Open Estonia Foundation News Feed en Tue, 19 Feb 2019 20:01:48 +0200 Tue, 19 Feb 2019 20:01:48 +0200 TYPO3 EXT:news news-1857 Fri, 01 Dec 2017 16:03:45 +0200 Europe to EU: Act now to re-energise our union - report The type of bargain needed to fully resolve the European poly-crisis is possible and political leaders must act now to ensure a stronger, more united, and future-proof Europe, asserts New Pact for Europe in a report released today. Re-energising Europe: A package deal for the EU27, outlines an ambitious, yet realistic, “win-win package deal” covering the economic and social, migration and security dimensions. Arguing that action is needed now to reverse the collateral damage of the poly-crisis and counter surges in authoritarian populism, the package deal outlined in the report focuses on the immediate future. It offers pragmatic compromises that could lead to tangible progress within the framework of the current European Union (EU) Treaties, and balances the distinctive interests, concerns and aspirations within and between diverse member states. The deal seeks to strike a balance between competing ideologies on key issues facing the EU, putting forth proposals that balance economic responsibility with solidarity, security with solidarity, national sovereignty with integration and growth with cohesion. Moreover, the report proposes intra- and cross-dimensional compromises across policy areas, arguing that enlarging the negotiation agenda beyond one specific field helps balance different member state priorities and identifies where wider agreements can contribute to overcoming previously insurmountable red lines. Rather than advocating for a particular set of policies, the report aims to demonstrate that such a winwin package deal is, in fact, possible, and spark further national and transnational debates about the future of Europe. Passing such a comprehensive package deal will help “future-proof” and re-energise the EU by addressing many of the underlying factors fueling the persistent threat of authoritarian populism and reminding citizens of the EU’s value. “Europe cannot afford stagnation,” said Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council and Chair of New Pact for Europe’s Advisory Group. “We need political will and leadership to bolster Europe’s protective arm ahead of the forthcoming storm. This New Pact for Europe report shows the way out.” The report reflects more than 120 national and transnational debates that have taken place with policymakers, experts, civil society representatives, ordinary citizens, and other stakeholders across the EU over the last five years in 17 member states. These conversations shed light on areas of overlap and divergence on key issues and highlighted how a cross-dimensional approach could deliver a deal in which each member state can benefit without giving up too much. “What makes the report’s proposal truly unique is also its strength,” said Janis A. Emmanouilidis, Director of Studies at the European Policy Centre and author of the report, “and that’s the bottom-up process we used to develop it. This is not the ‘Brussels bubble’ speaking to the EU; it is the EU coming together to break the stalemate in Brussels.”

news-1807 Mon, 10 Apr 2017 15:40:45 +0300 Hungarian Honorary Consul resigns from her post Mrs. Mall Hellam, who has held the post of Hungarian Honorary Consul in Estonia since 1994, has voluntarily decided to resign. Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjárto and Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been given notice. “It is with great concern that over the past years I’ve followed the steps the Hungarian government has made towards free media, an independent justice system, civil society and now, against academic freedom, too. My final decision was made following a course of events that took place last week when the Hungarian government showed its brutality and decisiveness to shut down the Central European University (CEU) in the most undemocratic way,” Hellam commented.

“My work as an honorary consul has truly come from my heart and stemmed from my love for Hungarian people, their language and culture. I will continue my mission at the board of the Estonian-Hungarian Society and hope for a close relationship between the two countries,” Hellam added.

Having graduated from Budapesti Eötvös Loránd University in the Faculty of Hungarian Philology and Finno-Ugric Comparative Linguistics in 1983, Hellam was one of the re-founders of the Estonian-Hungarian Society and the Finno-Ugrian movement in 1988. Between 1994-2016, she held the post of the Chairman of the Society. Hellam works as the Executive Director of the Open Estonia Foundation, founded in 1990 by philanthropist George Soros.

She was honored with the IV class Order of the White Star of Estonian Republic in 2000, since 2002 Hellam has been the bearer of the Hungarian Knight's Cross and in 2010 she was chosen to be the Estonian European of the Year.


Lemondott Mall Hellam, Magyarország (Tallinni) tiszteletbeli konzulja

Mall Hellam asszony, aki 1994-től volt Magyarország tallinni tiszteletbeli konzulja, saját elhatározásából úgy döntött, lemond tisztségéről. Hellam már bejelentette lemondását Szijjártó Péternek, Magyarország külgazdasági és külügyminiszterének, valamint Észtország külügyminisztériumának.

„Az elmúlt években növekvő aggodalommal követtem a magyar kormánynak a média szabadsága, a független igazságszolgáltatás, a civil társadalom és most már az akadémiai élet szabadsága ellen tett lépéseit. Döntésemet végül a kormánynak a Közép-európai Egyetem (CEU) elleni lendületes fellépése miatt hoztam meg, amely alig egy hete komolyan megkérdőjelezte az egyetem tevékenységének folytatását”.

„Tiszteletbeli konzuli kötelezettségeimet a magyarok, a magyar nyelv és kultúra iránti szívből jövő szeretettel láttam el. A jövőben az Észt-Magyar Társaság vezetősége tagjaként teszek meg mindent a magyarok és az észtek közötti barátságért és az őket összekötő kapcsolatok fejlesztéséért” – tette hozzá M. Hellam.

Mall Hellam a Budapesti Eötvös Lóránd Tudományegyetemen szerzett diplomát magyar nyelv és irodalomból, valamint finnugor összehasonlító nyelvészetből 1983-ban. Egyik megalapítója és elnökségi tagja az Észt-Magyar Társaságnak (1988-tól), 1994 és 2016 között pedig annak elnöke. 1990 óta a Soros György alapította „Nyílt Észtország Alapítvány” igaygatója.

2000-ben az Észt Köztársaság „Fehér csillag rendje IV. fokozat“ kitüntetésben részesült. 2002-ben megkapta a Magyar Köztársaság Lovagkereszt Érdemrendet. Az „Év európaija” díj 2010. évi kitüntetettje.


news-1767 Thu, 08 Dec 2016 14:05:48 +0200 It's no surprise that the far right are mobilising against George Soros – he's the biggest threat to their global domination George Soros has invested a good chunk of his extraordinary wealth in promoting liberal causes across the world, which has earned him the enmity of the far right. Influential financial analysts Zerohedge claim George Soros “singlehandedly created the European refugee crisis”; xenophobic rag Breitbart says Soros’s funding of Black Lives Matter was part of an agenda to swing the US presidential election; and Donald Trump’s favourite crank Alex Jones says “Soros is behind the Muslim takeover of the West”. In August, hackers thought to be linked to the Russian government stole thousands of documents from Soros’s foundation’s servers and put them online, placing at risk many of the brave individuals the foundation funds.

