Like other early agricultural societies, Estonians were organized into economically self-sufficient, male-dominated clans with few differences in wealth or social power. By the early Middle Ages most Estonians were small landholders, with farmsteads primarily organized by village. Estonian government remained decentralized, with local political and administrative subdivisions emerging only during the first century A.D. By then, Estonia had a population of over 150,000 people and remained the last corner of medieval Europe to be Christianized.

In 1227 the German crusading order of the Sword Brethren defeated the last Estonian stronghold. The people were Christianized, colonized, and enserfed. Despite attempts to restore independence, Estonia was divided among three domains, and small states were formed. Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League in 1248.

Despite successful Russian raids and invasions in 1481 and 1558, the local German barons continued to rule Estonia and since 1524 preserved Estonian commitment to the Protestant Reformation. Northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control in 1561 during the Livonian Wars, and during 1582-83 southern Estonia (Livonia) became part of Poland's Duchy of Courland.

In 1625, mainland Estonia came entirely under Swedish rule. In 1631, the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf granted the peasantry greater autonomy, opened the first known Estonian-language school in Tallinn, and in 1632 established a printing press and university in the city of Tartu. Sweden's defeat by Russia in 1721 resulted in the Uusikaupunki Peace Treaty, and Russian rule was then imposed in what became modern Estonia. Nonetheless, the legal system, Lutheran church, local and town governments, and education remained mostly German until the late 19th century and partially until 1918.

By 1819, the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in which serfdom was abolished, allowing the peasants to own their own land or move to the cities. These moves created the economic foundation for the Estonian national cultural awakening that had lain dormant for some 600 years of foreign rule. Estonia was caught in a current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the mid-1800s.

A cultural movement sprang forth to adopt the use of Estonian as the language of instruction in schools, all-Estonian song festivals were held regularly after 1869, and a national literature in Estonia developed. Kalevipoeg, Estonia's epic national poem, was published in 1861 in both Estonian and German.

As the 1905 Revolution in Russia swept through Estonia, the Estonians called for freedom of the press and assembly, for universal franchise, and for national autonomy. The uprisings were brutally suppressed and Estonian gains were minimal, but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905 and 1917 allowed Estonians to advance the aspiration of national statehood.

With the collapse of the Russian empire in World War I, Russia's Provisional Government granted national autonomy to Estonia. A popularly elected assembly (Maapaev) was formed but was quickly forced underground by opposing extremist political forces. The Committee of Elders of the underground Maapaev announced the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 1918, one day before German troops invaded. After the withdrawal of German troops in November 1918, fighting broke out between Bolshevik and Estonian troops. On February 2, 1920, the Treaty of Tartu was signed by the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia. The terms of the treaty stated that Soviet Russia renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of Estonia.

Independence lasted 22 years. Estonia underwent a number of economic, social, and political reforms necessary to come to terms with its new status as a sovereign state. Economically and socially, land reform in 1919 was the most important step. Large estate holdings belonging to the Baltic nobility were redistributed among the peasants and especially among volunteers in the War of Independence. Estonia's principal markets became Scandinavia, Great Britain, and western Europe, with some exports to the United States and Soviet Union.

The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted in 1920, established a parliamentary form of government. The Parliament (Riigikogu) consisted of 100 members elected for 3-year terms. Between 1921 and 1931, Estonia had 11 governments. Konstantin P�ts was installed as the first President of the Republic in 1938.

The independence period was one of great cultural advancement. Estonian language schools were established, and artistic life of all kinds flourished. One of the more notable cultural acts of the independence period, unique in western Europe at the time of its passage in 1925, was a guarantee of cultural autonomy to minority groups comprising at least 3,000 persons, and to Jews.

