When naming the most innovative place in the world, Silicon Valley of the United States is usually everyone’s first response. However, that might not hold true in Europe. The tech-savvy country of Estonia is proving to be an important focal point for entrepreneurship and innovation. Right on the edge of Europe, Estonia has a total population of just 1.3 million. Estonia may be considered an extremely small country, but in terms of technology and innovation, it’s a giant.
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While many members of the European Union struggle to recover from the global financial crisis of 2008 and the European debt crisis, the Baltic countries are making a strong comeback. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have recently experienced real GDP growth well above the euro area average. While other countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal continue to struggle in midst of European debt crisis, the Baltic countries are leading way to recovery. Lithuania and Latvia are predicted to remain the best performers in Europe, with GDP growth surging over 3 percent for both countries. Looking at the recovery path of the Baltic States, many business lessons can be learned from these countries.
Over the last 30 years, Russia has been the only gas supplier to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. As the gas price and demand has dramatically increased in the Baltic States, the European Union (EU) is has made plans to subsidize a regional liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Baltic States. These plans are designed to decrease the Baltic countries' energy dependence on Russia and to meet the continually increasing gas demand. However, two issues aroused along with the project: where to build the LNG terminal and how to ease the relationship with Russia.
The Baltic countries are known as some of the most ambitious and educated countries in the world, and they also consist of some of the most liberal policies for trade and investment. Their drive for success has been a critical factor in their success after the financial crisis plagued the European Union. The Baltic countries were a hot spot for investment before the crisis, with all of their intelligence and FDI flowing in. Possessing all of these incredible characteristics and policies would allow one to assume that they would be a good match against a global financial crisis, but that person would be wrong.
Recently, the European Commission traveled throughout the Baltic Countries, which include Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, to promote the European Union’s plan for Rail Baltica. This project plans to connect the three capitals of the Baltic countries with a high speed train and cut the travel time to about four hours. Despite the promotion by the EU, there are still many headwinds that this project faces.
Today begins our blog series featuring the Baltic states. The Baltic states consist of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. With the Kunda culture of the region dating back to almost 8,000 BC, the region has a rich history and distinct culture. Beginning in the twelfth century the region was bounded together by Hanseatic League that included almost the entire Baltic region and northern Germany. The goal was for the cities to band together for mercantile purposes. This included a legal structure of its own that governed the cities as well as armies to protect the interests of the members.
Politicians in Estonia, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, began to realize how computers could positively impact a country with a very small workforce and a general lack of physical infrastructure. For the next twenty years, Estonia concentrated on using the internet to transform its government, economy, and society in general. Today, Estonians can do just about anything electronically. Citizens can pay for bus tickets and parking via text, vote in elections from a laptop, or even sign legal documents from a smart phone.
While most economies in the European Union are slowing down, Estonia is going in the complete opposite direction. Estonia currently has the fastest economic growth rate in the European Union with a solid eight percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2011. Joining the European Union in 2004, Estonia has come a long way to establish itself as a prominent economic force in Europe. The country experienced some hindrances along the way but has overcome these obstacles while continuing to grow economically. There are many reasons and key business factors that account for this positive growth rate in Estonia.
Very recently, all 27 member nations of the European Union (EU) approved the entry of Estonia into the eurozone, meaning that Estonia would adopt the euro as its primary form of currency. At first glance, it seems that tying itself to a widely-used, strongly-supported currency would be a no-brainer for Estonia. However, with Europe’s recent economic woes, the situation becomes a bit more complicated.