August 15, 2019

Summary, Estonian Opinion Festival 2019: Global Power Struggle, Europe in the New World Order, New Threats

Estonia’s role in the world is not only related to our geographical location, instead, our future is increasingly shaped by global developments. Who will become a global superpower? What will be the position of Europe in the new world order – and Estonia’s place in that Europe? How should we face the new threats surrounding us? Is NATO the only answer?

To tackle these topical issues, the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) and the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute of ICDS (EFPI), an autonomous research unit under the ICDS, organised three discussions at the annual Opinion Festival in Paide, Estonia.


Will Europe become a player in world politics?

No European country alone is strong or big enough to be a top player in global politics, but the European Union as a whole has the potential to be one of the global leaders. Unfortunately, however, the whole is smaller than the sum of the individual countries, and the European Union is a secondary power in crisis resolution. The bottleneck is the lack of unity and common strategic culture.

The European Union together with the member states has both opportunities and levers of influence: single market, diplomatic corps, defence spending, development aid. The European Union should change from a jug to a player.

New and controversial keywords in the European debate: European sovereignty, strategic autonomy, strategic sovereignty.

Europe’s security depends heavily on the US and continues to do so, but we cannot ignore the fact that Europe-US relations have changed. The US has turned its eyes to China, which has become the number one competitor to the US. The US needs to pay more and more attention to China which is likely to mean less resources to Europe in future.

In the debates about Russia and the European Union, normalisation of the relations often comes up although Russia has not changed its behaviour. Russia is not changing its geopolitical interests and is prepared to pay a high economic price for it. The EU should show unity and consistence.

Participants: Evelyn Kaldoja (Estonian daily newspaper Postimees); Andres Kasekamp (University of Toronto); Matti Maasikas (Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Raivo Vare. The discussion was led by Kristi Raik, director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute of ICDS.

Summary by the Estonian news portal

Watch the whole discussion in Estonian:


Information hygiene in the time of peace and crisis 

ICDS together with the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership organised the only discussion in Russian at this year’s Opinion Festival.

Accelerated information flow has caused an overflow that may jeopardize media consumption and spur the spread of malicious information manipulation. There is still much disagreement on how to combat hostile disinformation in the most effective way in an open democracy. It is not enough to debunk disinformation and expose fake accounts in the social media.

We were delighted to welcome our close cooperation partners, experts from Ukraine to Paide:

  • Dr Lidiya Smola, Professor, Researcher in the field of Political/Psychological Science;
  • Dr Iryna Brunova-Kalisetska, Executive Director at Integration and Development Center for Information and Research, an expert in the prevention, transformation and reconciliation of identity-based conflicts;
  • Valeriia Pimkina, journalist from Kramatorsk;
  • Tetiana Kolesova, media expert from Mariupol.

From Estonia, Grigori Senkiv, director of the National Centre of Defence and Security Awareness. The discussion was led by Dmitri Teperik, chief executive of ICDS.

Summary of the discussion by UkraineWorld.

Highlights from the discussion in Russian in

Watch the whole discussion:


Decision making in the EU: How does the jam get inside the doughnut?

The aim of the discussion was to explain how the huge European Union machinery works and comment on myths and arguments about the European Union: Brussels dictates member states what to do, it’s a playground for bigger member states only, Estonia overachieves in implementing the directives, and whether we should strive for more Europe or focus on implementing things that have already been decided.

Key topics of the near future: climate and energy, migration, defence, budget, Brexit, free movement of services. How to cope in a changed world, what will be the position of Europe in the new world order and how strong is EU’s impact and power are the bigger questions that remain to be answered.

Vivian Loonela from the European Commission and Epp Ehand, Europe correspondent of the Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), shed light on what’s the reality in Brussels. The discussion was be led by Piret Kuusik, junior research fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute of ICDS.

Watch the whole discussion in Estonian:


NATO of the future, fake news and Hungary-Finland relations

Kalev Stoicescu, research fellow of the ICDS, participated in a discussion on the future of NATO, organised by the Estonian NATO Association and in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the German Embassy in Estonia.

According to Stoicescu, 70 years old NATO is a pensioner in defence and security in a wonderful shape because it has good genes, mostly liberal democratic; it has a clear mind and strategies for the future; it’s intelligent and determined – takes decisions upon democratic consensus; and it has very good athletic body, military capabilities.

Future of the NATO depends more and more on Europeans – Europe has to do much more, spend at least 2% as agreed. Obviously, the US will remain the biggest Ally, without the US there would be no NATO.

The EU gets more and more involved in the defence sector and NATO benefits from that, for instance the military mobility initiative, this is real money, real projects, real infrastructure and this is also good for NATO for moving troops.

Read Stoicescu’s opinion article on the same topic in Estonian in the daily Postimees: NATO is not going to disband

Watch the whole discussion in English:


Dmitri Teperik, chief executive of ICDS, participated in a discussion on fake news moderated by Holger Roonemaa, head of investigative journalism of Postimees Grupp. According to Teperik, during this year’s Riigikogu election campaign, appeals were artificially amplified in both open and closed social media groups: don’t vote, Estonia is an ethnocratic state, nothing depends on the local Russian speaking population. Continue reading in Estonian in Postimees.

Erkki Bahovski, editor-in-chief of ICDS Diplomaatia magazine hosted radio Kuku’s foreign policy programme Välismääraja on the Postimees stage. Bahovski spoke with Mall Hellam, head of the Open Estonia Foundation, and Rein Oidekivi, research fellow of ICDS, about the diplomatic dispute between Finland and Hungary and its possible implications for Estonia.

Listen to the discussion in Estonian on Kuku radio.



The “Global Estonia” area at the Estonian Opinion Festival 2019 was a collaboration project of the International Centre for Defence and Security and Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association (together with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Embassy of Germany in Estonia), the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership, IOM – UN Migration Agency in Estonia, the UNHCR, and the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) of the European Commission.