Flanders and Estonia have a great potential to cooperate

On Monday November 28, Minister-President Jan Jambon of Flanders visited Estonia with a small delegation of academics, politicians, and business people. In the morning, the delegation got a quick intro into Estonia by ImpactBuilders’ founder Jan Lagast, who has been living and working in Estonia for more than two years now.

Jan Lagast explained how to read the Estonian inter-personal code, and also gave a few hints for an increased cooperation between the two European regions. “Jan’s talk gave us an energetic start of the day, and his tips helped us to open up constructive talks with the multitude of Estonian contacts we had during our visit,” explained Jambon at the end of the day. “You can read about a country in books, but it’s always much more colourful to hear it at first hand from someone who has been working and living here for several years,” added Economic Representative of Flanders Wouter Debeyne.

People in Flanders and Estonia have a lot in common

During his concluding speech, Minister-President Jambon mentioned there are a lot of similarities between Flanders and Estonia: “Although we are not physical neighbors, we do feel very close.” This cultural proximity dates from the Μedieval Hanzeatic times, when Flanders and Estonia were at the two extremes of the Nordic maritime trade. “I value the pragmatic approach of the Estonians, which makes it relatively easy for Flemish people to progress and find opportunities for cooperation,” tells Jambon. Lagast adds: “Flanders and Estonia share a prudent yet curious approach towards business people from other countries. When both parties feel equally respected, the talks can slowly but steadily progress. This requires patience, but as soon as a mutual trust is built, doing business with Estonians comes natural for Flemish business people.”

Much potential to cooperate

There are many cooperation opportunities between Flanders and Estonia. “This mission has laid the foundations for a more intense cooperation to support the future digitisation of Flanders,” says Jambon. The Estonian digital system, in combination with the government’s positive intentions towards business as a creator of wealth for the entire community, has put this nation on the forefront of the digital world. “We definitely would like to get inspired by their experiences.”

“There are also other cooperation opportunities”, adds Lagast. “Estonia has a series of small and mid-size manufacturing companies, with a high level of automation. These companies could offer great products at a reasonable price to Flemish importers, who are now to replace Russian or Chinese suppliers. This potential is not very well known, yet.”