President Kaljulaid Visits U.S.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid travelled to New York and Washington the week of March 11th.  Her New York visit included meetings at the U.N. in conjunction with Estonia’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council for the 2020-2021 term.  Estonia is competing against Romania for the Eastern European Group seat.  The election will be held in mid-2019.

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President Kaljulaid speaking at the Brookings Institution

In Washington, President Kaljulaid had meetings with Congress, the Administration and think thanks.  The Brookings Institution hosted her as part of its International Leaders Forum.  She was introduced, and the follow-on discussion was moderated, by Brookings President and retired U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen.  General Allen was formerly the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013.

President Kaljulaid gave a powerful 30-minute speech on Estonia in an evolving Europe.  She covered a range of security-related topics that included historical review, NATO, the E.U. and its defense market, and technological implications.  She highlighted the purpose of NATO’s enhanced forward presence (eFP) in the region “to convey a message:  we are all in, that there is no way one can conduct military aggression against just one ally because there are 19 of us in eFP.”  She also called for more U.S. involvement in security in the Baltic region for maximum credibility, noting that:

the role of the United States will remain critical for European defense, but this is not a one-way street, as I am equally convinced that Europe, whole and free and in alignment with America, will remain critical for the security of the United States.

She drew parallels between the retreat of democracy prior to World War II and the current world order and emphasized the importance of acknowledging the problem.  The E.U. is under stress largely due to the failure of E.U. politicians to “create a society where truly, each and every one has a chance.”  The resulting backlash against Brussels from the countries that failed to implement social policies to prevent the rise of societal issues contributes to the growing unrest and leaves the union vulnerable to further division.

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The President and General Allen discussing Estonian European security.

The President concluded by calling for E.U.-U.S. unity in two other key areas.  The first was maintaining and adapting sanctions on Russia as long as it continues to engage in unacceptable behavior.   Secondly, she pointed out the importance of “help[ing] the victims of aggression even while we recognize the difficulties of the democratic developments,” citing Ukraine, Georgia and other Eastern partnership nations in need of:

support, solidarity and assistance. But, if necessary, they also need to be reminded that it’s not only the Western institutions that want them to concur with democratic values and principles, build rule of law states, allow free media, fight corruption.  It’s something they themselves need the most for their nations to live free and to prosper.

The full video of the event is available at under events for March 13th.


EANC at Sea

EANC members took part in the third biennial KLENK-IEP cruise March 2-10 on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.  EANC President Marju Rink-Abel and Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey were aboard to join in the festivities and represent EANC.  The

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Veronika Portsmuth Choral Academy choir and Märt Agu Dancers entertaining cruise audience.

group of approximately 400 KLENK-IEP participants was made up of both Estonians living abroad, primarily from the U.S. and Canada, and performers and their families from Estonia.  The 8-day agenda included performances and seminars on days the ship was at sea, an Esto beach party at the cruise line’s private resort in Labadee, Haiti, an academic lunch,  a salakõrts, and opportunities for bonding in smaller groups during port calls and around the ship.

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Karin Shuey leading seminar on EANC and advocacy.

Karin held a well-attended seminar titled EANC, Advocacy, and You.  She covered the history of EANC and some of its past advocacy successes; other organizations it belongs to and works with; its current advocacy work, including the Baltic caucuses in the House and Senate; the top issues of concern for U.S. policy in the Baltic region; and how audience members could help advance U.S. policy related to Estonia and regional security.  She also brought on board a miniature version of the exhibit she and JBANC created last year for display as part of the State Department’s recognition of the Baltic centennials, which was viewed with interest by both Estonians and members of the larger cruise population.

The program included several other lectures, as well.  Anne-Ly Reimaa of the Estonian

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Anne-Ly Reimaa leading seminar on Estonian minorities.

Ministry of Culture spoke about Nationalities and Ethnic Groups in Estonia Through the Centuries.  Professor of Sociology Ain Haas gave a demonstration of Estonia’s unique folk instruments – the kannel

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Veronika Portsmuth leading seminar on Estonian choral music.

(Estonian zither), Hiiu kannel (bowed lyre), and torupill (bagpipe).  Distinguished choral director Veronika Portsmuth led a session on the evolution of Estonian choral music.  There were also screenings of the films Seltsimees Laps and Coming Home Soon – The Refugee Children of Geislingen, followed by a discussion.

The program’s highlights were two gala concerts featuring Veronika Portsmuth directing members of her Veronika Portsmuth Choral Academy choir, Märt Agu and his folkdance troupe, and the folk music ensemble LiULi.  The Märt Agu Dancers perfectly executed traditional and modern interpretations of Estonian folkdance and the choir performed stirring renditions from a variety of Estonian choral genres.  Thanks to cooperation among many KLENK-IEP participants and the ship’s staff to advertise the event, the concert toward the end of the cruise was played to a theater full of entertained Estonians and non-Estonians alike.

