esmaspäev, jaanuar 08, 2007

The Trouble with 'East vs. West'

Occasionally the English-language press likes to visit the newer democracies of the 2004 EU expansion and critique the lack of reform they find in its governments. In this week's The Economist, a conversation about Brits in Bratislava veers into familiar territory:

"From the Baltics to the Balkans there is not one strong reformist government. Some are smug, do-nothing coalitions (Estonia and Slovenia), or prickly and ineffective (Poland) or powerless minority governments (Lithuania, Czech Republic), or sleazy and unscrupulous (Hungary, Latvia)," the news journal writes.

While it's cute to pretend that there still is a meaningful east-west division in the European Union, the problem with constructing a worldview that presents the good, reformist, stable West against the struggling, corrupt, unstable East, is that neither region of Europe can live up to its stereotype.

Eastern European democracies may be comparably newer, but not by that much. For example, the current Estonian constitution is *based on the 1938 constitution*, but the current French constitution is 20 years younger. Yes, I know that the Estonian constitution continued in the most legal of manners - in exile - from 1944 through 1991, but still, it's false to assume that all former communist countries started from scratch in 1991 and that they should be collectively mentored by their wiser Western neighbors.

Nor are newer EU countries any more corrupt than older EU members like Italy, and Greece. In the 2006 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Estonia ranked in at 24, ahead of "older" Western democracies like Portugal, Italy, and Greece.

And how long have those countries been democratic? In Spain, democracy returned in 1975 with the death of Francisco Franco. Portugal similarly was ruled by António de Oliveira Salazar's regime until the mid-1970s. Those were fascist governments replaced by democratic ones, in a manner similar to the way that communist governments were replaced by democratic ones in the late 1980s - by *mostly* bloodless revolution. Yet our trusty Economist reporter didn't head off to talk about the need for reform in Rome or Lisbon.

Therefore, my question is this: Why don't conferences about the need for reformist European governments include discussions on older members that could also benefit from reform? Why do people focus on the region "from the Baltics to the Balkans" when the European Union as a whole presents a far more inclusive category for lumping various countries together and discussing their shortcomings. Why do some people insist on carving Europe into East and West when it's clear that Europe as a whole suffers from similar problems that transcend Cold War geography?

48 kommentaari:

teine Mel ütles ...

Hey historian, you got your facts wrong. The current Esto constitution is brand new, the old one was "restored" and suspended until härra Kross and others drafted this current one (that was adopted by referendum).

And BTW Eesti does have a do-nothing government, which is why the economy is growing so fast. Better do-nothing than corrupt, eh?

mina ütles ...

This summer in France I met with a portugese girl who was reading a book in a park - Apllebaum's "Gulag"...

I passed by couple of times and then went to talk with her. She was graduate student of politics and economy. To my astonishment she told me that they hadn't studied a word of it in school or university - even the "eastern europe seminar". Eastern europe was a dark place without history or culture. Homogeneous russified "place"

It was ... enlightening - the pow of where eastern europe was unified construct - problem-filled, corrupt and poor.

I think those prejudices are the foundation of todays understanding of so called eastern europe - and from this pow the article is understandable.

Giustino ütles ...

Hey historian, you got your facts wrong. The current Esto constitution is brand new, the old one was "restored" and suspended until härra Kross and others drafted this current one (that was adopted by referendum).

Everything I have read about the 1992 referendum states that the constitution was based on the 1938 constitution, hence you have a president instead of a state elder.

Is the consistent reference to the 1938 constitution part of the effort to maintain legal continuity?

the preambul of constitution ütles ...

Kõikumatus usus ja vankumatus tahtes kindlustada ja arendada riiki, mis on loodud Eesti rahva riikliku enesemääramise kustumatul õigusel ja välja kuulutatud 1918. aasta 24. veebruaril, mis on rajatud vabadusele, õiglusele ja õigusele, mis on kaitseks sisemisele ja välisele rahule ning pandiks praegustele ja tulevastele põlvedele nende ühiskondlikus edus ja üldises kasus, mis peab tagama eesti rahvuse ja kultuuri säilimise läbi aegade - võttis Eesti rahvas 1938. aastal jõustunud põhiseaduse § 1 alusel 1992. aasta 28. juuni rahvahääletusel vastu järgmise põhiseaduse.

1938. aastal jõustunud põhiseaduse § 1 ütles ...

§1. Eesti on iseseisev ja sõltumatu vabariik, kus kõrgeima riigivõimu kandja on rahvas.

plasma-jack ütles ...

..which means you're both right in a way. the constitution is new, but based on affirmation of independence which was stated in the last valid constitution (btw also in those before it).

kerho ukkonen ütles ...

The human nature being the way it is, the new kids are always judged by the unfair and different rules. Of course, it is wrong but want is one to do? My dad used to move our family on an average once in every two years and every single time I had to "qualify" with my different accent etc. I had many a fight to prove my capabilities and where I would land in the pecking order. So does Eesti and hopefully without the bloody nose.

Erik ütles ...

I have to agree with what some of you have spoken about here already. I can see several reasons why the "Eastern Europe" is still treated like it is. Its still very much so that among most people i meet, that they have very little knowledge about the countries that once was behind the Iron curtain. And i think a lot of them cant even really see them as individual and unique states. Its still some kind of post-communist landmass where everything is grey and the contries there are all runned by incompetent, money hungry ex-communists or self-serving nationalist extremists.

And i guess its a little like kerho ukkonen said. Theese states that recently joined the EU is like the new kids on the block. And i guess its sometimes easier to pick on the newcomers than to critcally turn the eye homewards and scrutinice the old familiar surroundings and countries.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

"Why do people focus on the region "from the Baltics to the Balkans" when the European Union as a whole presents a far more inclusive category for lumping various countries together and discussing their shortcomings. Why do some people insist on carving Europe into East and West when it's clear that Europe as a whole suffers from similar problems that transcend Cold War geography?""

Come on, to just shut your eyes and ears and say "everybody is now in the European Union so there are no differences, la la la la la" is ridiculous. Membership of the EU doesn't magically make you a wealthy country doing all the right things. There is a division because circum stances ARE still different. There are problems in Western Europe, sure, but wages and social benefits compared to the cost of living are still a hell of a lot better - eg an estonian's salary is a fraction of say a brit or a finn, but costs for food are almost as high. I read somewhere that while a West Euroopean family will spend maybe 5% of their salary on food, in the Baltics it's something approaching 25%. Furthermore, this flat tax scheme (on individuals) is another hardship - with a sliding scale, I need to be earning a certain amount before I am really hit by tax, which means that at least the portion of my salary covering food and rent is tax-free or near enough. So on a relative scale (salary v cost of living) I think Estonia is a more expensive country than even the
UK!

So I'm sorry but there IS a stronger onus on the governments of the eastern countries because frankly, despite their much vaunted membership of the EU, those are not yet countries people are exactly flocking to because the pay or benefits are so appealing - if anything the labour drain is in the opposite direction. When finally this tide turns, and in fact you see movement of labour from west to east because circumstances are so level in the east, then yes you can talk about a "general Europe" but to do it now and say, "hey, lay off those easterners, nasty Economist" is to absolve the politicians of those countries from the special responsibilities they took on when they decided to lead countries where these conditions apply. Considering how much work still needs to be done in the eastern half of Europe to lift up the people's standards of living, I am really astonished that you are taking this "But look at them! They're just as bad!" approach.

Look, I come across a lot of young Polish people working in London and to a man they have been scathing in their criticism of their government's failures, and have little desire to go back. It's a nice luxury for you or I as "Westerners" to say, "oh come on, it's the same in the West" but that's giving underperforming governments an easy way out when given the differentials between East and West, they have to do even better than their counterparts in London or Paris or Berlin. OK my govt screws up but I know that even an average salary in the 4th richest country in the world puts me in what, the top 90% of the world? Same for you over there in the US. But some family struggling on EEK 7000 , when rent takes up maybe 3000 and food another 1000, is not in the same category and are entitled to expect a better standard from their governments.

Sorry to run on, but I get really annoyed about this sort of thing, after seeing my girlfriend, even with a better than average salary in Tallinn, juggling high accommodation and living costs combined with tax demands and just about getting by, while politicians lark about and play games. I think they DO need a kick up the backside from international voices to remind them that they are still letting down their electorates, who are in greater need than those of Western Europe.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I think Estonia is a more expensive country than even the
UK!


I take it you've never lived in the UK? Cause if you had you wouldn't say that. Having grown up in Canada, lived a number of years in Tallinn and worked for a London headquarted company I can tell you that Tallinn is by far the cheapest of the three.