As the world turns to the hard right, one man has become a figure of hate for resurgent nationalists across the globe: Soros has become the No 1 target for the alt-right – a figure central to wild conspiracy theories – because nationalists want to destroy for good the idea that democracy or liberal values can be promoted, or encouraged.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The fall of the Berlin Wall, 27 years ago this month, was predicted to herald a new era of freedom across the globe. After it came down, Soros put his cash to work investing in freedom. Within a few years after the decline of communism he had pledged $1bn for reconstructing civil society.

He gave an unprecedented grant of $250m to transform how liberal humanities were taught in Russia (communist textbooks had to be rewritten from scratch to explain how democracy worked), and another $250m to build a new university in Budapest. He personally gave $50m in aid to Bosnia and $100m to keep Russian scientists in the country to avoid a brain drain to the West. Since then, he has donated an estimated $11bn to progressive causes including the promotion of democracy, LGBT activism, support for refugees and migrants and the defence of human rights.

He is the largest single donor in human history for the defence and strengthening of democracy. It was his harrowing childhood here in Europe that led him to donate his wealth in the way he has.

Soros escaped the Holocaust, but only just. As a child he was instructed by the authorities to give slips of paper telling fellow Jews to report to their rabbi at 9am the next morning. His father instantly understood the authorities were rounding up local Jews for deportation. He told the young Soros to tell every Jew he presented the paper with that they shouldn’t go. As Soros wrote in his biography: “There was one man I shall not forget. I took it to him and told him what my father had said. He said: ‘Tell your father that I am a law-abiding citizen, that I have always been a law-abiding citizen and I am not going to start breaking the law now.’ And that stayed with me forever.”

The horrors of the Holocaust instilled in Soros the need to tackle the racism and xenophobia found across European society. After the collapse of the USSR, he doubled his efforts to promote democracy beyond the Iron Curtain, saying: “The foundation began in Hungary. Its purpose was to help to build a country from which I wouldn't want to emigrate.”

What Soros funds is precisely what the new generation of populist far-right politicians fear. He supports fact-checkers to call out the misleading claims of the populists. One study of the methods of the Putin handbook put it: “Don’t worry at all about lying or presenting incomplete or otherwise inaccurate information.” Former US government security analyst Aaron Azlant notesTrump’s aides may have learned their post-truth politics while working closely with Kremlin agents in the Ukraine. Fact-checkers undermine these lies.

He also donates to groups that help migrants and refugees. For the new nationalists who believe in restricting the diversity of Europe and the US – essentially to keep both as white as possible – Soros’s support for migrants is to “flood Europe with hordes of third-world Muslims” because his aim is “fundamentally about the destruction of national borders”. The charge says much about the nationalist worldview. We are in a sorry state indeed if helping refugees is now a political act.

What really incenses the Trump and Putin right is the work Soros does to support democrats and human rights activists. The new autocratic right, like the isolationist left, believes in isolated people and nations. To spread democracy is toxic: Putin should be left as a strongman to govern Russia and Trump should be left to govern the US.

Universal human rights, which are there to protect individual liberty against these strongmen, are particularly suspect in this worldview. In the coming years, expect Breitbart, the conspiracy theorists and their willing online idiots to rail angrily at the human rights “establishment”. Already we see calls for the Trump presidency to adopt the foreign agents legislation of Vladimir Putin which makes it hard for gay rights groups and other human rights groups to operate in Russia. The target of this legislation is predictable: George Soros.

Here I should declare my interest: yes, many of the campaigns I’ve worked on previously have been part-funded by Soros, including campaigns to improve free speech here in the UK. But the attacks on Soros and his vision for the world are an attack on anyone who cares about the future of freedom. You shouldn’t just be repelled by the anti-Semitism of the conspiracy theories about him (to put it bluntly: Soros as a Jew wants to destroy the white race through multiculturalism), but understand why he is singled out.

Very few of the world’s governments or rich donors fund the brave citizens who fight daily for human rights. It’s less sexy and more political than vaccination, or the fight against cancer. As the light of liberty darkens as the world’s democracies turn to the populist far right, expect the attacks on Soros to intensify.

Mike Harris is chief executive officer of 89up and the publisher of Little Atoms. The original was posted in The Independent. 

news-1760 Thu, 24 Nov 2016 14:38:03 +0200 George Soros Pledges $10 Million to Fight Hate Crimes "WASHINGTON — After a series of attacks against immigrants and minorities since Election Day, the financier George Soros says he will commit $10 million from his personal foundation to combat a rise in hate crimes that he linked to the “incendiary rhetoric” of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s campaign," NY Times writes. Mr. Soros, a Holocaust survivor originally from Hungary, said in a telephone interview this week that he was “deeply troubled” by hundreds of reports of possible hate crimes since the election — including many Nazi swastikas spray-painted on cars and buildings.

“We must do something to push back against what’s happening here,” Mr. Soros said, blaming what he termed the “dark forces that have been awakened” by the election.

Groups that oppose Mr. Trump’s policies have reported record donations since the election, among them the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.

Mr. Soros, a billionaire investor, is one of the biggest donors to liberal and Democratic causes in modern times, making him a frequent target of conservatives who criticize what they say is his outsize financial influence in politics.

He said his $10 million commitment for the hate crime initiative, the single biggest gift of its kind to emerge since the election, was not intended as a political statement on Mr. Trump. But he did say he believed campaign statements from Mr. Trump and his supporters — including disparaging remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, women and others — were “directly responsible” for the recent outbreak of episodes.

“Certainly it got inflamed as a result of the campaign, and it broke out really afterwards,” he said.

His nonprofit group, the Open Society Foundations, plans to spend at least $5 million in coming weeks to fund grants of as much as $150,000 to community groups and civil rights organizations to develop plans for combating the recent spate of hate crimes and to work with victims.

