Logo strony
Logo strony

Estonia – the country worth exploring
Opublikowano: 15 października 2015

Stanisław Błaszczyk and H. E. Harri Tiido, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia have spoken about Estonia’s current image, its difficult history, the relations with Poland and the Estonian fascination with the modern information technology.

You accompanied Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, during his visit in Estonia, the first foreign trip after being elected for the office. How have your compatriots reacted to this fact? Can the presidential visit be considered to be a renewal of relations? President Andrzej Duda’s visit to Estonia has been received very positively. Estonians are reserved when showing their emotions, so you would not see people dancing in the streets in demonstration of their happiness, but at the political level the reception was friendly and welcoming. I wouldn’t call this visit a renewal of relations, because they have been good for the majority of the post-soviet era. In my opinion, Polish-Estonian relations blossomed during the Lech Kaczyński and the Bronisław Komorowski presidencies. We have many reasons to believe that this positive mood will continue during the Andrzej Duda presidency. At the highest level, one of the reasons for the situation has been the right chemistry between Polish and Estonian presidents, however, this is also reflected among the diplomats. I have already been quoted on numerous occasions saying that it’s almost boring to admit that our views, for example on security policies, are very much alike.

Poland and Estonia have a shared episode in the world history – both countries were reborn in 1918. Very soon after, the Bolsheviks made their appearance at the gates of your capital, Tallin, yet by January the following year, you had ousted them from your territory supported by the British navy and volunteers from Finland. The victory proved your determination in the battle for the country’s independence. What was equally significant, it happened to be the Soviet Army’s first bitter defeat in their grand march on western Europe. You simply forced Russians to abort “the export of Revolution”. Is that victory considered legendary also in your history? All nations cherish their victories from the past and it is especially true for nations with a difficult history, such as Poland and Estonia. The Estonians have few important victories to brag about, therefore our war for independence stands out as the most important military achievement in our past. At the same time, we must remember that not only Estonians fought the Soviets in this war; Finns, Swedes, Danes, Brits, as well as Poles, Russians, Latvians, Tatars and Jews joined us in the fight against the Soviet Russia.

In the period between the First and the Second World War, Polish-Estonian relations were surprisingly vigorous, one might talk about amiability or even friendship. This is described in the book entitled “Polish-Estonian relations 1819-1939” by Piotr Łossowski. Unfortunatley, as the years passed and the Republic of Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union, your country was separated from Poland by a wall of silence. What are your memories from the times of USSR? I was born in the Soviet Union and, as in the case of many people living there, I was accustomed to the newspeak – we all knew the official truth and most of us were also familiar with a different truth. My grandfather was an armed forces officer protecting the border and spent over ten years in the woods trying to avoid the Soviet mobilization and repressions. My maternal grandfather was a former Estonian police officer and joined the Estonian Legion, a military unit within Waffen SS; he died after emigrating to Australia. My father was an officer in the Soviet Army. It was quite common in Estonia to have relatives fighting on opposite sides during World War II. Hence, we lived in a mixture of different interpretations of the history. We, people in the east of Estonia, were lucky, because we could watch the Finnish television, which was a window to the western world. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Estonians didn’t think too long – there was a chance to regain independence, so we jumped on the opportunity

Today the Republic of Estonia has a population of 1.3 m. One fourth of the people consider themselves to be Russian. Is their presence noticeable in the country’s everyday life? We have grown used to Russians living in Estonia and our attitudes towards them are not dependent on ethnicity – they are shaped by their views on the issue of Estonian sovereignty. Just as a side note – my wife is ethinically Russian, as well as an Estonian diplomat. Our current Minister of Foreign Affairs is half Latvian, half Russian. Ethnicity is a secondary issue providing that a person in question shows loyalty towards Estonia. There are a number of Russian citizens in our country, as well as people with no preferred citizenship status. However, we can’t pretend that all of them are enemies of the Estonian sovereignty. Many have chosen the Russian passport or stateless person’s status for practical reasons – in such capacity, they are able to travel both in the European Union and in Russia without any obstructions. Holders of the Estonian passport would require a visa to go and visit their friends and relatives in Russia. As a consequence, the coulour of a passport does not determine the views of its owner.

Joining the NATO was one important historic event in your country in recent years. In 2004 along with Poland you became a member of the European Union too. This has brought about new, better cooperation opportunities in all fields. Have we taken advantage of them? The membership in both the European Union and the NATO made it possible for Poland and Estonia to see more eye to eye on various matters. We have similar or even identical stance on numerous issues, and especially on security policies. Both our countries are on the front line and it is particularly important now, in light of the events in Ukraine. Still, our collaboration was close even before. I was an ambassador with the NATO and at the Political and Security Committee and I remember that we repeatedly agreed to work together. Yet, our cooperation is not only limited to the NATO or the EU framework – more and more often we agree our views also on a regional level, which has been increasingly important as of late. Poland is a key player in the Baltic and Central European regions, so it lies in our interest to better engage Poland in the Nordic-Baltic partnership and to link this framework to the coordination of the Visegrád Group with Romania and Bulgaria.

On January 1, 2011 Estonia as the first postsoviet country introduced the European currency. What was the reaction of the Estonians to this event, how did it affect the economy? A number of Estonians were not keen on giving up our national currency, but the majority were in favour of adopting euro. The prices did increase, not out of a sudden, but gradually. Taking a wider view at this we’ll see that introducing euro has been beneficial for Estonia. Foreign investors were reassured that they should not be concerned about a possibility of devaluation, while financial aspects of conducting business activity have become easier to comprehend. As a result, direct foreign investment in Estonia has increased dramatically. For an ordinary Estonian introducing euro has meant no need to worry about exchange rate when travelling to most EU countries; what’s more, comparing prices and earnings in Estonia as opposed to other countries in eurozone has also become much easier.

In Poland there is a large group of predominantly right-wing politicians who claim that introducing euro would cause a soar in prices and, even worse, could be a peril for the country’s sovereignty. Did you also hear such voices in Estonia and how were you trying to sway the critics to change their opinion? There are always some politicians who hope to gain support by swimming against the current and that is natural. We also had a certain amount of open debates on the topic of introducing the common European currency and I think that the more there is of relevant discussion the better. There will always be sceptics for whom the threat of losing national sovereignty will always be a catchy argument. Nonetheless, the world is developing, and economic and financial ties are getting increasinlgy intertwined. In such a world, transferring some control over the currency from the national regulatory body to an international regulator is entirely natural. At the moment, Estonia is at the table where various issues concerning eurozone are decided and acted upon. Without the adoption of the euro, we would be merely passive observers.

You have held the office of Ambassador in Poland for exactly a year. How would you describe the relationship between our countries and how do you, as an ambassador, intend to improve these relations? As I have already mentioned, our relations are very good and I hope they will remain this way, or will even become better after the elections in Poland. There is always room for improvement. I believe there should be more mutual understanding of the markets and the existing conditions on each side. Which means that there should be more information available about Poland in Estonia and about Estonia in Poland. We could do with more trade-based dependencies and more mutual investment, as well as with an increased interest in visiting the other country. At the regional level, we need more bilateral connections in the energy, gas and transport areas. We also hope Poland will become progressively more engaged in the Nordic-Baltic partnership, since we won’t be able to solve the region’s problems without a crucial contribution from Poland. Apart from taking the European Union and the NATO into perspective, we also need a regional approach, which will stamp out any limitations posed by other frameworks.

In recent years Estonians have become fascinated by technology, and the information technology in particular. Yet not many people in Europe know that Skype and Hotmail are from your country. Why aren’t you more boastful about that? I must say that Hotmail actually wasn’t started in Estonia. It was initially financially supported by a capital investment group DraperFischerJurvertson. One of the owners of the company, Steve Jurvertson, has Estonian roots, but that’s where the Estonian connections end. As for taking credit for Skype – well, Estonia is often called e-Stonia, the country with highly developed e-services both at the government and the private and commercial levels. We do not need to boast about it, we just need to continue to innovate. In computer technology you must constantly be a front-runner, otherwise you will be left behind.

The shortest description of Estonia is as follows: a small country covered by woodland, lakes, marshes and castles. In 2013 it was visited by 2.888 m tourists, who supplied the budget of the Republic with USD 1,393 m. How can you encourage Polish tourists to visit your country? I’m not an expert in tourism, but I think that our islands could be of interest for the Poles. Life goes on at its own pace on some of the bigger islands, and they are definitely worth visiting. But we also have a few thousand little islands. Summers in our country are especially packed with activities, such as various festivals and other cultural events. This is when you should abandon the city and move to the countryside to discover local traditions, cuisine and nature. Hunting enthusiats should know that Estonian forrests abound in game which can be hunted after a relevant permission is obtained. Many hunters from a number of European countries take advantage of this opportunity. Tallin and its medieval Old Town is a phenomenon in itself, but we also have plenty of renovated manor houses, tourist farms, spa centres etc. I really do hope that the knowledge about tourist attractions in Estonia will become widespread in Poland, and the same will hold true for the Estonian knowledge about attractions of Poland. The distance between Warsaw and Tallin is 1000 km and can be covered by car, bus or plane – there is a scheduled daily direct flight between capitals – we will always welcome you with pleasure! As Estonian Ambassador who travels between Poland and Estonia a few times per year, I would just like to express one wish – let’s hope that the road connection will become faster and that in future there will also be a railway connection – I have the Via Baltica and Rail Baltica projects in mind here.

Thank you for your time

Interesting facts about Estonia
• The country is marked with the largest number of craters created by falling meteorites (per unit of surface area).
• There is a three-kilometre stone cape on the Hiiumaa island.
• In 1994 Estonia became the first country in the world to implement flat tax, which is currently standing at 22% (or 0%) and has been systematically lowered.
• Thanks to the informatisation, the MPs can take part in parliamentary sessions from any part of the globe – all they need is their computer and internet access.
• The Old Town in Tallin, the country’s capital, is the biggest in all the Baltic countries. In this labirynth of narrow, cobbled streets, you will find a medieval square with a Gothic-style town hall, rows of old town houses, historic churches and impressive old city walls with watch towers.
• What do tourists usually take with them when leaving Estonia? – Vana Tallinn – a liqueur, a well-known and highly valued type of alcohol.

Udostępnij ten post:

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *