Nordic ambassadors: Estonians are hard-working and courageous! | University of Tartu Centre of Ethics

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Nordic ambassadors: Estonians are hard-working and courageous!

The University of Tartu, Centre for Ethics presented the book "Estonia AND Nordic Countries – Estonia AS a Nordic Country?”, on 19th of June at the Winter Garden of the Estonian National Opera. The book offers an insight into the historic development of the identities of Estonia and the Nordic Countries and gives an overview of their currently held values.

The question regarding the Estonian identity was raised in august 2016 at the conference "Estonia AND Nordic Countries – Estonia AS a Nordic Country?" and in the essay and photo competition with the same name. In particular, the questions of where we would like to situate in the world map and where are we at the moment were raised. The head of Centre for Ethics prof Margit Sutrop said in her opening speech that Estonia would really like to be a Nordic Country, but Nordic countries themselves don’t know much about that wish.

The sociologist Mikko Lagerspetz, one of the essay competition winners, said in his presentation that in general there seems to be three different approaches to this question: 1) Estonia already is one of the Nordic Countries, 2) Estonia is not yet a Nordic country, but it should become one soon, and 3) Estonia should follow only its own special path. According to Lagerspetz he belongs to the second one, mostly because he himself is a “product” of a Nordic country since he was raised in one. He also noted that even though the authors of the essays seem to hold different opinions, the actual disagreement behind the surface is much smaller than it seems at a glance.

The winning writer Emma Juslin talked about the critical issues of both the Estonian and Nordic societies, for example the refugee crisis. She said that in her opinion the Estonian society seems to be open and since there is no pressure to be politically correct, it is possible to discuss such issues. Juslin hopes that this book provides an incentive for further discussions about these values.

The representatives of the Nordic Council of Ministers and the ambassadors of the Nordic Countries who participated in the panel discussion of the book presentation provided a bit different view than the scientist from last year, about the similarities and differences between Estonia and Nordic Countries, since they have already lived in here for some time.

First, prof Sutrop asked the panelists to criticize Estonia. Danish ambassador Søren Kelstrup thought that the level of trust is quite low in here, as well as that there is no balance between the competition and cooperation because Estonians wish to get better results for themselves and, unlike in the Nordic Countries, there is not enough willingness to contribute in the name of the common good. Other negative aspects that were brought out included the big gender pay-cap, the poverty, low trust for politicians and that the discussion over these matters is too little.

Nevertheless, the end of the panel discussion was a positive one – good education, beautiful nature, safe society and active hard-working people were mentioned as the positive aspects of Estonia. Christer Haglund, the head of the Estonian Office of the Nordic Council of Ministers, said that Estonians´ work ethic and entrepreneurial ability is remarkable as they can make big things happen with only limited resources. Nordic ambassador Dagfinn Sørli agreed, and added that he admires the way Estonians take initiative – first they may start to question their abailities to achieve their goals, after which they courageously take action and make things happen.

Estonian e-governance and cultural festivals were also praised. Also, panelists were surprised of how big is Estonian pride and connection with their culture.

The panel discussion “Estonia and Nordic countries – what makes us similar, what makes us different?” participants were the head of the Estonian Office of the Nordic Council of Ministers Christer Haglund, the Norwegian ambassador Dagfinn Sørli, the Danish ambassador Søren Kelstrup, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Sweden Fredrik Olson and the spokeswoman of the Embassy of Finland Hannele Valkeeniemi.

The book “Estonia AND Nordic Countries- Estonia AS a Nordic Country?” includes presentations given by Estonian and Nordic top-scientist at the international conference with the same title and the essays and photos sent to the competition on the same topic. The publishing of this book was supported by the Ministry of Education and Research programme “Values Development of the Estonian Society 2009–2013”, extension for the years 2015–2020.

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