25 years of independence for the Baltic states

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania celebrated the 25th anniversary of their independence on the weekend. After the failed August Putsch of 1991 the Soviet Union recognised the sovereignty of these three states, which had already declared independence in 1990 following the Singing Revolution. Many columnists take the anniversary as an opportunity to take stock of the progress made since then.

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BNS (LT) /

Eastern Europe off course

Writing for news agency BNS British journalist Edward Lucas laments that freedom in Eastern Europe is once again at risk for various reasons:

“Only three countries once inside the old Soviet frontier - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - solidly meet international standards of political freedom. So too, largely, do the former Warsaw Pact countries - though in Hungary and Poland there is a troubling whiff of something which resembles Putinism: the politicization of the justice system, demonization of political rivals, contempt for independent institutions and artificially stoked xenophobia. ... In the ex-captive nations, which do understand the threat, the danger is over-reaction. Faced with a propaganda blizzard, the temptation is to curb press freedom. Faced with subversion, the risk is spy paranoia and the erosion of civil liberties.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Latvians wouldn't stand up to tanks today

Latvia took advantage of the August Putsch in Moscow in 1991 to push through its independence. The joy of the anniversary celebrations is mingled with concerns about the future, Neatkarīgā comments:

“Back then we weren't protected by Nato membership and couldn't rely on international assistance. The only thing that prevented us from being reabsorbed by the darkness of the Soviet regime was ourselves, our steadfastness and determination. ... Would the Latvians stand up to tanks today if their country were threatened? It's not easy to say it, but probably not. ... The will to fight for our country and its values is now the exception, not the rule. But we have democracy, and everyone can criticise what they want. And in the past 25 years there has been no shortage of things to criticise. The only things we can't criticise are independence and freedom: the greatest goods given to us on August 21, 1991.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Estonians have lost their euphoria

The Estonian tabloid Õhtuleht sees the results as mixed:

“Yes, we have the EU and Nato, but we also have an aggressive Russia as our neighbour, the refugee crisis, terrorism and the Brexit. … Estonia has done a pretty good job of things. There are no conflicts on our soil, we have strong allies and the hope of a happy future. When we were ready to eat potato peelings in the midst of our independence euphoria our optimism was dampened by the diagnosis that it would take several decades for us to attain the living standards of the West. Now, one generation later, we are already far more prosperous than we were. But the fact that our living standards are still much lower than those of several neighbours makes us unhappy. It is not nasty to point to this difference when the countries of the north are regarded as the official role model. And perhaps pointing to this will help us make progress.”

Pohjalainen (FI) /

On the cutting edge of digitisation

In many respects Estonia is a model for Europe, Pohljalainen writes commenting on the 25th anniversary of independence celebrations:

“In fashioning itself anew Estonia has never lost sight of the globalisation of digital technology. Estonia has the most start-ups on a per-capita basis. As such it serves as a model for Finland - where much thought is being put into how to reform the welfare and health systems - with respect to the digitisation of the public administration. Extensive digitisation can make a country much more productive, yet many of old European states are only just starting to catch on. Estonia is still a poor country in comparison with Finland. But thanks to its growth and willpower the gap between the two countries is narrowing.”