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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 11:10 GMT
Estonia opens Scottish consulate
The Baltic state wants to foster trade links
A consulate is being opened in Scotland by the Baltic republic of Estonia.

The government in Tallinn said the decision reflected the importance of the Scottish Parliament and a desire for sport, culture and business links.

Paisley-based businessman, Iain Lawson, will be the country's honorary consul. Mr Lawson is a former trade spokesman for the Scottish National Party.

Estonia won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and joins the European Union in May.

Since independence, Estonia has transformed itself from a Soviet colony to a modern Nordic economy.

Scotland is the place where we could really have much closer ties between cultural teams or sport teams and, of course, very much in business exchange
Kristiina Ojuland
Estonian foreign minister
Scottish business interests there already include an electronics factory, several bars and a Chinese restaurant.

Many of them involve Tartan Army foot soldiers who stayed on after two World Cup qualifying matches, one of them the notorious "game that never was" which lasted just three seconds after the Estonian team refused to turn up.

Chris McLean was one of the football fans who never made it home after following Scotland out in 1993.

"The Estonians have used the low base they started from in 1989, 1990, to their advantage," said Mr McLean.

"They've actually leapt ahead, rather than going through an intermediate stage of technology in terms of telephones, banking and so on, and just gone straight for the most modern, most up to date, the most computer literate society you will probably find anywhere in Europe."

Now the Estonian government has appointed Mr Lawson as honorary consul.

Tallinn street
Scots have settled and opened businesses in Estonia
"I think there is much greater opportunity for Scottish companies, particularly small and medium sized companies, who perhaps would find it difficult to open up overseas in France or Germany because of the scale of the country and the competition," he explained.

"It's much easier to do it here, a fraction of the cost and every bit as big rewards in the future."

The Estonian foreign minister, Kristiina Ojuland, told the BBC's Newsnight Scotland programme that the new consulate would forge better business, cultural and sporting links.

"Scotland is the place where we could really have much closer ties between cultural teams or sport teams and, of course, very much in business exchange," she said.

"Normally Estonia, as a small country with very few foreign policy resources, we use a lot of honorary consuls all around the world."

This summer there is to be a Scottish Week in the Estonian capital Tallinn.

BBC Scotland's Ken Macdonald
"Already Tallinn looks like a prosperous Nordic capital"

Country profile: Estonia
16 Nov 03  |  Country profiles

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