After achieving independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and liberalizing markets, Estonians saw their economy grow and their standards of living rise. But in 2008, a global financial crisis exposed weaknesses in Estonia’s competitiveness and prompted a reevaluation of policies. In 2010, the government saw an opportunity to frame a new national development strategy as part of its participation in the European Union’s 2020 bid to promote growth and jobs. It turned to its own Strategy Unit, which had been created four years earlier, to harmonize priorities and goals and to pay special attention to the policy challenges posed by an aging and shrinking workforce. To frame a coherent set of priorities, the unit had to increase cooperation and consultation among ministries that usually worked independently of each other. The unit consulted with civil servants, experts, and key stakeholders. Less successfully, it also sought to engage the general citizenry. Because of the country’s small population, which fell from 1.57 million to 1.3 million from 1990 to 2012, and its relatively close-knit society, leaders felt social pressure to reach agreement on priorities and policy initiatives. Although the resulting list of 18 national priorities was lengthy, the Estonia 2020 competitiveness strategy provided the country with an effective vehicle for articulating long-term national policy goals.
Elena Lesley drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Tallinn, Estonia in May 2014. This case study was funded by the Bertelsmann Stiftung ReformCompass. Case published September 2014.
Associated Interview(s): Katrin Höövelson