EU Accession: Estonia
The most northern and smallest of the accession countries, this Baltic state is so tech-savvy that it is sometimes referred to as e-Stonia.
One of the three Baltic Republics, Estonia is seen as one of the most politically stable future members of the EU. The IMF describes the country as "an outstanding performer among the transition economies", with a continued commitment to market-based reforms, a pursuit of sound macroeconomic policies, an emphasis on institution-building and a commitment to transparency. Estonians also love IT. In terms of Internet usage, Estonia actually ranks ahead of the UK, Germany, Belgium and France.
Unemployment remains high and the country will have to ensure balanced regional development. In particular, the oil-shale sector, located in the north east of the country needs restructuring.
Carmen Kass (supermodel), Robert Tobias (composer)
How The Estonians Threw Off the Soviet Shackles
The most visible protest against Soviet occupation occurred in 1988 when large numbers of Estonians came together to sing national songs in the so-called "singing revolution". In 1989, people across the three Baltic states joined hands to form a massive human chain. Following the attempted coup in Moscow in 1991, Estonia unilaterally declared its independence.
Don't worry if you don't. The Estonian language is closely related to Finnish but not to the languages of the other Baltic Republics or to Russian.
Turning Up the Heat
Saunas are a national institution in Estonia. One theory is that the sauna evolved as a sun substitute, giving Estonians the psychological benefits of intense heat during the long, dark months of the year.
The government is made up of a coalition between the centre-right Res Publica, the liberal-right of centre Reform Party and the left wing/rural party, the People's Union.
Estonia's youthful Prime Minister Juhan Parts (37) only entered politics a year before the elections, when he left his previous job as chief state auditor.