Estonia had pursued a policy of neutrality, but the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact on August 23, 1939 signaled the end of independence. The agreement provided for the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, part of Finland, and later, Lithuania, in return for Nazi Germany's assuming control over most of Poland. After extensive diplomatic intrigue, the Estonian Socialist Republic (ESR) was proclaimed on July 21, 1940, one month after Estonia was occupied by Soviet troops. The ESR was formally accepted into the Soviet Union on August 6 and the official name of the country became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Soviet occupation was accompanied by expropriation of property, Sovietization of cultural life, and Stalinist communism permeating political life. On June 14, 1941, mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic States. Officially nothing was said about the arrests, and no one was prosecuted or sentenced.

When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped to restore independence. It soon became clear that sovereignty was out of the question. Estonia became a part of "Ostland." Massive repression continued. About 5,500 Estonians died in concentration camps.

In World War II Estonia suffered huge losses. Ports were destroyed, and 45% of industry and 40% of the railways were damaged. Estonia's population decreased by one-fifth (about 200,000 people). Some 10% of the population (over 80,000 people) fled to the West between 1940 and 1944. More than 30,000 soldiers were killed in battles. In 1944 Russian air raids destroyed Narva and one-third of the residential area in Tallinn was destroyed. By late September 1944, Soviet forces expelled the last German troops from Estonia, ushering in a second phase of Soviet rule. That year, Moscow also transferred the Estonian Narva and Petseri border districts, which held a large percentage of ethnic Russians, to Russian control. In 1944, there were massive arrests of people who had actively supported the German occupation or been disloyal to Soviet order.

An anti-Soviet guerrilla movement known as "the Forest Brethren" developed in the countryside, reaching its zenith in 1946-48. In March 1949, 20,722 people (2.5% of population) were deported to Siberia. By the beginning of the 1950s, the occupying regime had suppressed the resistance movement.

After the war the Communist Party of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (ECP) became the preeminent organization in the republic. The ethnic Estonian share in the total ECP membership decreased from 90% in 1941 to 48% in 1952.

After Stalin's death, Party membership vastly expanded its social base to include more ethnic Estonians. By the mid-1960s, the percentage of ethnic Estonian membership stabilized near 50%. On the eve of perestroika the ECP claimed about 100,000 members; less than half were ethnic Estonians and comprised less than 2% of the country's population.

A positive aspect of the post-Stalin era in Estonia was a reopening in the late 1950s of citizens' contacts with foreign countries. Ties were reactivated with Finland, and in the 1960s, Estonians began watching Finnish television. This electronic "window on the West" afforded Estonians more information on current affairs and more access to Western culture and thought than any other group in the Soviet Union. This heightened media environment was important in preparing Estonians for their vanguard role in extending perestroika during the Gorbachev era.

In the late 1970s, Estonian society grew increasingly concerned about the threat of cultural Russification to the Estonian language and national identity. By 1981, Russian was taught in the first grade of Estonian language schools and was also introduced into the Estonian pre-school teaching.

By the beginning of the Gorbachev era, concern over the cultural survival of the Estonian people had reached a critical point. The ECP remained stable in the early perestroika years but waned in the late 1980s. Other political movements, groupings, and parties moved to fill the power vacuum. The first and most important was the Estonian Popular Front, established in April 1988 with its own platform, leadership, and broad constituency. The Greens and the dissident-led Estonian National Independence Party soon followed. By 1989, the political spectrum widened, and new parties were formed and re-formed almost daily.

The republic's Supreme Soviet transformed into an authentic regional lawmaking body. This relatively conservative legislature passed an early declaration of sovereignty (November 1988); a law on economic independence (May 1989) confirmed by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that November; a language law making Estonian the official language (January 1989); and local and republic election laws stipulating residency requirements for voting and candidacy (August, November 1989).

Although not all non-Estonians supported full independence, they were divided in their goals for the republic. In March 1990 some 18% of Russian speakers supported the idea of a fully independent Estonia, up from 7% the previous autumn, and only a small group of Estonians were opposed to full independence in early 1990. Estonia held free elections for the 105-member Supreme Soviet on March 18, 1990. All residents of Estonia were eligible to participate in the elections, including the approximately 50,000 Soviet troops stationed there. The Popular Front coalition, composed of left and centrist parties and led by former Central Planning Committee official Edgar Savisaar, held a parliamentary majority. In May 1990, the name of the Republic of Estonia was restored, public use of the symbols of the ESSR (anthem, flag, and coat of arms) were forbidden, and only laws adopted in Estonia were proclaimed valid.

