Estonia and Turkey


Turkey recognised the Republic of Estonia on 23 January 1924. Prior to the Second World War the Turkish ambassador was Nuri Batu, who presented his credentials on 19 September 1935. At the time there were only nine residing ambassadors in Tallinn, and Turkey had only 20 embassies around the world.

After the restoration of Estonia's independence, diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 23 October 1991. Turkey never recognised the Soviet occupation of Estonia. Turkey accredited its first ambassador to Estonia, residing in Vilnius, in 1992. On 1 October 2001 Turkey opened its embassy in Tallinn. In the period 2001 - 2005 Turkey's ambassador to Estonia was Ömer Altuğ – the first Turkish ambassador to reside in Estonia. From 15 December 2005 – 14 April 2009 the ambassador was Fatma Şule Soysal. The new Turkish Ambassador to Estonia is Mrs. Aysenur Alpaslan, who presented her credentials to President Ilves on 29 October 2009.

In June 1996 Sven Jürgenson became Estonia's first ambassador to Turkey after the restoration of independence; he resided in Tallinn. In February 2001, the Estonian Embassy in Ankara was opened. The current Estonian Ambassador Aivo Orav presented his credentials to Turkish President Abdullah Gül on 8 September 2008.

Estonia has three honorary consulates in Turkey. The first was opened on 2 August 2001 in Istanbul (the jurisdiction includes the Marmara region), where Tuncay Özilhan is in office. The second was opened on 4 October 2002 in the seaside resort Antalya, where the honorary consul is Ethem Okudur. On 8 June 2010 Minister of Culture Laine Jänes opened the honorary consulate in the city of Bursa, where the honorary consul is Barış Kaya.

An Estonia-Turkey parliamentary group was formed in the X Riigikogu in June 2003; its chairman in the present Riigikogu is Evelyn Sepp. As of 19 May 2010, 20 Riigikogu members belonged to the group. In the Turkish National Assembly, there is a Turkey-Estonia parliamentary group led by Mrs. Özlem P. Türköne.


To Turkey
June 2010 President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Minister of Culture Laine Jänes in Istanbul for the world premier of Pärt’s new work “Adam’s Lament”
April 2010 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
December 2009 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
April 2009 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the UN Alliance of Civilisations meeting in Istanbul
March 2009 Vice-Speaker of the Riigikogu Kristiina Ojuland
November 2008 Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder
March 2008 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
July 2006 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline
April 2006 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
September 2005 President Arnold Rüütel
April 2004 Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland
August 2003 Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland
October 2001 Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves
To Estonia
February 2010 Minister of European Affairs Egemen Bagis
October 2008 President Abdullah Gül
July 2008 Foreign Minister Ali Babacan
December 2006 Head negotiator of Turkey’s EU negotiations and Minister of Economy Ali Babacan
September 2004 Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gül
August 2002 Defence Minister Sabahattin Çakmakoğlu
April 2002 President Ahmet Nezdet Sezer
June 2000 Foreign Minister Ismail Cem


In 1924 an Estonian-Turkish Treaty of Friendship was signed, which came into effect in 1927. Six more agreements were signed from 1929-1938 between Turkey and Estonia (for example, a trade and shipping agreement). To date, the two countries have entered into several agreements that have helped establish successful bilateral co-operation between Estonia and Turkey. The following lists the 15 agreements and prgrammes that are in effect between Estonia and Turkey:

  1. Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation (came into force 26.04.1995);
  2. Agreement on Trade and Economic Co-operation (came into force 15.02.1996);
  3. International Road Transport Agreement (came into force 15.02.1996);
  4. Agreement on Co-operation in the Field of Tourism (came into force 15.02.1996);
  5. Agreement Concerning the Mutual Abolition of Visa Requirements for Holders of Diplomatic Passports (came into force 14.02.1997);
  6. Agreement regarding Mutual Assistance between Customs Administrations (came into force 06.12.1998);
  7. Agreement Concerning the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (came into force 29.04.1999);
  8. Agreement on Co-operation in Culture, Education, Science and Sports (came into force 22.09.1999);
  9. Agreement on Co-operation in the Fight Against International Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, International Terrorism and Organised Crime (came into force 27.09.2000);
  10. Agreement on Defence (came into force 31.10.2002);
  11. Agreement for the Protection of Classified Information (came into force 27.01.2003);
  12. Agreement on Air Transport (came into force 27.09.2004);
  13. Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (came into force 21.02.2005)
  14. Co-operation program in the field of culture, education, research, youth and sports (came into force 28.11.2005)
  15. Agreement for the waiving of visa requirements for holders of Estonian passports (came into force 12.07.2008)

Mutual co-operation

The relations between Estonia and Turkey are very good and are developing stably. Continuous progress in political, defence, economic and cultural co-operation is essential to Estonia. Mutual understanding between Estonia and Turkey is enhanced by a geo-strategic similarity, similar positions on most international issues and constructive co-operation in international organisations.

