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Germany and Estonia: bilateral relations Estonia

11.07.2019 - Article

Political Relations

There is intensive diplomatic exchange between Estonia and Germany. The former Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas visited Berlin in March 2014 for the first time after assuming office, and returned to Germany in May 2016 to attend a German Cabinet meeting at Schloss Meseberg. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Estonia in August 2016. In September 2018, she met her Estonian and Latvian counterparts in Vilnius, Lithuania. The then Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Estonia in March 2017 as part of his tour of the Baltic States. Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas paid a visit to Federal Chancellor Merkel on 15 June 2017, and Foreign Minister Sven Mikser came to Berlin on 21 June 2017 for talks with his opposite number Sigmar Gabriel. Regular trips to Estonia by Members of the German Bundestag and high-ranking representatives of Germany’s ministerial administration underline the important position Estonia occupies in German foreign and European policy. A central goal of the numerous visits by delegations from Germany, also by Land and municipal representatives, is to learn more about the level of digitalisation and its implementation (particularly e-government, e-health and e-education) in Estonia.

Furthermore, German Länder also use the cultural festival German Spring to promote their region and intensify their relations with Estonia. This four-week long event is the largest foreign cultural festival in Estonia. It is organised by the German Embassy, the Goethe-Institut and a multitude of Estonian partners.

Economic Relations

In 2018, Germany was Estonia’s fourth largest trading partner, after Finland, Sweden and Latvia. Trade in goods between Estonia and Germany was worth 2.6 billion euros, accounting for approximately 8 percent of Estonia’s total foreign trade.

Imports to Estonia were worth a total of 16.2 billion euros in 2018. Germany was the second largest supplier of imports after Finland, accounting for approximately 10 percent (1.7 billion euros) of Estonia’s total imports. 

Germany ranks 12th among foreign direct investors in Estonia. Sweden remains the largest foreign direct investor in the country, with investments valued at approximately 4 billion euros, or 26 percent of all foreign direct investment in Estonia.

There are around 400 companies registered in Estonia with German equity participation. The German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, which has an office in Tallinn, provides a direct point of contact for German business and industry.

Cultural Relations

Cultural cooperation between Germany and Estonia has a long tradition. Trade and business relations date back to the Hanseatic League, and the influence of the Baltic German population has endured for 700 years. The strong position of the German language up to the mid-1990s and the influence of German thought on Estonia’s intellectual history have been important factors in preserving cultural ties between Estonians and Germans, even during the period of the Soviet occupation.

Since Estonia regained its independence in 1991, cultural relations have further intensified. The main players here are the German Embassy and numerous German intermediary organisations, such as the Goethe-Institut (GI), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), as well as other non-governmental organisations and their Estonian partners. Cultural cooperation focuses on promoting the German language, scientific and academic cooperation and the cultural programmes of the GI in Tallinn.

The German Spring, a wide-ranging programme of events showcasing German organisations and their partners, has been held annually in Estonia since 2010. In recent years, German Länder have been guests at the event: the Free State of Bavaria in 2013, Schleswig-Holstein in 2014, Hesse in 2016, Baden-Württemberg in 2017, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg in 2018 and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania from 20 March to 10 April 2019. 

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