Despite the emergence of the new lawmaking body, an alternative legislature developed in Estonia. In February 1990, a body known as the Congress of Estonia was elected in unofficial and unsanctioned elections. Supporters of the Congress argued that the inter-war republic continued to exist de jure. Since Estonia was forcibly annexed by the U.S.S.R., only citizens of that republic and their descendants could decide Estonia's future.

Through a strict, nonconfrontational policy in pursuing independence, Estonia managed to avoid the violence which Latvia and Lithuania incurred in the bloody January 1991 crackdowns and in the border-customs post guard murders that summer. During the August coup in the U.S.S.R., Estonia was able to maintain constant operation and control of its telecommunications facilities, thereby offering the West a clear view into the latest coup developments and serving as a conduit for swift Western support and recognition of Estonia's redeclaration of independence on August 20, 1991. Following Europe's lead, the United States formally reestablished diplomatic relations with Estonia on September 2, and the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet offered recognition on September 6.

After more than 3 years of negotiations, on August 31, 1994, the armed forces of the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia. Since regaining independence Estonia has had 10 governments with 6 prime ministers: Edgar Savisaar, Tiit V�hi, Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Mart Siimann, and Siim Kallas.

On June 28, 1992, Estonian voters approved the constitutional assembly's draft constitution and implementation act, which established a parliamentary government with a president as chief of state and with a government headed by a prime minister.

The Riigikogu, a unicameral legislative body, is the highest organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the prime minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and control over his cabinet. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held on September 20, 1992. Approximately 68% of the country's 637,000 registered voters cast ballots. An outstanding writer and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lennart Meri, won on the first ballot and became president. He chose 32-year-old historian and Christian Democratic Party founder Mart Laar as prime minister.

In February 1992, and with amendments in January 1995, the Riigikogu renewed Estonia's liberal 1938 citizenship law, which also provides equal civil protection to resident aliens.

In 1996, Estonia ratified a border agreement with Latvia and completed work with Russia on a technical border agreement. President Meri was re-elected in free and fair indirect elections in August and September in 1996. During parliamentary elections in 1999, the seats in Riigikogu were divided as follows: the Center Party received 28, the Pro Patria Union 18, the Reform Party 18, the Moderates 17 seats. Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates formed a government with Mart Laar as prime minister whereas the Center Party with the Coalition Party, People's Union, United People's Party, and Members of Parliament who were not members of factions formed the opposition in the Riigikogu.

In Fall 2001 Arnold R��tel became the President of the Republic of Estonia. In January 2002 Prime Minister Laar stepped down and President Ruutel appointed Siim Kallas the new prime minister. The Reform Party and the Center Party formed a new coalition government in power January 28, 2002.

Principal Government Officials
President--Arnold R��tel
Riigikogu Chairman-Toomas Savi (Reform Party)
Prime Minister--Siim Kallas (Reform Party)
Foreign Affairs--Kristiina Ojuland (Reform Party)
Interior-Ain Seppik (Center Party)
Social Affairs--Siiri Oviir (Center Party)
Education--Mailis Rand (Center Party)
Transport and Communications and Economy--Liina T�nisson (Center Party)
Justice--M�rt Rask (Reform Party)
Defense--Sven Mikser (Center Party)
Environment--Heiki Kranich (Reform Party)
Agriculture--Jaanus Marrandi (Center Party)
Finance-Harri �unapuu (Center Party)
Culture--Signe Kivi (Reform Party)Minister Without Portfolio (of Population) Eldar Efendijev (Center Party)
Minister Without Portfolio (of Regional Affairs) Toivo Asmer (Reform Party)
State Chancellor--Aino Lepik von Wiren

Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1730 M Street, Suite 503, NW Washington DC 20036, tel: [1] (202) 588-0101 FAX: [1] (202) 588-0108 It operates a consulate at 630 Fifth Ave., Suite 2415, New York, NY 10020 (tel: 212-247-7634). Three Honorary Consuls are in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Maine.

