Estonia and France
|-||Co-operation between ministries of internal affairs|
|-||Co-operation in the field of research and technology|
France recognised Estonia on 26 January 1921. The cornerstone of Estonia-France relations is France’s recognition of the Republic of Estonia’s legal standing—they never recognised the Soviet Union’s occupation of Estonia. France re-stated its recognition on 25 August 1991 on the occasion of Estonia’s re-independence. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 30 August, 1991.
Bilateral political relations between Estonia and France are good and traditionally active. Regular and effective dialogue takes place between the two countries.
French Ambassadors to Estonia
1991-1994 Jacques Hunzinger
1994-1998 Jacques Faure
1998-2002 Jean-Jacques Subrenat
2002-2006 Chantal de Ghaisne de Bourmont
2006-2009 Daniel Labrosse
Since October 2009 Frédéric Billet is the French ambassador to Estonia.
The first Estonian ambassador (initially bearer) in France was Karl Robert Pusta from 1918/1921 – 1932.
Estonian Ambassadors to France after re-independence
1993-1997 Andres Tomasberg
1998-2001 Ruth Lausma-Luik
2002-2006 Andres Talvik
2006-2010 Margus Rava
Estonian Ambassador Sven Jürgenson represented his credentials to President of the Republic of France Nicolas Sarkozy on 3 December 2010.
On 13 February 2007, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet with the participation of Mrs Catherine Colonna, French Minister for European Affairs, opened the new Estonian Embassy building at 17 rue de la Baume, Paris 75008.
Estonia has six honorary consuls in France: Serge Arnould in Lyon, Hélène Berdoy-Mayer in Toulouse, Laurence Charbonnier in Nancy, Nathalie Vidal in Lille, Christian de Barillon in Bordeaux, and Christian Guellerin in Nantes.
The Estonia-France parliamentary group in Riigikogu has 14 members and its chairman is Tõnis Lukas. The Estonia-France friendship group in the French National Assembly is led by Jean-Claude Perez and the French-Baltic friendship group in the Senate is led by Jean Desessard.
|January 2013||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, meeting with French President François Hollande|
|December 2011||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|November 2011||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|October 2011||Prime Minister Andrus Ansip|
|October 2011||Minister of Culure Rein Lang opening the Estonian cultural festival in Paris|
|September 2011||Minister of Defence Mart Laar at the signing of the bilateral defence co-operation agreement|
|September 2010||Minister of Culture Laine Jänes|
|September 2010||Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma at the signing of the co-operation agreement between the European Space Agency and Estonia|
|May 2010||Prime Minister Andrus Ansip in Paris, meeting with French Prime Minister François Fillon|
|February 2010||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the opening of the honorary consulate in Bordeaux|
|September 2009||Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma at the colloquium in the French Senate celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way|
|February 2009||Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma at a meeting of speakers of EU member states|
|October 2008||Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma|
|April 2008||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves|
|December 2007||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|February 2007||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|January 2007||Chairman of the Riigikogu Toomas Varek|
|June 2011||Minister for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez|
|January 2011||Secretary of State for Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry Pierre Lellouche at the signing of the agreement between Alstom and Eesti Energia|
|April 2010||French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn|
|February 2010||Secretary of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche|
|June 2008||Minister of Energy Jean-Louis Borloo|
|May 2008||Prime Minister François Fillon|
|May 2008||Secretary of State for Defence and Veterans Jean-Marie Bockel|
|March 2008||Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier|
|November 2007||Minister of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet|
|June 2006||President of the Senate Christian Poncelet|
|March 2006||Minister delegate for European Affairs Catherine Colonna|
Trade between the two countries is regulated by agreements with the European Union. The more important agreements signed by the two countries are as follows:
- Agreement on Mutual Understanding, Friendship and Co-operation (came into force 27.04.95);
- Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investments (came into force 25.09.95);
- Agreement on Abolishment of Visa Requirements (came into force 01.03.99);
- Agreement on Readmission of Persons (came into force 15.04.99);
- Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (came into force 01.05.01);
- Agreement on the Status and Activities of Cultural Institutes (came into force 01.04.05).
- Agreement on the Exchange of Young Specialists (signed 31.03.2006)
- Agreement on visa representation between the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of France (came into force 01.09.2009)
- Co-operation agreement between the Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) and the French Network and Information Security Agency (ANSSI) (came into force 9 November 2010)
- Bilateral defence co-operation agreement (came into force 1 January 2012)
The economic relations between France and Estonia are developing stably. Estonia is known in France as an IT oriented country with a liberal system of economy.
