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Archive for March, 2020

Business opportunities in Estonia

We are a Northern European hub for Industrial, Supply Chain and GBS activity and a world leader in IT. As IT becomes the value driver across all industries, Estonia is uniquely positioned as the scalable location of choice for knowledge and digital business.

  • it r&d / software / hardware

    Estonia is the world’s most digitally enabled nation, offering a unique combination of talent, environment and innovation. Our IT R&D ecosystem enjoys global proof of concept, being trusted by global organisations such as Kuehne+Nagel and NATO and producing unicorn startups Transferwise and Bolt.

  • fintech

    Estonia is a cashless society with over 99% of financial transactions occurring digitally. Electronic ID and Blockchain are widely used in FinTech applications. 80+ FinTechs ranging from innovative startups such as TransferWise to Blockchain leader Guardtime make Estonia a global centre of excellence for FinTech.

  • cyber security

    The most advanced cyber security country in Europe, Estonia has unique expertise in the research, development and management of cyber security solutions and systems. Home to NATO CCDCOE, Guardtime and Malwarebytes, Estonia is trusted to keep the digital economy safe.

  • risk capital

    Estonia has a two-decade track record of successful innovations and investments thanks to its smart people and a unique environment which enables the accelerated development and commercialisation of IP.

  • food

    Estonia has a sizeable food industry which benefits from ecological raw materials, skilled workers and modern production facilities. With an established export capability and growing application of food science and technology, Estonia is the ideal location for export and R&D oriented investment.

  • electronics / iot / mechatronics

    With a highly-qualified workforce and strengths in engineering, electronics and IT, Estonia is at the cutting edge of R&D, production and service for mechatronic solutions with embedded software.

  • business services

    With over 80 captive, BPO and ITO centres, Estonia is an established location for finance, IT and customer services and has a growing expertise in supply chain, HR and process automation.

  • industrial digitalisation / industry 4.0

    Estonia has a sizeable Advanced Industrial sector and world-class IT expertise in areas including high tech systems, control technologies and cyber security. Supported by a collaborative ecosystem well suited to research and development, Estonia is emerging as a centre of excellence in industrial automation.

  • blockchain

    Estonia developed X-Road, its proprietary decentralised, distributed system in 2001 and has utilised Blockchain since 2008. World-class technical skills supported by practical experience implementing public and permissioned Blockchain’s place Estonia at the forefront of the emerging Blockchain economy.

  • logistics

    Estonia is the most effective supply chain hub for the Nordic, Baltic and northwest Russian regions thanks to its strategic location, modern infrastructure, multi-modal capabilities and reliable but flexible approach.

  • bioeconomy / timber

    Estonia has one of Europe’s largest bioeconomies, including world leading expertise in forest-based activity. Supported by high-quality natural resources, ultra-high use of IT and supportive policy making, Estonia offers a range of production and innovation opportunities.

  • smart cities

    Estonia has a niche capability in the design and engineering of hardware and software solutions for intelligent transportation, urban planning, tourism and smart homes. Advanced digital infrastructure, skills and consumer adoption provide the ideal R&D testbed.

  • industrial r&d

    Estonia has a collaborative ecosystem for Industrial R&D including academia, accelerators and competence centres. Supported by world-class expertise and a highly competitive, digital environment, Estonia is the ideal location for Industrial product and technology R&D.

  • e-health

    Patient records in Estonia are digitised and secured by the Blockchain, providing a single immutable data source for healthcare professionals. With a unique digital platform and collaborative ecosystem, Estonia is positioned to lead on preventative medicine, patient self-treatment and industry efficiency.

  • marine industries

    Estonia’s marine sector specialises in the design and build of small and medium-sized commercial and leisure vessels. Centuries long expertise, cutting-edge application of IT and a flexible approach make Estonia a competitive location for innovation and export-oriented production.

  • energy

    Estonia has a diversified energy sector which comprises long-standing expertise in oil shale, a sizeable renewables sector and growing CleanTech capability. World-class expertise within a highly digital, pro-business environment will see Estonia play a leading role in the energy revolution

  • mechanical engineering

    Estonia has a full value chain for R&D, prototyping, and production of precision components and complex systems, and is trusted by ABB, Ericsson and the European Space Agency.

