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France - Relations



France recognised Estonia on 26 January 1921. The cornerstone of Estonia-France relations is France’s recognition of the Republic of Estonia’s legal standing—they never recognised the Soviet Union’s occupation of Estonia. France re-stated its recognition on 25 August 1991 on the occasion of Estonia’s re-independence. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 30 August, 1991.

Bilateral political relations between Estonia and France are good and traditionally active. Regular and effective dialogue takes place between the two countries.

French Ambassadors to Estonia

1991-1994 Jacques Hunzinger
1994-1998 Jacques Faure
1998-2002 Jean-Jacques Subrenat
2002-2006 Chantal de Ghaisne de Bourmont
2006-2009 Daniel Labrosse
2009-2013 Frédéric Billet
2013-2016 Michel Raineri

Since September 2016 Claudia Delmas-Scherer is the French ambassador to Estonia.

The first Estonian ambassador (initially bearer) in France was Karl Robert Pusta from 1918/1921 – 1932.

Estonian Ambassadors to France following re-independence
1993-1997 Andres Tomasberg
1998-2001 Ruth Lausma-Luik
2002-2006 Andres Talvik
2006-2010 Margus Rava
2010-2015 Sven Jürgenson

Estonian Ambassador Alar Streimann presented his credentials to the President of the Republic of France, François Hollande, on 8 September 2015.

On 13 February 2007, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet with the participation of Mrs Catherine Colonna, French Minister for European Affairs, opened the new Estonian Embassy building at 17 rue de la Baume, Paris 75008.

Estonia has seven honorary consuls in France: Hugues Pouzet in Lyon, Hélène Berdoy-Mayer in Toulouse, Laurence Charbonnier in Nancy, Nathalie Vidal in Lille, Christian de Barillon in Bordeaux, Christian Guellerin in Nantes, and Dominique Angles in Marseille.

The Estonia-France parliamentary group in the Riigikogu has 11 members and is chaired by Andres Herkel. The Estonia-France friendship group in the French National Assembly is led by Jean-Claude Perez and the French-Baltic friendship group in the Senate is led by Jean-Marie Bockel.


To France
November 2018 President Kersti Kaljulaid participating in 100th anniversary of World War I Armistice ceremony and in the opening ceremony of Paris Peace Forum
December 2017 Minister of Culture Indrek Saar opening the Loov Kultuur exhibition at the Cité de la Mode et du Design centre in Paris
June 2017 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and sharing best practices with MEDEF representatives
January 2017 Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski meeting with French minister of Labour Myriam El Khormi and participating in OECD Health Ministerial 2017
December 2016 President Kersti Kaljulaid, meeting with French President François Hollande and participating in the Open Government Partnership Global Summit
November 2016 Foreign Minister Jürgen Ligi participating in Conference dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Baltic States and France
June 2016 Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand
May 2016 Minister of Culture Indrek Saar participating in the opening ceremony for the Estonian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg
May 2016 Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso, meeting with French Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian
January 2016 Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir
December 2015 Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants participating in Paris Climate Conference
November 2015 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas representing Estonia at the Climate Conference in Paris
February 2015 Minister of Foreign Trade and Entrepreneurship Anne Sulling at the signing of the Accession Agreement to the ESA Convention
December 2014 Minister of Culture Urve Tiidus opening the Estonian cultural festival in Nantes "eLU-Vivre l'Estonie à Nantes"
July 2014 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
April 2013 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, meeting with the president of the French National Assembly Claude Bartolone.
January 2013 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, meeting with French President François Hollande
December 2011 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
November 2011 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
October 2011 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
October 2011 Minister of Culture Rein Lang opening the Estonian cultural festival in Paris
September 2011 Minister of Defence Mart Laar at the signing of the bilateral defence co-operation agreement
September 2010 Minister of Culture Laine Jänes
September 2010 Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma at the signing of the co-operation agreement between the European Space Agency and Estonia
May 2010 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip in Paris, meeting with French Prime Minister François Fillon
February 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the opening of the honorary consulate in Bordeaux
September 2009 Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma at the colloquium in the French Senate celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way
February 2009 Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma at a meeting of speakers of EU member states
To Estonia
September 2017 President Emmanuel Macron participating in the EU Digital Summit in Tallinn
June 2017 Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
May 2016 Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire
May 2016 Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir participating in the Lennart Meri Conference
March 2015 Minister of Finance Michel Sapin
March 2014 Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian
October 2013 Minister Delegate with responsibility for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Innovation and the Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin
September 2012 Minister for European Affairs Bernard Cazeneuve
June 2011 Minister for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez
January 2011 Secretary of State for Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry Pierre Lellouche at the signing of the agreement between Alstom and Eesti Energia
April 2010 French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn
February 2010 Secretary of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche
June 2008 Minister of Energy Jean-Louis Borloo
May 2008 Prime Minister François Fillon
May 2008 Secretary of State for Defence and Veterans Jean-Marie Bockel
March 2008 Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier
November 2007 Minister of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet
June 2006 President of the Senate Christian Poncelet


