Images of Europe - The country study Estonia

Aksel Kirch, Iris Brökling, Mart Kivimäe

1. Changing images of Europe - Historical overview

Today Estonia aspires to be a full member of a new, joined Europe. The European image and the real European identity of Estonia can be demonstrated by the general acceptance of this ideology. This is the only way for small state like Estonian Republic to survive and keep its own identity while integrating into the European cultural, political and security system. In Estonia people are interested what a joining of EU-structures will bring about. The image of Europe is becoming clearer, but the process is still too slow. This is Estonian historic tendency.

The Estonian ‘Europeanization’ as the feeling of belonging to Europe does not confine herself to the intellectual traditions and the historical identification alone, but it is a way of thinking that continuously keeps activating and fulfilling itself. The ideas of ‘being European’ are often presented in competing terms of ‘Europeanization’, for example in variants of the Baltic culture work-shops, the Hanse membership, the ideology of a Nordic mentality or the idea of a border culture between the West and the East. Most of those ideas stem from the visions of society development in the 19th century.1

In today’s post-industrialism these ideas receive a new chance to join in the conversation in this very quickly developed modern historical mentality, in the national political discourse and in economic matters. All these mental concepts of „Europeanization“ are long-lasting historically perceived. As conservative patters of cultural perception they have outlived the political myths having been forced on by the totalitarian system that have been destroyed.

In the latest phase of the Euro-discourse, mainly from the end of the 1980ies until the middle of the 1990ties, such research on the Euro-identity stood in the centre of attention, that displaced intentiously the Eurocentrism of the 19th century and the subsequent concepts centering on national symbols. The research stressed the need to find the means for defining the identity in the 20th century itself.

The national culture of the time of national awakening, the heritage of the Baltic Germans and the movement "Noor-Eesti" are related to the present time in a very close way. But they are also part of the former era, from which post-socialist modernization, high-technology and the influence of a mass culture alienate us by changing experiences of culture.

The influence of the movement "Noor-Eesti" lies in an understanding for the European idea, which Estonia obtained as a value already before gaining national independence at the beginning of the 20th century; staying independent from the level of the (at that time developing) polemic cultural dictatorship. The problem to live within a culture, the openness of culture and society as a natural world of living for the people and therefore as a field for self-realization is, looking from the point of view of the cultural dictatorship, not as important as the problem of making culture, controlling and representation.

‘Europeanization’ was seen mainly as a puristic term of culture, as opposed to Baltic provincialism, peasant primitivism and social conventionalism. The main aim of such an Europeanization was a comparable level of Estonian and European culture. But the result was a modernization of the Estonian society, a broader national humanistic-aesthetic culture, which opened new possibilities for a national understanding of culture. This founded the cultural understanding of the heirs of those achievements and was the foundation of Western orientation for Estonian culture in the years 1905 to 1915 - and the actual beginning of an Estonian cultural life.

How can the development of Estonia be summed up, beginning with the movement to regain independence in 1988 until today? Rein Ruutsoo argues, that the main problem for Estonia, as for most of the other post-communist countries, is the fact that it has to combine collective identity with pre-modern traits, a modern autonomous subject and a postmodernizing state. The difficulty is that observance of the laws, collective loyalty and individual initiative to a great degree rely on different sources. The existing norms and values originate from diverse eras. Individual generations, geographical regions, ethnic cultures, sectors of activity, etc. bear the stamp of different social paradigms. The result is a weakness of the ties that shape society as a whole, and the emergence of differentiating factors.2

2. Europe as a cultural concept (the paradigm of the intellectual Euro-Scepticism)

The fast changes of national and regional identity characteristic for the transformation period are accompanied by an increased feeling of danger since the mid-nineties. This is not a first-time phenomenon, since already in the first decades of the 20th century such a phenomenon was observed in Estonia.

In Estonia's cultural development of today the question arises about the development crisis of Estonianness as an orientation crisis. This question is of existential significance, since the development of Estonianness at the end of the century under the aspect of historical and political development is characterized by a need to cope with the different waves of modernization of the recent history. But on the other hand, development towards a contemporary people means at the same time non-identification with a policy of violence and adjustment to modernity.

Euro-scepticism as a keyword has gained a rather ambiguous and contradictory response in the public opinion of Estonia. The unclear meaning of Euro-scepticism is mainly characterized in the present state of the society, it also mirrors the state of the distorted discussions that were provoked by Estonia’s future joining of the European Union. Four aspects that belong to the Euro-scepticism of today:

(1) The reconstruction of the idea of Euro-scepticizm on an individual level adds to the socio-politic opinion research of today mainly former humanitarian-cultural conceptional experiences, which can be seen as a natural species of the social capital of today's pronunciation.

(2) Taking into account the drawn conclusions from analyzing the Euro-discussion in today's press, after which the press itself has often supported the development of "attitudes based on simple stereotypes" in society up to now, the discussion of those conceptional experiences makes it possible to introduce creative ideas into the discourse, which in general is not possible with stereotypes that already have a certain form.

(3) The experience with handling the topic Europe, which implies a comparison of Western and national traits, draws attention to fundamental anthropological circumstances; that the people do not only rationally and politically but also emotionally and culturally want to feel, “where they belong”; this is why the security aspect of European integration has to be acknowledged - depending on the identity of a small country - as being essential.

(4) The thesis of predominance of culture, which is globally a topic after the disintegration of the "dictatorial world" and its political ideology, which distrusted the "European world and its people”, has to be included as a reference in the Euro-problem. The degree of liberty in society can also be accepted outside of politics. Politics is not culture, but culture a determinant of politics.