For centuries until 1920, Estonian agriculture consisted of native peasants working large feudal-type estates held by ethnic German landlords. In the decades prior to independence, centralized Czarist rule had contributed a rather large industrial sector dominated by the world's largest cotton mill, a ruined post-war economy, and an inflated ruble currency. In years 1920 to 1930, Estonia entirely transformed its economy, despite considerable hardship, dislocation, and unemployment. Compensating the German landowners for their holdings, the government confiscated the estates and divided them into small farms which subsequently formed the basis of Estonian prosperity.

By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon (or crown), was established. Trade focused on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the U.S.S.R.

The U.S.S.R.'s forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Soviet destruction during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Post-war Sovietization of life continued with the integration of Estonia's economy and industry into the U.S.S.R.'s centrally planned structure. More than 56% of Estonian farms were collectivized in the month of April 1949 alone. Moscow expanded on those Estonian industries which had locally available raw materials, such as oil-shale mining and phosphorites. As a laboratory for economic experiments, especially in industrial management techniques, Estonia enjoyed more success and greater prosperity than other regions under Soviet rule.

Since reestablishing independence, Estonia has styled itself as the gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued economic reform and integration with the West. Estonia's market reforms put it among the economic leaders in the former COMECON area. A balanced budget, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency, competitive commercial banking sector, and hospitable environment for foreign investment are hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy. Estonia also has made excellent progress in regard to structural adjustment.

The privatization of state-owned firms is virtually complete, with only the port and the main power plants remaining in government hands. The constitution requires a balanced budget, and the protection afforded by Estonia's intellectual property laws is on a par of that of Europe's. In early 1992 both liquidity problems and structural weakness stemming from the communist era precipitated a banking crisis. As a result, effective bankruptcy legislation was enacted and privately owned, well-managed banks emerged as market leaders. Today, near-ideal conditions for the banking sector exist. Foreigners are not restricted from buying bank shares or acquiring majority holdings.

Tallinn's fully electronic Stock Exchange opened in early 1996 and was bought out by Finland's Helsinki Stock Exchange in 2001. It is estimated that the unregistered economy provides almost 12% of annual GDP.

Estonia is nearly energy independent supplying over 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up approximately 9% of primary energy production. Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, services, food and fishing, timber, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation are key sectors of the economy. The ice-free port of Muuga, near Tallinn, is a modern facility featuring good transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and brand-new oil tanker off-loading capabilities. The railroad, privatized by an international consortium in 2000, serves as a conduit between the West, Russia, and other points to the East.

Estonia still faces challenges. Agricultural privatization has caused severe problems for farmers needing collateral to be eligible for loans. The income differential between Tallinn and the rest of the country is widening. Standards of living have eroded for the large portion of the population on fixed pensions. The formerly industrial northeast section of Estonia is undergoing a severe economic depression as a result of plant closings.

During recent years the Estonian economy has continued to grow. Estonian GDP grew by 6.4% in the year 2000 and by 5.4% in 2001. Inflation declined modestly to 5.0% in the year 2000 (the estimate for 2001 is 4.8%). The unemployment rate in 2001 was 12,6%. Estonia joined the World Trade Organization in 1999 and continues its European Union (EU) accession talks. In negotiations with the EU, Estonia has closed 27 out of 31 chapters. It hopes to join the EU during the next round of enlargement tentatively set for 2004.

Foreign Trade
Estonia's liberal foreign trade regime, which contains few tariff or nontariff barriers, is nearly unique in Europe. Estonia also boasts a national currency which is freely convertible at a fixed exchange rate and conservative fiscal and monetary policies. Estonia has free trade regimes with EU and EFTA countries and also with Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, the Faro Islands, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.

Estonia's business attitude toward the United States is positive, and business relations between the U.S. and Estonia are increasing significantly. The primary competition for American companies in the Estonian marketplace are European suppliers, especially Finnish and Swedish companies.

