Advocacy

EANC Co-Hosts Baltic Way Reenactment

This coming August 23rd, on the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way in 1989 and the 80th anniversary of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, EANC is joining forces with several Washington, DC organizations to host a reenactment of the historic linking of hands that marked a turning point in the Baltic nations’ quest for re-independence.  We’re inviting Baltic communities and friends across the U.S. to come to the nation’s capital or to organize parallel events in their cities!BW30 snip cropped

The three Baltic embassies, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VoC), and the Joint Baltic American National Committee, along with its parent organizations – the American Latvian Association, the Lithuanian American Council and EANC – have confirmed space on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and are actively working to promote participation in the Friday afternoon event.  While focus is on the Estonian-, Latvian- and Lithuanian-American communities, members of the wider Central and East European diaspora, and anyone of any nationality who would like to support the event, are welcome to join in. The 1939 pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany affected not only the Baltic nations, but also many countries in the region, including Poland, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Belarus.

The event’s official announcement reminds us that:

The Baltic Way was a peaceful and unique demonstration for the freedom of the Baltic nations. On August 23, 1989, about two million people from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (one-fourth of the populations) joined hands over a distance of 370 miles (similar to the distance between Boston and Washington, DC).

This human chain, linking the three Baltic capitals of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius, was to BW30 snip logosprotest the Soviet occupation on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the secret agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The Pact divided Europe and forcibly kept the Baltic countries behind the Iron Curtain. The Baltic countries, first having established their modern statehood in 1918, regained their independence in 1990-91, and the Baltic Way was a major milestone on their road to regained freedom.

Communities around the U.S. are encouraged to use the DC event as a model, referring to the Facebook event called Baltic Way 30 at the U.S. Capitol at https://ej.uz/BalticWay30.  Please RSVP there if you intend to take part in the Washington event and check back for updates and reminders as the day draws closer.  EANC hopes to see you in Washington in person, or virtually in your city!

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Advocacy

Prominent DC Publication Features Estonian Ambassador

The Washington Diplomat (www.washdiplomat.com) recently hosted Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov as part of its Ambassador Insider Series.  The speaker series brings top diplomats, senior government officials, corporate executives, scholars, and other members of Washington’s broader community together in an intimate setting to exchange ideas and expertise, and to learn about the evening’s featured country.

The conversation with Ambassador Vseviov highlighted Estonia as a truly digital society.  He described how Estonia bypassed the transition most countries undergo from legacy systems to digital systems because it was able to establish its new economy and government on digital platforms from the start after the fall of the Soviet Union.  He stated that Estonians are very innovative in the way the government has legislated how citizens interact with government agencies online, noting that Estonian citizens own their own data, which already exists online and is securely transferred among agencies as necessary to deliver services.  While the digital environment is not 100% private, it’s better than keeping paper records because access to digital records is strictly tracked and logs are kept of all activity related to a file, as opposed to an unauthorized person opening a paper record and taking a photograph with a cell phone.

WashDip photo

Ambassador Vseviov being interviewed by Washington Diplomat Managing Editor Anna Gawel.

Ambassador Vseviov estimated that the government saves 2% of its GDP just by using digital signatures rather than paper.  One example comes from Estonia’s very simple system for filing taxes.  He told the story of Jeb Bush referencing Estonia in his 2016 campaign speeches, saying that Estonians file their taxes in five minutes.  Bush was later called out by fact checkers who lowered his truthfulness rating because most Estonians could actually file their taxes in three minutes.

E-Estonia works because Estonians have a high level of trust in their government, largely thanks to its transparency and the respect with which it treats citizens’ data.  Ambassador Vseviov noted that Americans are more willing to allow private companies access to their data and that, “things that happen on a daily basis here would be outrageous in Estonia.”  He gave the example of receiving personally addressed advertisements in the mail only days after moving into his new home, something most Americans probably take for granted.

The Ambassador also explained that while the U.S. and other countries can learn from Estonia’s example, no nation can copy it exactly.  In the case of the U.S., state governments often have roles held by the national government in Estonia, such as issuing driver’s licenses or recording property transfers.  Several U.S. states have indicated interest in adapting and implementing systems based on the Estonian model.  Ambassador Vseviov advised looking at the processes and learning from Estonia’s mistakes but not copying the methods exactly.

When asked about national security, Vseviov acknowledged that Russia poses a real physical threat.  He believes that NATO is taking the threat seriously enough, as demonstrated by its emphasis on collective defense, deployment of more frontline forces, and many nations increasing their defense spending.  It’s clear that Europe is at war, with the invasion of Ukraine as a fact of life.  While the Kremlin is employing bots and digital attacks as part of its strategy against the West, Ambassador Vseviov observed that attacks “boil down to human beings and human psychology” engaging in cost-benefit analysis.  Defense still requires a human element on a personal level as well as nations building resilience on a national level.

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