Tag Archives: us-estonian cooperation

Fifteen Years AmCham Estonia: A Booming Business

A few days ago, together with my friends, Estonian Foreign Minister Paet and Ambassador Kaljurand, Estonia’s Ambassador to the U.S., I congratulated the American Chamber of Commerce  in Estonia on its 15th birthday.  Almost as old as renewed independence for Estonia itself!

Estonia’s journey from Soviet occupation to a vibrant and innovative economic leader is an example for others to study and follow.  Of  course, for neither Estonia or the Chamber was the path always easy or without its challenges.  But similar to Estonia’s transformation as a nation, the rejuvenation of AmCham I have witnessed over the past several years is tangible and deserves enthusiastic recognition.   AmCham’s mission and desire to grow into an ever stronger and more prominent voice for U.S. business in Estonia is being realized.  I am proud of my Embassy’s strong and creative partnership with AmCham in that role.  Our cooperation runs the gamut of issues and events. From drawing attention to issues such as intellectual property rights, to American community events like our joint Fourth of July celebrations, to creating the Estonian American Innovation Award, we indeed have much to be proud of.

Looking ahead, we see new challenges and opportunities that will require even stronger engagement to help create more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.  Through expanded business ties and putting our respective innovative economies in high gear.

Many pundits have spoken recently about the United States turning its attention away from Europe and towards Asia.  This has stoked fears that U.S.-European economic and security relationships will suffer. They will not.  The U.S. and Europe, politically, economically, socially and emotionally represent two sides of the same coin.  As to our relations with the Asia/Pacific region, Americans, Estonians and other Europeans can and will walk and chew gum at the same time.

Let’s recall the facts:  Transatlantic trade accounts for 40 percent of the global economy.  Americans and Europeans are not only preferred, but also natural partners.  We recognize that concerted action by the United States and our allies in Europe is required if we want to tackle the global challenges and opportunities of our time.  This is true for building a vibrant and free 21st century global economy, mitigating climate change, engaging emerging economies, and recovering from the global financial crisis.  And it is true for combating terrorism or cyber threats, and completing our mission in Afghanistan.

On the business front, the U.S. and EU are working through one of my favorite cross-ocean institutions — the Transatlantic Economic Council.  We seek to avoid unnecessary divergence in regulations and standards that impede trade; develop fully compatible approaches to emerging technologies; and coordinate our activities to level the playing field for our companies in third countries, particularly in emerging economies.  All of this is under the overarching goal of creating a truly open transatlantic marketplace and improving the prosperity of our 800 million people.

Estonia, and AmCham Estonia, have important roles to play in the U.S.-European economic partnership. In this, Estonia’s compact size is both a plus and a minus.  A small and advanced rule-of-law country can quickly take advantage of new entrepreneurial opportunities.  It can offer stability and low risk that many much larger economies can only hope for.  But a small domestic market also means that the 800 million people have to become Estonia’s target  market.  And a small population means having to tackle the limits of in-country human capital – in terms of education and training as well as immigration policy.

Estonia, and more importantly, “E-stonia, is already an established leader in a number of 21st century economic priority areas.  These include processing rare earths; developing alternative as well as new forms of traditional energy; information technology; and of course the myriad of e-services that Estonians already treat as routine and that make the rest of us jealous.  The world has come to learn about innovative Estonia.  Expanding and delivering on that reputation will be the task of Estonian entrepreneurs and this AmCham together with American innovators.  My Embassy will continue to be part of this exciting and promising future. 

With that in mind, once again, Happy 15th Birthday AmCham Estonia!

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Filed under American Values, economy, good governance, Intellectual Property, U.S. -Estonian Relations

Smart Power in Austere Times

There has never been a better time than right now to set in motion Smart Power as the new pardigm of American foreign policy than during current belt tightening by governments on both sides of the Atlantic.  I have always disliked what I would call the predecessor of Smart Power:  “Do more with less!”  Unless we are talking about nuclear breeder reactors, there really is no “more with less.”  In an organizational context  that term has always suggested to me that people should work more hours, achieve all the same goals with little or no prioritization, and with fewer resources and even less compensation for their efforts.  You can do this for a brief period to bridge a temporary crisis, but in the long term, any organization that demands more with less ends up only achieving less with less and demoralizing its workforce, robbing it of its  creative energies.

In contrast, Smart Power proposes to to do more and to do it better by combining the energies of more contributors to a common goal, even as program and human resources of individual organizational units are being reduced.  Take as an example Secretary of State Clinton’s “3 D’s ” of U.S. foreign policy:  diplomacy, defense, and development.  Through the combined efforts of the Department of State, the Pentagon and USAID, along with those of other U.S. government entities in support of the 3 D’s, U.S. foreign policy becomes smarter and more effective, even as the budget knife cuts into U.S. government outlays.

