Estonia and Greece
The Hellenic Republic recognised Estonia on 19 May 1922. In 1922 Aleksander Hellat, residing in Warsaw, was appointed the Estonian representative to Greece. He was only able to hold this position for a few months, because he was called back to Estonia in November to act as foreign minister. Before the Second World War, Estonia's honorary consul in Athens was Augustin Constantin Papadatos (from 1929-1940) and the vice honorary consul in Pireus was Spiridon A. Georgandas (from 1928-1940). Greece had accredited Kimon A. Kollas, residing in Warsaw, as its ambassador to Estonia. Greece was represented in Tallinn by Honorary Consul General Jüri Parik until 1929, when the position was taken over by Oskar Kerson until 1940.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were re-established on 2 October 1991. The Estonian Embassy was established in Athens in April 1997 and headed by Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Jüri Arusoo. The first Estonian ambassador to Greece after the restoration of independence, Andres Unga, presented his credentials to President Constantinos Stephanopoulos on 18 April 2001. He initially resided in Tallinn. As of August 2003 the Estonian ambassador resides in Athens. The current ambassador of Estonia to Greece, Margus Rava, presented his credentials to President Papoulias on 15 October 2013.
Two honorary consuls – Irene Panagopoulos in Patras, and Nikolaos Kantarzis on the island of Kos – represent Estonia in Greece.
In 1993 Stelio Valsamas-Rhallis, residing in Helsinki, became the first ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to re-independent Estonia. The Greek Embassy in Tallinn was opened in February 2005 and the first ambassador to reside in Tallinn was Christos Karapanos. The current Greek ambassador to Estonia, Constantine Catsambis, presented his credentials on 30 May 2013.
There is a Greek-Estonian Parliamentary group in the Greek Parliament and its chairman is Dr. Tsoumanis Dimitrios.
|June 2010||Riigikogu speaker Ene Ergma|
|May 2008||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|June 2004||Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristiina Ojuland|
|May 1999||President Lennart Meri|
|May 2003||Prime Minister Costas Simitis|
|June 2002||Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Anastassios Giannitsis|
|October 2000||President Constantinos Stephanopoulos|
|October 1997||Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgios Papandreou|
Since the restoration of Estonia's independence the following agreements with Greece have been signed and have come into force:
- Agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (came into force 07.08.98);
- Agreement on Maritime Transport (came into force 02.04.99);
- Agreement on Abolishment of Visa Requirements (came into force 04.12.99);
- Agreement on International Road Transport of Passengers and Goods (came into force 10.05.00);
- Agreement on Co-operation in Tourism (came into force 13.12.00);
- Agreement on Co-operation in Education, Science, and Culture (came into force 15.04.02);
- Agreement of Protection of Classified Information (came into force 14.05.02);
- Agreement on Co-operation on Defence (came into force 10.06.03);
- Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (came into force 01.08.2008);
- Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic (came into force 27.02.2012);
- Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of the Republic of Estonia and the Ministry of Administrative Reform and Electronic Government of the Hellenic Republic on Cooperation in Ways of Combating Corruption and Bureaucracy through e-Government and Information and Communication Technologies (came into force 05.12.2012).
Estonian and Greek economic relations have been relatively modest. In developing economic relations, there are good prospects in the fields of maritime transport and transit, port construction and shipbuilding, advanced technology, science, forestry (wood products), and agriculture. There is also interest in co-operation in the tourism industry.
In June 2005 in Thessaloniki, the Greek-Baltic Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established with the aim of developing relations between Greece and the Baltic states primarily in the fields of trade, economy and technology.
Estonian-Greek trade has been stable but modest for the past decade. The trade balance has been positive for Estonia for the past several years. In 2011 Greece was Estonia’s 52nd trade partner with 0.1% of Estonia’s total trade.
Estonia-Greece trade 2005-2011 (million EUR)
Main export articles in 2011:
- Animal products – 39%
- Mineral products – 17.8%
- Other manufactured goods – 13.2%
- Wood and wood products – 8.9%
Main import articles in 2011:
- Machinery and equipment – 25.7%
- Chemical products – 19.4%
- Prepared foods and beverages – 17.3%
- Textiles – 12.2%
According to Bank of Estonia data, as of 31 March 2012 Greek investments in Estonia totalled 4.2 million euros. Most investments were made in financial mediation, retail and wholesale trade, and real estate. The total of Estonian direct investments to Greece as of the same date stood at 1.3 million euros. Most investments in Greece were made in the real estate and construction sectors and the manufacturing industry.