The magazine of the Estonian cultural elite, "Eesti Ekspress" (supplement - "Areen", February 3rd, 2000) has recently published an idea, which tries to express the attitudes of the elite at the beginning of the 20th century in a different light - "we have been Estonians, but we will get Europeans!" This vision for the future of losing identity by Andres Langemets cannot be misunderstood. The gradual change of the national "face" of the Estonians (as the author sees it, an orientation towards others) is described as a national destruction, which occurs during several generations. The author as a sceptic is certain, that "the path chosen by the people is the national path; projected to the future and acceptable".3

The dilemma of a small cultural area is the danger, that Estonianness could change into cultural anomy and that national feelings would no longer have a positive importance as a factor of democratic political culture.

In the article of Mart Kivimäe, which had already been mentioned above, he introduces first the development history of the Estonian Euro-scepticism. In the case at hand, this analysis gives us a direction since the conceptional development of Estonian Euro-scepticism displays such traits that are qualifying for the manifestation of theEuropeanization’ in the further history of Estonianness. These traits coin part of the national burden of civilization in the face of intellectual traditions also in today’s period of „Europeanization“ as well as in the new assessment of cultural values. Interpreting this cultural burden of civilization facilitates coping with the problems of today thus collaborating indirectly in the draft of a programme for the future.

3. Europe and the national interests of Estonia

Today, one of the key questions in discussions of Estonian politicians and the cultural elite is the possible change in national culture and territorial identity (sovereignty).

Stating this fact should be the beginning of an overview of the changes in discussions concerning Estonian national interests, which appeared during the preparation of Estonia for joining the EU. During the last decade, one of the characteristic traits of Estonian foreign policy was the making of fundamental decisions and reasons were searched realizing the national interests and getting real support in favouring one foreign power against another.

In fundamental treatise in the "Return to the Western World. Cultural and Political Perspectives on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition" with the topic “ Changing National Spaces in the Baltic area”, Peeter Vihalemm, social scientist at Tartu University, explain how Estonian political leaders and scholars depict Estonia’s geopolitical significance on the political map of the Europe.4 Estonian self-definition can be found mainly in belonging (or not-belonging) to Europe (West-, East- and Middle-Europe), to the Nordic Countries or to the Baltic States. An academic research work from Tartu university has shown, that for the Estonian political and academic elite Europe and, more precisely, Northern Europe has become an ideal; the belonging to this area is taken for granted.

The term Europe is used additionally to the geographic unit also as a meaning for a cultural, economical and political construction. Estonian top-politicians consider Estonia as belonging to Europe in all formerly mentioned fields. Typical for this are the considerations made by the former Estonian prime minister, Mart Siiman, during his speech “Why do we get a member-state of the EU” on May, 20th 1998 at a conference of the Hansapank. “The participation of Estonia in European integration is a natural process, which results from our centuries-long belonging to the Western-European cultural area. Considering this background, an unification with European structures means a restoration of historical, economical, political and cultural ties.”5

The danger coming from Russia for Estonian national interests and the country's independence is perceived. Marika Kirch, Mart Helme, Rein Ruutsoo, Juhan Sillaste and other have drafted expressing Estonia's position as a small country position, starting from the possible role of Estonia in the EU and in the context of ongoing foreign policy developments in Russia.6 The stability ensuing from cooperation within the EU reduces the chance of a political or economic crisis in Russia being transferred to Estonia. Estonia’s experience in regaining independence and discussions on EU enlargement demonstrate that, in the EU, we have common foreign and security policy interests with the small states of the Baltic Sea region, primarily Finland, Denmark and Sweden. Consequently, the would-be role of small states in the EU decision-making system at the beginning of the third millennium is relevant for Estonia’s foreign policy.

In discussions of Estonian politicians and the academic elite a sharply defined understanding has been reached - Estonia has chances to become a member state of the EU before joining NATO. This is why a strengthening of the defence policy of the EU is of great importance for an increase of Estonian security and for a definite liberation from the cliché of a former Soviet republic and of the status as "near abroad". Concerning economic and propagandistic attacks from the inside and the outside, the EU offers even better guarantees than NATO, through indirect instruments and guarantees of security policy. The most important is the in the Amsterdam Treaty intended Common Security Policy of the EU with main emphasis on solidarity.7

This topic has highest priority in the Estonian press and is also an important field of discussion in meetings of Estonian high-rank politicians with their foreign colleagues. The frequent appearance of Estonian top-politicians at foreign universities and research centres has to be stressed. There were dozens of those "performances" in the last few years and their message was the possibility for Estonia to gain essential security guarantees. This is also expressed by the words of the Estonian minister of foreign affairs, Toomas Hendrik Ilves in address to the readers of the Estonian Business School Review, November 1999 (Special Volume dedicated to European integration) – “integrating into the European Union represents the culmination of Estonian's road back to Europe and Estonia's road forward to its rightful place as a well-functioning, modern nation-state. There is no future in the Byzantine way of our former oppressors just as there is no future in the short-sighted, narrow-minded autarchism of our own past. A free and prosperous Estonia belongs in a Europe whole and free."8

4. Europe and the economic interests in the Baltic Countries

The eastward enlargement of the EU is an objective process connected to the process of modernization and globalization of the world and to the associated deepening of cooperation of the European people. The incorporation of Estonia and the other Baltic States in more intense trade, information, financial and labour systems is absolutely inevitable.

