Kristiina Ojuland (Former Foreign Minister of Estonia)
07.11.2009 - Interview conducted by Natalia Pustovit & Liza Ipatenko
Q: In relation to Estonia I would like to ask a few questions. Considering the fact that Estonia was under Soviet control until its independence in 1991, how has the often pro-Western and Nordic foreign policy led since that time influenced the relationship with Russia?
I would say that this period since regaining independence has to be divided in two parts. The first part is before joining the EU and the second part is after gaining the EU membership. By joining the EU we expected a stronger European Common Foreign and Security Policy vis-a-vis the Russian Federation. I think that year after year this has been working well in practice and that in major issues we can really trust the CFSP. But there are a lot of bilateral negotiations between Estonia and the Russian Federation: We recently signed a treaty concerning the pension systems, there are a lot of bilateral treaties in the field of education, and so on. So we have a lot of bilateral cooperation, especially the cross border cooperation, the regional cooperation, which is working well. Until we joined the EU we could say that we felt really strong pressure from Russia against Estonia.
Q: With Estonia having entered the Eurozone the 1st of January this year, at a time where the future of the monetary union remains uncertain and there are talks of further integration, control and treaty changes in order to cope with the difficulties - what are your thoughts on the future of the Eurozone and the “Baltic tiger’s” role in this?
The answer is complex; joining the Eurozone did not automatically change our economic investment environment. Estonia has business-framed legislation, a low tax system and so on. Registration of a company in Estonia does not take more than 20 minutes, you can use a e-signature. Business environment is easy in Estonia. Secondly, Estonia is not corrupted. The international corruption survey last year showed a big difference for example between Italy and Estonia, Italy took the 60th place while Estonia was among the first 20 countries. So, the situation is not ideal, but still, the corruption in Estonia is perceived as very bad in the civil society and the media. It is criticized very heavily. Also we have a clear court system and legislation. When you are an investor in Estonia you can be sure that your rights are protected in this country.
Q: Have there been any kind of cultural cooperation between Russia and Estonia in order to facilitate more mutual understanding, and if not, do you believe this could be a good tool with which to try and deal with the issues of the past?
Yes, also in this field we have a good bilateral cooperation. Our ministers of culture are meeting and exchanging ideas, there is also a lot of people to people contact, like orchestras, theaters and literature. We have a common past, it is about understanding each other. The younger generations need to talk to each other and understand each other.