The more important agreements signed by the two countries are as follows:

  • Agreement on Mutual Understanding, Friendship and Co-operation (came into force 27.04.95);
  • Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investments (came into force 25.09.95);
  • Agreement on Abolishment of Visa Requirements (came into force 01.03.99);
  • Agreement on Readmission of Persons (came into force 15.04.99);
  • Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (came into force 01.05.01);
  • Agreement on the Status and Activities of Cultural Institutes (came into force 01.04.05).
  • Agreement on the Exchange of Young Specialists (signed 31.03.2006)
  • Agreement on visa representation between the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of France (came into force 01.09.2009)
  • Co-operation agreement between the Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) and the French Network and Information Security Agency (ANSSI) (came into force 9 November 2010)
  • Bilateral defence co-operation agreement (came into force 1 January 2012)

Economic Relations

The economic relations between France and Estonia are developing stably. Estonia is known in France as an IT oriented country with a liberal system of economy.

The introduction of Estonia as a tourist destination has become a tradition in France.  Estonian businesses also participate in French trade and industry fairs. Press visits have also become regular events, and as a result many articles introducing Estonia and especially Tallinn as beautiful places to visit have been published. An IT-themed visit by French economic journalists to Estonia took place in December 2012.

French entrepreneurs are primarily interested in Estonia’s investment climate and the process of starting a new enterprise in the sectors of wooden houses, wood pellets, metal constructions, furniture and car service.

Former Estonian honorary consul in Lyon, Serge Arnould, has successfully launched the business portal Business Club ( Around a hundred businesses are members of the site, which aims to help French and Estonian businesses that are interested in trade to contact each other.


Estonia-France trade from 2007-2014 (in millions of euros):

Year Export Import
2007 108.1 230.9
2008 115 220.6
2009 149.5 186.8
2010 214.7 164.4
2011 315.5 210.1
2012 168.4 247
2013 194,9 264,9
2014 200,4 262,2

All economic figures originate from the Statistics Estonia

In 2012, as well as in 2013, France was Estonia’s 16th trade partner with 1.6% and 1.8% of trade respectively (the volume of trade turnover was 415.4 and 459.8 million euros).

In 2014, France remained ranked as Estonia' 16th trade partner (1.8% of total trade), trade decreased slightly, yet reached 462,6 million euros. Estonia's export grew slightly and imports from France decreased. France was ranked as Estonia's 14th export and 13th import partner.

Main articles of export in 2014:

  • Machinery and equipment (telephones, electrical circuits, circuit breakers, insulated wire, electric motors) – 23.3%
  • Wood and wood products  (wooden goods by carpenters and cabinet-makers) – 15.1%
  • Other manufactured goods (bedroom furniture accessories, wooden houses, furniture) – 14.7%
  • Vehicles and transportation – 14.2%
  • Pulp paper (and products made thereof) – 7.7%
  • Live animals and animal products – 6.5%
  • Chemical products (compounds of rare earth metals and metals) – 5.2%).

Main articles of import in 2014:

  • Machinery and equipment (telephones, electrical circuits) – 21.35%
  • Prepared foods and beverages (strong alcohol, wine, chocolate) – 18.4%
  • Transportation vehicles (cars, motor vehicles) – 14.8%
  • Textiles and textile products – 9.4%
  • Chemical products (insecticides, rodenticides, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, perfumes and eau de toilettes) – 9%
  • Metals and metal products – 5.3%
  • Plastic and products made of plastic – 4.6%



According to Bank of Estonia data, as of 31 December 2014 France was 17th among Estonia’s foreign investors (with 111.4 million euros or 0.7% of investments). Compared to the same period in 2013, France's direct investments, as well as their shares in Estonia had decreased (in figures 179 million euros and 1.18% comparibly, a decrease of 1,6 times in 2014).