How can a new European statehood look like, so that is does not repeat the problems of the classic nation-states concerning legitimisation of power, this is still subject of theoretical inquiries. Which possibilities exist to realize those - yet theoretical - ideas, this is highly dependent on the practical development of unification with the EU, where - besides economic considerations - also security interests are getting more and more important.

However, Estonia, as say Rein Ruutsoo, has many fundamental reasons for joining European structures.

Firstly, Estonia is in geographical terms European periphery and it is actually very complicated to divert new "energies" to Estonia in a natural way or to take part in “waves” of new energies. This problem can be compensated through the development of supra-national structures.

Secondly are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania a political instable (grey) area, as long as they are not finally united with NATO and EU. This is a hindrance for the Baltic States as an investment area for western companies and makes manipulations from the East easier.

Thirdly, Estonia has lost half a century concerning the global process of modernization. The catching up of the technological, legal, cultural and socio-political backwardness needs extraordinary means. One of those - and the one with the best perspective - is the joining of the EU.

Fourthly, in cooperation with European identity and its carriers, Estonia's own culturo-linguistic identity and its carriers can be very effective in the cultural sphere in resisting the advances of Americanisation.9

In Estonia, several collective studies have been published in the last years, which deal competently with the development of the economy. Especially two books “The social and economic policy of the EU in the context of the eastward enlargement” from scientists of Tartu university10 and “Harmonisation with the Western Economics: Estonian Economic Developments and Related Conceptual and Methodological Frameworks” from Estonian Institute of Economics at Tallinn Technical University11 has to be mentioned.

For the first time, the Estonian public was prepared, that the enlargement of the EU is a very complicated and contradictory complex of problems. This is why even the associated countries of Middle- and Eastern Europe are - despite of sounding political declarations and signed contracts - still as far away from integration as most of the developing countries.

The first book deals with the possibilities for Estonia, but also with the dangers ensuing from the enlargement of the EU. It is clear, that joining the EU offers new economic possibilities for Estonia and that EU-membership gives fresh impetus to development. But at the same time, dangers and obstacles have to be calculated. This is why the eastward enlargement of the EU is a process with many contradictory influences, which concern different social, economic and regional groups of interest in a different way.12 This states professor Janno Reiljan, who leads the authors collective of the first mentioned book. Professor Reiljan is also a member of the Estonian parliament and belongs to the oppositional faction of the Estonian People's Party.

In order to reach a theoretical step of success on the way to consolidating the common economic interests of Estonia as a membership candidate and of the EU, the four premises of enlargement analyzed by Janno Reiljan have to be studied. In the following passage they are presented in reduced length. But it is getting clear in Estonia, that the Estonian success in the process of European integration is dependent on many factors, amongst them the knowledge and implementation of the preconditions necessary for accession.

First premiss is the common political will of the EU member states to go the path of eastern enlargement and to be willing to take the inevitable economic burdens and social risks accompanying enlargement.

Second precondition is the social maturing of the membership candidates to a level necessary for accession to the EU. In Estonia as well as in other candidate countries the realization of this precondition is quite difficult, since the development of the attitudes of the people concerning accession to the EU in the right direction is only slow and contradictory. Some of the very influential neoliberal business circles, for example, want to keep the until now unimpeded field of business free from social responsibilities, because this would enable short-term economic profits.

The third premiss of enlargement would be the ability to find criteria for compromise concerning the evaluation of fulfilling basic social principles, which - instead of comparing the absolute level of competition conditions - would compare the pressure of competition which effects companies of different states differently. To demand from a candidate country with a much lower income level the increase of social and ecological standards to the level of the EU (the so-called demand of harmonization) would mean to claim an important approach to the average economic development level of the EU member states as a precondition to integration. Such a request would make accession for Estonia and other states practically impossible.

It can only be spoken of an accession to the EU (fourth precondition of enlargement), if criteria for the transformation from a lower form of integration to a higher level exist, as well as a fixed timetable (as a premiss for fulfilment of integration criteria).

The analytical work of Institute of Economics at Tallinn Technical University can be seen as an important step towards informing the Estonian business circles as well as familiarizing the broad Estonian public with possible upcoming difficulties. This is important in the present very special situation, where Estonia wants to conclude the preparations and get a full member of the EU already in the year 2003. Of course the preparations will demand big efforts from the Estonian side. But it is also necessary to stress, that the testification of Estonia's readiness to take over the aquis communautaire and later on to join depends in the end on the willingness of the EU to eastern enlargement .

Euro-integration, like any change, brings up the question: What is the impact of the process on the Estonian economy going to be and which will be the sectors most affected by accession? Accession certainly offers more opportunities for business, especially for exports to other European countries. It affects medium-sized and large enterprises and creates better opportunities for internationalisation. In the long term accession offers Estonia better opportunities for stable economic growth because of closer contact with a more stable economic environment. A significant role is played also by the subsidies paid in the EU to less development areas. The accession would also enable the major development project get co-finance from the EU funds.

In conclusion we can say that although the supranational role of the EU is growing, it need not mean that accession to the EU would in any way weaken our statehood, on the contrary it could protect it. Decentralization seems to be important primarily from the psychological point of view, since it is difficult for us to accept the principles of a federation, against the background of our brief yet generally positive independent statehood.


5. Europe and the elite of Estonia

The elite of Estonia must choose now how it wants to take part in the globalization process. The only participation prospect is the partnership, because just like at any cooperative process this unleashes hidden social cultural resources in the Estonian society and legitimizes the political superstructure - the European Union - by the active participation of the citizens.

