The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
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Malta: Estonia's partners in the Mediterranean

Friday, 24 February 2023, 08:36 Last update: about 2 years ago

Ray de Bono

Today is also Estonia's Independence Day.

Roughly 100 years ago, from 1918 to 1920, the Estonian people were embroiled in the Estonian War of Independence against the Soviet Western Front offensive. The most important day was February 24th, 1918, when Estonia officially declared its statehood. This day is commemorated as a national holiday, celebrated with a televised flag raising at Pikk Hermann Tower, the ancient defensive stronghold next to Toompea Castle, fireworks, a parade, and a presidential reception.

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Malta and Estonia are both relatively small – and historically 'young' states in the European Union - yet both countries are making impressive headway economically, with Malta's economy expected to expand by 3.1% and Estonia's by 2.8%, in 2023, according to the European Commission. 

Speaking with the Malta Independent, Malta's Ambassador to Estonia and Finland, Dr Kenneth Vella, was very upbeat about the prospects offered by this Baltic state. "Despite the geographical differences and distances between Malta and Estonia, these countries hold common values and aspirations as European partners." 

Last year, Malta's President George Vella marked the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malta and Estonia with a state visit to the small Baltic state in September 2022 and opening a photographic exhibition about our country in Estonia's capital city. The event proved to be a success. 

"Estonia has a lot to offer to the Maltese. This Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people has attracted the attention of world leaders, academics and venture investors thanks to its high-tech digital society." – added Dr Vella.

  When the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) assessed European countries' performance in digital learning, it found that smaller countries performed well above average. Malta ranked fifth in this ranking, showing that recent infrastructure and education investments are paying off.

Malta's Ambassador has already been successfully promoting Finnish and Estonian education and pedagogy on the island for some years, and this is leaving its mark. There have been significant discussions, including webinars featuring leading Estonian experts in early childhood education and pedagogy, informatics, students' mental health and well-being, entrepreneurship and cybersecurity. Another webinar in collaboration with Harno, the Estonian Education Authority, will be held on Wednesday, March 8th. 

President Vella confirmed this ongoing collaboration during his meetings in Tallinn: "My engagements over the past two days have given me an excellent idea of the strengths Estonia has built for itself over the decades and the potential it has to become one of Malta's foremost partners, particularly in the education and digital sectors."

President Vella's talks with his Estonian counterpart Alar Karis discussed the Mediterranean region, saying it has impacted and needs immediate international attention.

 With President Karis and the present Estonian PM Kaja Kallas, as well as Speaker Jüri Ratas and Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, President Vella spoke of various initiatives in education and culture that already exists between the two countries and the potential of more significant overseas investments in both countries. A major Maltese food company collaborated with Estonian partners in the commercial field. This cooperation is already bearing fruit. The Maltese Ambassador is also in regular contact with the Malta Chamber of Commerce to strengthen this collaboration even in other fields. 

According to the UN COMTRADE database on international trade, Malta's exports to Estonia stood at 4.06 million euros in 2020. These numbers are ripe for expansion with increased awareness about the two countries' potential, mainly driven through ongoing active diplomatic channels. 

Ambassador Vella also announced that, for the first time, a delegation from Malta Enterprise will be travelling next month to Tartu, Estonia's second major city, to take part in the annual fair for start-ups. 

"This is because we are doing our utmost to promote our country in various regions of Estonia and establish links not only with entities based in the Estonian capital city, Tallinn but also with others around the country, in other cities like Tartu, Saku and Parnu."

Much work has also begun on the tourism front, with several Maltese tour operators showing interest in offering tour packages to Estonia and others willing to work on incoming tourism. This progress is also the result of the ongoing collaboration with the Malta Tourism Authority and the Estonian Tourism Association. In fact, for the first time earlier this month, the Malta Tourism Authority took part in the international Tourist Travel Fair held in Tallinn; this was possible because our Minister of Tourism Clayton Bartolo and MTA officials Carlo Micallef, Leslie Vella and Jimmy Attard believe in the potential of the Nordic and Baltic countries and immediately accepted the invitation to take part in this fair. 

Estonians are increasingly showing interest in Malta as a touristic destination. In 2022, over 16,000 Estonians flocked to our shores, almost double that we had pre-covid (2019: 9,009). 

The introduction of direct flights from Tallinn made a considerable impact. The authorities are doing their utmost so that these flights will continue to be offered in the coming years and also to increase the connection between our countries through other main European cities.  

“The last few years have shown us vast opportunities for closer Malta-Estonia cooperation in sports tourism, education, health, gastronomy, digital information, and culture”, stressed Kenneth.

"I want to thank Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade Ian Borg, Permanent Secretary Christopher Cutajar, Ian Decesare - the Consular of Estonia to Malta Paul Teesalu, Ambassador of Estonia to Malta, Dr Aku Sorainen, Consular of Malta in Estonia and his colleague Merit Kuus for their support and the interest shown in the initiatives taken between the two countries." 

The Maltese Ambassador was very upbeat about the prospects ahead, adding that the Maltese government's help and support from his Estonian counterparts were instrumental in achieving these essential first milestones. 

"While wishing the Estonian people a Happy National Day, it's exciting to see that despite the challenges posed by the Ukrainian war, our two countries are working ever more closely together."

 

Ray de Bono is a PR and media advisor at raydebono.com

 

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