In the second half of 2017, Estonia will take the helm of the presidency of the European Council for six months and in 2018, it will celebrate its 100th anniversary. For that period of time, the country will arrange a series of events throughout Europe to show what Estonia is about and to give local talents a venue to introduce themselves to the rest of the continent.
Initially, the Estonian centenary and the country’s EU presidency were supposed to both take place in 2018. Estonia celebrates its 100th year of independence on 24 February 2018, and the presidency was supposed to take place in the first half of the same year. Since the United Kingdom, however, decided to leave the EU, Estonia’s presidency got bumped up by half a year, it was decided to start with the international programme earlier than initially planned.
According to Jorma Sarv, the head of the international programme for the country’s EU presidency and centenary, the purpose of the events is to demonstrate Estonia as a tourism destination that has something to offer for everyone, but also give a chance to Estonian talents who deserve to be introduced outside the country.
“First and foremost, we wish to support those who already have international experience and who can, with our support, realise something bigger or different from the ordinary,” Sarv told Estonian World. “Also, lots of our events are related to culture, but also the education and science sectors.”
A programme for everyone
“In the grand scheme of things, we want to engage all activities that are directed at the public of foreign countries,” Sarv pointed out. “For example, the Estonian communities abroad are also very welcome to come together under this scheme.”
The programme is, in general, meant for anyone and everyone. “For example, if we take the culture sphere, when an Estonian artist performs to a foreign audience, then our goal is to offer the highest quality experience possible,” Sarv explained. “The fact that they’re from Estonia is important, but that doesn’t guarantee anything – what matters is the quality. So our interest is – and not only in the culture area – that an Estonian talent can reach the right audience and fulfil themselves there.”
So, which events in the programme are the most important? “I personally think that in their own way, all initiatives directed at foreign audiences are important,” Sarv asserted. “If we take the global sphere, then on 15 September 2018 a grand global clean-up event is to take place with hundreds of countries participating and trying to clean our communal environment. Estonia as the leader in the Let’s Do It! movement has an important role there.”
Help ideas to see the light of day
On the other hand, there are many smaller events in the programme that, according to Sarv, are also important. “Alongside many culture projects, there will be a weekend of scientific theatres in Amsterdam, arranged by the AHHAA science centre, or a virtual reality conference that is to take place in Helsinki.”
At the end of the day, the programme’s purpose is to help ideas that are sometimes impossible to realise to actually see the light of day. “A good example of this is the cooperation of many Estonian and international organisations to help make the first international tour of Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra happen,” Sarv explained. “Without us, this would be considerably more difficult. And we’re hoping that the orchestra will take off from there and carry on with international concerts even after our programme ends.”
Aiming for a global reach in 2018
Considering Estonia also has a significant political programme for the six-month period of presidency, would the events programme also overlap with politics? Not necessarily, Sarv said. “The digital sphere is definitely a common denominator for quite a few aspects related to Estonia, and some aspects might overlap, but our focus is on a wider audience who don’t necessarily know much about Estonian political programme.”
When the year 2017 mostly concentrates on Europe, then in the year after that, Estonia will try and reach farther destinations. “At the end of January, the Estonian Museum of Art and the National Gallery in Washington, DC, will arrange an exhibit of Michel Sittow’s artwork; the ERSO orchestra and the Estonian National Men’s Choir go on a tour in China; Toronto will host a week dedicated to the Estonian music; etc. I hope there will be more such activities in farther destinations,” Sarv declared.
Three of the most curious events taking place in the second half of 2017:
Restart Reality: Digital Street Art – All over Europe, unique and distinctively Estonian characters from about a hundred years ago are brought to new life by Edward von Lõngus and augmented reality technologies, exploring life & people around them.
All Around Europe: Kaustinen festival – The Estonian band, Trad.Attack!, is celebrating the grandest event in Estonian history with a concert tour “All Around Europe”, performing in every EU member state – including Finland at the Kaustinen festival.
A virtual reality conference in Helsinki – The aim of the conference is to connect different VR developers, investors, incubators, accelerators and enthusiasts from Estonia and other Nordic countries.
Cover: A street art by Edward von Lõngus.