The companies in Estonia with the greatest French participation are Levira AS, Saint-Gobain Ehitustooted AS, Eolane Tallinna AS (the French electronics group Éolane acquired Elcoteq in February 2012), Antalis (wholesale trade), OÜ Baltikit (wood products), DPD Eesti (postal and delivery services), and Pernod Ricard Estonia (alcohol wholesale).

Estonia's direct investments to France grew in 2014, totalling 57.3 million euros as of 31.12.2014, (1.1% share of all of Estonia’s direct investments abroad), which resulted in a ranking of 13th place among countries with Estonian investments. (In 2013, this was 24.6 million euros, 0.5% of Estonia's total investments abroad, i.e. a growth x 2 in 2014.)

The year 2010 was especially productive for economic relations: the agreement between Alstom and Eesti Energia regarding the construction of two new combustible shale plants in Narva was signed; the agreement between Eesti Energia and the French company Constructions Industrielles De La Mediterranee (CNIM) to construct the new WTE CHP plant in Iru was carried out; and Nexans Norway AS won the procurement to build the Estlink2 cable.


According to Statistics Estonia, the number of accommodated tourists from France was greater in 2014 than in 2013 – 24,058 and 22,780 respectively. Most French tourists stayed in Tallinn (18,691 in 2014 and 17,786 in 2013). In addition to Tallinn, tourists from France were also most interested in Tartu and Pärnu counties.

Defence co-operation

In addition to framework agreements and intensive co-operation in NATO and in the area of European Union security and defence policy, there is also an intergovernmental defence co-operation agreement between Estonia and France (prior to this agreement there was a co-operation agreement between the ministries of defence), which was signed by Minister of Defence Mart Laar during his visit in September 2011.

France has participated in NATO-organised air policing of the Baltic nations on four occasions, being one of the most important supporters of the mission. France’s last rotation guarding Baltic airspace was from May-August 2013.

France participates in all important defence assistance projects such as BALTRON and BALTSEA and also supports language training in the Estonian Defence Forces. France is also one of Estonia’s most important procurement partners.

Within the framework of the European Union's naval operation ATALANTA, an Estonian vessel protection detachment has served on a number of different French ships, most recently from February to May 2013. The co-operation has been very successful. Estonia regularly holds various consultations with France on security policy issues.

Since 2013, Estonian and French defense forces are in contact on the EU training mission in Mali, where in 2015, Estonia will be able to contribute up to 10 soldiers on active duty to the EU training mission (EUTM) and the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA).

Co-operation in the framework of EU missions has strengthened in 2014, as since mid-May, an Estonian contingent of around 50 men was operating in Bangui, Central African Republic as part of EUFOR RCA. The group had a mandate to stay in the area of operations until August 31, 2014.

Co-operation between ministries of internal affairs

The first contacts between the French and the Estonian Ministries of Internal Affairs were made in 1997. Within a framework of co-operation the police, the Border Guard, the Citizenship and Migration Board and the Rescue Board have had many joint training projects with their French counterparts. Every year Estonian police officers have had the opportunity to study at the French police academy. The Border Guard has good contacts with the maritime gendarmerie and with the frontier police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has received French technology products from the Group SAGEM, such as a finger print digital search system for the central criminal police and monitors (motion transducers) from Thomson-CSF to be used on Estonia's eastern frontier. Co-operation is also conducted in working out personal identification documents as well as in ascertaining false documents.

Good co-operation takes place in solving applications for legal assistance, as well as in arranging training, for instance training for special units.

Consular co-operation

According to the bilateral visa representation treaty, which came into force on 1 September 2009, France represents Estonia in visa questions in 18 countries, this being the highest number among countries representing Estonia. The agreement is applied to the processing of short-term Schengen visa applications.

Agriculture co-operation

The interest of the Estonian agricultural sector towards the French market is growing constantly. More and more Estonian entrepreneurs have been present at the major agricultural fairs. Representatives of the Estonian Ministry of Agriculture are regularly present at the SIAL fair (Salon international de l’agroalimentaire, an international agricultural foodstuffs fair) and the SIA agricultural fair meant for the wider public.

Co-operation in the field of research and technology

In March 2011 Estonian Minister of Research and Education Tõnis Lukas and French Ambassador to Estonia Frédéric Billet signed an administrative agreement. The French-Estonian Hubert Curien (G.F. Parrot) partnership created with the agreement will provide funding for two years for the research projects of French and Estonian researchers, support co-operation between the research teams of both countries, and allow researchers to join the other country’s research team, all through systematic bilateral funding. This kind of co-operation has been taking place for short-term cycles since 2002.

