Compatriot Program Conference in Tallinn November 12-13, 2007

December 23, 2007

The Compatriot Program Conference, organized by the Ministry of Education and Research, was held in the National Library in Tallinn on 12-13 November. The conference gave an overview of the previous activities of the Program and discussed the main standpoints of the new program. The participants came from 12 countries.

The opening address was given by Minister of Population Urve Palo. The following speakers were Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas (”Estonian Spirit and the Compatriot Program”), Director of the Estonian Institute Mart Meri (”Educational Policy and the Compatriot Program”) and Councellor of the Ministry of Education and Research Jüri Valge (”Language – Prerequisite for or Medium of Estonianness?”).

The second session of papers was opened by Piret Noorhani from the Estonian National Museum who introduced the activities of the working group of the Estonian archives abroad and the archival projects financed in 2007 (”The Compatriot Program and the Estonian Archives Abroad”). The representative of the Ministry of Culture Anne-Ly Reimaa talked about cultural relations with Estonians living abroad. Ede Teinbas and Martin Eber from the Estonian Migration Foundation introduced the social programme for repatriates. The session was finished by Joel Luhamets, Provost of Tartu County, who talked about the involvement of the church in the Compatriot Program (”The Church and the Compatriot Program”).

The papers not only discussed the achievements of the Program but brought out problems and shortcomings as well. The participants considered it necessary to better formulate the new redaction of the Program and more precisely set up its aims. However, they concluded that the previous activities had been important and needed to be continued and supported by the state.

The first conference day ended with discussions in the workshops, set up according to the following areas – archival matters, culture, education, church, and repatriates. The participants evaluated previous achievements and analysed problems. They also considered principles and planned activites that would lay foundation for the new redaction of the Program for the years 2009 – 2013. In the morning of November 13 the workshops gathered again in order to continue the work of the evening before and come to an agreement about the main principles of the new Program.

After that the participants gathered in the big hall, gave talks and summed up the work of the workshops. They constantly stressed the need for better coordination of and information about the Program – both within and between different areas. It was hoped that the Compatriot Program continues more effectively in the years 2009-2013.

The Compatriot Program Conference was an important event that brought together Estonians living at home and abroad. It enabled people connected with the different areas of the Program meet and make contacts, learn what has been done, and discuss future. The conference was also essential for the future of the Program. Hopefully the principles and action plans formulated at the conference will lay a solid foundation for the Program for the years 2009-1013.

Karin Kiisk,
coordinator of the working group of the Estonian archives abroad