I don't think the problem is wages or taxes but rather the make up of the Estonian economy which is still based on low skill, low efficiency jobs. For people working in finance or high tech there usually isn't a problem making ends meet, but unfortunately most the people are working different types of jobs.

What dismays me the most is that politics in Estonia has denegrated to one issue, wages, which in all truth the government can't control. Wages have grown quickly, and will continue to do so, perhaps not as fast as everyone wants but the economy has limits. Get over it and move to a different topic.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

I said "on a RELATIVE scale (salary v cost of living) I think Estonia is a more expensive country than even the UK".

If you wish to just quote the last part of the sentence of course you can make my statement sound like that of an imbecile. Of course on a direct comparison Estonia is cheaper than the UK or Canada. I was talking about what percentage of local salary is disposable income. And if in comparing the two countries you take salary against salary, costs against costs, the Estonian percentage comes out lower.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Since I have lived and worked in Norway for a couple of years, I can tell that even I earned 4 times more there, the quality of my life was worse than it is now in Estonia. I couldn't eat out every day, I couldn't enjoy my weekends as I can here... Never went to a dentist there, bought a hair clipper because 40 EUR for a cut seems too much... Life's good here at home:)

Estonia visitor ütles ...

Perhaps you are in a fortunate position. I don't know what field you work in but as mentioned earlier, there are those who do work in areas where they can meet costs quite effectively and a majority who don't. Do you feel you are representative of the AVERAGE wage earner in Estonia? Do you really think they happily enjoy weekends out and go out to eat every day? As I said in my post, if you're on 7000 a month and half of that goes to rent alone, before talking about community "maksab" and cost of food, that doesn't leave a lot.

Giustino ütles ...

Considering how much work still needs to be done in the eastern half of Europe to lift up the people's standards of living, I am really astonished that you are taking this "But look at them! They're just as bad!" approach.

See, as a New Yorker I can tell you that my city is often gray and often stinks and is often filthy and that my city is run by slackers who take those conditions for granted.

And as a New Yorker I can tell you that our state university system buildings DO strongly resemble communist bloc style architecture.

So how am I supposed to feel a sense of superiority when I've got the same blight right here in my own neighborhood?

Self-serving nationalist politicians? Hmm, who does that remind me of? George W. Bush? Gov. George Pataki, who started every speech with "since 9/11" ...

Considering how much work still needs to be done in the eastern half of Europe to lift up the people's standards of living, I am really astonished that you are taking this "But look at them! They're just as bad!" approach.

And speaking of filthy countries with low birthrates and lots of corruption, I am reminded of my alma mater, Italy the country my family left to find a better standard of living.

My point is that if you want to have a conference about reform or corruption or improving living standards, it's not fair to exclude western European countries that could also benefit from those lessons.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

"My point is that if you want to have a conference about reform or corruption or improving living standards, it's not fair to exclude western European countries that could also benefit from those lessons."

I am sure these issues are tackled on an EU-wide basis by the EU. But if post-communist countries see common factors between themselves that make having a conference to discuss the issues an attractive option, I am not sure why they should be obliged to throw the conference doors open to all and sundry. They obviously decided this is the most effective forum to discuss issues that are specifically applicable to themselves; why dilute it and lessen the effectiveness by expanding the scope to countries that have had a markedly different 50 years of history. Fifteen years of freedom and the EU signing accession papers doesn't just magically wipe out all the problems that a particular system of government (communism) put into place. Which is not to say there aren't similar problems on the Western side of the continent, but the underlying root causes will have developed differently.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

Incidentally G you talk about the problems in your city, but this is a localised problem that doesn't reflect the fact that, despite areas of poverty and dilapidation which will be present in any capitalist country, the US is the world's richest and most powerful country and millions of people are trying every year to get in there. To extrapolate from some rundown buildings and offensive smells that it has problems on as wide a scale as the emerging economies of Eastern Europe is extremely simplistic.

Giustino ütles ...

To extrapolate from some rundown buildings and offensive smells that it has problems on as wide a scale as the emerging economies of Eastern Europe is extremely simplistic

It's interesting that the worst years of urban blight in the US (arguable the late 70s through early 90s) coincided with the worst years of communist stagnation.

