The messenger logo

Estonia and Georgia: The long-running history of support

By Inga Kakulia
Friday, May 17
On May 16, Presidents of Georgia and Estonia held a meeting followed by a joint press briefing. The two leaders shared their opinions and answered some of the questions from the journalists. The two sides again highlighted the special relationship and understanding that these two countries have had for a long time.

Majority of European Union Members have always supported Georgia’s aspirations towards the EU accession, but Estonia has always stood out as one of Georgia’s closest allies.

The Estonian nation has expressed its support not only with words of encouragement but with actions as well.

“We will never forget to mention the issue of the evil line among our partners, allies, and the people who are not so friendly to us,” said the president of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid during the briefing.

Perhaps partly because of the shared past and the similar foreign policy challenges, these two countries have managed to build a successful and beneficial bilateral relationship. Estonia had to undergo similar reforms and had to fight for its safety and integrity and with the same power as Georgia. But as was highlighted in the speech of the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonia had more time to implement to evolve and undergo the necessary reforms.During her speech, Kaljulaid also mentioned that Estonia had more favorable circumstances compared to Georgia. Mrs. Kaljulaid mentioned the 'evil line' separating Abkhazia and Samachablo from Georgia. But being a country that has undergone the Soviet rule and has experience living next to the unpredictable neighbor results in a better understanding between the two countries.

Estonia and Georgia cooperate closely in multiple fields, including different cultural exchange programs as well as trade, and development. The two countries cooperate in the field of defense, including military education. Estonia finances the study of Georgian representatives at the Baltic Defense College of Tartu. The Estonian side supports high-level defense course. Being one of the leading countries in cybersecurity in the EU and NATO, Estonia helps to raise Georgia’s cybersecurity capabilities by organizing training and consultations. Georgian and Estonian militaries participate in joint military exercises.

Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs annually grants scholarships for the students from Georgia for studies at the Technical University of Tallinn, Universities of Tartu and Tallinn. A number of Georgian students at the Estonian Universities are increasing every year.

The joint briefing highlighted a similar approach to international events in the two countries. It was evident during the joint press conference that two leaders had very similar perceptions on the situation of Georgia in the global context.

The conference mentioned that even with Estonia’s full support, Georgia can only be accepted in the EU if the value systems of Georgia meet as closely as possible. As said many times before, all the undergoing reforms designed to align Georgian legislation to the European Union one, should not be only focused on membership of the European Union. These reforms, first and foremost help Georgia to develop in the right direction and create a more orderly environment.

Georgia has been one of the priority countries of Estonian Development Cooperation since 2006. Central areas of Estonian-Georgian development are socio-economic development strategy, the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the Association Agenda, namely strengthening of democratic state structures and systems, improving the quality of education, support for entrepreneurship, as well as human rights, gender equality, ICT, environment protection, etc.

Estonia and Georgia have related histories. Both countries are small in size, regarding territory as well as population, which has further strengthened the understanding of our mutual challenges and aspirations.

Estonia has been prepared to share its reform experiences through development cooperation projects. Georgia has been and will remain the recipient of the largest portion of Estonia’s bilateral aid and one of the development cooperation priority countries, along with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and Afghanistan. Many development cooperation projects have been carried out or are currently developing—some worthy of highlight are the training of Georgian police officers, state officials, young diplomats and college students, the reform of vocational education, and projects improving the administrative capabilities of the state.

The close cooperation with Estonia is a tremendous and necessary support Georgia needs on its way to becoming a fully European state. However, this type of partnership also considers recognizing the areas where improvement is desirable. When sharing her recommendations, the President of Estonia mentioned the Venice Commission recommendations as well as the importance of holding transparent elections. But overall, the meeting maintained an approving undertone and served as a reassurance of strength of Georgian-Estonian relationship.