Bilateral relations between France and Estonia are strong and there is regular political dialogue. France has been a member of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn since 2014, and two members of French personnel are seconded there. A bilateral technical arrangement was signed in the area of cyber defence in 2016. In 2017, a French combined arms battlegroup was deployed in Estonia as part of NATO’s eFP.
In May 1992, President François Mitterrand was the first Western leader to visit Estonia following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. President Jacques Chirac carried out an official visit in 2001. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves was received at the Élysée Palace by the French President in January 2013 followed by President Kersti Kaljulaid in December 2016. Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas was met by the President of the French Republic in July 2014.
On 16 November 2016, Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault welcomed his Estonian counterpart, Jürgen Ligi, as part of the celebrations for the 25ᵗʰ anniversary of France’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the Baltic States organized at the Quai d’Orsay building.
France is the 16th-biggest investor in Estonia (€199.2 million) but, when these figures are adjusted to take account of investments in Estonia through subsidiaries of French firms in third countries (notably Scandinavia), French FDI stands at around €250m. Some 40 French businesses are working in Estonia: Alstom and Saint-Gobain, in particular, but also JC Decaux (management of Tallinn’s street furniture), DPD (logistics and transport), Eolane (professional electronics), Lemoine (plant manufacturing make-up removal pads) and the Olympia Capital investment fund (real estate).
Trade volumes reached €554 million in 2016, giving a marginal trade deficit for the second year running (€8.6 million).
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
Estonia joined the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIL) as an observer in 2010. French has become the second-widest learned language in the Estonian civil service thanks to a teaching programme which aims to train 400 civil servants per year (over 4,000 Estonian civil servants have received teaching so far). Since the 2013-2014 school year, a French-language class has been opened at the European school in Tallinn.
Inter-university research partnerships have been established between the University of Tartu and the universities of Tours and Lille, between the Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) and the French National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon, and between Tallinn University and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Dijon. A Hubert Curien partnership (G.F. Parrot programme) aims to support joint research projects (51 projects selected since 2002). There is also a focus on new technologies and conducting projects with European funding (Horizon 2020 and Erasmus).
From 2018, Estonia’s 100ᵗʰ anniversary will be celebrated jointly with events in Estonia and France. An exhibition on Baltic Symbolism will be held at the Musée d’Orsay, from April to July 2018.
For more information, visit the website of the Institut français in Estonia: http://www.ife.ee/en/
Tallinn is twinned with Carcassonne (the partnership includes a professional aspect with training in hospitality and cultural cooperation) and competitiveness clusters in Grenoble and the Rhône-Alpes region are aiming to develop exchanges with Estonia from a digital technology perspective.
- Ambassador of France in Tallinn: Ms Claudia Delmas-Scherer (September 2016)
- Ambassador of Estonia in Paris: Mr Alar Streimann (September 2015)
- President of the France-Estonia friendship group in the National Assembly: Ms Laure de La Raudière
- President of the France-Baltic States friendship group in the Senate: Mr Jean-Marie Bockel
Updated: 10 October 2017