Greece is a popular tourism destination for Estonians. According to the mobile positioning data of the Bank of Estonia, in the first nine months of 2012 Greece was visited by 23 554 people. The number of Greek tourists visiting Estonia has remained stable at around 2 500 for the past few years (in the first ten months of 2012 there were 2 400 Greek tourists), which is 0.15% of the total number of foreign tourists.
Culture and Education
Historically, Greek Catholicism was the first Christian religion whose missionaries contacted Estonians. The first Orthodox Church was built in Tartu in the 11th century. By 1920, 158 Orthodox churches had been built.
At the University of Tartu one can study Greek language and culture.
Since 1995, the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation in parallel with the Greek State Scholarship Foundation has granted scholarships and financial support for scientific research and to students of Greek culture at the post-graduate level. In addition, in the framework of the Erasmus higher education programme of the European Council, student exchange opportunities have been established between partner universities in Estonia and Greece: the University of Tartu in Estonia and Greece’s National University of Athens and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The first student exchange was conducted during the academic year 1999/2000 and tight student exchange between the two countries has continued.
Over 30 Greek works of literature have been translated into Estonian, among them books by Aesop, Homer, Paradisis, Plato, Sophocles, as well as Cavafy, Elytis, Karagatsis, Hadzi, and Assimakapoulos.
Cultural relations between Estonia and Greece are active.
Estonian music has been introduced in Greece during the past few years. In 2011, Hortus Musicus gave a concert on the island of Rhodes.
In 2010 the Estonia Boys’ Choir gave concerts in Athens, Larissa, Melivia, and at the Dimitria Festival in Thessaloniki; Villu Veski and Tiit Kalluste performed on the island of Naxos; the duo UMA (Robert Jürjendal and Aleksei Saks) in May in Thessaloniki, at the Monastery of St. John near Larissa, and at the Athens Jazz Festival (which was attended in 2008 by Jaak Sooäär and Tuule Kann); the Tobias String Quartet as well as Andres Uibo and Aare Tammesalu performed in Athens.
Performances in 2009 included Villu Veski and Tiit Kalluste’s project “Voices of the Nordic Islands” (5 concerts in Athens and northern Greece); the Tobias String Quartet; and Sofia Joons and Maarja Nuut.
In 2008 Tõnis Mägi and Kärt, Jaak, Ants and Mart Johanson performed in Athens.
In the summer of 2012 the dance group “Kihnumua” participated in the folklore festival held on the island of Lefkada.
Greek folk music ensembles are frequent guests at the international folklore festival Baltica. The Greek music group in Estonia, Zorbas, celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2010.
Estonian films have been successful at Greek film festivals. At the Thessaloniki Short Film Festival in 2010, Anu Aun received the cinematic achievement award for her short film “Vahetus”. In 2008, Veiko Õunpuu’s film “Sügisball” (“Autumn Ball”) participated in the 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, winning the prize for best director. At the first Corinth Film festival, which took place in October 2008, Andres Maimik and Rein Tolk’s film “Jan Uuspõld läheb Tartusse” (“Jan Uuspõld Goes to Tartu”) won the best actor prize.
Greek audiences have also seen Imbi Paju’s documentary “Sisters Across the Gulf of Finland” (2010), and in earlier years Sulev Keedus’s “Georgica”, Peeter Simm’s “Georg” and “Good Hands”, Liivo Niglas’s documentary film “Brigade”, and the animated films of Mait Laas, Ülo Pikkov, Janno Põldma, and Priit Pärn.
There has been a Greek film at the Black Nights Film Festival every year. In 2012 the Black Nights Film Festival included a focus on the best Greek films of the past few years and the lifetime achievement award was posthumously given to one of the most prominent European filmmakers Theo Angelopoulos (1936-2012).
There have also been many exhibits organised that include Estonian participation: in 2011 an exhibit of Estonian gloves was displayed in Larissa and an exhibit by Anneli Tammik, Kaire Rannik, Ketli Tiitsar, Kristi Paap, and Maria Valdma was held at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery Museum; in 2008 an exhibit of Estonian nature photos at the American Community School of Athens; in 2007 Kristi Paap participated in the international jewellery exhibition “Challenging the Cathelaine” in Athens; in 2004 simultaneously at the Museum of New Art in Pärnu and at the Frisiras Museum in Athens the double exhibition "God Becomes Man", in which Greek as well as Estonian artists participated; in 2003 the photos of Aarne Maasik as well as Jaan Toomik, August Künnapu and Liina Siib’s project "Cinema – it’s a lie!".