TALLINN - While many Estonians still enjoy the old joke that it's pointless to go to Helsinki since all the Finns are already in Tallinn, top businessmen and politicians looking into the crystal ball of Tallinn's future agree that in a couple of decades the Finno-Ugric capitals would benefit from a closer economic and administrative relationship.
Dubbed "Talsinki" years ago, the imagined union of the 400,000-resident Tallinn and 550,000-strong Helsinki, divided by a 80-kilometer strip of the Gulf of Finland, could eventually become a reality as the two cities' public transport and even public administrations are gradually united into one.
Such ideas were shared by Estonian visionaries - top politicians and businesspeople - at a conference in Tallinn on Oct. 18. As usual, the idea to connect Tallinn and Helsinki by a tunnel was aired, along with a concept of a dual-public transportation ticket system for both cities.
Edgar Savisaar, the ousted mayor who spoke at the conference, said that within a decade the two cities may have one administrative unit and that possibly later even a single legislative authority. He suggested that Tallinn and Helsinki could become a twin-city like Denmark's Copenhagen and Sweden's Malmo.
Savisaar also suggested bringing more Finnish language to the streets of Tallinn, such as incorporating street names in two languages.
Indrek Neivelt, head of the Hansabank Group, the largest financial group in the Baltics, said that it was the Finns who turned Tallinn into the fastest growing city in the region and suggested that a monument to Finnish tourists in Tallinn's passenger port would be justified.
According to Tallinn Deputy Mayor Peep Aaviksoo, the 150-hectare land plot in the passenger port area to be developed into a new residential, office, leisure and retail space district, could attract pensioners from the Scandinavian countries to Tallinn. He said that the new district could provide residential area and jobs to thousands of people.
More skeptically minded conference participants, such as head of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Toomas Luman, pointed out that Tallinn still remains the leisure destination for the Scandinavian tourists and that Riga still holds the honorary position of the Baltics' business center.