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Estonian President Visits Armenia

By Hrach Melkumian

Estonia’s President Arnold Ruutel met with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian in Yerevan Monday during an official visit which the two former Soviet republics hope will help to bolster their minuscule commercial contacts.

The two leaders said after their talks attended by senior government officials that they discussed ways of reviving bilateral economic ties that existed before the Soviet collapse. They presided over the opening session of an Estonian-Armenian business forum later in the day.

According to Armenian government figures, the volume of Armenian-Estonian trade has totaled a meager $1.5 million over the past four years. Ruutel, who had for years headed Soviet Estonia’s parliament before spearheading its independence drive in 1988, said his country’s recent accession to the European Union and Armenia’s inclusion in the EU’s New Neighborhood program should boost the commercial exchange.

“Estonia is very interested in developing cooperation with Armenia,” the 76-year-old president told a news conference. He also said Estonia is ready to share with Armenia its highly successful experience in the transition to democracy and a market economy.

The tiny Baltic state is the most economically developed in the former Soviet Union and is considered an established democracy in the West. None of the elections held there since the Soviet collapse have been marred by fraud reports — a sharp contrast with Armenia where chronic vote rigging is the principal source of political instability.

Estonia is also renowned for widespread use of information technology (IT) by its government agencies and business community. Over 90 percent of Estonians have access to the Internet, making their economy one of the most IT-oriented in Europe.

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