The opinion that the joining „must be finished off by the politicians“ even now and then pronounced directly is part of the post-communist weak policy of the Estonian elitist politics. Almost all Estonian parties have expressed their secure support for accession to the European Union. Therefore, it is not probable that any combination of parties coming to power will shake the already chosen direction fundamentally.

Accession to the EU will change Estonia’s security policy position in the world, in reality as well as mentally. Concerning the most important direction of development in Estonia's foreign policy, it mentioned, that the improvement in EU foreign policy capability that has begun at the turn of the century is also important for the new members who have a common frontier with Russia, yet have received no security guarantees from NATO. The Baltic states bordering a politically and economically unstable Russia are particularly interested in close foreign and security policy ties with the rest of Europe, since quite a number of Moscow politicians have not yet accepted that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have left their sphere of influence.13

Accession to the EU will, however, primarily increase Estonia’s soft security, but the opinions of the political and academic elite in Estonia come together in the fact, that without doubt, upon accession to the EU, Estonia loses part of its sovereignty.

However, viewing it as an attempt to adapt to globalization, a certain giving up of the right to take decisions could even reinforce our statehood. It is equally important for a state to be able to decide upon its own affairs as well as influence others. Part of the sovereignty could be exchanged for a more extensive influence, thus improving one’s position …Within the EU, Estonia has better opportunities to gain sufficient influence to parry the pressure of globalization in the defence of our cultural and national autonomy.14

It is difficult to disagree with this point of view and Estonia's political elite has adapted this opinion. Estonia's sovereignty as a small country against security guarantees in order to survive in a complicated globalized world. Such a step would give courage to the Estonian state and the people and offer real opportunities for a further development within a community of other states.

The common European identity as a general phenomenon will be one of the biggest problem for the EU in the future, when its structure will include all of Europe. Will the (enlargement of the) EU be accompanied by a certain common feeling of identity in all member states and, if so, how does this look like and is it equally valid?

The Eurobarometer as a source of information shows in those countries, who joined the EU during the last decade, a certain consciousness of Europe and Europeanness. But this process did not take place without setbacks and difficulties. Clear is only the fact, that certain dimensions of Europeanness were added to the identities of the member states.

In Estonia, the positive example of Ireland is well-known and very often the maintenance of Ireland's cultural identity and its further development is used as an argument, which could help working out a future perspective of Estonians in the EU and a new collective identity of the Estonian people.

In the Estonian cultural magazines and academic publications is seldom dealt with the negative influences accompanying the partial giving up of sovereignty, amongst this the influence on Estonian national identity. It is out of the question to speak of a public discussion concerning the giving up of national values. Only the efforts of the group of Estonian Euro-sceptics have to be mentioned. Although their contribution to the political discussion has been very restrained, they expressed some clear warnings. Accession to the EU is accompanied by a minor importance of Estonian national identity and an increase of the European identity, propagating the unity of the EU, until it will possibly dominate already the next generation of Estonians.

The development of political parties and democracy in Estonia contribute to a fast integration of Estonia. As there in Estonia know, older European Union members expect from new members, first and foremost, stable and predictable behaviour.

According to the Agenda 2000, Estonia has the general traits of democracy and stable institutions, which guarantee a constitutional state and the observance of human rights [...]. The Estonian political institutions act according to the demands and under stable conditions.15

Almost all Estonian political parties have expressed their certain support for joining the EU. For that reason it is not likely that a possible new party combination coming to power (no matter of which ideology) will change the direction already fixed.

The political order of power in Estonia, her party programmes, her state development programmes etc. start to follow the rhythm of the states in the European Union and this leads to changes in the shape of the political landscape.

From the fact, to what extent the importance of the changes accompanying European integration for political life in Estonia will rise in the future (at state level as well as concerning the local authorities) we can measure the depth of practical political integration.16

At the same time it is undisputed, that the expectations in many fields greatly exceed the real possibilities of the EU and in the Estonian context limit more natural seeming solutions. Setbacks and failures in the field of business are connected - well-founded and sometimes even groundless - with Europe. Failures are used to discredit the EU-representatives of a certain policy in election campaigns and private conflicts. Criticism of the EU can get to populism once in a while. This all leaves marks at the image of the EU.

At the same time, an intensified battle with Europe concerning enlargement policy could be one of the most important mechanisms in initiating a consideration of the topic. Introducing debates replace the exchange of ideas of the political groups and also those directly concerning the interests of the people.

When the move in the direction of the EU suddenly increases the general predictability of Estonian political developments, then the confrontation of the concrete interest of the people with a renewing Europe, with the adaptation to an individual world of living, which will only form in the common European future, will reduce the predictability of their choices.

At the same time, all sides are interested that the integrating Estonia will not come out frustrated and instable out of the process of accession. Although in many fields the conditions for joining the EU are not specific, but part of the overall process of modernization, a partial failure of the negotiations would leave a deep trauma.


6. The generations of Europe

European Union is first and foremost an economic union, applying regulation to the Common Economic Area. This Common Economic Area acts as a tool in transforming of member countries national identities, generating similarities, but also differences. The same process also applies to accession countries.

In any case, the joining of the European Union is accompanied by a giant stride of Estonia at the institutionalisation of the European integration. It is possible to describe this behaviour, linking from one side economic and social policy realities and from another side changes in national identity, to make up a larger framework for describing and forecasting general and specific changes in Estonia in the process of accession to the larger European Economic and Cultural Space. From today’s point of view, one can say that the greatest touchstone of Estonia joining the European Union is the lack of information on the European Union as well as on the arrangement of the further negotiations. This also applies to the possibility of predicting the vote of the Estonian citizens.