One could identify a global root cause of the decay of the post-war social welfare model in capitalist and non-capitalist countries as an underlying factor in creating those similar situations.

Mart Laar talks of how every year Estonia's infrastructure "got worse" in the 70s and 80s, and I think it can be argued that, prior to Giuliani's administration, New York City experienced social decay.

In both instances there was a need for reform. The difference is that Estonia needed to replace it's entire political system, whereas New York relied on its existing democracy.

Though I am no expert on the UK, a cursory review of pop culture references from the late-60s through the mid-80s reveals songs about the lack of "career opportunities" and life "living on a dead end street."
Perhaps the situation there was similar.

In some ways, one could view the rejection of Labour in 1979 through 1997 in the UK as coinciding with the rejection of communism in eastern Europe. In both cases, people rejected post-war leftism following an era of institutional decay and economic stagnation.

These are just thoughts though. Just thoughts.

Giustino ütles ...

OK my govt screws up but I know that even an average salary in the 4th richest country in the world puts me in what, the top 90% of the world? Same for you over there in the US.

Which means that Brits can afford more James Blunt and Robbie Williams albums than easterners. If only Estonians had more disposable income ;)

Martin ütles ...

I wonder if revaluing the Kroon against the Euro so that there was little difference in the average salary in Estonia and some other comparable old EU economy would make a difference. If one Kroon was worth one Euro, working abroad would be less attractive, wouldn't it? A worker in Finland earning 5 times more than a worker in Estonia is certainly not 5 time more productive.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Good point, Estonian visitor. I can allow with 1000 EUR in Estonia (which I get by working on 2 places more or less) more than with 4000 EUR in Norway. Apartement - as good, car - as good, services - dentist, doctor, barber, restaurants - better. I'm a quite simple worker B.T.W, nothing fancy.

Infrastructure at home - worse. General look of towns, cities - worse.
I like that things are improving day by day, I feel I'm in the middle of action, constructive energy which gives the feeling that one wants to do better, more, faster.

Anonüümne ütles ...

P.S! What I can't do - city breaks, exotic holidays, expensive gadgets.

Anonüümne ütles ...

P.S! What I can't do - city breaks, exotic holidays, expensive gadgets.

teine Mel ütles ...

I think before we get too heated about all this, take a trip to places outside the cities. Tallinn and London and New York are hard to argue about development and so forth, but let's try Suure-Jaani, Lancaster and Topeka and then see. Or worse, let's try Peipsiääre, Grimsby and Annapolis.

The point is that there are places in Estonia that are much better off than the Appalachians or run-down estates in the Midlands. But in general, until there is more uniform development in Estonia to have more balance (ie between Tallinn and Orissaare compared to between New York and Cheyenne) there will always be this comparison.

Plus, look at the education system and the media. Everyone still calls it "ex-Soviet" or "ex-Communist" and that won't change until the younger generation is educated otherwise.

Erik ütles ...

Self-serving nationalist politicians? Hmm, who does that remind me of? George W. Bush? Gov. George Pataki, who started every speech with "since 9/11" ...

Yes i know what you are saying. I could name a few good examples from my home country (Sweden) too

Anonüümne ütles ...

This is what I found today - The restaurant job isn't much better, making gallons of salad dressing, chopping lettuce and assembling relish trays. But it has its upsides. We can cook up "meat bits" on the grill and eat salad or baked potatoes. And the crew there is well worth the price of admission: Two of the servers bought me a gift certificate so I could afford to eat my birthday dinner there.

My take-home pay is about $660 a month. At $310, my mortgage takes the biggest chunk of that. Phone and Internet cost $70. Heat in winter is usually more than $100 -- it's Montana, after all. Water runs $41 a month. The car takes $127. So, just about every penny is gone even before I buy gasoline or food for myself and the dogs.

Anonüümne ütles ...

