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The President of the Republic At the opening of Estonian-Croatian Business Forum Zagreb, February 8, 2006

Honourable Mr. President!
Ministers, Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen!

Thank you for a cordial reception and warm greetings!

The fact that parallel to official meetings there are also events for entrepreneurs, confirms our intent to deepen Estonian-Croatian cooperation and to continue it on a very practical level.

To cooperate fruitfully we have to know each other well. Estonians see Croatia as a EU candidate country that has achieved remarkable progress and as a country attractive for tourists. Nevertheless, I believe that there is a lot more to learn about Croatia and its economy.

At the same time, we would also like to better introduce our country to you. Allow me now to make an introduction to today’s presentations on Estonian economy.

Estonia, a country located in Northern Europe, on the coast of the Baltic Sea, is relatively small by its area, the size of its population and of its economy. Estonian territory is four-fifth of the size of Croatia. The population of Estonia is less than one-and-half a million. Nevertheless, by its area Estonia exceeds, for example, Denmark or Switzerland. At that, Estonian economy is among the fastest growing economies in the European Union: in the years 2000 - 2005 the average growth of GDP exceeded 7.5 per cent. In comparable prices, GDP per capita is more than a half of the EU’s average.

The basis for this remarkable development was created by radical reforms that were launched right after the restoration of independence 15 years ago. Having set as our goals openness of society, inviolability of private property, promotion of free market and private enterprise, we quickly stabilised our business environment and have managed to strengthen it further.

Development of Estonian economy was considerably facilitated by the EU integration process, which gained momentum with the commencement of accession negotiations in 1998. It meant also strengthening of institutions and our legal basis, as well as modernisation of enterprises.

All those changes have been made step-by-step, but they have been consistent and have bolstered the confidence of our international partners. Our business environment has been favourable to foreign direct investments; FDI per capita in Estonia exceeds that of many other Central and Eastern European countries. Undoubtedly, also Estonia’s NATO accession process has played a role of a catalyst in our development.

For our economy, the EU integration has guaranteed better access to international goods, services and financial markets. At our previous meetings we have already expressed our readiness to share our experience in sustainable development with our Croatian colleagues.

Surely, integration into the European economic space, as well as a full membership in the European Union and the perspective to join NATO will have a similar impact on Croatian economy. At the same time, it will certainly facilitate economic cooperation between Estonia and Croatia.

Now, allow me to pass the floor to Mr. Savisaar, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications, and to Mr. Luman, the President of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who will acquaint you with Estonian economic policy and business environment.

On my own behalf I would like to wish you a fruitful forum and every success in all of your endeavours!

© 2006 Office of the President l tel: + 372 631 6202 l fax: + 372 631 6250 l