The introduction of Estonia as a tourist destination has become a tradition in France. Estonia has been represented on a regular basis at both the professional travel fair Top Resa in Deauville in the fall, as well as a tourism fair aimed at the general public in Paris in the spring. Estonian businesses also participate in French trade and industry fairs. Press visits have also become regular events, and as a result many articles introducing Estonia and especially Tallinn as beautiful places to visit have been published.
French entrepreneurs are primarily interested in Estonia’s investment climate and the process of starting a new enterprise in the sectors of fragrances, building, and IT co-operation. The main obstacle to smooth co-operation is usually a language problem—French entrepreneurs generally do not speak English.
The close co-operation of the Estonian Embassy in Paris with the MEDEF of Paris (entrepreneurs’ union of France) is worth special mentioning. Thanks to the support of the head of the MEDEF of Paris, Remy Robinet Duffo a great many meetings, visits and seminars have become a reality.
As of May 2000, the French-Estonian Business Club (CAFE) functions, gathering French entrepreneurs active in Estonia.
Estonia-France trade from 2005-2012 (in million euros):
All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia
In 2012 France was Estonia’s 16th trade partner with 1.6% of trade (the volume of trade turnover was 416 million euros).
Among exports, the main product groups were other manufactured goods (bedroom furniture accessories, wooden houses, furniture – 21.2%), machinery and equipment (telephones, electrical circuits, circuit breakers, insulated wire, electric motors – 20.5%), wood and wood products (wooden goods by carpenters and cabinet-makers – 10.8%), and chemical products (compounds of rare earth metals and metals – 9.3%).
Among imports the main product groups were transportation vehicles (cars, motor vehicles – 21.1%), prepared foods and beverages (hard alcohol, wine, chocolate – 18.9%), machinery and equipment (telephones, electrical circuits – 17.7%), and chemical products (insecticides, rodenticides, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, perfumes and eau de toilettes – 9.2%).
According to Bank of Estonia data, as of 31 December 2012 France was 16th among Estonia’s foreign investors (with 172.1 million euros or 1.2% of investments). Investments were primarily made in real estate, professional and research activity, the manufacturing industry, financial and insurance activity, and information and communication. The companies in Estonia with the greatest French participation are Levira AS, Saint-Gobain Ehitustooted AS, Eolane Tallinna AS (the French electronics group Éolane acquired Elcoteq in February 2012), Antalis (wholesale trade, DPD Eesti (postal and delivery services), and Pernod Ricard Estonia (alcohol wholesale).
The year 2010 was especially productive for economic relations: the agreement between Alstom and Eesti Energia regarding the construction of two new combustible shale plants in Narva was signed; the agreement between Eesti Energia and the French company Constructions Industrielles De La Mediterranee (CNIM) to construct the new WTE CHP plant in Iru was carried out; and Nexans Norway AS won the procurement to build the Estlink2 cable.
As of 31 December 2012 Estonia had investments in France totalling 17.7 million EUR, which is 0.4% of all of Estonia’s direct investments abroad. Investments were made in wholesale and retail trade, real estate, the manufacturing industry, and professional and research activity.
In addition to framework agreements and intensive co-operation in NATO and in the area of European Union security and defence policy, there is also an intergovernmental defence co-operation agreement between Estonia and France (prior to this agreement there was a co-operation agreement between the ministries of defence), which was signed by Minister of Defence Mart Laar during his visit in September 2011.
France has participated many times in the NATO-organised air policing of the Baltic nations, being one of the most important supporters of the mission. France’s last rotation guarding Baltic airspace was from May-August 2011.
France participates in all the important defence assistance projects such as BALTRON and BALTSEA and also supports language training in the Estonian Defence Forces. France is also one of Estonia’s most important procurement partners.
Within the framework of the naval operation ATALANTA, an Estonian vessel protection detachment has served on a number of different French ships. The co-operation has been very successful and will continue until May 2012.
Estonia regularly holds various consultations with France on security policy issues.
The first contacts between the French and the Estonian Ministries of Internal Affairs were made in 1997. Within a framework of co-operation the police, the Border Guard, the Citizenship and Migration Board and the Rescue Board have had many joint training projects with their French counterparts. Every year Estonian police officers have had the opportunity to study at the French police academy. The Border Guard has good contacts with the maritime gendarmerie and with the frontier police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has received French technology products from the Group SAGEM, such as a finger print digital search system for the central criminal police and monitors (motion transducers) from Thomson-CSF to be used on Estonia's eastern frontier. Co-operation is also conducted in working out personal identification documents as well as in ascertaining false documents.