The group said additional money would go toward national efforts to improve tracking of hate crimes — an effort that law enforcement officials acknowledge is incomplete. The F.B.I. reported last week that there was an increase of nearly 67 percent last year in hate crimes against Muslim Americans — and an increase of 6 percent against all groups.

Between the election and Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center received more than 700 reports of harassment and possible hate crimes, it said — with the majority coming in the days immediately after the Nov. 8 election. Immigrants were the most frequent targets, the center said, but blacks, gays, Muslims and other minorities also reported being victimized in schools, streets and houses of worship. The episodes have included both verbal harassment and physical attacks.

The group said it had also received 27 complaints of episodes targeting supporters of Mr. Trump.

This week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Democrat of New York, announced the creation of a new state police unit and other steps to combat what he called the “explosion of hate crimes in our state.”

In an interview with CBS News’s “60 Minutes” that aired days after the election, Mr. Trump was asked about reports that some of his supporters had harassed or attacked minorities after his victory. “I am so saddened to hear that,” he said. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’”

He has also faced criticism over the political support he has received from so-called alt-right groups, including white supremacists who gave “Hail victory” salutes at a Washington convention last weekend.

“I disavow and condemn them,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times on Tuesday.

Correction: November 22, 2016 Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated when “60 Minutes” aired an interview with President-elect Donald J. Trump. It was Nov. 13, not Nov. 20.

news-1741 Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:29:39 +0300 George Soros' statement on the bombing of Aleppo The world is witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions. It is happening in Syria. It is being perpetrated by the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in support of his protégé, Bashar al-Assad. Russian planes are bombing the civilian population of Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city, to assist Syrian government forces that are attempting to take control of rebel-held areas of the city.

The combined assault has, among other things, killed hundreds of people and wounded over a thousand, put the city’s remaining hospitals out of commission, and deprived the population of drinking water.

President Putin is moving aggressively to exploit the three months between now and the January 20 U.S. presidential inauguration, based on a callous political calculation. As the New York Times puts it: "Mr. Putin calculates that the departing President Obama will be unlikely to intervene in the escalating Syrian conflict and a new American president who might consider a tougher policy will not yet be in office. 'Putin is in a hurry before the American elections,' said Nikolai V. Petrov, a political scientist in Moscow. 'The next American president will face a new reality and will be forced to accept it.'"

Other articles in the New York Times and elsewhere have vividly depicted the suffering of the people of Aleppo and the heroic efforts of the doctors and civilians like the White Helmets who are risking their lives to help them. When the facts are fully established, Putin’s bombing of Aleppo will be viewed as among the modern world’s most egregious war crimes.

I appeal to the people of Russia, the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world not to stand idly by, but to spread the word and voice their outrage. An outpouring of public opinion could induce President Putin to put an end to his heinous crime against humanity.

news-1739 Thu, 06 Oct 2016 10:53:01 +0300 Kersti Kaljulaid to become the next President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid is also the awardee of the Open Estonia Foundation 2014 Concord Prize. Estonian Parliament elected Estonian representative to the European Court of Auditors Kersti Kaljulaid as the next President of the Republic of Estonia. Kaljulaid, who will also be Estonia's first woman president, is scheduled to be sworn into office on Monday, Oct. 10.

Though living most of her time in Luxembourg, Kaljulaid has been an active citizen by regularly publishing opinion editorials in Estonian leading dailies and news portals. For her passion and dedication in explaining the European Union and its matters to a regular Estonian citizen, Open Estonia Foundation decided to award her with our annual Concord Prize in 2014. As a tradition, the OEF hands the award over on its birthday in the end of April. That year, in 2014, the European Parliament elections were shortly to follow. Hence awarding Kersti Kaljulaid with our Concord Prize, the elections got more positive promotion from one of the most prominent opinion leaders in that field in Estonia. and Open Estonia Foundation


news-1723 Wed, 07 Sep 2016 18:35:13 +0300 XXI Open Society Forum: "Russia in Europe: What Does The Future Hold" The Forum will take place on Thursday, September 8 in Nordic Hotel Forum.

In the first part of the forum President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Lilia Shevtsova, an Associate Fellow from Chatham House, will discuss on how to deal with Russia´s propaganda and disinformation in Europe.

In the second part  Lilia Shevtsova, lawyer Lyubov Sobol from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, journalist Yevgeni Kiselyov and journalist and writer Arkady Babchenko will focus on the upcoming federal elections in Russia. The discussion will be moderated by free-lance journalist Artemyi Troitski.

Estonian Public Broadcasting, the biggest daily Postimees and news portal Delfi will provide an online stream from the event, beginning at 13.00 (+3 GMT). The Forum will also be streamed at the OEF homepage 


12:40 Registration and welcome coffee 

13:00 Opening remarks, Mall Hellam, Executive Director, Open Estonia Foundation 

13:15 – 14:15 Europe´s war on disinformation 

How should democratic and open societies respond to hostile propaganda? Is exposing disinformation and lies enough? How to promote and improve media literacy, critical thinking and analyses within our societies? How to promote free circulation of accurate information in the same time frame as disinformation and avoid sacrificing our fundamental principles. How does foreign propaganda influence the way we deal with our own mounting challenges such as security and solidarity crises, growing Euroscepticism and anti-democratic trends within EU? 

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia 

Lilia Shevtsova, Associate Fellow, Chatham House 

14:15 – 15:00 Coffee 

15:00 – 16:30 Elections in Russia: Will Russians Surprise Putin? 

The forecasts suggest that things are not going very well for the current Russian authorities ahead of the 2016–18 federal elections. Putin’s Kremlin has introduced a number of new measures to preserve the parliamentary status quo, bar the doors of the Duma to opposition figures, and avoid street protests. Will Russia's economic weakness and manipulation of the elections continue to undermine public support for Kremlin policies? Will there be more reason to expect calls for some kind of transformation of the Russian political system? 

Lilia Shevtsova, Associate Fellow, Chatham House 

Lyubov Sobol, Lawyer, The Anti-Corruption Foundation 

Yevgeny Kiselyov, Free-lance journalist 

Arkady Babchenko, Journalist and writer 

Moderated by Artemyi Troitski, Free-lance journalist 

16:30 Reception at Nordic Hotel Forum 

Additional information: Jete Aljasmäe, , tel + 372 6155700 

 Open Society Forum is the Open Estonia Foundation's annual event that brings together opinion leaders from Estonia and abroad to debate on topics related to open society, democracy and current politics. Former speakers include George Soros, Martti Ahtisaari, Jeremy Rifkin, Susan George, Sergei Kovalyov, Robert Putnam, Timothy Garton Ash, Andrei Illarionov, Ahmed Rashid, David Kramer and many more. 

news-1722 Wed, 07 Sep 2016 18:25:02 +0300 XXI Open Society Forum “Russia in Europe: What Does The Future Hold” The Forum will take place today, on September 8 and starts at 13.00.

 XXI Open Society Forum “Russia in Europe: What Does The Future Hold” on Thursday, September 8 at 1:00 PM a Nordic Hotel ForumIn the first part of the forum President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Lilia Shevtsova, an Associate Fellow from Chatham House, will discuss on how to deal with Russia´s propaganda and disinformation in Europe. In the second part  Lilia Shevtsova, lawyer Lyubov Sobol from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, journalist Yevgeni Kiselyov and journalist and writer Arkady Babchenko will focus on the upcoming federal elections in Russia. The discussion will be moderated by free-lance journalist Artemyi Troitski

news-1679 Mon, 16 May 2016 16:58:16 +0300 Russian activist Yevgeniya Chirikova visits Tartu On Wednesday, May 18, Russian environmental activist Yevgeniya Chirikova will give a talk at the University of Tartu. The Russian-language discussion will focus on the development of political activism in Russia under the tightening grip of the Putin regime. The lecture will take place on May 18 at 14.15 at Lossi 36-205 (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tartu).
Yevgeniya Chirikova (1976) is a Russian environmental activist currently based in Tallinn, known for
opposing the building of a motorway through Khimki forest near Moscow.  She has also played a
prominent role in the 2011–2012 Russian protests following disputed parliamentary elections in Russia,
and has also been credited with "stimulating nationwide interest in political reform"; (The Telegraph, 2012).

The most recent project of Yevgeniya and her team is the online portal – a support platform for environmental and social grassroots groups. In 2012, she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize and was named as one of Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy in 2012.

The lecture is organized jointly by the Centre for EU-Russia Studies, University of Tartu , and the Open
Estonia Foundation, as part of the Voices of Russia discussion series.

For more information, please contact Piret Ehin, Director of Centre for EU-Russia 

news-1605 Fri, 22 Jan 2016 14:24:46 +0200 Transborder corruption between Russia and EU countries feeds totalitarianism The transborder corruption between Russia and countries of the European Union feeds directly the vitality of the totalitarian regime in Russia, say the authors of reports on the movement of Russian “black money”. In their two reports about the movement of Russian “black money” within the European Union and transborder corruption the authors, experts of the European Union – Russia Civil Society Forum, explain the notion and extent of transborder corruption and give an overview of deals between big Russian companies and their European Union partners, businessmen and politicians. The head of the research group Andrey Kalikh pointed out at the presentation that the aim of the report is not to cast a shadow over all cross border financial deals or to undermine economic relations between countries.

The reports focus on two companies – the connections of Gazprom, the developer of Nordstream gas pipeline, with the EU governments and the similar activities of Transmashholding, a producer of railroad equipment. “Within the last few decades a number of murky business projects have been launched in Russia with the involvement of European Union countries. It turns out that quite a few European businessmen are making a lot of easy money while Russia can launder the money in Europe,” said Kalikh.

“The transborder corruption has led to the collapse of independent judiciary and other democratic institutions and strengthened the totalitarian regime in Russia. If you ask me what to do to support democratic reforms in Russia, then the answer is simple – demand your own countries to join the battle against transborder corruption. The investigative organizations, political will and media - all have a role to play here,” Kalikh added.

Open Estonia Foundation presented the reports in cooperation with the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the Transparency International Estonia and the Representation of the European Commission in Estonia.

Both reports can be downloaded here:

Event gallery.

news-1604 Fri, 22 Jan 2016 14:21:48 +0200 Results of the last open call on bilateral cooperation (ended on 9th December 2015) This time opportunity to apply for the grant in maximum amount of 2500 euro was given to any public benefit CSO what was active at least during 1 year. Organisations tackling and combating hate speech and racism, CSO working with asylum seekers and refugees, organisations willing to launch advocacy campaigns and public awareness raising on the issues of hate speech and refugees were especially welcome to take part from the call.

By the deadline we received 5 applications in total amount of 12 115 euro. Unfortunately one applicant (NGO Pagula) didn’t meet eligibility criteria– organisation was founded less than year ago, so proposal was rejected.

Evaluation was conducted by expert group formed by 2 coordinators of the NGO Fund and the director of the Open Estonia Foundation within 3 working days. All 4 proposals were in line with the objectives of the call and were ranked very high. The expert group decided to fund all 4 proposals and applicants were informed about the decision within 5 working days. There were no appeals against the decision. All projects will start implementing their activities in January 2016 and will be finish by end of March 2016.

Supported projects:

Estonian Human Rights Centre „Enhancing cooperation to strategically fight racial discrimination and incitement“, 2500 eur

Estonian Human Rights Centre and Organisasjonen mot offentlig diskriminering (OMOD, Norway) will continue cooperation and mutual learning regarding successful strategies in combating incitement to hatred and intolerance and racial discrimination. OMOD has been successful specifically in the prevention of ethnic and racial hatred, which is one of the areas in need of strengthening for PP and Estonian civil society as a whole. The project entails a visit to Oslo by PP to have a joint seminar with OMOD staff, visit the Norwegian ombudsman to enhance capacity for PP to strategically tackle incitement to hatred and intolerance,  to combat racial discrimination (such as ethnic profiling).

NGO Mondo „Building resilience against racist attitudes and hate speech in schools”, 2500 eur

NGO Mondo will launch cooperation with the European Wergeland Centre (EWC, Norway)  to exchange the best practices how to teach tolerance and approach racism and hate in learning environment and among the youth.  An international seminar will be organized in Tallinn and present the study material and methods that help to discuss and diminish racism and hatred speech in the class room. The objective of the seminar is to exchange knowledge and best practices as well as to shape the values and attitudes of the participants (teachers, students, youth workers etc). The discussions, presentations, and workshops promote open-mindedness and the worldview where the diversity in the society is seen as an enrichment.

NGO Estonian People to People “Open doors“, 2295 eur

NGO Estonian People to People will start cooperation with Iceland organisation Viska, Fræðslu- og símenntunarmiðstöð Vestmannaeyja (Life Long Learning Center, Iceland) and to address the raise of phobia towards refugees and migrants.  PP will explore the current situation in Estonia and Iceland and develop training methods for training adult educators for newcomers. Cooperation with adult education organisations, media, local communities, are planned to improve conditions of new immigrants. PP will visit Iceland to learn experiences of Viska trainings for foreign workers.  Partners will also discuss strategy on future cooperation, as a follow-up they plan to apply with few other partners for Erasmus+ strategic partnership project.

NGO Ethical Links „Combating segregation and xenophobia through cooperation and shared practices“, 2500 eur

NGO Ethical Links will cooperate with The Norwegian Centre against Racism (Norway) to learn how to create a sense of pluralistic national identity, instead of solely ethnic- or religious-based identity, how to effectively help the new immigrants to manage the challenges of the new culture, legislation and how to work with xenophobic attitudes and hate speech in third sector and schools. During 3 day study visit to Norway training session with partners will take place to observe and discuss the activities and methods implemented by the centre (campaigns, work at the multicultural youth and job center), and also learn about best practices and knowledge used in partner network.

Total sum: 9795 eur

news-1573 Mon, 09 Nov 2015 14:01:00 +0200 NGO Fund of EEA Grants opens a call for projects on bilateral cooperation with donor states We call for applications from Estonian civil society organisations to engage new partners from donor states (i.e. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and provide financial support for that purpose. Open call for proposals

In 2015 we have witnessed a record number of refugees from war- and conflict-ridden countries seeking safety and asylum in Europe. These refugees are extremely vulnerable: according to UNCHR over half of all Syrian refugees are children. At the same time many countries and societies in Europe have little experience in integrating people of Middle-Eastern and North-African origin and there is wide-spread prejudice towards refugees, what often leads to raising of extremism, hate speech and hate crimes. Estonia is one of them. Civil society can play an important part in enhancing public understanding and support, monitoring their human rights situations, increase awareness on refugee issues, influence public opinion and help refugees to adapt and integrate into their new communities.

 Call for Applications

One of the goals of EEA Grants in current programming period is to strengthen bilateral relationsbetween beneficiary countries and donor states (i.e. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), and withinternational organisationsWe call for applications from civil society organisations to engage new partners from donor states and provide financial support for that purpose. International organisations may also be involved in the activity

 Eligible applicants are non-governmental public benefit organisations established as a legal entity in Estonia that satisfy the following criteria:

  • have been active at least for one year;
  • are independent of local, regional and central government, public entities, political parties and commercial organisations;
  • have a non-commercial purpose and have not been created nor operate to generate personal profit, and do not pursue commercial or professional interests of its members;
  • are established as civic initiative and voluntarily by groups or individuals and involve an element of voluntary participation.
  • have experience in working with at least one of the following issues:
  1. tackling and combating hate speech and racism both online and offline;
  2. working with asylum seekers and integration of the refugees into Estonian society;
  3. advocacy campaigns and public awareness raising on the issues of hate speech and refugees.

Important terms for applying for support:

  • at least one partner organisation from  Norway, Island and Liechtenstein must be involved in the bilateral activity;
  • partner contributes to the outcome of the project and is actively involved in the preparation, implementation and evaluation phases of the project;
  • eligible costs are connected with the subject of the contract, proportionate and necessary for the implementation of the activity;
  • partners in projects are public entities, non-governmental organisations, as well as international organisations, think tanks and academic institutions, local informal, ad hoc and self-help organisations.

Grant can be used to organise meetings, seminars, workshops and other joint activities taking place in Estonia and donor countries; When an international organisation is involved in the activity, the activity may take place elsewhere if necessary and proportionate. The aim of these activities may, for instance, be:

  • sharing experience, knowledge and know-how with a partner
  • gathering effective practices and experiences
  • joint discussions to share experiences and develop best practices and campaigns
  • strengthening and expanding cooperation networks, developing agreements for future joint projects, etc

Size of the grant and eligible period:

The maximum amount of support per project is EUR 2,500.

EUR 18 000 euro in total are made available in this open call for proposals and will be allocated to best proposals.

Support from the NGO Fund can cover 100% of projects eligible costs.

Projects should be implemented during period January- March 2016

Eligible costs:

Eligible costs of the project are expenditures of Project promoter or partner, which are incurred between the first and final dates of eligibility of a project as specified in the project contract; connected with the subject of the project contract and they are indicated in the estimated overall budget of the project; proportionate and necessary for the implementation of the project; used for the sole purpose of achieving the objective(s) of the project and its expected outcome(s), in a manner consistent with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness; identifiable and verifiable, in particular through being recorded in the accounting records of the Project promoter according to the applicable accounting standards and principles; comply with the requirements of applicable Estonian legislation.

All expenditures of the project must be proved with invoices or accounting documents of same value.

Costs of the Estonian NGO, donor state entity (and international organisation if applicable) can be covered from the grant to the bilateral activity.

Grant may be used to cover the costs of:

  • travel expenses,
  • per diems,
  • accommodation,
  • rooms rental,
  • transportation,
  • other reasonable expenses needed to organise joint activities with partner organisations (fees etc). 

 Application process:

 Deadline for submitting proposals is 9th of December, 2015 on 11:59 p.m at the latest.

Application is submitted on the form of NGO Fund in English.

CV of the project manager should be added to proposal.

Applications should be submitted in electronically on email

Application form on bilateral cooperation is available  here 

Evaluation process:

Applications will be assessed by the Fund Operator and decisions shall be communicated to the applicants within two weeks from the application.

NGO Fund is a specific Programme area within the EEA Financial Mechanism 2009-2014, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, earmarked to provide flexible and accessible funding to eligible NGOs, with the aim to foster an enabling environment for the sector, strengthen its capacity and enhance its contribution to social justice, democracy and sustainable development. NGO Fund in Estonia is established with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Donor states and the Republic of Estonia. Fund Operator for the programme is Open Estonia Foundation (OEF).  During the programming period 2012 – 2014 altogether 5 open calls were organized for supporting projects of public benefit NGOs in the amount of 1,910,000 EUR. There is broad cooperation with donor state entities, which will increase the cooperation between institutions and individuals of the 13 participatory countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Latvia, Romania, Cyprus, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Malta, Slovenia, Estonia) through formal and ad hoc ways of exchange and cooperation.

Additional information:     

Jelena Katsuba

Avatud Eesti Fond/Open Estonia Foundation

+372 615 5700 (Mon-Thr 9-17)


Uudised Vabaühenduste Fond
news-1537 Mon, 07 Sep 2015 14:27:00 +0300 XX Open Society Forum focuses on islam and illiberalism The annual Open Society Forum “Who are all these people? Tackling the Polarisation of Democratic Societies” will take place on 16th September 2015 at the Nordic Hotel Forum, Tallinn. When talking about Islam in Europe we need to touch upon a number of different topics. Open Society Forum will focus on immigration, theology, extremism, social and cultural rights, tolerance, democracy, history and future.

This year's keynote speaker will be one of the most influential Pakistani writers, Ahmed Rashid. His speech will be followed by a conversation with Quentin Peel, journalist and member of the British think tank Chatham House.

The second panel of the Forum will focus on the role of media on the rise of illiberalism. The recent years have witnessed a growing support to social trends all over Europe that differ substantially from the liberal consensus. Some of them have grown into parties that have achieved remarkable political power in their countries (Front Nationale, UKIP). In other cases we can speak about social movements (Pegida).

What is the role of media in that context? Does media have a social responsibility? Where are the limits of freedom of speech and who can enforce them? We will take a look at these topics in the context of Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.

In the panel will be Mika Pettersson, editor in chief of the Finnish news agency STT-Lehtikuva, Didzis Melbiksis, Latvian freelance journalist, Bernt Olufsen, a journalist from Norway and Anvar Samost, director of BNS news agency. Urve Eslas of Postimees will moderate the panel.

The forum will be held in English with simultaneous translation into Estonian. The forum is organized in cooperation with the Baltic News Service and the Embassy of Norway in Estonia.

More information is available: 

news-1534 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 11:06:00 +0300 The Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev political prisoners On August 25 the North Caucasus okrug military court sentenced Crimean activists: film director Oleg Sentsov received 20 years of strict regime, and anti-fascist Alexander Kolchenko 10 years. Previously two other defendants were sentenced in this case: Gennady Afanasyev and Alexei Chirny – both pled guilty and received seven years in a strict-regime colony. The essence of the case
The investigation and trial listed all four as members of a terrorist group. The organisation’s deeds included the night-time arson of the office of the Russian Society of Crimea (April 14, 2014) and the regional branch of United Russia (April 18, 2014). No one was hurt in the arsons: in one case a door burned down, and in the other a kitchen, but both were deemed terrorist acts.
According to the FSB, the group was planning to blow up a Lenin statue on the night of May 9, 2014, which was also considered a potential terrorist act, and they tried to acquire explosives for this.
Chirny actually tried to acquire a bomb, while Alexander Pirogov, from whom he asked for help, wrote a statement for the FSB and helped the law-enforcement bodies to conduct surveillance while he provided Chirny with dummy explosives. When Chirny took the dummy explosives out of the hiding place he was arrested.
Later he gave evidence as part of his confession and named Sentsov as the leader of the group. Subsequently he told the Ukrainian consul that he was subjected to beatings and threats during his arrest. Gennady Afanasyev was the next person to be arrested, and he also signed a confession and gave evidence against Sentsov.
On July 31, 2015 in a hearing in the case of Sentsov and Kolchenko, Gennady Afanasyev renounced his testimony, saying that he had given it under pressure. Later he told lawyer Alexander Popkov that after his arrest he was subjected to a beating, torture (had a gas mask forced on him, an electric shock, sleep deprivation) and threats, and that this had forced him to incriminate Sentsov and himself partly. 
Sentsov himself also said that he was subjected to torture. According to him, he was abducted in Simferopol a day before his official arrest, on May 10, 2014, beaten, suffocated with a plastic bag, stripped naked and threatened with being raped with a truncheon. Marks from beatings were noted three weeks later. As Sentsov asserts, FSB investigator Artem Burdin proposed that he should plead guilty and get seven years in a colony, and after his refusal said that he would be charged as the leader of the group and would get 20 years.

Oleg Sentsov
Sentsov was found guilty of organising a terrorist group (part 1, article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code), of arsons qualified as terrorist acts (point “a”, part 2, article 205), of preparing to blow up a statue, qualified as preparing a terrorist act (part 1, article 30 and point “a”, part 2, article 205), and attempting to acquire explosive devices (part 3, article 30 and part 3, article 222), and illegal acquisition and possession of weapons and explosive devices (part 3, article 222). 
Sentsov did not participate in the arsons or in the preparations to blow up the statue, but was found guilty of these actions only because he was supposedly the leader of a criminal group who gave orders to its members. The only confirmation of these orders was the testimony of Chirny and Afanasyev.
The court ignored the fact that Afanasyev publicly renounced his testimony.
Chirny confirmed the testimony he gave to the investigation. However, we find that Chirny’s testimony contains signs of falsification: for example, on May 9 he asserts that the idea to blow up the Lenin statue was put forward by Afanasyev, but the next day that it was Sentsov. A video from a hidden camera containing the conversations of Chirny and Pirogov fundamentally refutes the theory of the existence of a terrorist group that was involved in the arsons and in the preparations to blow up the statue. Chirny repeatedly says that he is making the improvised explosive device at his own initiative and planning the explosion with specific people who were not suspected or charged in the case.
We consider that Sentsov’s guilt has not been proven and that he should be fully acquitted.

Alexander Kolchenko 
Alexander Kolchenko was accused of participating in the arson of the office of United Russia (point “a”, part 2, article 205) and participating in a terrorist group (part 2, article 205.4). He does not deny that he participated in the arson, but specifically kept watch on the street while Chirny and Nikita Borkin (wanted) set fire to the building. At the same time Kolchenko did not admit his guilt, considering that his actions were not terrorism.
We agree with Kolchenko’s position. The arson was committed at night, and the participants knew there was no one in the office. At the same time they made no demands. In recent years offices of the United Russia party in various regions of Russia have repeatedly been the target of arson attacks, sometimes in similar circumstances, but the prosecutions are usually carried out under part 2, article 167 of the Criminal Code (Arson, up to five years in prison) or under article 213 (Hooliganism, up to seven years in prison). Thus, Kolchenko’s prosecution was not commensurate either with the damage done, or with standard Russian practice.
We find the charge against Kolchenko of participating in a terrorist group to be baseless, since he only participated in an illegal action once with the other defendants.

Gennady Afanasyev
Gennady Afanasyev was convicted of participating in a terrorist group (part 2, article 205.4), of the arsons of the office of the Russian Society of Crimea and the regional branch of United Russia (point “a”, part 2, article 205), of preparing to blow up a statue of Lenin (part 1, article 30 and point “a”, part 2, article 205 and part 3, article 30 and part 3, article 222). Initially he fully admitted his guilt and made a deal with the investigators.
After publicly talking about torture being used against him, he explained to his lawyer that he did participate in the arsons, but he had nothing to do with the acquisition of the bomb. Having studied the case, we came to a similar conclusion: the recording of the conversations of Chirny and Pirogov indicates that Afanasyev was not involved in preparations to blow up the Lenin statue. We believe that the FSB forced Afanasyev to incriminate himself in this episode in order to construct the theory about a terrorist group.
As in the case of Kolchenko, we believe that qualifying the arsons as terrorist acts is excessive. Afanasyev himself now talks about the fact that his motives were hooliganism, not terrorism.
We note that after Afanasyev’s public statements that he incriminated Sentsov and Kolchenko under torture, he was placed in real danger. 

The circumstances associated with the occupation of Crimea
The case is being investigated with large-scale violations of human rights and international law. From the point of view of international law, Russia has carried out an occupation of Crimea. In this case, according to IV of the Geneva Convention, the removal of the civilian population from an occupied territory is forbidden: people who are accused of subversive acts against the occupying power must be held on the occupied territory during the investigation, trial and imprisonment.
Forcibly changing the citizenship of Sentsov and Kolchenko from Ukrainian to Russian is also unprecedented. 
A number of factors let us know that this case has an obvious political subtext. One of them is the constant inappropriate reference to Right Sector. The investigation has no real information providing evidence that the defendants in the case have any connection with that organisation. We believe that the real motive for the obsessive inclusion of Right Sector in the charges is to create a primitive media image of a nationalist threat in Crimea.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Oleg Sentsov, his complete rehabilitation and a thorough investigation into his statements about torture by the FSB.
We also demand an investigation into Gennady Afanasyev’s statements about torture and that his safety be guaranteed. The cases of Gennady Afanasyev and Alexander Kolchenko should be re-examined and their real actions qualified correctly. At the same time, the investigation should stop giving Kolchenko Russian citizenship against his will and return him to Crimea, in accordance with international law.
We did not find it possible to recognise Alexei Chirny as a political prisoner, but we draw attention to the fact that he, like the other Crimeans, was transported out of Crimea illegally, and there are serious grounds to suspect that he was subjected to violence on the part of employees of the FSB, and political tendencies can be seen in the qualification of his actions.

Recognising a person as a political prisoner does not mean that the Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with the actions or statements of the persons recognised as political prisoners, or that it approves of their statements or actions. 

HRC Memorial's news in English are available on the web-site 

news-1531 Mon, 17 Aug 2015 11:25:00 +0300 Greetings to Opinion Festival by George Soros I wish you every success in the strenuous path to strengthen the voice of your diverse civil society through debates at the Opinion Culture Festival, said the philantropist Georg Soros in his greeting to the 3rd Opinion Festival that took place in Paide. Dear Opinion Festival,

In recent year open society in Europe has come under attack from the spread of xenophobia, racial and religious prejudices, hate speech and radicalization. These are issues every government and citizen of Europe should regard with great concern.

Open Society cannot be created overnight, this is a never ending process. In order to succeed in this path, governments must become truly accountable to their  citizens. There needs to be an ongoing dialogue within among citizens, policymakers and government leaders.

Philanthropy can play a small but essential role of the struggle to create open societies,  I am glad that I made the choice years ago to dedicate my philanthropy to the promotion of open society.

I wish you every success in this strenuous path to strengthen the voice of your diverse civil society through debates at the Opinion Culture Festival. The best way to teach people how to debate is by putting them into the hot seat, rather than making them watch other people do it and hoping they learn something.

George Soros

news-1525 Fri, 10 Jul 2015 09:11:00 +0300 Open Society Statement on Developments in Russia LONDON—We regret the action by Russia’s Federation Council yesterday to send to the Prosecutor General a list of 12 organizations, including the Open Society Foundations, to consider banning.

This move comes more than a quarter-century after the Open Society Foundations began work in Russia to support the aspirations of the Russian people.

Since 1987, Open Society has provided support to countless individuals and civil society organizations, including in the fields of science, education, and public health. This record speaks for itself. We are honored to have worked alongside pioneering citizens, educators, and civil society organizations that embody Russian creativity, commitment, and hope.

We are determined to continue to support those who seek our assistance in accordance with our mission and within the limits of the law.

news-1522 Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:14:00 +0300 The EESC and CSF meeting in Brussels: support to Russian civil society important more than ever The 2nd joint meeting between the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) was held in Brussels on 30 June 2015 to discuss themes of common interest for the Europe Union and Russian civil society.

Providing as much support as possible to Russian NGOs has never been more important than at this time of severe crisis in EU-Russia relations. According to Mall Hellam, Executive Director of Open Estonia Foundation and the Member of EESC, and rapporteur of the opinion on the State of Civil Society in Russia, one of the discussion topics was the current EU funding to Russian civil society, which the participants consider still inadequate. EU authorities should review the terms and increase the amounts available, taking into account that the institutional support is essential for the sustainability of civil society. An urgent action should also be undertaken for groups and individuals in danger or acute need, including for instance better access to asylum, granting of visas and visa extensions, and also supporting civil society activists who have already been forced to leave Russia for political reasons.

“The EU authorities should pay increasing attention to negative developments regarding freedom of speech and freedom of association in Russia, resulting in repeal of the "foreign agents law", the law on "undesirable" organisations, and the "foreign agents" registry by the Russian Government,” emphasized the Members of EESC and the EU-Russia CSF.

Focus on fighting the trans-border corruption

The Members of the EESC and the EU-Russia CSF feel it is important that contacts between citizens from the EU and Russia should not suffer because of the deterioration of official relations.

