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National Day  Feb 24

His Excellency Viljar Lubi  
Embassy of Estonia
44 Queen’s Gate Terrace,
T: 020 7589 3428
F: 020 7589 3430

ESTONIA’S NEW Ambassador His Excellency Mr Viljar Lubi spent the past five years as his country’s Vice Minister for Economic Development. “Essentially, my main task was to make Estonia’s GDP grow as quickly as possible.  When the health pandemic hit, I was in the front line, and it was a huge shock. My team and I were responsible for Estonia’s economic recovery plan, so we worked hard to produce ideas to support our economy so it could rebound as quickly as possible. An extremely difficult, but interesting time.”

Ambassador Lubi arrived in the UK on 8 August; his second posting to the UK. His family remain at home, while they sort out various logistics. “Of course, the difficult part of being a diplomat is moving your family around. It’s hard for the children to leave friends behind.” He’s delighted to be back, noting “I understand that I am lucky. I hear London has been very quiet (due to the pandemic).” He looks forward to travelling in the UK again, although admits he’ll miss his favourite pastime, cross-country skiing. “Still, I’ve brought my roller-skis with me, and will take them to Hyde Park.”

Born and educated in Estonia’s second biggest town, Tartu, his Civic Studies classes – that essentially explained how governments, states and international relations function – sparked his interest. While studying at the Estonian School of Diplomacy, he was invited to join the foreign service in 1999. “My first task was to read English and French newspapers and summarise the key topics of the day.” After a year, he moved into economy and trade policy, and then his first international posting was to London from 2002-06. “Here as economic advisor, I was a young diplomat in a great city and I was impressed.” Back in Estonia, he was promoted to head of the EU Department, followed by a stint as economic counsellor in Washington DC.

Ambassador Lubi’s next significant role was as Estonia’s Ambassador in India. With no existing mission, he went to Delhi to open the Embassy in January 2013. “When I arrived, it was the first time I had ever been to India. Setting up a network was a great challenge. It was a blank sheet and we had to start from scratch. India is a country of extremes and a great experience for me.” This appointment was particularly memorable, “as not many people knew about Estonia, but hopefully that has changed now. I’m happy that my three years in India carried some fruit.”

His last job working in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication (2016-21) provided “experience of working with both Estonian and international politicians, and learning to understand their different motivations. I was extremely close to policy making and created a considerable business network in both the UK and Estonia, which should help me here in the long run.”

Ambassador Lubi highlights the long history between the UK and Estonia, and the fact the two countries recently celebrated 100 years of diplomatic relations. Today, he notes that “we are thankful the UK has 800 troops stationed in Estonia. Security, military and political links are important, and thankfully both sides value this relationship highly.” He notes the various high-level visits between the two countries over the past two years demonstrate this. “The UK is our twelfth largest trading partner, and I think this could be improved upon, at least to the top ten.”

He notes that Estonia was “sad to see the UK leave the EU, first and foremost because the UK is probably Estonia’s greatest ally in the bloc. We are likeminded countries in most policy areas. We are still working on how it’s going to affect our longer-term relationships in terms of culture, tourism, educational links etc. But this is something the Embassy can help with. Many students want to come and study here, and we want to see more Estonian tourists coming to the UK and vice-versa. We need to quickly re-establish the new balance so we can continue with our lives.”

In the run up to COP26, Ambassador Lubi says that climate is firmly on Estonia’s agenda. As forests cover about 50 per cent of Estonia’s territory, he says “Estonia’s credentials are extremely good: our quality of air is considered one of the top three in the world. We need to change our habits: maybe we consume too much, and we should produce less.” Always the optimist, he says “this challenge is also an opportunity. The Estonian economy has almost developed to the stage where we have caught up with other European countries. To jump to the next level, we really need to invest in innovation. To give innovation a chance, governments can help by not over-regulating to help us reach these climate targets.”

Ambassador Lubi is delighted that face-to-face meetings have started again. But he’s aware that the effects of the health pandemic still linger. “But I’m hopeful, and perhaps we just need to adjust to the fact COVID is going to be around for a while.”


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