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Bilateral Relations

Bilateral relations

The United Kingdom has always been a strong supporter of Estonia’s independence and development. This relationship had its beginning during Estonian War of Independence, when the UK sent a Royal Navy detachment led by Admiral E.A. Sinclair to defend Estonia’s shores. The British seamen who gave their lives defending Estonia's freedom during the conflict were laid to rest in the Tallinn Military Cemetery.

In the 1920s and 1930s, political and trade relations between Estonia and the United Kingdom flourished. More than 30% of Estonia’s exports went to the UK, an important trade partner for Estonia at the time.

The United Kingdom never recognised Estonia’s annexation in 1940. The UK reaffirmed its recognition of Estonia's independence on 27 August 1991 after de facto independence had been restored. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 5 September 1991, following which the embassies were re-opened in Tallinn and London. Since then, relations between Estonia and the UK have been exemplified by their consistency and vigour. In July 1992, the UK restored visa-free travel with Estonia, being thereby the first EU member state to restore the validity of agreements concluded with the Republic of Estonia in the 1920s and 30s.

Current Estonian ambassador in London is Ms Tiina Intelmann. The current Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Estonia is Theresa Bubbear (since September 7th, 2016).

Estonia’s interests are also represented by six honorary consuls: John Workman in Cheltenham;  Iain Lawson (Paisley), Simpson Buglass (Aberdeen), and Peter Ferry (Edinburgh) in Scotland; Mark J. Ewings in Belfast, and Auberon Ashbrooke on Jersey (Channel islands). In October 2015 a new Estonian Embassy building was opened in London, which enables to offer better consular services for Estonian citizens who are living and working in the UK.

The relations between Great Britain and Estonia are active and good – communication takes place on the level of ministries and offices as well as on a higher political level. Allied relations in NATO and the mission in Afghanistan are common components in the defence relations of Estonia and the United Kingdom. UK is one of the biggest contributors to NATO. That determines the character of the security policy dialogue between the two countries. UK has provided assistance to Estonia in the implementation of defence reforms.

For both countries, issues on internet governance and freedom are important, which can be reflected by their membership in Freedom Online Coalition. Lately concrete opportunities for co-operation in the cyber realm have been outlined and co-operation in the area of e-state intensified. In February 2013 institutions from Estonia and the United Kingdom that are responsible for developing e-services, signed a co-operation memorandum, which has established a strong cooperation within this area. On 9th December 2014 Digital 5 was introduced, which is based on the UK's initiative. It unifies leading digital governments (Estonia, Israel, South-korea, New-Zealand, United Kingdom) with the goal of strengthening digital economy through changing their experiences and practices.

An integral part of the relations between the two countries is the co-operation between the parliaments. In the UK House of Commons there is an Estonia friendship group led by Gordon Marsden and in the Riigikogu there is a UK friendship group led by Yoko Alender. Several Estonian and British political parties have close ties.