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Emerging Europe: Estonia is the most sustainable country in the region

Estonia tops the Future of Emerging Europe report, focusing on the sustainability of countries in the region.

As Estonia has a large gap over the second-placed country, Slovenia, the report concludes that the Northern European country is significantly more sustainable than other countries in the emerging Europe region.

“Estonia sets the standard for many things in emerging Europe, from education and the digitalisation of public services to press freedom and investment promotion,” editor of Emerging Europe and one of the authors of the report commented the result in an article. “So, it’s not really a surprise that it also comes out on top when it comes to sustainability.”

According to Joonas Vänto, the Director of Invest Estonia, the country is leaping forward, leading the charge in technology, social innovation, and economic sustainability. “With a strong foundation and clear outlook, Estonia is ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of the future,” he commented. “The national strategy, particularly the Digital Agenda 2030, outlines ambitious plans to advance digital literacy, cybersecurity, and public e-services, ensuring that technology continues to be an integral and seamless part of everyday life.”

In this, a big focus is set on research—there is an action plan for 500 deeptech startups, with 75 of them reaching scaleup status. All in all, research and development funding as a share of GDP should cross the one per cent mark by 2035.

Vision to become the global leader in sustainability

Looking at the broader picture, the aim is still considerably higher. Sandra Särav, the Deputy Secretary General for Economy and Innovation in the Estonian Government wrote in a comment for the report that she envisions Estonia as a global leader in sustainability, building upon our long-standing tradition of harmonising technological advancement with environmental stewardship by the year 2030.

“Our journey towards sustainability is not just a passing trend,” she added. “It is deeply rooted in our cultural ethos. As a nation, we have always cherished our connection with nature, reflected in our pristine urban air quality and the verdant forests that cover half of our country. This profound respect for the environment has guided our approach to innovation and efficiency.”

Särav sees the concept of e-Estonia, having resulted in Estonia being recognised as the most digitalized country in the world, as an integral part of this efficiency. “However, our focus has evolved; we now channel this efficiency towards safeguarding our planet,“ she added. „By integrating sustainable practices into our digital advancements, we are setting a new standard for responsible development.“

At the top in people, prosperity, and peace dimensions

The Future of Emerging Europe 2023/2024 presents a multilayered approach to discussing the region’s future, delving into innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. The report focuses on five dimensions: people, prosperity, planet, partnership, and peace.

In the report, Estonia tops the people category, focusing on human development and living conditions. This includes subindices, Future-proof education (including developing digital skills) and Health and social life.

The country is also at the top of the Prosperity category, depicting the general economic well-being of countries and their infrastructural development. The category, in turn, consists of subcategories, People-first economies and Inclusive entrepreneurship.

In addition, Estonia tops the list of countries in the Peace category, taking into account levels of violence, the rule of law and civil freedoms. This category is divided into two subcategories: World order, democracy and the rule of law, and Media freedom and the future of information.

The Future of Emerging Europe is an analysis of national and regional developments and trends related to sustainable, entrepreneurship- and innovation-driven progress in the emerging Europe region.

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