Good and close relations with Turkey continued in 2010. Many important visits took place. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves even visited Turkey on two occasions. During the official visit that took place from 15-18 April, President Ilves met with President Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan, and Speaker of the Grand National Assembly Şahin. The president also gave a lecture at Bilkent University in Ankara entitled “Turkey and Estonia – Yesterday, today and tomorrow”. The president’s second visit was for the world premiere of the musical work by A. Pärt. There were many important events held before and after the concert: a bilateral meeting of the Estonian and Turkish presidents, a meeting of the ministers of culture, and a meeting of the mayors of Tallinn and Istanbul.

From 24-27 May members of the Riigikogu Constitutional Committee visited Ankara. This was the first visit of its kind to Turkey. The group met with chairman of the Constitutional Committee B. Kuzu, chairman of the Human Rights Committee Üskül, and chairwoman of the Equal Right Committee Akşiti.

Regular consultations have taken place between the foreign ministries of the two countries. On 17 March 2010 consultations on security policy between the foeign ministries took place in Tallinn. Turkey-Estonia consular consultations took place on 29 January 2010 in Tallinn. On 8 February 2010, trilateral political consultations between Estonia, Finland and Turkey took place in Ankara.

Economic relations


Economic relations between Estonia and Turkey are good with stable development. Particularly rapid development occurred in trade with Turkey in the years 2004-2006 after Estonia’s accession to the European Union. In 2010 Turkey was Estonia’s 22nd trade partner in terms of total turnover (with 0.7% of total trade). Among export nations Turkey ranked in the 17th position (with 1.1% of exports) and as a sender of imports Turkey rose in the ranking to 26th place (with 0.4%). Compared with 2009, Estonia’s trade with Turkey increased by about 60% in 2010, with export increasing by 70%. Imports from Turkey increased by 35% in 2010. The trade balance with Turkey remained positive.

Trade with Turkey 2006–2010 (in million EUR)

  Export Import Balance
2006 82,8 62,2 20.0
2007 102,7 53,7 49.0
2008 154,4 42,1 112.0
2009 58,4 24,2 34.2
2010 99,8 32,6 67.2

Source: Estonian Statistical Office

Main export articles in 2010:

  • Metals and metal products - 82%
  • Fur and fur products – 7.1%
  • Livestock and animal products – 3.4%
  • Chemical products - 2%
  • Wood products – 1.5%

Main import articles in 2010:

  • Textiles and textile products - 42.8%
  • Machinery and equipment - 16.1%
  • Metals and metal products - 7.8%
  • Pearls, precious stones and jewellery - 5.2%
  • Products of stone, gypsum, etc. – 3%

Compared with 2009 there were relatively few changes in the groups in 2009. Among export articles, livestock and animal products grew in significance.


Turkish investments in Estonia as well as Estonian investments in Turkey have so far been small. According to the Bank of Estonia, as of 31.12.2010 Turkey had made 1 432 million EUR worth of direct investments in Estonia (about 0.01% of all direct investments in Estonia) and Estonian investments in Turkey totalled 2 486 million EUR (0.05% of Estonia’s direct investments abroad). Turkish investments in Estonia were primarily made in transport and storage and in the wholesale and retail trade sector. In both 2009 and 2010 most of Estonia’s investments in Turkey were made in wholesale and retail trade as well as real estate, rental and business activity.

As of 1 April 2010, the Estonian Enterprises Register reported that there are 12 enterprises with Turkish participation registered in Estonia (same number as in February of 2009), seven of which are 100% based on Turkish capital (in February 2009 it was three). The Turkish sweets manufacturer Güllüoğlu entered the Estonian market and opened their shop in Tallinn in November of 2009.


In the period preceding Estonia’s accession to the European Union the number of Turkish tourists visiting Estonia grew from year to year but remained relatively small. Interest towards Estonia has grown after EU membership. As for the number of tourists staying overnight, Turkey is still among European countries with a smaller share: in 2007 980 tourists from Turkey spent the night in Estonian accommodation establishments, in 2008 it was 2 861, and in 2009 2 745 tourists stayed overnight in Estonia, with the number of overnight stays per year 2 779, 5 877 and 6 332 respectively. In 2009 the number of Turkish tourists that visited Estonia declined slightly, but their stays were longer compared to 2008. The majority of Turkish tourists stay in Tallinn. However, statistics show that compared with 2008, the number of Turkish residents served by Estonian travel agencies in 2009 decreased significantly.

