TALLINN - Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said he believed that Estonia might reach the average EU wealth level in 2020, and that the Baltic states are providing the Nordic countries with a solid base for their business evolvement and expansion into other countries.
Bildt and former Estonian President Lennart Meri were the main speakers at a Helsinki seminar focusing on the Baltics' EU membership that was organized by the Finnish training and consulting firm Rastor and the RoschierRaidla law firm.
"Estonia will achieve the European Union's average per capita gross domestic product at the beginning of 2040 at the latest," said Meri. "Since the economic collapse experienced in the early years of independence, Estonia has embarked on a solid growth path, and this has given the Estonians strong self-confidence."
Meri also had some practical advice. "We still have to work harder than people in Western Europe. We will also need foreign investments for a long time to come since we don't have the necessary domestic capital to support growth," he said.
Bildt was more optimistic, calling the Baltic states "European tigers" and recalling that Ireland was the EU's poorest country when it joined in 1972, with per capita GDP at 70 percent of the EU average. As Bildt pointed out, now Ireland ranks second in the EU in terms of wealth and has a GDP per capita exceeding the EU average by 30 percent.
Bildt said Estonia and the other Baltic states were a case in point for EU members with their tax policy. Estonia served as an example for Slovakia when the latter lowered income and capital tax to 19 percent last year, said the former Swedish prime minister.
Bildt named the overcoming of corruption and bureaucracy, the naturalization of Russian-speaking residents and the strengthening of political and economic ties with Russia as the main challenges for the Baltic states.