Good co-operation takes place in solving applications for legal assistance, as well as in arranging training, for instance training for special units.
The interest of the Estonian agricultural sector towards the French market is growing constantly. More and more Estonian entrepreneurs have been present at the major agricultural fairs. Representatives of the Estonian Ministry of Agriculture are regularly present at the SIAL fair (Salon international de l’agroalimentaire, an international agricultural foodstuffs fair) and the SIA agricultural fair meant for the wider public.
In March 2011 Estonian Minister of Research and Education Tõnis Lukas and French Ambassador to Estonia Frédéric Billet signed an administrative agreement. The French-Estonian Hubert Curien (G.F. Parrot) partnership created with the agreement will provide funding for two years for the research projects of French and Estonian researchers, support co-operation between the research teams of both countries, and allow researchers to join the other country’s research team, all through systematic bilateral funding. This kind of co-operation has been taking place for short-term cycles since 2002.
Through the French Institute, France supports the teaching of the French language in Estonia. In 1998 the French Embassy and the French Cultural and Language Co-operation Centre began a French-language training programme for state officials. In 1999 this programme was the basis for an agreement signed by the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the French-speaking community of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Thanks to the aforementioned agreement close to 4 000 Estonian state officials have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn the French language and culture.
There is also close co-operation with many Estonian schools in the area of teaching French.
Cultural co-operation between the two countries is very active. Estonia culture in France is represented by a cultural counsellor that has worked at the embassy since the beginning of 2007; from 2001-2008 a branch of the Estonian Institute also operated in Paris. Active co-operation partners in carrying out Estonian cultural events are the Finnish and Hungarian cultural institutes in Paris. At the local level, there are numerous friendship societies who participate in the regular arrangement of events introducing Estonia. Good partners in presenting Estonian culture are twin towns: Võru’s twin town Chambrey-les Tours, Saue’s twin town Quincy-Sous-Sénart, and Maardu’s twin town Seyne-sur-Mer, as well as the Estonian honorary consuls in France. It is anticipated that in 2012 a friendship town agreement will be concluded between the Tallinn centre city government and the town of Carcassonne in southern France.
The major event of 2011 was the biggest Estonian cultural festival ever to be held in Paris and the surrounding areas, Estonie Tonique. Over the course of two months over 200 performers went to France and nearly 50 events took place: concerts, exhibitions, theatrical performances, screenings of films, literary evenings, and conferences. The festival was organised by the Estonian and French cultural and foreign ministries and events were carried out by the French Institute in Paris and the Estonian Embassy in Paris.
Performances by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Estonian National Men’s Choir presenting the works of Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis earned quite a lot of attention. Within the framework of the festival French audiences were able to see Estonian theatre for the first time; especially popular were the performances by Theatre NO99 at the Odeon Theatre. A large-scale Estonian film retrospective took place at the Filmotheque in Paris and there was a tribute to the Nukufilm film studio at the Amiens film festival. In addition, the biographical film about Jaan Kaplinski made by French director Raphael Gianelli-Meriano was premiered. The contemporary art exhibit “Liberté/Vabadus 2011” was displayed in Asniéres Castle, exhibits of Estonian architecture were on display in two Paris architectural schools, and lectures on Estonian architecture were held. It was also the first time the pop and alternative music scene were introduced to French audiences (Chalice, Malcolm Lincoln, Mari Kalkun, Phlox, and others) – concerts at the well-known clubs Point Ephemere, Les Trois Baudets and Triton as well as at the club music festival Les Nuits Capitales were all successful. The publisher Babel/Actes Sud published a collection of prose by contemporary Estonian authors entitled “Les Labyrinthes du réel” (The Labyrinths of Reality). A very warm welcome was given to the Viking ship Turm, which docked on the Saint-Martin canal and served as the venue for a cultural programme.
In May 2012 the Viking ship Turm returned to France to participate in Europe Month/Day in other French cities – L’Aigle, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and Nancy.
Within the framework of the festival French Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand presented Arvo Pärt with France's highest order, the Legion of Honour.
In January 2012 French Ambassador to Estonia Frédéric Billet recognised the people who have promoted Estonia-France cultural relations. The French Order of Arts and Literature (l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres) was given to composer Helena Tulve, artistic director of the singing group Vox Clamantis Jaan-Eik Tulve, and the Estonian co-ordinator of the Estonie Tonique festival, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture Ragnar Siil. The order was also given to film director Ilmar Raag, stage director (and French language teacher) Lembit Peterson, conductor of the Orchestre de Paris Paavo Järvi, and cultural counsellor of the Estonian Embassy in Paris Kersti Kirs.
Estonian musicians have been highly appreciated in France for years (primarily Pärt, Tüür, Tormis) and their works have been included in the repertoire of numerous French orchestras and choirs. The renowned orchestras of Paris are regularly conducted by Kristjan and Paavo Järvi. The latter’s contract as the music director of the Orchestre de Paris has been extended until 2016. Conductor Vello Pähn has regularly conducted ballets of the Opéra Garnier for the last 25 years. Vox Clamantis and Neeme Järvi have been special guests of the renowned music festival La Folle journée de Nantes many times. The blues band from Tartu, Bullfrog Brown, has performed twice at the Beauvais blues festival. Pianist Tatiana Smelova and violinist Kirsti Kuusk are working as musicians in France. Many young people are also studying in conservatories in France.
Ewert and the Two Dragons’ album “Good Man Down” was released in January 2012 by the Bordeaux record company Talitres. The band proved very popular both with fans and in the media. During the year the group has many tours planned that include performances at France’s biggest rock festivals like Printemps de Bourges, Europavox, and Fnac Live.
Over the years, Estonian literature and poetry have been translated into French thanks to the not very numerous devoted translators such as Antoine Chalvin, Jean-Luc Moreau, Jean-Pascal Ollivry, Eva Toulouze, and others. In 2004, the Estonian national epic “Kalevipoeg” was published in Antoine Chalvin’s translation. Among others, works by Tõnu Õnnepalu, Jaan Krossi, Jaan Kaplinski, Viivi Luige, Arvo Valtoni and Karl Ristikivi have been translated into French. Between 2008 and 2010 the publisher Gaia released all five volumes of Tammsaare’s “Truth and Justice”. In 2010 the novel “Un roman estonien” (“Estonian novel”), written in French by young Estonian writer Katrina Kalda, was published by Gallimard. The same publisher released French writer Richard Millet’s travelogue “Notes sur l’Estonie” in 2011.
The French translation of Sofi Oksanen’s “Purge”, published by Stock, won the renowned French literature award Prix Femina étranger in 2010. In 2011 the same publishing house released Sofi Oksanen’s “Stalin’s Cows”.
Estonian cinematography has been regularly represented at the biggest film festivals like the Annecy Animated Film Festival, Rouen Nordic Film Festival, Clermond-Ferrand short film festival, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and many others. In 2004 Ilmar Raag’s film “Class” won the Grand Prix at the Paris festival “Les 4 ecrans”; in 2011 Anu Aun’s short film “The Shift” won the title of best foreign short film at the Paris Courts Devant international festival and the special jury prize at the Aye-Aye Film Festival Nancy-Lorraine.
In 2012 Estonian film had more representation than ever before at the Cannes film festival thanks to the 100th anniversary of Estonian film. The creation of the Estonian Film Commission, which plans to market Estonia as a filming location to foreign producers, was also celebrated.
In the fall of 2012 Ilmar Raag’s new feature film, a joint project of Estonia, France and Belgium, will hit cinemas. The film is entitled “Une estonienne á Paris” (“An Estonian Girl in Paris”) and the lead role is filled by legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau.
Art and Photography
Starting with Eduard Wiiralt, many Estonian artists have studied or made their home in France: sculptor Maire Männik studied at both the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the École des Beaux-Arts and executed her best works in France, and later many artists (Urmo Raus, Aili Vahtrapuu, etc.) also studied in France. Artists who are working in France today are Rein Tammik, Kaia Kiik And Aire Goutt-Allikmets, Irina Bellaye, and Helina Rääk.
Over the past few years Estonia’s older and contemporary art, photography, jewellery and video artr and design have been introduced in many cities throughout France (Rennes, Lille, St. Brieuc, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Caen, Paris, Tours, Toulouse, and many others).
During the last few years many important exhibits of French art and architecture have taken place in Estonia, and along with them meetings of artists, critics and curators. In the architectural field, the closest co-operation takes place with the French within the framework of organising the European architectural competition for young architects Europan. Within the framework of the Estonia Days that took place in Strasbourg in March 2012, a lecture on contemporary Estonian architecture was held at the architecture school in Strasbourg and the exhibit “50 Houses” was displayed. In the summer of 2011 a group of architecture journalists visited Estonia, as a result of which articles about contemporary Estonian architecture were published in the magazine D’A and A Nous Paris and wider interest towards Estonian architecture was sparked.