Helsinki, 11 December 2013 – the co-operation between Estonia and Finland in the field of information and communication technology was welcomed at today’s meeting between Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen. Yesterday, the prime ministers concluded the world’s first known digitally signed intergovernmental agreement focusing on common development of e-services.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that Finland has always served as a great example for Estonia in the field of information technology. “Finland was the first to present an ID-card. Estonia followed the e-ID development both in Finland and Sweden with interest and this has greatly inspired the development of Estonia’s national electronic identity,” Ansip said at the meeting.
According to the Prime Minister, the key advantage of the digital signature is saving time – the time of the citizen, entrepreneur, official, and the prime minister. “Saving time also helps to save money. In Estonia, we save time worth a total of two per cent of the annual gross domestic product (GDP) by using digital signatures – this is equivalent to saving one week of working time per person,” Ansip exemplified.
The Prime Minister expressed hope that digitally signing the Memorandum of Understanding also contributes to the economic relationship between Finland and Estonia. “There are about 4,500 Finnish companies in Estonia and about 3,500 Estonian companies in Finland – one can only imagine how much more effective the communication between the two countries becomes due to digital signing,” Ansip added.
Ansip assumes that the introduction of digital signatures in the entire European Union would result in a major economic benefit: “I hope that we managed to set the pattern together with Finland.”
As one of the central agreement of the Memorandum of Understanding, the national data exchange platforms will be developed together with Finland from now on. The greatest benefit arising from such platforms is that the citizens and institutions are required to provide data only once and hereafter, the data can be easily and securely shared.
For example, the companies operating in another country have to turn to their homeland institution, receive data on paper from there, travel back by ship or plane, and then submit the data on paper to the authority of another country, where it is entered into the computer.
“This situation has certainly outlived its usefulness, especially in countries with advanced information and communication technologies such as Finland and Estonia,” Prime Minister Ansip said.
Common cross-border e-services between the two countries will be developed and offered on the basis of the introduction of the X-Road-like solution in Finland. The first pilot projects will be completed by 2014.
The implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding or co-operating in the field of e-government will be co-ordinated by Finnish Ministry of Finance by the Government of Finland and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and its division, the Information System’s Authority, in Estonia.
Additionally, bilateral relations and expectations for the forthcoming European Council meeting were discussed – the issues of the euro area, economy, and technology were handled. Discussion also included the Eastern Partnership and the recent events in Ukraine.
Also, the LNG terminal was discussed. According to the Prime Minister, the possible location of the LNG terminal has been given to independent experts to be assessed. The final assessment of whether the terminal suits better either to Estonia or Finland will be made by the European Commission. “We will wait for the Commission’s decision to take it into account,” Ansip said. “It does not matter whether the LNG terminal is established on one or the other side of the Gulf of Finland, for us, it is a particularly important alternative source of gas supply.”
After the meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Prime Minister Ansip will travel directly from Helsinki to his official visit to Kyrgyzstan. The Prime Minister returns to Estonia on 14 December.