The Estonian Opinion Festival to include a number of English-language panels

Estonians are gathering in Paide for the sixth time for a real grass-roots democracy building event; the Opinion Festival – also called “a rock festival of words” – unites Estonians, but not only: the festival also features number of English-language panels.

This year’s Opinion Festival will treat participants to 12 English-language discussions (there will be 160 discussions in total), ranging from topics such as national security to information warfare to the transition away from cowboy capitalism. Special attention will be paid to the nature of democracy and the future of the three Baltic countries who are all celebrating their centenaries in 2018.

While the English-language discussions are spread across the festival’s six key themes (values, community, policymaking, security, employment and market, and education), participants looking for topics with an international focus are spoilt for choice in two discussion areas in particular: the Democracy Area and the Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 Area.

A discussion area dedicated to the democracy

While nurturing participatory democracy has been at the heart of the Opinion Festival since inception, this is the first time there will be a discussion area dedicated solely to the concept and practice of democracy. The timing for the Democracy Area, hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia, is not accidental: with recent landslide changes in international politics, there is hardly a better time to take a step back and think about what it means to live in and nurture a democratic society.

When on Friday (10 August) the discussions will be assessing what Estonia could still learn from the Nordics, whether on the more fundamental level of social and foreign policy or when it comes to entrepreneurship, the discussions on Saturday (11 August) will give participants the opportunity to expand beyond their immediate region of the Nordics and Baltics and instead explore opportunities and challenges for the whole of European civil society through the example of Poland, Hungary and Germany.

Activists from these countries will share their experience and know-how. Another area of focus on the second day of the festival will be the European Capital of Culture, with several Estonian cities vying for the title for 2024.

The future sustainability of the Baltics

Another area that stands out for its international focus is the Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area. As the name suggests, the area will be tackling questions about the future sustainability of the three Baltic countries.

What is the financial portrait of people in the Baltics? How to give young people opportunities to fulfil themselves and in a global world encourage them to contribute to these small societies on the edge of Europe? Led by Swedbank (a Nordic-Baltic banking group based in Sweden) and welcoming speakers from all three Baltic countries, there are just some of the discussions taking over two days.

Beyond these two discussion areas, other English-language events are dotted around the festivals. There will be a human library, organised by the Estonian Refugee Council, where participants can hear and engage with the stories of refugees and immigrants. Another discussion of note takes place in the Foreign Policy Area on Friday, with media and strategic communications experts from Ukraine, Finland and Estonia inviting participants to debate the issue of information warfare that is increasingly rearing its head in Europe and globally.

This year’s programme, as in previous years, has been the grassroots effort of hundreds of organisations and individuals across sectors and creeds. As such, it holds up a mirror to the main areas of interest, concern and hope for local citizens. The diversity of themes and participants in the Festival’s English-language programme is one such reflection.

The discussions and events in English programme

10 August

Are the Nordic Countries Still a Role Model for Estonians?

10 August 2018, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Kirsti Narinen (ambassador, the Finnish Embassy in Estonia) Taavi Rõivas (MP, the former prime minister of Estonia), Kai Klandorf (the executive director, the Network of Estonian Non-profit Organisations)
Moderator: Christer Haglund (the director of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia)
Organiser: The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia (NORDEN)

From Cowboy Capitalism to Value-Based Entrepreneurship

10 August 2018, 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Kati Ihamaki (director, Sustainable Development, Finnair), Maria Wetterstrand (a former spokesperson for the Swedish Green Party and parliamentarian), Raul Lättemägi (owner, AS Advanced Sports Installations Europe)
Moderator: Annika Arras (a partner at Miltton Nordics)
Organiser: The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia (NORDEN)

Human Library “Immigrants”

10 August 2018, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Discussion Culture area (Suhtluskultuuri ala)
Participants: Refugees, immigrants, foreigners living in Estonia
Moderator: Polina Polyakoff (NGO Estonian Refugee Council)
Organiser: The Estonian Refugee Council

Manipulation and Information Warfare

10 August 2018, 6:00pm – 7:30
Foreign Policy area (Välispoliitika ala)
Participants: Oleksii Makuhin (an expert of the Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre), Raul Rebane (a strategic communications expert), Anneli Ahonen (a team member of the EU East StratCom Task Force)
Moderator: Jarmo Mäkela (a Finnish analyst with international media experience; a columnist at Postimees)
Organiser: The Estonian Centre of Eastern Partnership

Who is the Richest – Jaan, Janis or Justas? A Financial Portrait of the Baltics

10 August 2018, 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Kristjan Tamla (director, Investment Funds, Swedbank), Leonore Riitsalu (NGO Rahatarkus), Vaidotas Šumskis (the chief economist, Bank of Lithuania), Sanita Gertmane (the Latvian Consumer Rights Protection Centre)
Moderator: Kati Voomets (director, the Institute for Private Finances, Swedbank)
Organiser: Swedbank Estonia

“Mina jään,” “aš lieku”,” “es palieku !” Baltic countries: A Disappearing Nation?

