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COUNTRY BRIEFS


INTRODUCTION

Estonia is the smallest of the three Baltic Republics covering an area of 45,227 square kilometres. Situated on the north-eastern edge of the Baltic Sea, Estonia borders Latvia in the south and the Russian Federation in the east.

Estonia's population is approximately 1.3 million. The capital of Estonia is Tallinn.

Estonia celebrates its national day on 24 February.

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POLITICAL OVERVIEW

Estonia regained its independence on 20 August 1991 following the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Fourth Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted on 28 June 1992, established a democratic system based on a Presidency and a unicameral 101-seat parliament, known as The Riigikogu.

In the March 2011 parliamentary elections, the mandate of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's centre-right Reform Party was renewed. The new governing coalition consists of the Estonian Reform Party and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union. The coalition controls 56 seats in the 101-seat Parliament. The next Parliamentary election is due in 2015.

The President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, was elected in an Electoral College vote in September 2006 for a five-year term. The next Presidential elections are scheduled for 29 and 30 August, 2011.The President has mainly ceremonial powers.

Estonia joined NATO on 2 April 2004 and acceded to the European Union on 1 May 2004. Estonia joined the Schengen group of European countries on 21 December 2007.

Despite its small size, Estonia has contributed actively to international peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Lebanon, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Estonia, like neighbours Latvia and Lithuania, experienced sharp falls in the economy due to a slide in domestic demand and weak exports arising from the global financial and economic crisis. GDP contracted by 13.9 per cent in 2009, but returned to positive growth in 2010, increasing 3.1 per cent. The predicted growth for 2011 is 3.3 per cent. The unemployment rate fell to 14.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 from 16.9 per cent in 2010, according to Statistics Estonia. The Estonian Government met the convergence criteria and was accepted into the Eurozone on 1 January 2011.

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BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

Australia was one of the first countries to recognise Estonia's return to independence in August 1991 and supported the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Estonian territory in the period that followed. Australia is host to one of the largest communities of Estonians abroad, with 8,232 people identifying as Estonian in the 2006 Australian Census.

Australia has signed a Working Holiday Maker arrangement with Estonia, which came into effect in May 2005. In 2011, Australia and Estonia commenced negotiations for a bilateral Social Security Agreement.

The most recent high-level visit from Estonia to Australia was by Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, who visited Australia as a Guest of Government in April 2009. Parliamentary delegations from Estonia visited Australia in March 2008 and in April 2000. In July 1998 Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann visited Australia. The most recent high-level visit from Australia to Estonia was by the then-Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Mr Philip Ruddock, in April 2002. An Australian Parliamentary delegation, led by the then-Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Sue West, visited Tallinn in October 1999. The last Australian Foreign Minister to visit Estonia was Senator Gareth Evans in 1994.

The Australian Ambassador to Estonia is accredited from Stockholm. Australia also has an Honorary Consul in Tallinn. Estonia is represented in Australia by Honorary Consuls based in Sydney, Perth and Hobart, and is due to open a Consulate-General in Sydney at the end of 2011.The Estonian Ambassador in Tokyo is currently accredited to Australia.

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BILATERAL ECONOMIC AND TRADE RELATIONSHIP

Two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Estonia was $50 million in 2010, making Estonia Australia's 95th largest trade partner.

Australian institutions are working to develop education links and student exchange arrangements with Estonia. Monash University in Melbourne has an exchange agreement with the Estonian Business School in Tallinn.

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Last Updated: July 2011

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