  • chemicals

    Estonia has an export-oriented Chemicals sector benefitting from a full value chain and world-class skills in oil shale, rare earth metals and petrochemicals. Our pro-business environment is competitive and trustworthy, with digitalisation applied to deliver new capabilities.

  • e-commerce

    Estonia is an emerging hub for global e-commerce activity. World-class IT skills have created numerous e-commerce applications and are supported by leadership positions in enablers such as online trust, payments and digital logistics.

  • digital logistics

    Estonia is a world leader in the development and application of digital logistics. From data analytics and country single windows to mobile apps and delivery robots, Estonia improves supply chain efficiency and client experience from the first mile to last.


Invest in Estonia

Economy overview

1-st globally in tax competitiveness

Since regaining its independence, Estonia has been one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Quick reforms, westernisation of the economy, innovation and openness to foreign capital have attracted numerous international companies to Estonia – Ericsson, ABB, Kuehne + Nagel, Stora Enso, Symantec, Stoneridge, to name a few. Skype is a good example of Estonian first class innovation – complete research and development done in Tallinn with the support of foreign capital.

Positions in various indices:

  • 1st – OECD Tax Competitiveness Index 2019
  • 1st – Entrepreneurial Activity, World Economic Forum 2017
  • 1st – Internet Freedom, Freedom House 2016 (sharing 1st place with Iceland)
  • 7th – Index of Economic Freedom 2018, The Heritage Foundation
  • 9th – Digital Economy and Society Index 2017, European Commission
  • 12th – Ease of Doing Business 2016, The World Bank

Estonia has some of the highest international credit ratings in the region:

  • Standard & Poor’s: AA-
  • Moody’s: A1
  • Fitch IBCA: A+

The Estonian Government demonstrates flexible and needs-based legislation with priority on facilitation of entrepreneurship. This has resulted in a simple, transparent and nimble business environment that is one of the key drivers of foreign direct investment in Estonia.

Structure of Economy

14%of GDP – manufacturing

IT plays a central role in life in Estonia because people trust the IT solutions our companies create and are eager to use them to make everyday life easier. Our ambitious startup community dares to create innovative solutions that change the world including services as different as Mobile Parking and self-driven delivery robots. The common denominator for Estonian IT companies is their creativity and the ability to ignore the concept of impossible.

Estonia combines elements of both the old and new economy – while the success of the technology sector has made the startup scene blossom, the country is also moving up in the value chain in sectors such as forestry and oil shale.

10%of GDP – wholesale & retail

About 50% of the country is covered by forest and Estonia has become the largest exporter of wooden houses in Europe, building the tallest timber buildings in the world. In the oil shale sector, our talented engineers have mastered the energy extraction from oil shale and are now exporting the technology across the world.

Take a look at the business opportunities and what the key sectors have to offer in the Business opportunities section of our website.

Foreign direct investment

Estonia is among the leading countries in the Central and Eastern Europe regarding foreign direct investments per capita.

FDI by sectors (2017; stock):
29% financial sector
18% real estate activities
13% manufacturing
13% wholesale and retail trade
8% professional, scientific and technical activities

Origin of FDI (2017):
28% Swedish companies
22% Finnish companies
8% Dutch companies
5% Lithuanian companies
4% Russian companies

Win: Chamber prevented increase of administrative burden on companies in relation to posted workers

Maintaining a healthy workplace and work relations during the coronavirus outbreak

The Labour Inspectorate has produced infographs about the working environment and working relations during the coronavirus outbreak. Please see below how you can make your working environment more safe. We also have gathered recommendations, how to relieve the current financial stress and how to proceed properly in the face of budget cuts and lay-offs.

Click on the thumbnail to see the full image. Below the image you can find the PDF files to print out.

Infosheet for the employers (pdf) 

Infosheet for the employees (pdf) 

Keeping the working environment clean (pdf)  

Reduction of wages (pdf)

The materials are also available in Estonian and Russian.

Read more:

Request a Confirmation Letter or Advice Regarding Force Majeure

In the current emergency situation where restrictions have a significant impact on economic activities, many companies find it difficult or even impossible to fulfil their contractual obligations. It is probable that in many cases an entrepreneur can rely on force majeure in which case breach of obligations is excusable.


