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Baltic image-construction

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Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland

GEOMETR.IT  geographie.hu-berlin.de  25.02.2016

The weak conditions for image-construction within the Baltic sub-region are influencing Baltic cooperation. Particularly Lithuania and Estonia are far from each other. Geographically they are not direct neighbours; in addition they are divided by religious orientations, different language families and the lack of common identity deeply rooted in history.

Lithuania started to build up new relations with Poland through the lately created Polish-Lithuanian strategic partnership.

Meanwhile Estonia is emphasizing its close ties to Finland:

“ Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland. In the literature , in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, there were four Baltic States. Finland marketed itself into a Scandinavian country. And this is not only a business proposition or a tourist proposition: it`s their entire security , their entire being; their entire nature is that they are now a Scandinavian country.

Why should Finland be more Scandinavian country than Estonia? We`re all the same Finno-Ugric sort of swamp people. But the point is that they turned themselves into Scandinavians.

And when you say Finland to a German , when you say Fin;and to a Japanese, or Finland to an American, they think Scandinavia. That was very conscious effort done by people in foreign ministers and military agencies. My vision of Estonia is doing the same thing.

That`s why I try to sell Estonia as the only Nordic , the only post-communist Nordic country. And if you look at the various parameters, be it mobile phone use, degree of computerization, English language knowledge, we follow the Nordic pattern. By all these parameters, Estonia is a classic Nordic country.”
(The Estonian foreign minister Tomas Ilves)

The Nordic countries are practicing an active foreign policy towards all three of the Baltic countries. Therefore close connection to Finland, Sweden and so on are not the problems.

The problem is that Estonia is such statements is proclaiming itself as a future integral part of the Nordic countries.

If we follow up this thought Estonia`s place would be within the Nordic and not the Baltic Council. This is not unconditionally compatible with its membership in some kind of a Union of Baltic States. Hence the Baltic States seen as an entity do not belong to foreign ministers Ilves` favourite pictures of self-categorizing:

“To be frank, my goal as foreign minister was to separate Estonia from being a Baltic State. I don`t see any advantage in so-called Baltic States. I don`t think Estonia is a Baltic State. I think the idea of a Baltic state is a construction made up elsewhere.

I`ve seen Estonia suffer through the years because of misguided policies in the other Baltic countries.(…)
Each country should take responsibility for its own actions. What has been especially unnerving is when failures in the other countries are ascribed to us. I think we should take responsibility for our own mistakes and failures, but certainly not for those of others.

I have seen very few benefits to Estonia being Baltic state with possible exception of the NATO issue, where it is key because is a geopolitical decision.”
* * *
Ilves is not the only one feeling the fellowship with its neighbours sometimes being troublesome. In 1996 the Lithuanian foreign minister Algirdas Saudargas called the unity of the Baltic states a mere fiction that only exists in Western politicians` mind and in 1997 Vytautas Landsbergis, Chairman of the Lithuanian parliament in a time when Lithuania was promoting its membership aspirations for the NATO, compared the three Baltic states to mushrooms in a basket and urged the people to break free from the “Baltic ghetto” . Also Latvia`s voiced doubts.



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