For Estonians Turkey is significantly more popular as a travel destination, due to Turkey’s geographic location and warm climate. In 2007 20 320 Estonian tourists and in 2008 22 003 tourists visited Turkey with the help of travel agencies. In 2009 Estonian travel agencies sent 27 384 Estonians to Turkey. Compared with 2008, the number of travellers increased in 2009, but the average length of the trip was shorter.
Many Estonians also travel to Turkey independently, or with travel companies based in other countries.

From 29-30 September a delegation from the Düzenli region of Turkey came to Tallinn in order to become acquainted with business opportunities in Estonia. A seminar took place at the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the group also met with Enterprise Estonia and visited the ICT Demo Centre. There are plans to o

Culture and education

A Culture, Education, Science and Sports Agreement was signed in 1994 and came into force in September 1999. The agreement is the foundation for co-operation between the two countries in these fields.

Primarily, the writers/translators Ly Seppel, Andres Ehin and Ain Kaalep have fostered the publishing of Turkish literature in Estonia. The publication of Turkey's most famous contemporary prose writer Yaşar Kemal's "To Kill the Snake" and the Turkish 20th century collection of poetry "The Night of the Stag" received a contribution from the Turkish Embassy. In 1999, the periodical "Akadeemia" dedicated a special issue to Turkey.

Turkish has been taught at the University of Tartu since 1993. In 1998, on the initiative of the Turkish Ambassador Erkan Gezer, a Turkish-language section was opened at the University of Tartu. It was financed by the Embassy, who also looked for a lecturer. An agreement is being prepared between the University of Tartu and Bilkent University in which an emphasis will be put on the exchange of students, scientists and lecturers.

In 2000, President Lennart Meri recognized the work of the rector of Bilkent University, Professor Ihsan Doğramacı, awarding him the Cross of Terra Mariana.

Turkish has been offered at the Tallinn University since 1993. In 1997, President Süleyman Demirel inaugurated the Tallinn University's Turkish-language section, whose costs were covered by the Turkish Embassy. The same year the university’s Oriental Centre was opened, where Turkish and related languages are taught. Visitors to the centre can also familiarise themselves with Turkish culture and history. The year 2000 saw the start of an Oriental bachelor with Turkish as the main subject. The Turkish Culture Society is also based at Tallinn University, founded in 1995 by Ly Seppel, Andres Ehin et al.

From 24.04 to 17.05.2006 in Tallinn, Turkish cultural days took place on the initiative of the Turkish Embassy and Turkey-Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania Friendship Association. In the framework thereof, a gala dinner along with Ayla Eryüksel’s fashion show “3H. The Journey of Women’s Fashion from the Hittites to Present" was arranged, in addition an exhibition was unveiled in the National Library: "Living together: Memories of co-existence in the Ottoman and Turkish period". At the Estonia Concert Hall the sisters Ferhan ja Ferzan Önder performed a piano duo "1001 nights", and at the Estonia National Opera a concert of Sufi music and whirling dervishes took place. Also Anikya Iznik’s art of tiles and Hikmet Barutucugil's "Ebru" art (figurative marbled images on paper) were presented.
On 3 March 2008, Turkish Ambassador to Estonia Fatma Sule Sovsal and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet opened the exhibit “They Believed in Turkey” ("Nad uskusid Türgisse") in the National Library.
On 14 March 2008 Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip opened a comprehensive exhibit on Estonian design entitled “Design Comes to Visit” (“Disain tuleb külla”) in the Istanbul cultural and trade centre IstinyePark.

On 16 March 2008, the first ski marathon to be held in the Anatolian mountains in Gerede, Turkey took place. It was organised on the initiative of the Estonian Embassy and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip was among the participants.

On 28 April 2008, Turkish Ambassador Fatma Sule Sovsal opened a photo exhibit by the former Turkish diplomat Erkut Onart in the National Library entitled “Turkey – The land where nature, man and culture meet” ("Türgi - maa, kus kohtuvad loodus, inimene ja kultuur"). The author of the photos was also present at the opening.

On 11 June 2008 Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Ambassador Fatma Sule Sovsal opened the photo exhibit by Turkish diplomat Nur Sagman entitled “Happy Anniversary Year, Estonia!” ("Head juubeliaastat, Eesti!") in the National Library.
On 3 July 2008, during the International Paide Limestone Days, the world-famous Turkish military ensemble Mehter kicked off their Estonian tour in the centre square of Paide. They gave three concerts in Estonia.

On 22 September 2008 the exhibit “Turkish popular architecture in the Black Sea region” ("Türgi rahvalik arhitektuur musta mere piirkonnas"), which was compiled by the Milli Reasüran art gallery in Istanbul, was opened in the salt storeroom basement hall of Rotermanni.

