July 1998 To gain recognition from its counterparts in the European Union, Estonia must give priority to improving risk management in its banks and improving institutional capacity for bank regulation and supervision. The most important challenge of Estonia's strategy for integrating its financial sector with that of the European Union (EU) is to upgrade its capacity for prudential regulation and supervision enough to gain recognition from its EU counterparts. Doing so is also a crucial complement to Estonia's strategy for strengthening macroeconomic policy and stabilization-especially because, under a currency board, its banks are a central part of the transmission mechanism for capital flows. Under the currency board banks have been able to arbitrage between domestic and foreign financial markets-increasingly funding themselves from abroad. Such arbitrage has become the key funding source for rapidly expanding credit, contributing to the country's large current account deficit. Estonian authorities are justified in tightening prudential regulation and supervision because of the risks associated with an overheating economy, general market volatility, and the possible deterioration in the quality of credit. Improvements in prudential regulation should be followed by improvements in the country's capacity to supervise banks and an upgrading of the banks' risk management systems, to manage the increasingly complex operations and diverse markets in which they engage. These steps should be a priority. The institutional development of banks and supervision have lagged behind market developments. In improving the regulatory framework for banks, Estonia should avoid establishing incentives for tax arbitrage that lead to the creation of artificial and socially costly financial intermediaries. This paper is a product of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Sector Unit, Europe and Central Asia Region. The authors may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
"Economic integration that leads to the convergence of incomes and living standards is at the heart of the EU accession process. The assumption is that trade integration combined with institutional harmonization will lead to sustainable capital flows from European Union member countries to acceding countries ...'" Estonia's case for accession is built, to a large extent, on a record of sound economic management. Indeed, since regaining independence in 1991, Estonia has successfully implemented a broad agenda of stabilization and structural reform policies. This commitment to sound economic management has yielded positive results. However, at present, Estonia is experiencing a sharp economic slowdown as a result of two major external shocks, the Asia and Russia crises. This country study emphasizes areas where there is greatest overlap between the accession agenda and measures to strengthen economic management. These areas of overlap include upgrading financial sector supervision and strengthening budget management. It also includes reforms in areas where there is complementarity between reforms designed to facilitate accession and structural reforms that will support long-term growth and economic integration. These are the modernization of public administration, the adherence to EU quality standards, the continuous improvement of the operations of the customs board, and the completion of land reform. Finally, the last two chapters of the study examine areas where implementing the accession agenda entail either a fundamental change in Estonia's trade policy regime, or have high compliance costs. These are the adoption of the EUs Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as it evolves, and complying with EU environmental standards.