  1. We give advice, if in our opinion, an entrepreneur can rely on force majeure or not. If it is possible, we help entrepreneurs in taking measures for using the force majeure provision.
  2. We issue letters of confirmation on the circumstances related to force majeure. If a contractual partner requests a confirmation from a third party regarding the circumstances related to force majeure, we will issue the respective confirmation if there is evidence to confirm the respective circumstances.

First hour of legal counselling is free of charge for the members of the Chamber and each following hour costs €50 to which value added tax will be added. If an entrepreneur is not a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the hourly price is €100, to which value added tax will be added. At least an hour should be considered for issues related to force majeure. In more complicated cases, the time required may be longer.

Should you need counselling or a letter of approval for force majeure, please contact Merike Koppel by email or phone 604 0072.

What Should Employers Consider In Employment Relations During The Times Of COVID-19?

The lawyers of the Chamber have prepared an overview of the possibilities that the Employment Contract Act offers for employers in order to cope with the emergency situation and spread of the corona virus. Additionally, our lawyers are ready to provide recommendations on how to fulfil the requirements related to the working environment during the corona virus outbreak.

Employers have the right to decrease an employee’s salary only by agreement between the parties. This principle is not influenced by the emergency situation declared by the government. In order to prevent disputes later, even the temporary salary decrease should be formalised in writing by both parties. The same principle is also applicable for any other changes in the employment contract.

As an exception, employers may decrease the salary without the consent of the employee if the employer is unable to provide employee with work in the agreed amount due to unforeseen economic circumstances that are beyond their control and payment of the agreed salary is unreasonably burdensome for the employer. Such situation may arise for example in relation to the corona virus outbreak. When using the exception, an employer may decrease salary for up to three months during a 12-month period to a reasonable extent but not below the minimum salary (€3.48 per hour and €584 per month). Before decreasing the salary, an employer is required to offer employees alternative work, including remote work. An employee has the right to refuse to work proportionally to the decrease of the salary. An employer must inform of the decrease of salary at least 14 days in advance.

Employers have the right to make employees redundant due to economic reasons arising from the corona virus outbreak. The Employment Contracts Act foresees that an employer has the right to extraordinarily cancel an employment contract if continuing an employment relation under the agreed terms and conditions becomes impossible due to decreased volume of work or reorganisation of work or in other cases where work ends. Redundancies related to the corona virus outbreak must be made according to the redundancy rules set out in the Employment Contracts Act.

If in the current situation an employer is unable to offer an employee work in the agreed volume or the employer does not have sufficient financial means to pay salary, the parties may agree also in, i.e. unpaid vacation. However, it is not allowed without the consent of the employee.

If work is not possible at the moment, the parties may agree on using vacation days or additional vacation. Employers are not required to ask for the employee’s consent for requesting them to use principal vacation days only in a situation where the vacation days have been entered into the holiday schedule which is informed to the employee before 31 March.

Remote work

Employers who can offer remote work should consider that without the consent of the employee it is not allowed to force an employee to work remotely or vice versa. It means that if parties have not agreed on remote work before, the respective agreement should be made now. It is also applicable in a situation where remote work is a temporary solution.

Working overtime

If workload has increased or the employer needs to replace employees who have become ill, there is a possibility to consider employing temporary workers as well as increasing the workload of the existing employees, i.e. using overtime. As a rule, overtime needs to be agreed between the parties, but in special cases it is allowed without the consent of an employee. As an exception, the law provides the right to request from employee overtime without the consent of the employee in a situation where there are unforeseen circumstances related to the company or activity of the employer. For example, it is allowed for preventing damages or if during shift work an employee fails to show up at a determined time and there must be no interruption to work. An employer is required to compensate overtime with free time equal to the time of overtime work, unless compensating overtime work in money is agreed. Upon compensating overtime work in money, employer must pay employees a salary in the amount of 1.5 times the salary.

Performing requirements related to working environment

Pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer is obliged to ensure performance of the occupational health and safety requirements even during the corona virus outbreak. Among other things, employers are obliged to take any measures to protect employees against viruses. When choosing the relevant measures, risks arising from the emergency situation, recommendations of the health authorities etc. must be assessed. To protect the health of their employees, employers can offer hygiene and disinfection materials at work and if necessary, the option to use gloves or prevention of contacts with clients (e.g. leaving goods behind the client’s door). Furthermore, employees could be reminded of regular hygiene requirements and ensure cleanliness of work rooms and surfaces. It should be taken into account that if the employer fails to take measures, an employee has the right to refuse to work, because it puts his or her life and health at risk.

