It is a great honour for Estonia to kick off the new event series, “The Sound of Europe”. We find it very gratifying that the Federal Ministry of Finance is making this effort to draw the German people closer to their European neighbours by showcasing culture, and by revealing the people behind the economic numbers.
There are some things about Estonia that may be completely new – and even somewhat surprising – to a lot of people.
Estonia joined the eurozone at the peak of the sovereign debt crisis in 2011. Estonia also has next to no government debt. When it comes to budgets, we are in excellent standing with the European Commission. In addition, we present ourselves to the world as a land of digital solutions. We like to call ourselves “E-stonia”, and today no one in Estonia can imagine wasting time, energy, money or paper on important everyday tasks. Estimates show that our paperless administration, which is based on secure electronic ID cards, saves us a whole work week per person per year.
How do we do this? First of all, these achievements go to the credit of the Estonian people and their culture. Together with our natural resources, people are our most valuable resource – we are people who have survived centuries of warfare and famine under foreign rule, as well as the tremendously complicated 20th century that included 50 years of Soviet occupation.
Estonia, with a population of just 1.3 million, is the smallest, most northerly country in the Baltic. And we are the only Finno-Ugric people in the Baltic region, so we are closely related to the Finns in both linguistic and cultural terms. Perhaps that’s where our love of IT comes from. Our common-sense economic policies, which are based on the idea that money doesn’t grow on trees, certainly stem to a great extent from our Protestant work ethic, which has a strong Prussian influence as well. And Germans understand our culture of song too, which plays a major role in our national life. Every five years, the Estonian Song Festival draws audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Federal Ministry of Finance for providing this unique opportunity to explore other aspects of life beyond financial issues.