Such constructive interagency cooperation is far from routine in an environment famous for interagency disagreements and outright bureaucratic battles.  And while the leadership of President Obama and his relevant cabinet officers is a decisive factor in making Smart Power work, necessity also plays a key role.  The common enemy of deficits and economic downturn is no small motivating factor in turn bureaucratic warriors into Smart Power players.  In Washington and around the world, we have already made a strong start down the Smart Power road and the coming years will show whether we can sustain this new foreign policy paradigm even as our fiscal situation improves.

Our friends here in Estonia are also Smart Power players.  Estonia, since regaining its independence 20 years ago has been a Smart Power nation.  The rewards for the country and its people have been remarkable, making Estonia today one of the most economically and politically stable and future-oriented places in the world.  And here too, sustainability of Smart Power policies will be tested as things get better, as prosperity and popular demand for public services grows, and as government’s ability to do more with more becomes possible.

In the United States and in Estonia, we should look forward to that happy dilemma, but remain unalterably committed to Smart Power.

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Filed under American Values, diplomacy, good governance, Security, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

Diplomacy: High Value – Low Cost

Things are tough right now.  The U.S. and European economies are seeking to regain their footing after a recession.  In the midst of European countries’ debt issues, the very structure of European unity is being examined.  Many government budgets are in defict and on both sides of the Atlantic we are faced with tightening our belts and reducing public expenditures.  People without jobs are struggling and many with jobs are deeply worried about their future as well.  In this hard reality, no public outlay can be held sacrosanct.  Of course our political leaders are looking for equitable ways to distribute cuts in spending, including in our diplomatic services.  

In nearly 35  years as an American diplomat, this is hardly the first time I have seen, discussed, and experienced reductions in my country’s foreign affairs budget affecting, among other things, our diplomatic capacities.  A few short decades ago, our intake of new diplomats had fallen to such a low level that we literally could no longer staff some positions in our embassies.  The watch word was “do more with less.”  In fact, our dedicated Foreign and Civil Service team worked long and hard hours to do what had to be done.  Morale stayed amazingly high, but at some point “more with less” in reality became “less with less” and U.S. diplomatic engagement inevitably suffered.  Eventually, under inspired foreign policy leadership, we rebuilt our diplomatic strength, enabling us today to strongly serve American interests globally, including in the most complex and dangerous environments such as Afghanistan and Iraq.   

Today I see cost cutting challenges facing European diplomacy.  Here in Tallinn, and in other parts of Europe, some European embassies are closing or reducing staff, in some cases even after opening diplomatic missions only a few years ago.  All public expenditures are understandably subject to scrutiny.  That said, it is important to recall what the cost and value of diplomacy is to any nation.  In the United States and in Europe, the foreign affairs part of national budgets generally hover around the 1% mark or even lower.  That means that for most if not all countries, even the complete elimination of all diplomatic functions and facilities (a ludicrous notion no one is suggesting) would mean a reduction of no more than a tiny precentage of public outlays.

Unacceptably high budget shortfalls will not be fixed by cutbacks in countries’ embassies or diplomatic staff.  On the contrary, just at a time when we need maximum diplomatic cooperation, coordination, and contact, the loss of even one diplomat or one embassy makes a difference.  In short, we need the 1% to help fix the 99%.  Really!

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Filed under diplomacy, economy, Peace and Security, U.S. Foreign Relations

State of the Art U.S. Travel Security System for Estonia

A senior Estonian official told me recently that when the newly re-independent country set out to modernize in the early 1990’s after years of occupation, Estonian leaders chose to leap toward the 21st century rather than “upgrading” to aging western technology.  Estonian schools received state of the art computers.  Internet networks went wireless, fiber optic and broadband.  Banking became electronic and Estonian e-government today is a model for the rest of Europe and beyond.

Now the Estonian Ministry of the Interior is testing the world’s most advanced travel security management system.  U.S. electronics giant Raytheon is running a year-long pilot program of its Portera Traveler Management System in Tallinn.  Tonight,  Raytheon representatives will introduce the joint program together with Estonia’s Interior Minister to a group of  guests at my home.   Portera is not only the most innovative system available today, its use also provides for strict data privacy protections standard in Europe and the United States.  Not surprisingly, Estonia will be the first country outside the United States to test and, if found acceptable, institute this system. 

Another leap ahead for Estonia and a huge jump in safety for the rapidly expanding number of travellers coming to and passing through this country.