However, the future European citizen begins to connect these two issues with his everyday interests and with his future more concretely. General surveys of the public opinion in favour or against do not result in the needed detailed information necessary for policy-making. The Eurobarometer needs a completion of the currently accented monitoring questions which are object of the developing Euro-debate.

Since 1995, when Estonia made the application for membership in the EU, the corresponding Gallup-surveys of public opinion and readiness for Europe got an important evaluation instrument. In the years 1995 and 1996 the public opinion in Estonia was in an euphoric phase of Euro-consciousness. Criticism against the EU was expressed carefully and neutrality kept. The number of supporters in case of accession was steadily more than 40%, “No” said only every fifth. Because of the lack of objective information every third was not sure how to vote or did not want to explain his possible point of view.

But by the end of 1996, the reduced euphoria in discussions concerning EU-topics and in the public opinion became apparent. The process was going over into a cognitive phase, where possible problems of the integration process were realized and own interests expressed. A big surprise was the sudden reduction of the positive opinion towards the EU, which appeared in Eurobarometer-surveys from 1996 - in case of a referendum, only 29% would still have said "Yes", 14% of the respondents "No".

The reduction in support for the EU at that time was only short-lived and caused the transition of the inner-Estonian EU-debate into a more pragmatical phase. The late realization, that the EU is not a security organization and therefore can never replace the NATO for Estonia, began to show an effect. According to data of the Estonian Eurobarometer-survey of Saar Poll (November 1997), 40 % of the respondents were in favour of joining the EU. Against were 12 % of the respondents and every third was still undecided.17

The data in table No. 1 confirm, that four years ago a sudden change in the opinion of the Estonian population has taken place. The change can be called a break-through accompanying a better disposal of information concerning Europe. This resulted in a sudden reduction of “Yes”-votes in case of a referendum. The explanation is as following: in the context of an abstract perspective of accession, it was relatively easy to be of a seemingly supporting opinion, but in a more concrete voting situation people hesitated.18

Table 1. If a referendum concerning the accession of Estonia to the EU would be held tomorrow, how would you vote? (%)

I would vote ...

November 1995

April 1996

November 1996

April 1997

November 1998

October 1999

May 2000

in favour
















I would not vote















In many fields a vacuum of information had emerged, due to the acceleration of accession to the EU. Since the need for competent information grew much faster that the ability to supply it, the interviewed people were feeling very insecure, which could be seen especially clear in November 1996.

There seems to be a noticeable lack of people who are able to deal competently with the topic EU. Compared with the so-called “average Estonian”, the opinion of the (opinion-making) elite is mainly pro-EU. There is reason for the prognosis, that they as opinion-makers, as people speaking in the mass media will influence a more positive attitude towards the EU in the near future.

But for the most part, worries about lack of information and opinions mean the preservation of social guarantees. Predictions, that in Estonia a broad atmosphere against the EU will arise especially concerning questions of sovereignty, have not been fulfilled. The accelerated moving of Estonia in the direction of the EU will quite probably not awake strong resistance in the near future.

The comparison of the findings of numerous sociologists shows that both the interest on the European Union and the being informed on the EU have improved within the last years. The choice of Estonia to be an accession candidate proves to be a change with basic importance.

As a consequence an essential change will probably take place in the next time both in the Euro-discussion and in the voting behaviour of the people. The relatively linear and one-dimensional schemes of decision of the people will be replaced by multidimensional voting strategies which outcomes will be harder to be predicted.

Because of the lack of concrete information on the economy, the social policy system, the labour market system etc. of the European Union there are still large parts of the population (especially among young people and pensioners) who cannot decide on their vote and cannot define a position towards the European Union. There are signs that confirm existing 'Euro-doubt'; some people are relatively irresolute about the decision-making concerning the European Union. However, there may be a certain basis for speaking about internal oppositions between generations and various categories of the population and their choice of priority strategies for European integration.19


7. Hopes and fears of Estonians and Russians

Today the process of integration is multidimensional. It depends on the Russian’s readiness to integrate into the new circumstances, as well as on the Estonian’s willingness to co-operate with the non-Estonian population.

Estonians and Russians experienced the disintegration of Soviet Union differently: Estonians as a subject-nation aspiring towards political self-determination and a nation-state, Russians as the dominant nation longing for the return of their previously balanced state with unified and highly centralised society. This is this reason why the question of loyalty among the Russian minority has been an essential problem for Estonia since regaining independence.

Several studies about the attitudes and values of Russian population in Estonia have pointed to the slow creation of a post-Soviet Russian identity. Our research supports these findings. According to our four studies from 1990-1993, for Russian, the new situation in Estonia became an identity vacuum which entailed the need to redefine their personal and collective identities. Thus, there was a situation, where Russians` previous sense allegiance had disappeared, but a new one had yet to arise. According to the survey, there have been in 1993-1995 deep changes in the attitudes of Estonians Russians and Estonian citizenship has become a new inevitability and necessity for Russians in Republic of Estonia. One important issue that still faces the Russian-speaking population in Estonia is the formation of a viable and effective elite.

