Estonia is the smallest of the three Baltic Republics. Situated in North Eastern Europe, it includes about 1,500 islands and islets and lies on the north-eastern edge of the Baltic Sea, bordering Latvia to the south and the Russian Federation to the east. The West Estonian Archipelago forms part of UNESCO Man and Biosphere reserve with its authentic setting, tranquillity and sustainable way of life.
Estonia is the least populated of the Baltic states with 1.3 million inhabitants. It is one of the 22 European Union states that are also part of the Schengen zone. Rivers abound and flow to the Gulf of Finland, the Gulf of Riga, and into Lake Peipus which lies between Estonia and Russia.
The middle ages saw this country ruled by Denmark, the German knights of the Livonian Order, and Sweden, ending up a part of the Russian Empire in the 18th century. In 1918, Estonia tasted its first period of independence after the First World War, when the Russian Empire collapsed. It was at one time a member of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991 when Estonia regained independence. Since then it has become one of the most economically successful of the European Union’s newer eastern European members.
Estonia’s economy weathered the global financial crisis well. It relies heavily on trade and its economic fortunes are closely tied to external developments. Estonia’s diverse economy includes industry, transport, commerce, tourism and services, while forestry is significant. Trade within Europe and worldwide is important, with Finland and Sweden the most important trade partners. It is known to be among the most ‘wired’ digital-friendly European countries.
Estonia first permitted online voting and is a leader in online transactions, is home to Skype and hosts NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
Estonia has the sea, lakes, historical sites, cultural intrigue and natural attractions, and that’s just the mainland within Europe. In Tallin museums and attractions vary and include museums such as the Estonian Open-Air, Lenussadam maritime museum and Fat Margaret and the Kumu and Kadriorg Art Museums. Eateries in every European style imaginable are aplenty, including Estonia’s own many traditional dishes.
Katariina Käik is a medieval lane home to the Katariina Guild which comprises eight artisans’ studios in which to browse ceramics, textiles, patchwork quilts, and many more.
The majority of the Estonian islands are a short ferry ride from the country’s western coast. Pine forests and juniper groves cover Estonia’s largest islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. Estonian islands are ideal for hiking, cycling or road tripping. Seek out the abundant old churches and crumbling fortresses forsaken by pagan Estonian warriors, German knights and Soviet soldiers. Enjoy a festival embracing local traditions, laze on a deserted beach or spend a day at the spa.
As a Schengen and European Union member, Australians and EU citizens and nationals from those countries enjoying the visa liberation policy may travel to Estonia without a visa at present. These are the travellers who will be impacted by the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) when it is rolled out in 2021.
Following terrorism and irregular immigration within Europe, the EU Commission has altered the Schengen zone’s migratory system by proposing ETIAS. The pre-authorisation system will safeguard and secure Europe’s external borders by identifying risks to Estonian security before they reach the borders.
The ETIAS involves an online application process similar to Australia’s own Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). A Schengen visa will nevertheless still be required for visits exceeding three months. After ETIAS is in force, Schengen Area regulations will remain as they are now, with nationals such as Australians applying online for the ETIAS pre-authorisation before embarking on their travels.
ETIAS authorisation is granted within minutes and remains valid for three years or until the entitled passport expires.
Of the more than 70,000 Estonians who fled to the West between 1940 and 1944, to escape Soviet and German occupations, many settled in Australia. Australia encouraged the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia after being among the first countries to recognise Estonia’s independence in 1991. The sixth-largest expatriate Estonian community calls Australia home, and over 9,500 Australians are identified as having Estonian ancestry.
Australia and Estonia have a Working Holiday Maker arrangement as well as a bilateral Social Security Agreement which provides improved social security protection to those who live or work in both Australia and Estonia. Merchandise trade between the countries is valued at $83.9 million. Australia’s exports to Estonia consist of gold coin and legal tender, and prepared additives for mineral oils.
Estonia’s exports to Australia include wood, telecom equipment and parts, computers, and measuring and analysing instruments.
Education links and student exchange arrangements between Australian and Estonian institutions are under development, with Melbourne’s Monash University already in an exchange agreement with the Estonian Business School in Tallinn.