10 August 2018, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Mikk Tarros (vice-chairman, the Estonian National Youth Council), Emīls Anškens (chairman, the Latvian Youth Council), Urtė Petrulytė (board member, the Lithuanian Youth Council), Juris Vilums (the parliament of Latvia), Rainer Vakra (the parliament of Estonia)
Moderator: Annaliisa Jäme (a consultant, the parliament of Estonia)
Organiser: The Estonian National Youth Council

Career – Choice or Stereotype? Are the Baltics Looking for New People?

10 August 2018, 4:30pm – 6:00
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Kätlin Kuldmaa (the Estonian UN Youth Delegate), Fredrik Nilzen (the head of sustainability, Swedbank Group), Mari-Ann Lumeste (a counselor to the Estonian Equality Commissioner), Deepak Ahluwalia (deputy sales director, Nordica), Toomas Kruusimägi (headmaster, the Tallinn English College; president, the Estonian School Heads Association)
Moderator: Liisa Pakosta (the Estonian gender equality and equal treatment commissioner)
Organiser: Liisa Pakosta (the Estonian gender equality and equal treatment commissioner)

11 August

Civil Society in Europe: Who, Why and How Should Be Mobilised?

11 August 2018, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Miklos Marschall (the founding executive director, CIVICUS; a former deputy managing director, Transparency International; a former deputy mayor of Budapest – Hungary), Jakub Wygnański (sociologist, activist and co-founder of a number of NGOs – Poland), André Wilkens (CEO, Offene Gesellschaft; a former director, the Mercator Centre Berlin – Germany)
Moderator: Sigrid Solnik (the Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation)
Organiser: Open Estonia Foundation

Beyond the digital: What can Estonia offer other countries can’t

11 August 2018, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Paide Song Festival Grounds (Paide lauluväljak)
Participants: Mark Cowan (UK), Lucía Riet de Mahhov (Uruguay), Keegan McBride (USA), Felipe Mohando (Argentina), Inga Ulena (Latvia), and Andrew Whyte (UK)
Moderator: Federico Plantera (Italy)
Organiser: ERR News

European Culture Capital 2024: For Whom and Why?

11 August 2018, 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Suvi Innilä (programme leader, Turu 2011 European Capital of Culture – Finland) Ib Christensen (the head of the municipality cultural department, Aarhus 2017 – Denmark), Helen Sildna (Shiftworks; team member, Narva 2024 initiative –  Estonia), Berk Vaher (Bidbook editor, the Tartu 2024 European Capital of Culture candidate city – Estonia)
Moderator: Laur Kaunissaare (Dramaturg, Theatre NO99; programme coordinator, Tallinn 2011 European Capital of Culture)
Organiser: The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia (NORDEN)

Divided We Fall, United We Stand: Is Polarisation of Societies Undermining Security of the Baltic states?

11 August 2018, 12:00pm – 1:30
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Dr Kęstutis Girnius (an associate professor, the Institute of International Affairs and Political Science of Vilnius University); Dr Mārtiņš Kaprāns (a researcher, the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia; Advisor, the Latvian Ministry of Culture); Dr Anu Realo (an associate professor, the Department of Psychology of University of Warwick; a professor of personality and social psychology, University of Tartu); Dr Volodymyr Ishchenko (a lecturer, the Department of Sociology of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute)
Moderator: Tomas Jermalavičius (the head of studies and a research fellow, ICDS)
Organiser: The International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS)

Building Trends in the Baltics in 2038

11 August 2018, 4:00pm – 5:30
Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Raimonds Jansons (the ambassador of Latvia in Estonia), Eneli Liisma (the head of the quality management department, AS Merko Ehitus Eesti), Rene Vinkler (sales manager, Sakret OÜ)
Moderator: Kaspars Pacevics (CEO, board member, Sakret OÜ)
Organiser: Sakret OÜ

Learning through Activity

11 August 2018, 12:30pm – 1:30
Children’s Discussions (Lastearutelud)
Participants: Lea Tornberg (A Finnish teacher and creator of innovative teaching methods)
Moderator: Mario Mäeots
Organiser: The Finnish Institute in Estonia

See the full festival programme here.


Cover: The Estonian Opinion Festival team in 2017 (the image is illustrative).

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