Furthermore, spreading of the virus could be prevented and health of employees protected by allowing remote work. However, it should be taken into account that remote work should also be done in a safe manner. According to the recommendations of the Labour Inspectorate, employers should instruct employees, among other things, on how to work safely, how to equip a workplace in a safe manner, when to rest etc.

Notifying employees

In addition to risk assessment and taking measures, employers have the legal duty to inform employees of the results of risk assessment as well as of the measures taken to remove risks. Therefore, employees should be kept informed of what is currently happening in relation to the emergency situation and which rearrangements are organised by the employer in relation to the situation.

Certificate for sick leave

Due to the current emergency situation, employees have the option of self-opening a sick leave or care leave. This means that if an employee is sick or wishes to take care of a sick child or relative, they will have to notify through the portal of their incapacity for work and the certificate of incapacity for work is opened automatically until 30 March. The entered notice is sent to the health board, employer and family physician. The family physician will contact the employee within a week in order to clarify the person’s health status and possible symptoms. Thus, in essence an employee can take a sick leave when they have had contacts with a person infected with corona virus, but the symptoms have not yet appeared.

Business trips

Considering what is happening in the world, it is generally recommended to cancel all work trips that aren’t essential. However, it should be kept in mind that employees have the right to refuse to go on a business trip if it jeopardises their own or someone else’s health. At that, the respective refusal cannot be considered as breach of the employee’s obligations.

Should you have any questions regarding employment relations or working environment, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers of the Chamber by email


Estonia has transformed itself into one of Europe’s business success stories of the last decade, mainly thanks to the sophisticated e-solutions available. Whether they are business-to-business or government-to-business, these solutions rely on infrastructure such as the X-Road and eID to create the kind of fast interaction and access needed to make commerce work.

It is a simple fact – where business is easy, business will grow. Services in the private, sector such as internet banking and digital signatures have cut costs and speeded up trade like never before. Likewise the public sector solutions used in Estonia like electronic tax filing, e-business registry and the availability of public records online have pared bureaucratic waste down to a bare minimum.

The country’s open and clear working environment, a big attraction for investors, is given a boost by one-of-a-kind commercial and land registries, which leave no doubts as to affiliations and ownership. In addition, the country’s cutting-edge, e-oriented government makes an unprecedented amount of legal and tax information available on the web.

Digital Society and Infrastructure

The e-Estonia digital society is made possible largely due to its infrastructure. Instead of developing a single, all-encompassing central system, Estonia created an open, decentralized system that links together various services and databases. The flexibility provided by this open set-up has allowed new components of the digital society to be developed and added through the years. It’s that power to expand that has allowed Estonia to grow into one of Europe’s success stories of the last decade.

Components for Digital Society:
e-Estonia’s digital society components are the building-blocks that power Estonia’s integrated e-services. The modular nature of e-Estonia’s flexible component systems means it’s easy to add e-services in the future, allowing government systems to grow.

  • DigiDoc – is a system that is widely used in Estonia for storing, sharing and digitally signing documents.
  • Digital Signature – enables secure, legally-binding, electronic document signing.
  • e-Business Register – enables entrepreneurs to register their new business online in minutes.
  • e-Cabinet – a powerful tool used by the Estonian government to streamline its decision-making process.
  • e-Law – allows public access to every piece of draft law that has been submitted since February 2003.
  • e-Tax – has drastically reduced the time spent by individuals and entrepreneurs on filing taxes.
  • Electronic ID Card – acts as definitive proof of ID in secure electronic environments.
  • Mobile-ID – allows a client to use a mobile phone as a form of secure electronic ID.
  • Mobile Payment – enables payment for goods and services using mobile phones.
  • m-Parking – allows drivers to pay for city parking using a mobile phone.
  • Electronic Land Register – a one-of-a-kind information system for storing real estate and land data.
  • State e-Services Portal – a one-stop-shop for the hundreds of e-services offered by government institutions.
  • e-Residency – Estonian e-Residency is a digital identity that allows everyone in the world to do business online with ease.

What is e-Residency?

