Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) has stressed the importance of both ongoing support to Ukraine and its post-war reconstruction, including in the cultural sphere. Hartman made her remarks while attending the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, this week, a summit also attended by former president Kersti Kaljulaid.
"In addition to arms aid, Ukraine needs support in rebuilding itself. We need to act, even though the war in Ukraine is still ongoing. European countries need to start the reconstruction of Ukraine now," Hartman, said on the same day European culture ministers attending Davos issued a joint statement in support of Ukraine.
"We need to bring hope to people and the message that we are not afraid to continue to come to their aid, even while war still rages. Ukrainians have to exist in this environment every day, by so doing helping to maintain peace in EuropeX. Ukrainian kindergartens, orphanages, homes, infrastructure, and the country's social and cultural fabric need to be rebuilt immediately, and contributing to this is the bare minimum we can do," the minister went on.
Hartman had attended an architectural conference at Davos, and added that a think-tank on that topic would be set up, involving the Estonian Architects' Union (Eesti Arhitektide Liit) and Ukrainian architects, all in the interest of post-war reconstruction and quick solutions, involving both private and public sectors.
Estonia was one of the first countries to take up Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's initiative whereby friendly nations select specific regions of the country to be the focus of their aid efforts. In the case of Estonia, this region is Zhytomyr, in the north of the country, which in addition to being earmarked for reconstruction work, has also seen donations from Estonia including a fleet of buses, sent in several batches since last year.
The joint culture ministers' statement was an initiative of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and was signed by 29 ministers, along with eight professional organizations.
While in Davos, Hartman and the Estonian delegation also met Ukraine's Deputy Culture Minister Anastasiia Bondar to further talk reconstruction. Bondar thanked Estonia for its hospitality in accommodating large numbers of Ukrainians who have fled the war, adding that the reconstruction efforts would aid in facilitating their return and those of all who have fled Ukraine – numbering around 5 million and a major demographic blow to the country on its own.
In the immediate term, providing electricity generators to art and music schools and other cultural institutions – even in providing warmth to ensure better preservation of cultural artifacts, is another key way Ukraine can be helped, Hartman said.
Hartman also suggested that Estonia and other European nations can also help preserve Ukrainian culture and heritage by temporarily storing artifacts until the situation improves.
Former president: War criminals wear leather shoes, as well as military boots
Another leading Estonian figure to have attended Davos this week is former president Kersti Kaljulaid, who also spoke about Ukraine.
Kaljulaid, who also attended the WEF conference while in office as head of state, said: "Ukraine will win this war, but this victory must first come on the battlefield.
"The victory must bring peace on Ukraine's terms, restore Ukraine's territorial integrity, and hopefully remove the Russian desire to attack other countries, forever. This is not only the responsibility of Ukraine, it is our joint responsibility," Kaljulaid added, according to a press release.
Equally important is dealing with those who have committed human rights violations, war crimes and gross violations of international law, in the context of the Ukraine war, Kaljulaid said.
"It is irrelevant whether the [war] crimes were committed on Ukrainian soil by those wearing military boots, or in the corridors of the Kremlin [by those wearing] patent leather shoes," she added.
The former president chaired two discussions on Ukraine, one of which also featured British barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice KC, who was lead prosecutor at the trial of Serbian war criminal Slobodan Miloševic and took part in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Kaljulaid is also meeting with several members of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, and joining them in a panel discussion.
Kersti Kaljulaid was President of Estonia 2016-2021 and has been linked with several top international leadership roles. In 2020 she applied for the post of Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while some major international media outlets have linked her with the NATO Secretary General role. Current NATO incumbent Jens Stoltenberg saw his term extended, as a result of the changed security situation.
Finnish prime minister: World changed greatly even in my time in office
Finland's prime minister, Sanna Marin, has also been in Davos, at a time when her country is preparing for full NATO membership, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reported on its English-language page.
Marin noted that the world had changed a good deal during her tenure as premier, which began in December 2019.
"Right now, the war does not only concern Ukraine but actually the whole world," Marin told CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria at a live audience session Tuesday, adding that: "The rules-based order [of the world] has been challenged more. And more authoritarian regimes are taking a more of a stand and democratic values are challenged. And this is the new geopolitical reality that we are in, and we have to face that — not be naive, not be blue-eyed, and we really have to face what the world is today."
Ensuring Ukrainian victory was crusial to head off potential decades of the same kind of behavior Russia has been engaging in up to now.
Marin also said that the decision to join NATO, ending decades of neutrality, was in order to avoid war – having been in that situation in the past in Finland – by way of mutual defense, a defense extended to any other member states if threatened.
Kadri Simson: Future not rosy, but by acting together we can create security
Estonia's European Commissioner, Kadri Simson (Center), who holds the energy portfolio, was also present in Davos.
"I represented the European Commission in several important panel discussions and discussion circles, naturally focusing on energy," Simson noted on her social media account.
"The economic environment in the years to come may not look overly rosy. However, if we act smartly, the situation will give us a good start on securing a better future," she added, noting she was not just referring to the current winter and its energy crisis.
Discussions Simson was involved in included those on hydrogen energy cooperation, boosting renewables, reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, and digitizing energy systems, while the meetings included ministers from outside Europe, including India and some of the Middle-Eastern countries.
Other leading international figures taking part in Davos included no fewer than two former U.S. presidential candidates, Al Gore and John Kerry, as well as former British prime minister Tony Blair.
Henry Kissinger, now 99 years of age, also took part via live-link.
The Davos meeting is the annual flagship get-together of the WEF, an organization founded over 50 years ago by economist Klaus Schwab. The WEF primarily functions as a non-governmental lobbying organization involving international figures from the private sector, NGOs, politics and other areas.
Davos itself is a small town in the alpine setting of Graubünden/Grisons canton, in the east of Switzerland.
Participation in Davos is by invite-only; while President Alar Karis and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas were reportedly issued invitations, neither was able to attend, due to scheduling matters.
The summit started January 6 and ran to Friday, January 20.
Editor's note: This piece was updated to include information on the participation of Kadri Simson.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Ministry of Culture, President Kaljulaidi Fond, Yle