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JBANC-State Department exhibit on display with KLENK-IEP staffers Peter and Susan Kopperman.

Marju noted that the trip was a successful venue for forging deeper understanding between kodueestlased and väliseestlased.  On a personal level, she observed and participated in conversations between members of the two groups that eased the distance sometimes felt by those with very different experiences of their Estonian-ness.  Participants at the lectures gained a better understanding of the history and current activities of Estonian Americans – a good advancement of the global Estonian movement.


EANC Estonian Independence Day Road Show

EANC was represented over the weekend of February 22nd at three events celebrating the 101st anniversary of Estonia’s independence.  Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey attended the Estonian embassy’s commemoration on Friday, held at the Embassy of Finland in Washington.  She was the keynote speaker on Saturday at the Connecticut Estonian Society’s celebration.  She also spoke at the Lakewood Estonian House at their event on Sunday.

The embassy event was attended by over 200 Estonians, Estonian Americans and friends

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Ambassador Vseviov giving keynote address at Estonian Embassy’s Independence Day celebration

of Estonia from throughout Washington’s diplomatic circles.  Finnish Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi and her staff were gracious hosts in their beautiful building on Massachusetts Avenue.  She and Estonian Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov gave remarks emphasizing the close relationship between their nations and also stressed the importance of their partnerships with the U.S. Ambassador Vseviov noted that:

“in good days and bad – Estonia has always been able to depend on American support.  Americans fought in our war of independence… American leadership paved our way back into Western institutions…Our relationship is built on the shared values upon which our very societies are built…as Allies we defend each other, we fight for each other, because securing freedom in Estonia is as much in American interests as securing freedom here is in Estonia’s.  We are part of the same free world, the same transatlantic community.”

The program also featured musical performances by Endrik Üksvärav and Peep Lassmann and was emceed by Estonian Deputy Chief of Mission Marko Koplimaa.

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Karin Shuey giving keynote address at Connecticut Estonian Society’s Independence Day celebration

The Connecticut Estonian Society held an evening event that included singing and dancing by the community’s younger generation and by-name honoring of their military veterans.  Karin gave an overview of EANC’s mission and support for Estonian American language and cultural preservation,  then focused on its advocacy work in Washington.  She provided information on the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus and the House Baltic Caucus, along with the membership status of Connecticut’s lawmakers, and encouraged the audience to contact their offices regarding the caucuses and legislation relevant to the region.

The New Jersey event featured international IT security specialist Merike Käo and Estonian Consul General in New York Kairi Künka.  In her greetings Kairi introduced the Estonian Integration Foundation’s new Estonian language house in Tallinn, where people of different backgrounds and native languages can learn and practice Estonian, and receive practical information on living, studying and working in Estonia.  She quoted Minister of Culture Indrek Saar, who at the house’s opening ceremony said, “Every person who speaks Estonian is important and valuable as someone to pass on our culture.  The community of people speaking Estonian does not necessarily have to be restricted to the ones living in Estonia.”  She emphasized the contribution of Estonian Americans in preserving Estonian language and culture.  She also recognized the importance of events like ESTO and global participation in Estonia’s song festivals, which play a vital role in keeping Estonia’s nationality and community alive.

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Merike Käo giving keynote address at Lakewood Estonian House Independence Day celebration

Merike gave a presentation on how Estonia became a world leader in creating a trusted digital society.  By the time the cyber-attacks took place against Estonia in 2007, the government already had experience in managing cyber related crisis due to its prior experience with electronic voting and its move to utilizing digital identities.  They were able to successfully coordinate a response working with collaboration between government, private and public sector organizations. She noted that “now Estonia is the poster child” for what governments and law enforcement should do to combat cyber crime.  She pointed to the Riigi Infosüsteemi Amet ( as the ultimate authority on Estonia’s cyber capabilities but noted that there isn’t parity between the comprehensive information that exists in Estonian and what is translated into English.   International press should be careful about just taking information out of context if they only see it in English.  She ended with advice on how to protect our own online presence, including using strong passwords and never trusting links in e-mails even if the source looks legitimate.

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Participants in Lakewood Estonian House Independence Day program featuring (adults from left): Ülle Bucholz, Luule Prima, Viiu Vanderer, Andres Simonson, Karin Shuey, Merike Käo, Kairi Künka, Tõnu Vanderer, Helica DeShaw, Ilmar Vanderer, and the children of the Lakewood Estonian School.

Karin provided a brief overview of New Jersey’s political landscape, the relevant legislative issues working through Congress now, and the Independence Day celebrations earlier in the weekend.   Her next presentation is on the KLENK-IEP cruise March 2-10.