“e-Residency offers to every world citizen a government-issued digital identity and the opportunity to run a trusted company online, unleashing the world’s entrepreneurial potential.“

The Republic of Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency — a transnational digital identity available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online. e-Residency additionally enables secure and convenient digital services that facilitate credibility and trust online.

Nearly 16 000 e-Residency cards have been issued to individuals in 135 different countries.

e-Residents can:

  • Digitally sign documents and contracts
  • Verify the authenticity of signed documents
  • Encrypt and transmit documents securely
  • Establish an Estonian company online within a day. At the moment a physical address in Estonia is required, which may be obtained using an external service provider.
  • Administer the company from anywhere in the world.
  • Conduct all the banking online, e.g. make electronic bank transfers.
  • Access online payment service providers
  • Declare Estonian taxes online. e-Residency does not automatically establish tax residency. To learn about taxation and to avoid double taxation please consult a tax professional.

All of these (and more) efficient and easy-to-use services have been available to Estonians for over a decade. By offering e-Residents the same services, Estonia is proudly pioneering the idea of a country without borders.

e-Residents receive a smart ID card which provides:

  • digital identification and authentication to secure services
  • digital signing of documents
  • digital verification of document authenticity
  • document encryption

Digital signatures and authentication are legally equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia and between partners upon agreement anywhere around the world. Recent changes in the EU law mean that within the next few years Estonian e-residents will be able to easily identify themselves, access online services, and conduct business across Europe. The e-Resident ID card and services are built on state-of-the-art technological solutions, including 2048-bit public key encryption. The smart ID card contains a microchip with two security certificates: one for authentication, called PIN1, and another for digital signing, called PIN2. PIN1 is a minimum 4-digit number for authorization, PIN2 is a minimum 5-digit number for digital signature.

e-Residency does not confer citizenship, tax residency, residence or right of entry to Estonia or to the European Union. The e-Resident smart ID card is not a physical identification or a travel document, and does not display a photo.

We encourage you to apply for e-Residency!
Apply to e-residency

Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Helpdesk for South East Asian Countries

The South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk (SEA IPR SME HD) is an initiative of the European Commission, which supports European Union (EU) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to both protect and enforce their intellectual property (IP) rights in the region.
IP rights are a fundamental asset for SMEs, but companies often underestimate their importance. An effective IP strategy is crucial for EU SMEs to safely enter new markets and succeed in their internationalisation process.
The SEA IPR SME HD aims at providing SMEs with all the necessary information to develop and implement an effective IP strategy.
On the website you can find information regarding the 10 ASEAN countries (here), but also specific guides related to IP types (here) or various industry sectors (here).
The Helpdesk regularly hosts webinars, which are also available on the website here.
You can always contact the Helpdesk at for a rapid response (within three working days) to any IP questions related to SEA.

The most common issues in SEA regarding IP are related to trade mark registration and protection.
IP protection in SEA in general, and trade mark protection in particular, operate under a ‘first-to-file’ system, meaning that the first person to file an IP application in the jurisdiction will own the rights once the application is granted. Bad faith registration is not uncommon: a third party can register your trade mark before you do and become its legal owner. This can have various consequences – from damaging your reputation, to completely excluding you from the market of that country.

In other words, trade mark registration is a fundamental step for IP protection and enforcement in SEA. It is therefore important that you register your IP at the first convenient opportunity, preferably before entering the market.
The costs of national registration for trade marks in SEA are not particularly high (ranging from EUR 50 to EUR 350 for a basic application, depending on the country). You can also take advantage of some international treaties to simplify the registration process, if you are interested in seeking protection in multiple countries.
Another common issue relates to the patentability of an invention. Not many SMEs realise that patents are strictly territorial. This means that if you patent an invention in one country the same invention cannot be patented in another. There are some exceptions to this rule, the most important ones are the Paris Convention, that provides a one-year timeframe (from the date of the first filing) in which a patent application can be filed in other countries, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system, that allows you to start the international phase for the registration and enjoy more time to decide exactly where to register.

That said, every country in SEA has its own legal framework for the protection of IP. Some of the countries in the region already have a quite comprehensive IP framework, while others still need to adjust to international standards. The IPR SME HD can guide you through the diverse regulations and practices.


Author: Dr. Marta Bettinazzi, IP Business Advisor