One of the first studies in Estonia concerning the opinion of the public towards the EU was the detailed study of the working group for ethno-policy at the Institute for International and Social Studies (IISS) in March 1996, which analyzed the priorities of the EU in Estonia. Since the topic of national and ethnic identity is one of the central points in Estonia's attitude towards the EU, those studies tried to find out to what degree fears and hopes characterizing Estonians and Russians have an ethno-political basis.20

New information on tensions, expectations and attitudes related to the EU were made available by the research project “Estonia and the EU”, which was carried out in cooperation of the IISS and the Estonian government in autumn 1997. One result of this project was the book “Estonia on the threshold of the European Union. Tallinn, 1998”. Approximately half of the respondents evaluated accession to the EU as necessary. The opinion of the Russians as the biggest group of Non-Estonians living in Estonia was more positive than the one of the Estonians. The reason for this significant difference could probably be the fact, that Russians (different from Estonians) do not fear ethno-cultural influences in the case of the integration of Estonia as a small nation.

It was obvious that fear for one's own cultural identity in an European Union without borders characterized a large part of the Estonian population at that time. The question "Will accession to the EU bring about the dissolving of Estonia in an EU without borders?" was answered affirmatively by 42% of Estonians and 21% of Russians. This and some other differences lead to the conclusion, that Russians see the EU as ideal future for Estonia. The problem here is not only that of a Europe without frontiers, which from the outside matches the administrative organization of the Soviet Union, where there were no borders between the republics.

Moreover, Russians see the EU as a factor developing a political order in Estonia, thanks to which all inhabitants will get the same status through European nationality and that is how Russians in a certain way will be "freed" of their restrictive status as foreigners in Estonia.

Russians assume the emergence of a stable business environment and a rise in individual welfare in Estonia as a member of the EU. If Estonia will join the EU, every fourth young Russian and every fifth of the older generation hope that they will profit economically, whereas the hopes of Estonians are relatively restrained.

The Estonian's hopes for security guarantees accompanying accession to the EU were undoubtedly more clearly defined than the attitudes of the Russians. Estonians see the security guarantees on the part of the EU as a guarantee for maintenance of the national independence and the ethnic identity of Estonia.

As already mentioned, the process of political and economic transition of Eastern European countries causes complex patterns of change of cultural and national identity. Ethnic aspects of traditional national identity are also in a profound change in European Union enlargement process. Adaptation to the Estonian way of life with no command of Estonian is possible, yet the 400 thousand-strong Russian population still maintains its isolation in Estonia.

At the level of the Government great efforts are being made to integrate Russians into the Estonian society. Here mention should be made of the adopted Governmental Programme, accelerated research, as well as extended teaching of Estonian to Russians. Resources for the growth of the civic structures are good, but the process of civic development can effect to the integration only when language separation is diminishing and collective identities of people spring up despite of their mother tongue.21

However, adaptation by Russians and their subsequent integration into Estonian life will be a long-term process of adapting to the culture and language of Estonia, while the integration into civic society is going to happen much quicker. Openness of the Estonian society, good communication and broader co-operation may contribute to mutual trust. It is obvious that the more one is integrated into the society socially and culturally, the more likely a person is to generate real loyalty to Estonia as “its own” society.


8. Conclusions

¦ Estonia’s joining the European Union means a similar radical change like the regaining of our independence. Therefore, it is very important, how this joining will take place. Whatever problems we will have to deal with, we can claim „This choice was the expression of our wishes“. This formerly certain wish also legitimizes the elections which line up today. So-called material considerations or foreign policy agreements, whatever one might like to call them, also make up part of the joining process. In addition, new social organization models are of importance, that define the inner-Estonian and European sense of unity („Wir-Gefühl“). These models will play a very essential role and might cause people to commit themselves effectively to the renewal of the society and might moreover guarantee stability.

¦ The integration of Estonia in the European Union has been dealt with by the representatives of the Estonian elite as a mainly political process, which is accompanied by economic developments as well as the implementation of standards in Estonia, that are indispensable for the functioning of the Common Market. Logical consequence of the mentioned changes for Estonia as a future member of the EU would be a step by step increase of the security guarantees offered by the EU.

¦ That the timetable of the road back to Europe is realized successfully in Estonia is mirrored also by the Gallup-surveys of public opinion. If Estonia has "survived" the change from Euro-euphoria to more rational considerations and doubts in the years 1995 to 1996, then since the summer of 1999 the need for defence and security has convinced Estonians again. Support for a referendum concerning accession to the EU has grown considerably. Behind this positive trend stands the need to feel safe concerning foreign policy.

¦ Whatever the chosen path for Estonia will be – in a modernizing Estonia new "winners" and "losers" will emerge in any case in the near future due to the changes of social and production structures. The question is how intensely they are connected to a performing EU – to what extent are the pessimism and the deceived hopes objectively inevitable and how much is an reinforcement of inaccurate information. Today a large part of the Estonian population is no longer able to forecast its own future in the European context. Approximately half of the respondents evaluated accession to the EU as necessary. In Estonia there exists larger support to EU enlargement by Estonian Russians. According to the last Euro-gallup (May 2000) difference in support to EU was 6% (Estonians 40%, Russians 46%).

¦ The opinion of the Russians as the biggest group of Non-Estonians living in Estonia was more positive than the one of the Estonians. The reason for this significant difference could probably be the fact, that Russians (different from Estonians) do not fear ethno-cultural influences in the case of the integration of Estonia as a small nation. Russians assume the emergence of a stable business environment and a rise in individual welfare in Estonia as a member of the EU.