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It’s Internet Freedom, Stupid!

Read a piece in the New York Times of June 12, 2011, entitled: U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors.   Great story.  Great reading.  The ultimate point of the article is freedom of information, freedom of expression, freedom to participate in the 21st century communications revolution – the internet and all other forms of wireless communications technology.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made the vigorous defense of internet freedom a central element of U.S. foreign policy.  This policy has nothing to do with a fascination with modern communications technology (although it is cool!)  The policy is based on the simple realization that values first embraced by the young United States more than 200 years ago have found a new medium of electronic transmission.  It bridges distances, borders, cultural differences, political repression and violence, and virtually all other obstacles, to lend a voice to freedom, a voice to people in many parts of the world who have been silenced for too long.  “Let freedom ring!” has become “Let freedom byte!”  That is of course why repressive regimes everywhere do what they can to control or even shut down internet access to anyone who opposes them.  And that is why those of us who live in freedom must do the opposite by insisting on preserving unfettered internet access to all.  The June 12 NYT article notes that is exactly what a group of smart geeks is up to. 

So here is another great way for smart Americans and smart Estonians to work together in support of shared values!  Soon after arriving in Estonia more than a year and a half ago, I invited this country’s IT community to work on internet freedom hard and software.  Let me reissue this invitation.  Please read the NYT article Estonia and lend your considerable IT prowess to liberation technology.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, freedom of information, good governance, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

A Turbulent 2010 Brings Success For U.S. and Estonia

An eventful year 2010 has marked and shaped my first year in Estonia.  Political, economic, environmental and other powerful influences have challenged U.S. and Estonian leaders.  The final tally is very positive.  America, with the help of friends like Estonia,  dealt successfully with environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Our economy is recovering — too slowly in terms of our unemployment picture–but market trends are clearly up.  On the diplomatic front we ratified a landmark new strategic arms treaty with Russia that will improve security and transparency not just for us and Russia, but for Estonia and NATO as well.  In Tallinn and Lisbon we set the stage this year together for the Alliance in the 21st century.  Estonia and the U.S. actively exercised our combined military capabilities together, both on NATO territory and further afield.

Estonia is completing its turbocharged 20-year journey from re-independence to full European, transatlantic, and global integration tomorrow at midnight when Prime Minister Ansip holds in his hands that first Estonian euro.  Symbolic of so much more than just a new currency for the country, Estonia’s entry into the eurozone is even more significant because the euro has been through some difficult times this past year.  Estonia’s cooly responsible economic and financial policies are exactly what the euro needs today and, as usual, its government is ready to step up and carry the burdens as well as the benefits of a common European currency.  Estonia will begin 2011 on the best possible footing, economically, politically, militarily, and in every other way — to seize new opportunities and contribute to common efforts with its partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

For 2011, I am looking forward to building on the already excellent U.S.-Estonian with an eye not only to our strategic relationship, but also the people to people bonds.  We will work on U.S. companies bringing jobs to Estonia and for Estonian investments enhancing U.S. business activities.  We will keep pushing hard on U.S. digital content access for eager E-stonian consumers.  And we Americans will be active participants in an exciting Tallinn Cultural Capital of Europe 2011.

Hallie and I and my entire team at U.S. Embassy Tallinn are most grateful for our friendships here in Estonia and wish us all a great 2011 together!

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Filed under economy, good governance, Peace and Security, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

Estonia Answers “911” Calls

At first I didn’t believe it.  Then I was surprised.  And finally it simply made sense.  An Estonian colleague in our Embassy told me that Estonian emergency services can be reached by dialing “911”,  just like in the United States.  ” But isn’t your number ‘112’, I asked.  Yes, was the answer, but since so many Estonians are familiar with the U.S. emergency telephone number from the news, movies, books and other exposure to our country, when dialling “911” in Estonia, you are simply switched into the local standard “112” network.

My wife and I sadly observed a foreign tourist in medical distress in Tallinn’s Old Town last weekend and saw how quickly emergency help arrived, first by bicycle and then by ambulance.  Impressive!  I couldn’t help but wonder whether the emergency medical team arrived from a “911” or a “112” call.  But clearly it would have made made no difference in this incredible efficient and practical country where so many things just work without much fuss and formality!  And Estonia doesn’t just answer “911” at home.  It courageously and competently answers international calls for help from Iraq to Afghanistan and from Kosovo to Haiti and Pakistan.   I hope to continue to stay out of trouble as much as humanly possible in my life, but if I do get into difficulty, I hope I am near an Estonian phone.

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Filed under Civil Society, good governance, U.S. -Estonian Relations, Uncategorized