Language instruction

Through the French Institute, France supports the teaching of the French language in Estonia. In 1998 the French Embassy and the French Cultural and Language Co-operation Centre began a French-language training programme for state officials. In 1999 this programme was the basis for an agreement signed by the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the French-speaking community of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. From 2010 to May 30th 2012, the programme as funded solely by France. Thanks to the aforementioned agreement close to 4,000 Estonian state officials have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn the French language and culture.

There is also close co-operation with many Estonian schools in the area of teaching French.

Cultural Relations

Cultural co-operation between the two countries is very active. Estonia culture in France is represented by a cultural counsellor that has worked at the embassy since the beginning of 2007; from 2001-2008 a branch of the Estonian Institute also operated in Paris. Active co-operation partners in carrying out Estonian cultural events are the Finnish and Hungarian cultural institutes in Paris. At the local level, there are numerous friendship societies who participate in the regular arrangement of events introducing Estonia. Good partners in presenting Estonian culture are twin towns: Võru’s twin town Chambrey-les Tours, Saue’s twin town Quincy-Sous-Sénart,  and Maardu’s twin town Seyne-sur-Mer, as well as the Estonian honorary consuls in France. In 2012 a friendship town agreement was concluded between the Tallinn centre city government and the town of Carcassonne in southern France.

The major event of 2011 was the biggest Estonian cultural festival ever to be held in Paris and the surrounding areas, Estonie Tonique. Over the course of two months over 200 performers went to France and nearly 50 events took place: concerts, exhibitions, theatrical performances, screenings of films, literary evenings, and conferences. The festival was organised by the Estonian and French cultural and foreign ministries and events were carried out by the French Institute in Paris and the Estonian Embassy in Paris.

Within the framework of the festival French Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand presented Arvo Pärt with France's highest order, the Legion of Honour.
In January 2012 French Ambassador to Estonia Frédéric Billet recognised the people who have promoted Estonia-France cultural relations. The French Order of Arts and Literature (l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres) was given to composer Helena Tulve, artistic director of the singing group Vox Clamantis Jaan-Eik Tulve, and the Estonian co-ordinator of the Estonie Tonique festival, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture Ragnar Siil. The order was also given to film director Ilmar Raag, stage director (and French language teacher) Lembit Peterson, conductor of the Orchestre de Paris Paavo Järvi, and cultural counsellor of the Estonian Embassy in Paris Kersti Kirs.

Of the more complex and large-scale cultural events that took place in 2013, the festival De Tallinn à Carcassonne, the Baltic Year in Marly-le-Roi, and Estonia’s first-time participation (in photography and dance) at the Jeux de la Francophonie in Nice are certainly worth mentioning.

The festival De Tallinn à Carcassonne consisted of an architecture workshop, a morning of Estonian fairy tales with Lembe Lokk and Jean Christophe Onno, the architecture exhibition 50 Houses, the opening of the art exhibition Murmure, a morning of Estonian literature with French translators, the signing of a co-operation agreement between Carcassonne and Tallinn Centre City government, and also of a film programme in the cinema “Le Collisée” (the Mirjams series, Singing Revolution, A Lady in Paris, Autumn Ball, The Class and Priit Pärn films were screened).

During the Balitc Year in Marly-le-Roi, an exhibition of the work of Kaia Kiik and Aire Goutt-Allikmets was opened at the city library, a Baltic Midsummer Night celebration was held with the band Ska Faktor, a Baltic Christmas was celebrated with a play by the Viljandi Puppet Theatre and a screening of Ladybirds’ Christmas.


Estonian musicians have been highly appreciated in France for years (primarily Pärt, Tüür, Tormis) and their works have been included in the repertoire of numerous French orchestras and choirs. The renowned orchestras of Paris are regularly conducted by Kristjan and Paavo Järvi. The latter’s contract as the music director of the Orchestre de Paris has been extended until 2016. Conductor Vello Pähn has regularly conducted ballets of the Opéra Garnier for the last 25 years. Vox Clamantis and Neeme Järvi have been special guests of the renowned music festival La Folle journée de Nantes many times. The blues band from Tartu, Bullfrog Brown, has performed twice at the Beauvais blues festival. Pianist Tatiana Smelova and violinist Kirsti Kuusk are working as musicians in France. Many young people are also studying in conservatories in France.

Ewert and the Two Dragons’ album “Good Man Down” was released in January 2012 by the Bordeaux record company Talitres. The band proved very popular both with fans and in the media. During the year the group has many tours planned that include performances at France’s biggest rock festivals like Printemps de Bourges, Europavox, and Fnac Live.