1. Kivimäe, Mart. The history of euro-scepticism in Estonian culture in the 20th century. In: Estonia on the Threshold to the European Union, Tallinn 1998, pp.131-133
2. Ruutsoo, Rein. Estonian State and Society in the Threshold of 21. Century. In: Estonian Human Development Report 1999, Tallinn: Prisma Print, 1999, p. 15.
3. Langemets, Andres. We have been Estonians, but we will get Europeans. - Areen -Eesti ekspress, 3.02, 2000.
4. Peeter Vihalemm. Changing National Spaces in the Baltic Area. In: Return to the Western World. Cultural and Political Perspectives on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition. Tartu: Tartu University Press, 1997, pp. 129-162.
5. Siiman , Mart. Why do we get a member-state of the EU” on May, 20th 1998 at a conference of the Hansapank.
6. Marika Kirch. Eestlaste otsus tulevasel euroreferendumil sõltub Venemaast - Eesti Päevaleht, 28.03.2000; Mart Helme. Diplomaadid pakivad kohvreid - Eesti Päevaleht, 1.09. 2000.
7. Palk, Paavo. Euroopa ühendamise lugu/The Story of European Unification/. Tallinn, 1999, p.185.
8. Ilves, Toomas Hendrik. Address to the readers of the Estonian Business School Review ( November 1999) - EBS Review, 1999, Vol. 10. inner cover.
9. Ruutsoo Rein. Conclusions and future prospects. In: Estonia at the threshold of the European Union. Tallinn, 1998, p. 158-159.
10. The social and economic policy of the EU in the context of the eastward enlargement. Tartu: Tartu University Press, 1999
11. Ennuste, Ülo and Wilder Lisa (eds) Harmonisation with the Western Economics: Estonian Economic Developments and Related Conceptual and Methodological Frameworks. Tallinn:1999, Estonian Institute of Economics at Tallinn Technical University.
12. The social and economic policy of the EU in the context of the eastward enlargement, p. 21.
13. Sergei Medvedev. Russiaú Futures. Implications for the EU, the North and the Baltic Region. Helsinki-Berlin, 2000.
14. Palk, Paavo. Estonia and European Union. In: Estonian Human Development Report 1999, Tallinn: Prisma Print, 1999, 26.
15. Agenda 2000 (1997) Commission Opinion on Estonia’s Application for Membership of the European Union. DOC/97/16, Brussels, 15 July.
16. Ruutsoo Rein. Estonian nation-state, Civil society and euro-integration. In: Estonia at the threshold of the European Union. Tallinn, 1998, p. 38-45.
17. Eesti Eurobaromeeter, 5.-13.november, Saar Poll 1997. Eesti Päevaleht, 4.11.1997.
18. Ruutsoo, Rein, Kirch, Aksel. Attitudes of Estonia´s Population Towards Estonian Accession to the European Union. In: Estonian Human Development Report 1998, Prisma Print: Tallinn, 1998, pp. 76-81.
19. Kirch, Marika, Kirch, Aksel, Ruutsoo, Rein, Tuisk, Tarmo, Talts, Mait. The Elites of Estonia and other Baltic States on Their Way to the European Union. - In: Antje Herrberg (ed.) Which identity for which Europe? Aalborg : Aalborg University Press, 1998, p. 35.
20. Kirch A (ed.) The Integration of Non-Estonians into Estonian Society:History, Problems and Trends. Tallinn: Estonian Academy Publishers, 1997.
21. Kirch Aksel. Russians in contemporary Estonia - different strategies of the integration into the Nation-State. In: Jundzis Talavs (ed) The Baltic States at Historical Crossroads. Political, economical and legal problems in the context of international cooperation on the doorstep of the 21st century. Riga: Academy of Science of Latvia, 1998, pp. 581-594.

Relevant publications from 1994-2000

Ainsaar, Mare (ed) Regional Policy and Migration. Tartu : Tartu University Press, 1999, 157 p.

Agenda 2000 (1997) Commission Opinion on Estonia’s Application for Membership of the European Union. DOC/97/16, Brussels, 15 July.

Brandt, Hartmunt and other. Agricultural development in Estonia. Options under EU Accession. Berlin: German Development Institute, Ministry of Agriculture Republic of Estonia, 1998, 128 p.

Ettevõtlus Eestis: 1999 - Estonian Business Guide 1999. Tallinn: Estonian Confederation of Employers and Industry, Estonian Export Agency, 1999, 280 p.

Euroopa Liidu sotsiaalmajanduspoliitika idalaienduse taustal. /Social and Economic Policy of the European Union in the Context of Eastern Enlargement/. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus, 1999, 320 p.

Haab, Mare, Vares Peeter. The future of European security as viewed in Estonia. In: Visions of European security - focal point Sweden and Northern Europe. Stockholm: 1996, Olaf Palme International Centre, pp. 148-161.

Kaasik, Tõnis. Euroopa Liidu keskkonnapoliitika /Environmental Policy of European Union/. Tallinn: Olion 1995. 207 p.

Kilvits, Kaarel. Innovation and Restructuring in Estonian Industry. In: Ennuste, Ülo and Wilder Lisa (eds.) Harmonisation with the Western Economics: Estonian Economic Developments and Related Conceptual and Methodological Frameworks. Tallinn: Ühiselu 1999, pp. 251-282.

Kirch A (ed.). The Integration of Non-Estonians into Estonian Society:History, Problems and Trends. Tallinn: Estonian Academy Publishers, 1997, 159 p.

