Tallinn, 7 May 2018 – in relation to the centenary of both countries, the Estonian and Finnish governments held a jubilee session, discussing transnational cooperation both in the establishment of physical and digital connections as well as in the field of culture and education. The promotion of sustainable economic growth in the European Union was also discussed.
“The poetess Lydia Koidula used the metaphor of a bridge to describe Estonian-Finnish relations. This metaphor, which has symbolised the intercourse of two neighbouring countries for over a century, is also relevant today as we dream of new connections. For example, the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel, invisible digital data streams, real-life cross-border economy, as well as a deeper cultural cooperation,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. “Today, we discussed how to establish these bridges in different dimensions so that Estonia and Finland would become an even more united region and a prominent innovation centre in the world.”
As the first topic of the jubilee session, the governments discussed the establishment of physical connections. They discussed creating a transport corridor extending from the border of the Arctic Sea to Central Europe. As a part of this project, Estonia and Finland share the goal of establishing Rail Baltic by 2026. The governments acknowledged that in addition to Rail Baltic, the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel influences the trends of the 21st century in the region. It would not only be a part of the transport infrastructure – it would join the capitals of both countries and turn them into an international innovation centre, where close to two million people would live.
The development of the energy market was also discussed. Estonia and Finland want to work with Latvia and Lithuania to open the Eastern Baltic Sea gas distribution centre, which would be closely linked to the rest of the European Union’s internal energy market. By 2020, the countries wish to build a gas tunnel called Balticconnector, which would connect the Baltic and Finnish gas systems.
Another topic at the joint session was cooperation in the digital field, where one of the main issues is cross-border data exchange projects. Currently, digital data is exchanged via the X-road, but the exchange of data between the countries could be broader and include, for example, population and business registers, social security data, and digital receipts. It was also declared that the Estonian and Finnish governments would start exchanging data for free.
To strengthen the economic ties between the countries, the governments wish to develop a real-time economic environment, where cross-border economic transactions are reflected digitally. According to the calculations of the Deutsche Bank, a real-time economic environment would help save around 260 million euros annually in Europe. Estonia believes that our countries could be the pioneers in this area.
Cross-border cooperation is also sought in genomic research, which is made possible by genome centres established in both countries. Cooperation in this field will allow Estonia and Finland contribute to the initiative of the European Union for one million sequenced genomes, which, in turn, helps to promote personal medicine of the 21st century.
Cultural, linguistic, and educational bridges
As the third topic, the countries discussed cultural, linguistic, and educational bridges. Both countries want to continue promoting the learning of Estonian and Finnish languages and find smart e-learning and digital solutions for this purpose. Cooperation in the international marketing of education is considered important for raising global awareness of the excellent educational opportunities in the region. In cultural cooperation, governments are hoping to increase the volume of cultural exports. The Estonian and Finnish states also declare support for mutual cultural centres: the Finnish Institute in Estonia and the Estonian Institute in Finland. The countries will also promote the Finnish-Estonian cultural fund.
Sustainable economic growth in the European Union
As the fourth topic, the joint opportunities for promoting sustainable growth in the European Union were discussed. Circular economy and the common market were discussed in more detail. The development of the latter should be among the priorities of the European Union over the next five years. Among other decisions, the governments of both countries confirmed to work towards a competitive European Union in preparing the next budget period. They also said that they wish the relevant cross-border programs to continue.
Photos of the joint session can be found here: