Shaping and debating the future of EU

Year: 2015-2016

Area: The main aim of the project was to initiate a discussion and debate in four European countries (Estonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Latvia) about the future of the European Union. The project countries were chosen to be 2 "new" member states of the EU (Estonia and Malta/Latvia), 1 recently joined member state of the EU (Croatia) and one EU membership candidate country (Bosnia and Herzegovina), representing also different regions of Europe. Project activities started in most of the countries in the spring of 2015 and continued until the year 2016. 

The activities took place in each country on a national level, but also on local / regional level. In each location debates involved different stakeholder groups (policy makers, civil servants – but focusing on those groups who will be directly affected by the EU sectoral policies: youth, entrepreneurs, socially disadvantaged etc). 

Partners:  Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Foreign Policy Initiative BH. Croatia: European Education Forum (EEF). Latvia Biedriba "Solis Tuvak".  

Funding: Europe for Citizens programme. European Commission. Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.


Project activities in Estonia

The Jaan Tonisson Institute (JTI) focused on different events and regions. Starting in spring 2015 with public debates and idea gatherings at festivals they continued in autumn-winter with smaller scale discussion events with various target groups (students, youth, elderly people, entrepreneurs etc.)


11 events have been carried out within this project in Estonia:

Event 1 - Estonian Youth Union - EU Simulation

Participation: The event involved  13 citizens from the city of Tallinn and Harju region (Estonia). 

Location / Dates: The event took place in Tallinn University (Tallinn, Estonia), on 16th May 2016
Short description:  Jaan Tõnisson Institute participated at the annual spring seminar of the Estonian National Youth Council. As a part of the seminar, the ENL and JTI co-operated in delivering a workshop/interactive simulation on exploring alternative forms of youth participation. Three working groups were formed to simulate policy makers, organised youth groups and unorganised youth.

The workshop demonstrated that while the 13 participants had little trouble identifying youth problems and seeking appropriate solutions, it was considerably more challenging to understand the perspectives of different stakeholders. What emerged from the simulation was a shared understanding of the need to develop communication and co-operation between local policy makers and youth organisations.


Event 2 - Open discussion evening ‘Help, refugees are coming! Myths and challenges’

Participation: The event involved 72 citizens, mainly from the cities of Tallinn and Tartu and other regions (Estonia).

Location / Dates: The event took place in Õpetajate Maja (Tallinn, Estonia), 11/06/2015

Short description:  On the evening of the 11th of June, chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee at the Parliament of Estonia Kalle Palling, Janek Mägi from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, political commentator Ahto Lobjakas and director of the Estonian Refugee Council Eero Janson discussed the present and future of Estonia’s refugee policies in the context of European Commission’s plans for refugee resettlement and relocation. In addition, Juhan Saharov from Johannes Mihkelsoni Keskus gave an introductory presentation on refugee quotas and the present situation of refugees in Estonia. The debate was moderated by communication expert Liisa Past.

The news and recording of the public debate were published on the websites of Estonian largest online media agency "Delfi" and in the largest tabloid "Õhtuleht". As it was the beginning of the refugee migration crisis in Europe, the public debate received wide coverage in the Estonian media. There were more than 500 online viewers of the event via Delfi website and it is possible to see the recording 


Event 3 - Sustainable Development Festival "Ökomäss 2015"

Participation: The event involved 238 citizens, from all regions of Estonia.

Location / Dates: The event took place in Patarei vangla (Tallinn, Estonia), from  18/09/2015  to 20/09/2015

Short description:  JTI held a idea gathering and information sharing event on a 3-day sustainable development festival Ökomäss 2015 in September. Visitors of the festival had a possibility to tell to the JTI representatives, how they perceive the European Union, what are the things that concern them most in Estonia and in the EU, what they would like to change in Estonia and in the EU in the future. During discussions with people it was possible to give them more information about the EU and how the Union functions. At the same time this info day gave a good chance for the representatives of the JTI about the concerns of people and which questions are important for them. People had a chance to write their ideas and concerns "on a public wall", so JTI could summarize the results and main issues regarding the governance in Estonia and in the EU. 

Most of the people, who visited the JTI info desk during Ökomäss festival, raised the topics of sustainable development and EU-s role in global climate change activities.

In national matters people were mainly interested how the EU could help to preserve Estonian forests and voted this as the most important question on the public wall of ideas and concerns.

The idea gathering event was part of the events organized for the Europe for Citizens project "Shaping and Debating the future of the EU". 


Event 4 - Discussion event "The future of Estonian businesses"

Participation: The event involved 13 citizens, including participants from the cities of Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Haapsalu (Estonia).

Location / Dates: The event took place in Tallinn, Estonia on 25/09/2015  

Short description:  On 25th September 2015 the 13 members of different Estonian entrepreneurial associations discussed with the head of the Jaan Tonisson Institute Andrus Villem the economic affairs in Europe. Main concerns were about growing signs of protectionism, which could hinder the founding pillars of the European Union (free movement of people and goods). Another discussion revolved around the future of possible cuts in the EU budget for the period of 2020-2027, as Estonia has to prioritize the EU funds more specifically in the future.

As a conclusion of the event the participants agreed that more attention should be paid to the protection of principal values of the EU, as the economic development and cohesion are the strengths of the Union, which are beneficial for the member states as well.  

The discussion event was funded from the Citizens of Europe programme of the European Union as part of the project "Shaping and Debating the future of the EU".


Event 5 - Public Debate on "Nationalism in Changing Europe"

Participation: The event involved 41 participants from the cities of Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia.

Location / Dates: The event took place in Tallinn, Estonia, on 24/11/2015

Short description:  On 24th November 2015 the Jaan Tonisson Institute held together with Estonian academic fraternal organisation a public debate on the topic of nationalism in changing Europe.