On 9 October 2008 Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Turkish President Abdullah Gül opened an exhibit showing the relations between Estonia and Turkey in the National Library. The extensive history and document exhibit filled with photos and archival material was a comparative look back at the development of the independence of the two nations and the creation of joint diplomatic relations in 1924, when a friendship and co-operation agreement between Turkey and Estonia was signed. The exposition included political, economic and cultural relations, as well as Estonians in Turkeys and Turks in Estonia.

On 20 October 2008 the exhibit “Turkey’s colours and threads. Gönül Paksoy’s timeless clothing design” ("Türgi värvid ja lõimed. Gönül Paksoy ajatu rõivadisain") was opened at the Mikkeli Museum in Kadriorg.

In November of 2008 a selection of Estonia puppet films was shows at the Kars Film Festival, and Rao Heidmets’s new film “Inherent Obligations” participated in the competition programme.
In the second week of February 2009 the 11th Winter Dance Festival took place in Viljandi, and the theme was the return to one’s roots. A Turkish dance troupe participated.

In February of 2009 a soloist from the Ankara National Opera Theatre, Senol Talinli, sang one of the lead roles in Verdi’s opera “Masked Ball”, and in April at the European premiere of composer Arvo Pärt’s fourth symphony the Helsinki City Orchestra was conducted by Turkish conductor Cem Mansur.
On 8 March 2009 the second ski marathon took place in Turkey thanks to the initiative of the Estonian Embassy with the honorary consuls; the guest of honour was Vice-Speaker of the Riigikogu Kristiina Ojuland.

On 5 September 2009 a Turkey-Estonia football match was played in Kayser.

On 4 October 2009 Estonian Ambassador to Turkey Aivo Orav, Tartu University rector Alar Karis, and governor of Ağrı County Mehmet Çetin opened an exhibit in Ishak Pasha Palace at the foot of Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı or Agri Mountain) in the region of Ağri in Eastern Turkey to celebrate 180 years since the conquering of Mount Ararat in 1829. In the days after the opening of the exhibit an international climb took place. The group reached the summit on 9 October, the same day that Johann Jakob Friedrich Wilhelm Parrot had done so 180 years earlier.

On 7 February 2010 the Estonian Embassy in co-operation with the Anatolia Marathon Association and Bolu Province organised an exciting cross-country skiing festival, where Foreign Ministry Secretary General Marten Kokk also participated.

In 2010 Istanbul was one of the European Capitals of Culture. The cultural ministries and the Tallinn 2011 Foundation organised many events to introduce Estonia and Tallinn. In April 2010 Estonian films were part of the international film festival in Istanbul. In May an international student theatre festival took place with the participation of some Estonian troupes.

On 16 January 2010 an Estonian delegation led by chairman of the Riigikogu cultural commission Peeter Kreitzberg attended the opening of Istanbul Capital of Culture 2010.

During the summer of 2010, the cultural bridge between Estonia and Turkey became even stronger. A musical composition for orchestra, choir and soloists was ordered from Arvo Pärt (who was celebrating his 75th birthday). The concert took place as part of the joint cultural programme of Tallinn 2011 and Istanbul 2010. On 7 June 2010 the world premier of Arvo Pärt’s new work “Adam’s Lament” took place in Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul; the work incorporated characteristic themes from both Christian and Islam culture and music. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Borusan Symphony Orchestra, and the ensemble Vox Clamantis performed, led by conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. In addition to President and Mrs. Ilves, other guests from Estonia that attended the concert were Minister of Culture Laine Jänes, Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, delegations from the Foreign Ministry and Tallinn City Council, entrepreneurs, and media representatives. Important Turkish guests present were President Gül and his wife, the minister of culture, the mayor of Istanbul, and the Patriarch of Constantinople. Altogether more than 1 000 people attended the concert. Prior to the concert, the president of Turkey (with the president of Estonia by his side) presented Arvo Pärt with an award for lifetime achievement.

On 16 July 2010 the Ellerhein Girls’ Choir directed by Tiia-Ester Loitme gave a concert in the Hagia Irene Church.

From 3-19 December 2010 Veiko Õunpuu’s film “The Temptation of St. Tony” (“Püha Tõnu kiusamine”) was screened as part of the competition programme of the Gezic film festival.

On 19 February 2011 the Estonian Embassy in Turkey organised a Nordic walking event near Ankara by Gölbaş Lake in honour of Estonian Independence Day. Nordic walking was introduced by the creator of the sport Marko Kantaneva and the Estonian company ME Sisustus, which produces the Nordic walking supplies bearing Kantaneva’s eponymous trademark. Among others, the athletic walking event was attended by Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bağış.