In 2013, the solo artist Pastacas held a concert in Paris and the Jaak Lutsoja Quintet was featured at the Jazz sur la Ville Festival in Marseille and Jazzycolors Festival in Paris.


Over the years, Estonian literature and poetry have been translated into French thanks to a small number of devoted translators such as Antoine Chalvin, Jean-Luc Moreau, Jean-Pascal Ollivry, Eva Toulouze, and others. In 2004, the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg was published in Antoine Chalvin’s translation. Among others, works by Tõnu Õnnepalu, Jaan Krossi, Jaan Kaplinski, Viivi Luige, Arvo Valtoni and Karl Ristikivi have been translated into French. Between 2008 and 2010 the publisher Gaia released all five volumes of Tammsaare’s Truth and Justice.

 In 2010 the novel Un roman estonien (Estonian novel), written in French by young Estonian writer Katrina Kalda, was published by Gallimard. The same publisher released French writer Richard Millet’s travelogue Notes sur l’Estonie in 2011.

The French translation of Sofi Oksanen’s Purge, published by Stock, won the renowned French literature award Prix Femina étranger in 2010. In 2011 the same publishing house released Sofi Oksanen’s Stalin’s Cows.

Andrus Kivirähk’s novel Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu was translated into French in 2013 and subsequently won the prestigious Le Grand Prix del’Imaginaire for fantasy literature. Kivirähk also met readers in Paris, Strasbourg and Auxerre.

Indrek Hargla’s Apteeker Melchior ja Oleviste Mõistatus was also translated into French in 2013 and prompted a visit to Estonia by French journalists.

Also in 2013, Sofi Oksanen went on a book tour for the publication of her novel Kui tuvid kadusid in French and Occitan, Indrek Hargla and Katrina Kalda participated in the Les Boréales festival of Nordic culture, and children’s author Piret Raud met readers at the Montreuil fair of children’s books (Natuke napakad lood and Teistmoodi printsessi lood were published in 2013).


Estonian film has been regularly represented at the biggest film festivals like the Annecy Animated Film Festival, Rouen Nordic Film Festival, Clermond-Ferrand short film festival, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and many others. In 2004 Ilmar Raag’s film “Class” won the Grand Prix at the Paris festival “Les 4 ecrans”; in 2011 Anu Aun’s short film “The Shift” won the title of best foreign short film at the Paris Courts Devant international festival and the special jury prize at the Aye-Aye Film Festival Nancy-Lorraine.

In 2012 Estonian film had more representation than ever before at the Cannes film festival thanks to the 100th anniversary of Estonian film. The creation of the Estonian Film Commission, which plans to market Estonia as a filming location to foreign producers, was also celebrated.
In the fall of 2012 Ilmar Raag’s new feature film, a joint project of Estonia, France and Belgium, will hit cinemas. The film is entitled “Une estonienne á Paris” (“An Estonian Girl in Paris”) and the lead role is filled by legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau.

In 2013, Ilmar Raag’s film Kertu was screened at the international Arras Film Festival, where it won the audience prize. There was also a retrospective of Priit Pärn’s films held in Paris at Le Forum des Images, in conjuction with the issuing of his films on DVD.

Art and Photography

Starting with Eduard Wiiralt, many Estonian artists have studied or made their home in France: sculptor Maire Männik studied at both the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the École des Beaux-Arts and executed her best works in France, and later many artists (Urmo Raus, Aili Vahtrapuu, etc.) also studied in France. Artists who are working in France today are Rein Tammik, Kaia Kiik and Aire Goutt-Allikmets, Irina Bellaye, and Helina Rääk.

Over the past few years Estonia’s older and contemporary art, photography, jewellery and video artr and design have been introduced in many cities throughout France (Rennes, Lille, St. Brieuc, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Caen, Paris, Tours, Toulouse, and many others).


During the last few years many important exhibits of French art and architecture have taken place in Estonia, and along with them meetings of artists, critics and curators. In the architectural field, the closest co-operation takes place with the French within the framework of organising Europan – an architectural competition for young European architects. Within the framework of the Estonia Days that took place in Strasbourg in March 2012, a lecture on contemporary Estonian architecture was held at the architecture school in Strasbourg and the exhibit 50 Houses was displayed. In the summer of 2011 a group of architecture journalists visited Estonia, as a result of which articles about contemporary Estonian architecture were published in the magazine D’A and A Nous Paris and wider interest towards Estonian architecture was sparked.


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