New culture minister Hartman's road to politics began in student union days

Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE).
Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

In an appearance on ETV's "Ringvaade" on Monday night, newly sworn-in Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) said that her personal road to politics can be traced back to the Federation of Estonian Student Unions, where she became friends with Lauri Läänemets, the current chair of the Social Democratic Party.

"Everyone's road to becoming a minister is different, I suppose," Hartman said. "I think the most important reason I'm here today is that I've been working in this field for the past seven years; I've worked at the Ministry of Culture, and given it my all there, and established a lot of cross-sectoral relationships."

At the time she was tapped to be the new government's minister of culture, Hartman was working at the ministry as undersecretary for cultural diversity.

"But I'd say that perhaps my first contact, or feel for standing up for issues, began in the Federation of Estonian Student Unions (EÜL), and that is also where I met Lauri Läänemets, who proposed [the position of minister] to me a few days ago," she continued.

"Lauri Läänemets and I have been friends for a very long time, and we've talked about these things as well," the new minister said. "He'd joked in the past, saying, 'One day, Piret, you'll end up minister.' But I think this readiness and making that decision — that this is it now, you have to say either yes or no — was still unexpected."

On the subject of her previous work as undersecretary of cultural diversity, Hartman stressed the importance of learning the Estonian language and welcomed the fact that one of the goals of the new Reform-Isamaa-SDE coalition is to speed up the transition to Estonian-language education.

"Language is an incredibly important tool — it is a tool for integration, but on the other hand, it's also important for children to learn together," she said.

"With the current education system, we're continually creating more segregation," she continued. "I'm very happy that this clause was included in the coalition agreement. And I'm definitely going to be the demanding partner here, keeping tabs to ensure that this doesn't remain just a clause on paper, but actually starts to be implemented as well. Will it happen at that pace? I very much hope so."

Hartman highlighted the opening of Estonian Language Houses in Ida-Viru County, including in Narva, as well as the recruitment of new teachers there as one of the biggest achievements of her time as undersecretary.

Minister: Estonian culture could use even more patrons

Regarding the cultural sector's financial concerns, the new minister said that on the one hand, it's a good thing that the sector is so full of great makers and doers. "But that of course means that there won't be as much to go around, if we're talking exclusively about the resources we have," she acknowledged.

"If we compare ourselves with [other] EU countries, then as a percentage of the state budget our culture is not underfunded," she explained. "But of course, the smaller the country, the more [money] goes to culture, because culture is the reason we even have countries at all today."

Asked where more funding could be found for culture in Estonia, Hartman replied that she'd like to focus on how to attract the private sector to finance culture more.

"Right now, we have very good friends of culture and patrons that have supported cultural events for decades," she highlighted, adding that many of them don't end up in the limelight or attracting attention, and don't want to either. "I believe that it will be my job to figure out how to gain more such friends of culture. I'm hoping I'll have the opportunity to think about this."

Born in 1981, Hartman graduated from Lüganuse High School in Ida-Viru County, and earned a degree in business and economics from the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ). She has previously served as chair of the EÜL, adviser to the chair and parliamentary group of the SDE, and as adviser to Minister of Culture Indrek Saar (SDE). She began serving as the Ministry of Culture's undersecretary for cultural diversity in 2017.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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