Baltic Dialogue Initiative

Tallinn Peace Forum: Steps Toward Eurasian-European Cooperation

Tallinn, Estonia - UPF-Estonia held a Peace Forum in Tallinn on Dec. 14, 2013 under the topic of “Practical Steps towards Eurasian-European Cooperation and Mutual Prosperity - What Role Can the Baltic Countries Play?“ The event was part of the Baltic Dialogue Initiative, an ongoing project of UPF-Eurasia focused on the specific role of the Baltic countries in improving the relationship between Europe and the former Soviet republics.

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To an audience of about 40 participants consisting of academics, NGO leaders, teachers and others, six speakers offered presentations about how Eurasia and Europe could and should move forward towards a common future of cooperation and prosperity.

In the first session Russian academic Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky, Chief Academic Researcher at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies and Project Manager at Russian International Affairs Council, gave a detailed overview of the current relationship between Russia and Europe, its opportunities and challenges. Believing in the “European future” of Russia, he outlined some of the conditions for this to be realized and pleaded for an increased dialogue between Baltic nations and Russia. The three Baltic nations’ Soviet past and their current integration in Europe gives them an unmatched advantage.

Then Dr. Rony Smolar, Vice President of the Board of Jewish Communities in Finland, shared a perspective drawn from the history of his country with Russia, his long experience serving in the Middle East and his involvement in interreligious dialogue in his country. Dr. Smolar emphasized the primacy of strong democratic values as a foundation for developing Europe-Eurasia cooperation. He also emphasized the role of NGOs and spoke about his plan to establish an “academy of democracy” in Finland.

In the context of demonstrations in Ukraine and the recently held EU Summit on “Eastern Partnership” in Vilnius, Lithuania, the two presentations stimulated many questions from the Estonian audience, who were especially interested to hear the Russian view from a Russian academic.

In the second session, four presentations outlined different aspects or practical steps of Europe-Eurasia cooperation.

Mrs. Ilvi Jõe-Cannon, an Estonian political scientist and member of the Estonian Women's Studies and Resource Center, spoke on the issue of human trafficking and how Estonia has been gradually moving toward stronger legislation on that matter since independence. She emphasized, however, that much remains to be done to prevent sexual exploitation and affirm equal rights in order for Estonia to stand as a "strong link“ between Europe and Eurasia.

Mrs. Johanna Helin, founding member of the NGO MONDO and manager of its global education center, spoke about her organization’s work in building bridges between cultures and racial groups, both in Europe and around the world.

Prof. Toomas Alatalu, a foreign policy expert at Tallinn Technical University and long-time UPF Ambassador for Peace, spoke about the perspectives of an "Eastern Partnership“ after the Vilnius Summit and Estonia’s role in the Europe-Eurasia dialogue.

Mr. Jacques Marion, coordinator for UPF activities in the Baltic region, ended the session with a brief presentation of UPF’s activities in the region in 2013 and its vision of promoting strong family values in an environment where confusion over marriage is rising. In Europe-Eurasia relations, he concluded, Europe tends to claim the teacher’s position on democratic values – but increasingly on issues dealing with the family, Eurasia seems to be in a stronger position to teach its neighbor.

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