David Calling

Some Estonian New Year

People celebrate the New Year in strange ways, and Estonia is an example of that. On January 1, Estonia dumped its currency, the kroon, and joined the eurozone. What a thing to do right now.

I happened to catch an interview with Andrus Ansip, the prime minister of Estonia since 2007. He’s led the campaign to join the euro, and already is word-perfect in Brussels-speak. Membership in the EU, he solemnly droned, will create jobs, raise pensions, and enhance economic growth. Like the rest of the Eurocrats, Ansip no doubt believes what he is saying and will be horrified one day to discover how he has deceived his fellow citizens. All over the country, posters in Estonian and English warned the electorate to be realistic: “Welcome to the Titanic!

Estonia is a small speck of a country on the Baltic, with a beautiful and historic capital in Tallinn, as well as cities like Tartu and Narva. Driving in the countryside one day I came on the house built by Count Pahlen in the 18th century, and it was to architecture what Mozart is to music. But it is the spirit of the Estonians that is most admirable. They have seen off the German and the Soviet occupations, which between them killed many hundreds of thousands, or about half the population. When they were getting rid of Communism, I was fortunate to be shown a documentary about a village from which the Soviets had deported everyone but overlooked one single old man. Speaking to camera, he said he would carry on in his house alone till they came for him or he died. He was indomitable in his defiance, and in the Gorbachev days it turned out that the whole nation was as proud and courageous as him. The dying Soviets got quite close to opening fire on the anti-Communist Popular Front demonstrators in Tallinn, whereupon so huge a crowd assembled that violence wasn’t possible.

Whatever drives Prime Minister Ansip to tamper with his nation’s independence and sovereignty at this moment? Ireland, Greece, and the other financial wrecks are going to raise pensions and create jobs, are they really? Presumably he and those who voted to join the EU think that membership will replace German occupation with German protection, and that will keep the Russians out. Well, Estonia was once said to be a bone in the Soviet throat, and now it can pass on its national characteristics and become a bone in the Brussels throat.


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