Estonia: country overview05 June 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 30 January 2017
Estonia, a member of the EU since 2004 and the euro zone since 2011, has a modern market-based economy and one of the higher per capita income levels in Central Europe and the Baltic region. Estonia's successive governments have pursued a free market, pro-business economic agenda and have wavered little in their commitment to pro-market reforms. The most important sectors of Estonia's economy in 2015 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (22.3 %), industry (20.4 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (15.5 %). Estonia's main export partners are Sweden, Finland and Latvia, while its main import partners are Finland, Germany and Lithuania.
Geographical size: 45 227 km2
Population: 1 313 271 (2015)
Population as % of total EU: 0.3 % (2015)
Gross domestic product (GDP): € 20.461 billion (2015)
Official EU language(s): Estonian
Political system: parliamentary republic
EU member country since: 1 May 2004
Seats in the European Parliament: 6
Currency: Euro. Member of the eurozone since 1 January 2011
Schengen area member? Yes, Schengen Area member since 21 December 2007.
Presidency of the Council: Estonia will hold the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time in the second half of 2017.
Estonia, the most northerly of the Baltic states, regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It is a mainly flat country on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, with many lakes and islands. Much of the land is farmed or forested.
The Estonian language is closely related to Finnish, but bears no resemblance to the languages of the other Baltic republics, Latvia and Lithuania, or to Russian. About one quarter of the population is of Russian-speaking origin.
The capital, Tallinn, is one of the best-preserved mediaeval cities in Europe, and tourism accounts for 15% of Estonian GDP. The economy is driven by engineering, food products, metals, chemicals and wood products.
Throughout history, many other nations that ruled the region – Danes, Germans, Swedes, Poles and Russians – have influenced Estonian cuisine. Among the traditional dishes are marinated eel, blood sausage and sauerkraut stew with pork.
Famous Estonians include the writer Jaan Kross whose work has been translated into at least 20 languages, the author of the national epic (Kalevipoeg) Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, and the writer, film-maker, diplomat and politician Lennart Meri.
Estonia, a member of the EU since 2004 and the euro zone since 2011, has a modern market-based economy and one of the higher per capita income levels in Central Europe and the Baltic region. Estonia's successive governments have pursued a free market, pro-business economic agenda, and sound fiscal policies that have resulted in balanced budgets and low public debt.
The economy benefits from strong electronics and telecommunications sectors and strong trade ties with Finland, Sweden, and Germany. After two years of robust recovery in 2011 and 2012, the Estonian economy faltered in 2013 with only 1.6% GDP growth, mainly due to continuing recession in much of the EU. GDP growth in 2014 was 2.9% but dropped to 1.2% in 2015 due to lower demand in key Scandinavian export markets. GDP growth is expected to be about 2.2% in 2016.
Estonia is challenged by a shortage of labour, both skilled and unskilled, although the government has amended its immigration law to allow easier hiring of highly qualified foreign workers.
Source: European Commission, CIA - The World Factbook