“On the contrary, stepping up people-to-people exchanges would contribute to moving Russian society closer to European values and would help to counteract propaganda. Also the interaction and addressing the issues of equal importance for both sides such as human rights, migration, the fight against corruption and extremism, and far-right nationalism should be continued in civil societies,” the participants underlined.

Both organizations recommend that European governments and institutions should press for greater transparency to prevent the use of private or public funds to finance corrupt activities abroad.

 All in all the topics such as the restrictive legislation for civil society development in Russia, the role of media in influencing social and political processes, trans-border corruption and the impact of tensions in the EU-Russia relations on the EU and Russian societies were discussed as well.

Read the report presented at the Brussels meeting about cross-border corruptive relations in financing environmentally hazardous Western business projects in Russia.

news-1515 Tue, 16 Jun 2015 10:02:00 +0300 Memorial Human Right Centre: The number of political prisoners keeps growing in Russia The Memorial Human Right Centre published the latest update of the List of Political Prisoners in the Russian Federation as of June 1st 2015. Although the list is not exhaustive, it includes about 50 political prisoners including, people who have either lost their freedom due to a court sentence, are currently in custody or under house arrest – all of which fall under the corresponding international criteria of the PACE resolution No. 1900 (2012).

Since Memorial’s last publication of the list on October 30th last year, the number of political prisoner has grown from 46 to 50 people. Although 10 people have been removed from the list, an additional 14 new ones have been added. 

The full list of people who are considered political prisoners by the Memorial Human Rights Centre and their background is available at the following link.

The new cases of political prosecutions follow similar patterns that have been  employed in the past. These include direct falsification of evidence, arbitrary and expanded interpretation of the statutes of the criminal law, use of illegally or irresponsibly worded statutes of the legislation, groundless criminal interpretation of factual circumstances, or a combination of these cases.

The Memorial emphasizes that the list is incomplete. It is highly probable that a large number of criminal cases meet the criteria of being a political prisoner, however, the organization has not been able to obtain enough information to either make a final conclusion or has not completed the investigation based on the information that they have received.

This, in particular, concerns a large number of criminal cases against Ukrainian citizens, however, it also includes cases of charging Muslims with extremism under the articles of the Russian Criminal Code. 

Read the full article here.

news-1507 Tue, 09 Jun 2015 00:28:00 +0300 Best Estonian 2015 e-service is e-Residency application portal The title Best Estonian E-service 2015 went to e-Residency application portal, which during its opening week increased the number of e-residency applications over tenfold.

Estonia's best e-services are the e-Residency application portal, Barking, SportID, Estonian Movie Database and services offered by the Road Administration.

On Tuesday evening, the Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) announced the results of its best e-services competition for private, public and third sector services.

According to Aet Rahe, the chairperson of the judging panel, the e-service competition is the highest national recognition to domestic service developers.

The title Best Estonian E-service 2015 went to e-Residency application portal, which during its opening week increased the number of e-residency applications over tenfold.

According to Rahe, the portal's strength is its strong international potential that helps to improve the Estonian economy.

The award for the best public service went to the Road Administration, which allows users to run background checks on vehicles, renew drivers licences and register cars to new owners online. According to the Road Administration, online drivers licence system alone will help to save around 5,000 working hours this year.

The best private e-service is Barking, a smart parking app that lets people who have a vacant parking spot rent it out and earn extra money.

Estonian Movie Database won the third sector category. The database opened in 2012 and currently contains entries about 16,000 films, 9,000 filmmakers and 200 production companies.

The people's choice award went to SportID, an online environment that lets companies easily manage their employee sports benefits, receiving only one invoice per month instead of separate receipts from hundreds of service providers.

The judging panel assessed the importance, quality, comfort, international potential, social and economic benefit and the substantive and technical novelty of each competing e-service.

RIA received a total of 134 applications in four separate categories.

news-1506 Tue, 09 Jun 2015 00:18:00 +0300 Mall Hellam: Opinion Culture Festival as a song festival of thoughts and debates The pre-festival aims to create an environment that would foster socially beneficial projects and new ideas, to develop the discussion and communication culture in Estonia and to inspire people to chip in on matters that affect their daily lives.

The Festival of Opinion Culture will be held for the third year in a row this year and will kick off the event already on the 30th of May with a discussion day in Narva, bringing a multitude of topics and debates closer to people across the land.

The pre-festival aims to create an environment that would foster socially beneficial projects and new ideas, to develop the discussion and communication culture in Estonia and to inspire people to chip in on matters that affect their daily lives.

There will be several inspirational discussions held on the 30th of May. Eduard Odinets, Irene Käosaar, Kristina Kallas, Triin Ulla and Sergei Sedorenko will ruminate on the status of Russian schools in Estonia. A brainstorming session titled “Searching for the story of Estonia’s future” will attempt to formulate what can the people of Estonia themselves do for the future of their country.

“The Narva festival will focus primarily on the future of Narva’s development,” explained Mall Hellam from one of the most important supporters of the festival – the Open Estonia Foundation. “Well-known speakers Artemi Troitski and Vasja Oblomov will open the day’s discussions with an overview of the situation in Russia from the viewpoint of the cultural elite, hopefully this will serve as a great introduction to an exciting and informative day,” said Hellam.

The program of the actual Festival of Opinion Culture to be held in August in Paide looks just as interesting and varied. There will be discussions on gender roles, civil society, health, business, ethics and a number of other topical issues. One new addition is the unique approach to creating special areas for particular topics.

“We won’t be discussing about education, the environment or economy in general, but aim to identify more specific themes and problems that every discussion area could dissect, highlight and seek solutions to,” explained the festival’s theme area program leader Maiu Uus.

Just like in previous years, the festival will rely on people who dare and want to engage in discussions on topics that have an impact on Estonia. “Previous experience has shown that the festival in Paide tends to attract people who care about this country and wish to be heard. It’s almost like a song festival of thoughts and debates, bringing together a variety of people from different backgrounds,” said Hellam. She added that the festival presents a unique opportunity to meet other people eye-to-eye, to establish contacts, to argue and discuss matters frankly and under one’s own name, and also to gain new insights on expression and debating skills.

Altogether 250 ideas for discussion were submitted to the ideas gathering campaign in February, these will form the foundation for over 30 theme areas. The festival’s full program will be available in the coming weeks.