This week's high-level Tallinn summits cost €2.5 million to host

This year's OGP Summit held in Tallinn.
This year's OGP Summit held in Tallinn. Source: Government Press Service/Flickr

Two high-level summits have been held in Tallinn this week and, while these are estimated to have cost the state purse in the region of €2.5 million, money spent by attendees visiting Tallinn likely covers the bulk of this, ERR reports.

The two events, Tuesday's Tallinn Digital Summit (TDS), an annual conference, and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit, in its second and final day Thursday, will also, it is argued, bring almost intangible benefits in terms of bolstering Estonia's security, as well as the economy.

The one-day TDS, held in the Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel), cost €650,000 to host, €400,000 of which was from a government reserve fund and the remaining €250,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' budget, government spokesperson Jevgenia Vära told ERR Thursday.

The OGP, held at the nearby Tallinn Creative City (Tallinna loomelinnak), made up the remaining €1.8 million – inclusive of VAT – money which came from the Government Office budget.

The most substantive expenditure entry for both events comes from production, primarily relating to the facilities used and their tech solutions – €268,000 in the case of the TDS and €600,000 on the OGP.

The OGP alone will have held around 50 discussions across eight stages, by its conclusion.

Second comes security and on-site transport-logistics and protocol support – Vära noted that for security reasons this figure could not be publicized.

As for staffing, the OGP summit involved around 500 people, around 100 of whom are volunteers, and a further 100, approximately, government office and foreign ministry employees.

Around same amount spent by attendees as spent on them

The government says approximately 700 people from more than 80 countries attended TDS, plus a further 5,000 people, approximately, who followed events online, from all over the world.

The OGP summit, the eighth of its kind but the first in Tallinn, went even further, attracting over 2,000 from around 125 countries.

Since some attendees were in town for both summits, this overlap means a total combined figure cannot be reached, Vära added, but it would in any case be in excess of 2,000.

Ain Käpp, board chair of the Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association (Eesti Hotellide ja Restoranide Liit), told ERR that, according to a recent survey, the average conference visitor spends about €850 during his or her couple-of-days' stay, inclusive of accommodation, food, entertainments etc.

On the basis of 2,100 conference visitors, let's say, spending €850 each, this would bring €1.8 million back into the economy this week alone.

The government spokesperson added that the participation costs of very individual speakers and some NGO members from more far flung countries were covered, though their share of the overall budget of the events was very small.

Most delegates would otherwise cover their own expenses and out-of-pocket costs; with the OGP, only eight keynote speakers had some costs covered for taking part, to a total of around €20,000.

The same principle applies to the TDS, Vära said, with the total cost comparable, at an estimated €19,000.

Additionally, the opportunity opened by the tow summits to showcase Estonia's views to representatives of more distant lands must be factored in, organizers say.

Piret Urb, TDS summit content manager, said: "In terms of foreign policy and national security, it is vital to retain a circle of friends worldwide and, where possible, to cultivate that."

"Many nations are interested in the topics of digital development and cyber defense, where Estonia's image is well-known, and strong. For this reason, we have offered people an opportunity to meet and discuss here, when we can win more friends and also get to share the security concerns of our region," Urb went on.

Raises Estonia's profile internationally

Estonia's interest in having as many countries as possible vote in a like-minded way in international organizations, and to understand Estonia's initiatives and the security situation in the region here, were also relevant.

"As part and parcel of TDS, we will be able to bring to Estonia many influential guests from the UN, UNESCO, the EU, the OECD, the ITU and leaders and ministers from many countries of the world, who can amplify our message worldwide."

One example of this was the European Commission's Internal Market and Digital Commissioner Thierry Breton, who attended, as did ITU Secretary General Doreen Bogdan-Martin.

Tech firms and other business are also important, she added.

"The Tallinn Digital Summit has a strong business diplomacy dimension - our companies get to introduce themselves in discussions and meet many foreign guests and future cooperation partners as part of the event," Urb went on.

State Secretary Taimar Peterkop also emphasized the usefulness of the OGP summit as organized by the Government Office. "The OGP summit was definitely worth the effort and the money spent on it," he said.

"First off, we are supporting democracy and, by extension, Ukraine, which is fighting hard for its freedom, which shows every day that a democratic country, an integral part of which is open government, is the greatest value to fight for," Peterkop said.

Ukraine can also use the event to convince the representatives of the "global south," who are reportedly mostly lukewarm on Ukraine, of the justice of their struggle and its necessity for the wider world as well, he added.

"Second, Estonia's reputation as a champion of open and democratic governance is important, this major event will strengthen the positive image of our country worldwide," Peterkop continued.

"Third, just as with major sports events, we can also factor in the positive economic impact of the scale of this event, the number of foreign guests staying in hotels here, consuming Estonian services and products etc." he added.

Other considerations include the concept of Estonia being an effective mediator between Europe and Africa on some issues, precisely both because of its size and its absence of a colonial past, as a colonizer at least.

This was made all the more vital by Russia attempting to spread its influence in the world, including in the same regions.

"Estonia has been a member of the OGP since 2011, with the aim of speaking on topics relating to open governance principles and democracy, and sharing our nation's strong experience in using e-governance solutions and involving citizens' associations."

"This is also an important argument why we organized the summit this time in Estonia in the first place – precisely because it supports Estonia's positive image in the world," he went on.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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