Total U.S. exports to Estonia in 2000 were $121 million, forming 2.4% of total Estonian imports. In 2000 the principal imports from the United States were meat and edible meat offal, poultry, boilers and other electrical machinery and transmission/recording apparatus for radio/TV. Estonia's future membership in the EU is not expected to have major bilateral trade implications for the United States. However, this membership will be disadvantageous for certain U.S. imports. For example, since January 2000 Estonia has imposed import tariffs on certain agricultural products from third countries, including the United States, in accordance with EU rules and regulations.

Estonia, being a small country of 1.4 million people, relies on its greatest natural asset--its location at the crossroads of East and West. Estonia lies just South of Finland and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden--the European Union's newest members. To the East are the huge potential markets of northwest Russia. Having been a member of former Soviet Union, Estonians know how to do business in Russia and in other former Soviet countries. Estonia's modern transportation and communication links provide a safe and reliable bridge for trade with former Soviet Union and Nordic countries. According to the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (, Estonia has the highest Internet connected hosts/population ratio in central and eastern Europe and also is ahead of most of the EU countries. Latest surveys indicate that 39% of the Estonian population regard themselves as Internet users. Twenty-five percent of the Estonian population conducts its everyday banking via Internet.

Accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is Estonia's main security and defense policy priority. Accession to NATO has been included in all coalition agreements of all Estonian governments since the restoration of independence, including the present government. The same objective also is stated in the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia, approved by the parliament in March 2001.

The 2002 state budget allocates 2% of GDP for defense expenditures. The United States is among the countries with which Estonia has very intensive cooperation in the defense and security field.

Estonia is a party to 181 international organizations, including the BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNTSO, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO.

The relationship between Estonia and the United States of America has been constant and strong since Estonia first became independent. Because of its global political and economic influence, the United States is one of Estonia's most important partners.

The U.S. recognized the Republic of Estonia on July 28, 1922. The first Estonian diplomatic mission in the United States was opened in the same year. It continued its activities throughout the period of illegal occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991. The U.S. authorities recognized Estonia's diplomatic mission as a legal representative of the Republic of Estonia. Indeed, the recognition of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia has been the cornerstone of Estonian-U.S. relations.

The U.S. reopened its embassy in Tallinn on September 4, 1991, soon after the restoration of Estonia's de facto independence on August 20, 1991. Relations between the two countries have since developed at a rapid pace.

U.S.-Baltic Charter
The Presidents of the United States, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania signed the U.S.-Baltic Charter in Washington on January 16, 1998. The main goals of this Charter are to support Estonia's, Latvia's, and Lithuania's full integration into European and transatlantic structures, and to establish the general principles and aims for cooperation. The Charter underlines the importance of political, defense, security, and economic cooperation. It is a statement of the United States' real, profound, and enduring interest in the security and independence of the Baltic States.

U.S. Baltic policy is an integral part of the U.S. Northern Europe Initiative (NEI). NEI is the U.S. Government's strategy to promote regional cooperation in northern Europe as a way of further integrating the Baltic states and northwest Russia and of strengthening U.S. relations with the Nordic countries. NEI programs address key problems in Estonia and its neighbors, including HIV/AIDS, environmental pollution, corruption, and social integration, and build cross-border linkages that contribute to stability and security.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Joseph DeThomas
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mark Pekala
Political Officer--Robert Filby
Economic Officer--Nancy Nelson
Administrative Officer--Mike Tulley
General Services Officer--William Slaven
Legal Attach�--William Moschella
ODC Chief--Maj. James Zink
Consular Officer--Ellen Thorburn
Public Affairs Officer--Thomas Hodges
Defense Attach�--Cmdr. Eric Olson (USN)
Regional Affairs Officer--Daniel Hoffman
Regional Security Officer--David Whitehead

The U.S. Embassy in Estonia is located at Kentmanni 20, Tallinn [tel. (372) 66 88 100].