Russia's war against Ukraine makes Europe Day — May 9 — even more symbolic this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Director General of the Department for European Affairs Marika Linntam told ERR News ahead of the anniversary.
In the European Union, Europe Day is held on May 9 and highlights peace and unity. The annual event marks the historic Schuman Declaration (1950) which eventually led to the creation of the block we know today.
The declaration set out French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman's idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable.
The date has been significant in Estonia for decades as the end of World War II was celebrated by the Soviet Union on May 9, and now Russia, on this day (due to the time difference, Europe marks the end of the war on May 8).
However, for Estonians, May 9 marked the start of a new almost 50-year-long occupation rather than a liberation by Soviet forces, the narrative put forward by the USSR. The occupation did not end until 1991.
But now, Estonia has celebrated Europe Day as a member of the EU for the last 19 years.
"Peace is one of the main goals of the European Union and can only be achieved by all the member states standing for it together," Linntam told ERR News last week, explaining the significance of the day.
"Against the backdrop of Russia's war in Ukraine, it makes it all the more important and symbolic."
"Everybody in Estonia very much values the freedoms that belonging to the European Union gives. The value of free movement, the freedom of developing businesses, the increase in the welfare of society which is visible and sensed by everybody," she said.
This year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will hold a concert on May 9 and one of the main acts will be Ukraine's Eurovision-winning band Kalush Orchestra, who agreed to the gig despite being in the midst of preparations to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest later this week in the UK.
Linntam called it "remarkable" that the band "have chosen to be in Tallinn [for May 9] and we are very happy about this".
Due to roadworks, rather than symbolism, the event will be held in Freedom Square this year, but the inclusion of Ukraine in the celebrations was not accidental and shows Estonia's deep support for the country and its future connections to the block.
Speaking about how Estonia sees the future of the EU, Linntam highlighted its enlargement policy and the awarding of candidacy status to Ukraine and Moldova last year.
"[This] shows the strength of the European Union and how it looks to its future," she said. "There is a long series of reforms that need to be taken but we hope we can move step-by-step ahead on this path."
Additionally, the official highlighted increasing the EU's competitiveness, digital transformation, the green transition, and the block's performance on the world stage.
"We also need to look at strengthening this inner core of the European Union and foreign policy, this common foreign and security policy. Standing for a strong EU voice on the global scene," she added.
Linntam emphasized support for Ukraine this year.
"We need to keep supporting Ukraine with everything that we do," she said. "And of course support for their EU integration."
Concert starts at 3 p.m.
This year the program begins at 3 p.m. in Freedom Square where there will be representatives from the European Commission in Estonia, foreign embassies and Tallinn.
The day ends with a free concert at 6 p.m. which includes Kalush Orchestra, and Estonia's former Eurovision entrants Tanel Padar with his band and Stefan.
ETV broadcasts will also broadcast the event online and on TV.
Editor: Helen Wright