There is a tendency in Europe to lump Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia together within the same uniform entity which we conveniently refer to as the Baltic States. And yet, while these three countries – which are constantly expanding and offer developed transport infrastructures – form a natural crossroads between Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, they each have their own distinctive characteristics. European SMEs are thus advised to approach them separately. Here are some of the economic sectors on which to set a premium.
Lithuania: fashion, textiles and agricultural equipment. Lithuania entered the eurozone in January 2015. It benefits from a favourable geographic situation, with a territory twice the size of that of Belgium. It is the biggest of the three Baltic States. Lithuania has a qualified workforce and has enjoyed a substantial increase in income per capita in recent years.
All of which creates a favourable environment for fashion. In addition to Lithuanian consumers, who are particularly partial to ready-to-wear clothes, are the neighbouring Belarusians, who, thanks to their 3-day visas, often leave the country to make the most of Lithuania’s superior shopping facilities. See our interactive map for the textiles and clothing sector. Another buoyant sector is the textile industry, especially in the city of Kaunas, home to a number of subcontractor firms that work for European brands. Lithuania also specialises in cereal production, but lacks agricultural equipment such as tractors, harvesters, handling and storage equipment, etc. This state of affairs is confirmed by our interactive map of searches run in Lithuania for farming machines and accessories.
Latvia: health and ICTs. Latvia is characterised by its substantial port activity (via three ports: Riga, Liepaja and Ventspils) along a coastline that stretches for 500 kilometres. Its economic attractiveness was given a definite boost when it entered the eurozone in January 2014 (development of commercial and financial services). It went on to hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2015.
Two economic sectors are particularly promising in Latvia: firstly, the health sector, which is booming due to the need to modernise and overhaul the country’s hospitals and clinics. Secondly, ICTs. Latvians do a lot of IT sub-contracting for Scandinavian businesses. Consequently, they have an excellent level of expertise in this field, and are always ready to embrace innovative solutions.
Estonia: e-commerce and the green economy. Estonia is the smallest of the Baltic States. A member of the eurozone since January 2011, it benefits from a highly positive business environment, boasting substantial growth in sectors with high added value (electronics and IT services).
Widespread access to technologies has underpinned growth in Estonian e-commerce. Internet access and smartphones are to be found at all levels of society and, like elsewhere, have revolutionised the uses and behaviours of everyone. Another sector that is in full swing is the green economy. Estonia is the first country to offer a nationwide electric car charging network. It is also highly active on the carbon credit market. See the list of invitations to tender published by Eurospider and Switzerland Global Enterprise.
Have you met with success or, conversely, suffered any setbacks in the Baltic countries?