Estonia has declined an invite to participate in the meeting between China and 16 Eastern Europe culture ministers, and Tiit Terik (Center), who started in the position last week, won't be flying to Serbia where the meeting is taking place, though this was due to a clash of commitments, the ministry said.
"Estonia is not participating in the meeting because the minister's schedule doesn't allow it," public relations representative of the Ministry of Culture Hannus Luure told ERR Friday.
"The Minister of Culture received an invitation from Serbia's Culture minister to participate at a forum "The Future We're Already Living" taking place from November 25 to 26. The forum is going to discuss using digital technology in arts and culture.
The forum would be the third in the cooperation format.
"Before we have participated on the level of officials and field. The aim of the forums has been to improve cultural relations and mediate contacts and these meetings have given these results," Luure said.
Because the invitation was sent directly to the minister, Estonia can't send an official of the field to the meeting, the ministry's representative said.
The format 16+1 is a diplomatic framework initiated by China in 2012 for cooperation between former, mostly Warsaw Pact/Soviet occupied countries. The states include two of the three Baltic states, plus the four Visegrad Group members, along with Bulgaria, Romania and those Balkan states which are not part of the EU. Greece also recently joined the format, while Lithuania left it. The main goal of the cooperation framework is considered to be China's interest in gaining greater influence in the region's infrastructure investments in Eastern Europe.
The 16+1 format is an illustration of China's attempt to divide the EU, critics say, arguing that the union should engage with China in a unified, 27+1 format.
Estonia has reduced its participation in the framework, for example by sending Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets instead of the prime minister, but has not directly left the project.
Editor: Roberta Vaino