Kirch, Aksel, Brökling, Iris. Estonia's Accession to the European Union: Effects, Expectations and Interest. In: Katlijan Malflie, Wim Keygnaert (eds.) The Baltic States in an Enlarging European Union: Towards a Partnership between Small States?, Leuven: Katholieke Universitet Leuven, 1999, pp. 27-48;

Kivimäe, Mart. Euroskeptitsismi ideeajaloost eesti kultuuris 20.sajandil/ The history of euro-scepticism in Estonian culture in the 20th centery. In: Rein Ruutsoo, Aksel Kirch (eds.) Eesti Euroopa Liidu lävepakul, Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 1998, lk. 131-156.

Kirch, Marika, Kirch Aksel. Search for Security in Estonia: New Identity Architecture. - Security Dialogue. December 1995, Vol. 26, 4, pp. 439-448.

Kirch, Marika, Kirch, Aksel, Ruutsoo, Rein, Tuisk, Tarmo, Talts, Mait. The Elites of Estonia and other Baltic States on Their Way to the European Union. - In: Antje Herrberg (ed.) Which identity for which Europe? Aalborg : Aalborg University Press, 1998 (Language and cultural contact, 25/1998), pp. 19-35

Kirch, Marika. Changing identities and Estonia's accession to the European Union - In: Estonian Human Development Report 1999, Prisma Print, Tallinn, 1999, pp. 26-29;

Lagerspetz, Mikko ja Raud, Rein (koost.) Eesti kultuuripoliitika Euroopa Nõukogu Kultuurikomitees: riiklik ülevaade Eesti kultuuripoliitikast ja selle mõjust aastatel 1988-1995 / Estonian Culture Policy in Cultural Committee of the European Council: National overview about Estonian culture policy and the effects in years 1988-1995: ettekanne Euroopa Nõukogu Kultuurikomiteele/ Report to the European Council Cultural Committee. Tallinn: Kultuuriministeerium, 1995, 294 p.

Lauristin, Marju and other (eds.). Return to the Western World. Cultural and Political Perspectives on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition. Tartu: Tartu University Press, 1997.

Kolbre, Priit, Leimann, Jaak, Raig, Ivar, Terk, Erik (eds). Eesti ja Euroopa Liit : lähteteesid Eesti võimaliku ühinemise kohta Euroopa Liiduga/ Estonia and European Union: Initial Thesis for Estonia Joining with European Union / Tallinn: Riigikantselei, 1995.

Oja, Ahto and Raukas, Anto (eds.) Eesti 21. sajandil. Arengustrateegiad. Visioonid. Valikud. Estonia in 21. century./ Development Strategies. Visions. Options. Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 1999, lk 49-54;

Palk, Paavo. Euroopa ühendamise lugu/ Towards the Building of Europe Union. Tallinn: Kirjastus Tuum,1999, 207 p.

Püss, Tiia. Sotsiaalkindlustus Euroopa Ühenduse maades ja Balti riikides Social Security in Countries of the European Union and in Baltic States/. Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 1996, 89 p.

Raig Ivar, Terk Erik (koost, eds.) Eesti tee Euroopa Liitu /Estonian Way to the European Union/. Tallinn: Olion, 1995, 272 p.

Ruutsoo, Rein, Kirch, Aksel. ( eds.) Eesti Euroopa Liidu lävepakul/ Estonia at Threshold to European Union/. Tallinn: 1998, Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 168 p.

Ruutsoo, Rein. Eesti kodakondsuspoliitika ja rahvusriigi kujunemise piirjooned/ Estonian citisenship policy and the main features of the establishment of nation-state/. In: Hallik, Klara, Heidmets, Mati (eds.) ”Vene küsimus" ja Eesti valikud. Tallinn: Tallinna Pedagoogilise Instituudi Kirjastus, 1998, pp.46-94.

Ruutsoo, Rein. Estonian European Integration in the Perspective of Amsterdam and Madrid Summits. In: Jansson, Robert (ed.) Hard and Soft Security in the Baltic Region. Stockholm: The Åland Islands Peace Institute and the Olaf Palme International Centre, 1998, pp. 59-78.

Ruutsoo, Rein, Kirch, Aksel. Eesti elanike hoiakud Eesti liitumise suhetes Euroopa Liiduga/ Attitudes of Estonia´s Population Towards Estonian Accession to the European Union/. In: Eesti inimarengu aruanne 1998/ Estonian Human Development Report 1998, Prisma Print: Tallinn, 1998, pp. 76-81.

Ruutsoo, Rein; Kirch, Aksel, Tuisk, Tarmo, Talts Mait. Estonia at Europe's Threshold. - Revue Baltique (Vilnius).Vol.11. 1998, pp. 11-19;

Ruutsoo, Rein. Estonian Post-Communist Transition, Civil Society and Social Sciences in the Context of EU Enlargement, In: Society, Parliament, Legislation. The Role of Socio-Economic Studies and Parliamentary Information and Research Services in Legislation - The Context of EU Enlargement. Proceedings of the Intern. Seminar, Tallinn: Eesti Riigikogu, 1999, pp. 67-79;

Toomla, Rein. Eesti ja Euroopa poliitiline maastik/ Estonia and European political Landscape/. Tartu: Avatud Hariduse Liit, 1996

Unwin, Tim. Estonian Agriculture in a European Context: Political and the Common Agricultural Policy. In: Ennuste, Ülo and Wilder Lisa (eds) Harmonisation with the Western Economics: Estonian Economic Developments and Related Conceptual and Methodological Frameworks. Tallinn: Ühiselu, 1999, pp. 227-249.

Varblane, Urmas. Muutused Eesti väliskaubanduspoliitikas Euroopa Liiduga ühinemisel. Tartu Ülikooli Euroopa Kolledzi loengud. Vihik nr . 2, Tartu, 2000, 31 lk.