Poland and Estonia in the 1990s
Estonia and Poland are linked through centuries-long good relations, sympathies and numerous mutual interests, which with their rises and setbacks have by today created not only a very good basis for cooperation on a new level (European Union and NATO), but also, already during the less than ten years that have passed since the reestablishment of Estonia’s independence Poland has become one of our most important partners.
Poland is the closest friendly great power to Estonia and also one of the most important countries in the Baltic Sea region. This determines also its position in Estonia’s foreign policy. The present status of our relations is characterised by the words of the Polish Foreign Minister Bartoszewski “Nothing separates us, but everything binds us!”
In the 19th century, the University of Tartu was one of the most important centres where Poles came to receive their education. In the final years of World War I, the two peoples were bound by a common fight to protect their independence (on two occasions their armies met in Latvia). Cooperation was also close between the two wars. The two peoples are also bound by the tragic fate dictated by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact – both were victims of Stalin’s and Hitler’s policies that had disastrous consequences for the two nations. A binding factor is also the Estonians’ recognition of the Poles as an important factor in breaking up the red empire. In 1991, Poland was one of the first to re-establish relations with Estonia already on 26 August. Agreements concluded between the two countries cover practically all the important areas needed for communication. Especially dynamic has been the development of trade, growing 4.5 times in the last five years. With 1439 million kroons of turnover last year, Poland has become our biggest economic partner in the post-communist Central Europe. The biggest problems for Estonia are a high import surplus and also some export restrictions that Poland has retained after the concluding of the free trade agreement. Fortunately, they have started to quickly disappear. Transport links between the two countries are unfortunately rather modest, although Poland is Estonia’s window to Europe on the European mainland. Good relations are also characterised by fairly frequent mutual visits, beginning from the national level with recurrent presidential meetings and ending with close cooperation between many state agencies. Yet, there is much room for development in the scientific, cultural and tourism cooperation.
Ago Vilo, born 1933, geotechnology engineer 1957, St Petersburg Mining Institute. Work: chief specialist at the Estonian Industrial Project Company and the Institute of Construction Research 1957-91, 1969-94 visiting lecturer at the University of Tartu, 1991-99 adviser for Central European policy issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, political observer and foreign commentator since 1961 (mainly for the Estonian Radio). Affiliation: chairman of the Czech Society, member of the Board of the Eurorail Association (Helsinki), honorary member of the Estonian Geotechnology Association, Union of Estonian Construction Engineers, Association of Estonians Abroad, (no affiliation with any political parties).