In the first part of the event established Estonian writers Peeter Helme and Andrei Hvostov discussed the political situation in Europe and how nationalism is perceived and debated in the 21st century. In the second part of the event, the roundtable panel with Estonian Social Security minister Margus Tsahkna, Member of the Parliament Mart Nutt and migration expert of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences Kert Valdaru discussed pros and cons of the migration.

Additionally to the 41 participants at the venue it was possible to view the event via online channel in the 2 largest Estonian media channels (Postimees, Delfi).

The recording of the debate evening is published on Postimees website - There were 1911 online views via the largest Estonian newspaper website Postimees. 

The recording of the event is published on Delfi website - In Delfi online news portal there were 400 online views of the event. 


Event 6 - JTI Youth Seminar in Mustvee, Peipsi Gymnasium

Participation: The event involved 29 participants from Tartu, Jõgeva and Ida-Viru counties (Estonia),

Location / Dates: The event took place in Peipsi Gümnaasium, Mustvee, Estonia, from  30/11/2015

Short description: On 30th November 2015 the Jaan Tonissoni Institute organized an educational workshop in the eastern region of Estonia, in Mustvee town, together with the NGO Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation. Eastern part of Estonia is a border region with Russian Federation and most of the border is located on Peipsi lake (4th largest lake in Europe). The aim of the seminar in Mustvee Peipsi Gymnasium was to discuss with estonian and russian speaking pupils their views on the future of Europe. Whether and how they see their future in Estonia, Europe or in Russia.

During the workshop 29 participants in the Peipsi Gymnasium discussed various topics regarding the envrionmental protection of the Peipsi lake ecosystem, transboundary cooperation issues between Europe and neighboring countries like Russia and their views on the future of Europe.  

The workshop took place in the frameworks of JTI’s ‘Europe for Citizens’ and Peipsi CTC's youth participation projects.


Event 7 - Discussion event "Estonia and the Future of the Europe"

Participation: The event involved 21 participants from the cities of Tallinn, Tartu, Rapla, Pärnu and Rakvere (Estonia).

Location / Dates: The event took place in Tallinn, Estonia, on 16/02/2016

Short description:  This discussion event was held in Tallinn for the students of all universities to gather their views on the future developments of Estonia and the European Union. The main presenter was Member of the Estonian Parliament Mr. Mart Nutt. Although there were not so many participants, the discussion was interesting and fresh, as the students raised many fascinating ideas, how the EU could develop and increase its role in different areas. At the same time JTI had a chance to explain the current political situation in the EU affairs to the students. One of the focus topics was how Estonia will manage, when the EU development funds (Cohesion Funds and other Structural Funds) are not available any more. 

As a result of the seminar, the students gave feedback, that they learned a lot about the EU and about the possible future developments in the Union. They understood better that Estonia has to continue the development of its economy without the support of the EU structural funds in the future, as this is not sustainable in the long run. 

Event 8 - Seminar "Information war - how to stay alive in the battlefield of ideologies?"

Participation: The event involved 25 citizens from the cites of Tallinn, Tartu and other regions of Estonia.

Location / Dates: The event took place in Tallinn, Estonia, on 13/04/2016

Short description: This seminar was organised due to the increased problems with information distortion about the European Union and its relations to neighboring countries in Estonia. JTI felt the need to hold a public debate on this topic to raise awareness. 

Although the event was initially oriented for younger than 30 audience, the participants were mainly in the age group 30-65. This changed the discussion mood a bit, most of the people remembered the information war tactics from the Soviet Union era in Estonia. Therefore people focused more on historical comparisons with current situation. Still possible scenarios of the EU future developments were discussed. Especially regarding the public information sharing in the neighboring countries like Ukraine. 

Event 9 - Seminar in the Estonian Parliament "European Union Development Cooperation as a tool to prevent crisis"

Participation: The event involved 37 citizens, including participants from the cities of Tallinn and Tartu and other regions of Estonia.

Location / Dates: The event took place in Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) (Tallinn, Estonia), on 17/05/2016
Short description:  The aim of the event was to hold a seminar in the Estonian Parliament together with the Speaker of the Parliament Mr. Eiki Nestor and Members of the Parliament Ms. Oudekki Loone and Mr. Henn Põlluaas on the topic of the European Union development cooperation role to prevent crisis situations and as a tool to deescalate conflicts. 

There were 37 guests at the seminar, who discussed the importance of development cooperation in the European Union and different approaches to EU neighbouring countries. 


Event 10 - Ökomäss 2016

Participation: The event involved 206 citizens, including participants from all regions and cities of Estonia.

Location / Dates: The event took place in Patarei vangla (Tallinn, Estonia), from  17/09/2016  to 18/09/2016
Short description: For second year the Jaan Tonisson Institute held a public discussion round on the future of the European Union  and its policies on 17.-18th September 2016 in the former Patarei prison in Tallinn.

The total of 206 people frequented the discussion rounds on both days. People were curious on the future economical policies of the union and many asked about the Estonian government policies with regard to the approaching EU Presidency by Estonia in 2017


Event 11 - Public discussion "Does the EU destroy itself?" 

Participation: The event involved 21 citizens, including participants from the cities of Tallinn,Tartu and orther regions of Estonia.

Location / Dates: The event took place in Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) (Tallinn, Estonia), on 22/09/2016

Short description:  The Jaan Tonisson Institute held a public discussion in the Parliament of Estonia about the future of the European Union. This was also the final event of the "Shaping and Debating th future of EU" project, where all participating countries sent their representatives. 

There were 21 participants present in the Riigikogu in Tallinn and there was an online video transfer via the largest daily newspaper Postimees

The event was funded from the Citizens of Europe programme of the European Union as part of the project "Shaping and Debating the future of the EU".