What the papers say: Tallinn transport and Estonia's liberals

Newspapers (photo is illustrative).
Newspapers (photo is illustrative). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Calling time on free public transport in Tallinn, the possible arrival of car versions of the popular electric scooter rental services in Tallinn, and the ongoing discussions on "western" liberal values versus "eastern European" nationalist ones were among the topics in the news portals on Wednesday, Oct. 9. All links in Estonian.

Paid public transport should make a comeback in Tallinn

The outcome of several years-worth of free public transport for Tallinn residents was the subject of a piece in daily Eesti Päevaleht, which said paid ticketing should make a comeback.

Car use has increased by 25 per cent in Tallinn during the time free public transport has been in place, and an even greater figure for those commuting in from surrounding areas in Harju County, while public transport use has not increased since the early 2010s when the scheme was introduced, and congestion has not fallen, the piece says.

Taavi Aas in particular, minister for economic affairs now but in 2013 deputy mayor of Tallinn when he noted that the free transport use and the accompanying validation of the green travel card on buses, trolleybuses and trams, would be used for modeling and optimizing the network.

However, extending the network would require the purchase of new buses and employment of more drivers according to deputy mayor Andrei Novikov, all of which would cost money of course.

The piece noted that the obvious source of funds, given Edgar Savisaar, mayor when the free public transport scheme was introduced, is no longer in politics, and economics affairs minister Kadri Simson, who rolled out same for much of provincial Estonia last year, has moved to Brussels, would be to reinstate paid ticketing.

Since the cost of running the free system is €90,000 per month, this might be the only solution for improvements, the piece argues.

First Citybee rental cars spotted arriving in Tallinn

On the topic of transport, news portal Geenius carried photos of new cars arriving in Tallinn ready for some sort of rental agreement by Citybee, one of two companies which brought electric scooter rental to the city in summer.

When this would become reality is not yet known, the piece says, but renting a small car, a Fiat 500, costs €0.15 per minute in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Citybee already operates the service.

The cost per hour in Vilnius, where larger cars may be made available by Citybee in due course, is €4.90 and €22.90 per day, with an additional €0.13 per kilometer, the piece said.

Estonia's left-liberals in rebellion against Europe?

Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP and historian Jaak Valge penned an opinion piece for public broadcaster ERR in which he noted a recent article in Estonia is part of what he sees as a misunderstanding of developments in central and Eastern Europe, seen on a wider scale in coverage of politics in Poland and Hungary in particular and by extension finding its way into western coverage of Estonia too.

The issue in Valge's view is an attempt to redefine democracy when "Western" democracy has failed and those in the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries opt not to see it as a role model any more, portraying the movements in these countries as being the bad guys.

Valge noted a piece in Cultural weekly Sirp entitled "Estonia in revolt against Europe" by Tõnis Saarts, which he said was attention-grabbing as well as misleading, though this was not Saarts' intention.

Valge said he intentionally done the same with his own ERR piece, entitled Eesti vasakliberaalide mäss Euroopa rahvaste vastu ("Estonian left-liberals' rebellion against European nations") as a way of highlighting what he called bias.

Pitted against this is the Eastern European brand of nationalism as portrayed in western media, in countries such as Hungary and Poland in particular, which Valge says is nothing to do with a "rebellion" of Eastern Europeans against their Western brethren, but rather something which has similar support across Europe, east and west alike, including in Switzerland, and Estonia's close neighbors Finland and Sweden.

Valge notes that "European values" were also cultivated in the communist Soviet Russia in the first half of the 1920s, adding a concept of globalism is a better tag than one of liberalism, a globalism which has meaning in opposing national sovereignty and true democracy in favor of multiculturalism, but which instead is replaced by the rather meaningless name of tolerance.

The matrix further breaks down according to a BBC piece (link in English), Valge says, which shows that "anti-liberalism" can be "un-nationalistic" and vice versa, liberalism can be very "liberal", just as globalism can have a chauvinistic color along the lines of international communism in the twentieth century, which also carried with it the idea of Russian supremacy.

Saarts, according to Valge, also misunderstands a 2018 article (link in English) which the former cites, by Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, in Journal of Democracy magazine, who, far from equating the west with liberalism, or Eastern Europe with an "anti-western rebellion", analyze the causes of these phenomena and argue that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe was no longer divided between communist and democratic nations, but between imitators and imitators.

The process in Eastern Europe from the late 1980s had different names – democratization, liberalization, Europeanization, etc. – but it was about making post-communist countries "normal", that is, imitating the west.

The 2003 Iraq War however gave the lie to this idea of ​​promoting democracy, with people in the Central and Eastern European countries turning against this "liberalism", not because it had failed in their countries, but because it had failed in the west – a development which had its roots in the post World War Two iron curtain era Europe, where different nationalist values developed.

While German democracy rests on the premise that nationalism inevitably leads to Nazism, this breaks down in say, Poland, where it would be ridiculous to expect nationalists to stop honoring their national leaders who had fought Hitler and Stalin.

Valge notes also that Eastern Europe had been forced for decades to suffer from communist propaganda that unequivocally condemned nationalism.

A feeling of having being cheated thus arose in Poland, exacerbated by the perception that open societies in Western Europe were unable to protect their borders from foreign (and especially Islamic) "invaders", following the 2016 migrant crisis in particular.

Valge quotes Hungarian leader Victor Orbán who said in 2017 that: "Twenty-seven years ago here in Central Europe, we believed that Europe was our future; today we feel we are the future of Europe."

Thus, Valge concludes, there has been an attempt by left-liberals to redefine the concept of democracy in order to try to remove the principle of majority choice from the center, a new concept which is behind their criticism of Poland and Hungary in particular – though this would require a more in-depth article later, he said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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