To people who critizise Estonia and tell how fantastic place is UK!I am estonian woman who have brit boyfriend. He dont live in UK. As british expat in western Europe he dont go back to England when he will be retired (we are middle aged people). He says its too expensive (England) and dirty. Its nice to vistit though. He likes Estonia, its not crowded and lots of nature.
I dont want to live in UK either. I got culture chock in England when I visited it. Houses are heated only some hours a day, and it was -10 degrees! And women- I never seen in my life women who havent worked till their kids are born (now teenagers), they hadnt even own bank account! They havent work experience and modern education (computer skills)! I am better post-soviet or ex-communist but I dont like to be forced housewife and stay in cold! I like to go to theatre and concerts. And of course brits are brainwashed by media, questions : Do you know tampons, Do you heard about Beatles-you dont know cry or laugh! And when I speak by phone in estonian they are suprized i dont speak russian. Its first time I was happy we win Eurovision-they heard about that and this made my homeland a bit more "normal".
I think bloody brits must just shut up, because Churchill was one of them who gave East-Europe to Stalin and now its payback time! I hope poles take care of that-joke:)
I think Estonia have good future, people are hardworking and dont afraid of changes!

Estonia visitor ütles ...

See this is the problem, some people are so sensitive and defensive they just assume everything is criticism. Nobody is saying the UK is fantastic, just that economically its in a stronger position. Doesn't mean the people have such a wonderful time there.

But if it makes people happy, fine - Estonia is a wonderful place, people are paid a wonderful salary, cost of living is not too high, there are no poor people - the babushka standing over there in the snow holding flowers is really doing it for fun, the government is doing a wonderful job and there is absolutely nothing the government should be doing to improve the situation because the situation in Estonia is just so wonderful. Can we have our EU subsidies back please then? Obviously there is nothing to improve!

Giustino ütles ...

I think bloody brits must just shut up, because Churchill was one of them who gave East-Europe to Stalin and now its payback time! I hope poles take care of that-joke:)
I think Estonia have good future, people are hardworking and dont afraid of changes!


Uh oh, looks like the United Kingdom is getting the piss taken out of it from both sides. I should remind you that George W. Bush is a Brit too, deep down ;)

See this is the problem, some people are so sensitive and defensive they just assume everything is criticism.

I don't think people like to get along. Pointing out each others flaws is too much fun.

ee ütles ...

Of course the UK is economically stronger than Estonia. You see, the UK has been free and independent for god knows how long. Estonia, on the other hand, was occupied by communists for 50 years.
Nobody is saying that Estonia is perfect but it's not some hellhole either.

Anonüümne ütles ...

This estonian woman again. Lets say I was trying to be polite. But I can be not so polite.
Somebody mentioned living in estonian countryside. I live 100 times in Estonian countryside than in Birmingham (real hellhole)! All british expats I know in west-europe dont want go back in this economical paradise in some reaśon, even if they have so good pensions!
To estonian visitor : why you girlfriend dont try to do something with hes salary? Try some schooling, or if shes too lazy to do that find richer boyfriend to emprove her life? Is she russian by the way? You mentioned babushkas. My grandmother isnt babushka but vanaema, but never mind.
"Where is no poor people"Jee, jee british pensioneers dont work and everybody is welthy jee, jee.
But brits are again trained so for centuries, their life and culture is the best, as they travel mostly to Spain they dont even realize how good is life in Scandinavia.
British pensioneers dont do well either (my boyfriends helps her mother), pension isnt enough! I think immigration in Uk is just horrible. Its so many problems in UK, but its easier to close eyes and point to East-Europe.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Estonian woman - Estonia usually gets constructive suggestions from the west. If it helps us to be better, more effective, richer - why not to listen to it? Then maybe some day we will be in top 5, as Ansip hopes:))). Let's not let our temper:))) take control of our thinking. And - let's try to avoid the mistakes that the west has made (or so we think) by teaching our children to do/ be better.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

ee - nobody says Estonia is a hellhole, the point of the ORIGINAL discussion, if we can get back to it, is that Estonia would probably have more things in common with other post-communist states who have gone thru similar histories than with the economies of western Europe, for EXACTLY the same reasons you have just mentioned - 50 years of freedom v 50 years of communism.

Estonia woman - there is no point having a discussion with someone who brings the level of discussion to nationalistic abuse so I will not be replying to your villager-level messages any more. But yes my girlfriend is Estonian, not "Russian", and she works damn hard. has an extra job, but things are still difficult so how dare you start throwing your insults arounds without knowing any facts.

Also, your assuming immediately that she was Russian shows just how prejudiced and nationalistic you are. I am sorry you are so blinded by your nationalism that you would rather that some of your fellow Estonians (who maybe are not in such a good position as you) continue to struggle with their lives, rather than admit any problems whatsoever. In fact, because you care so little about other people in your country, it looks more like some of the foreigners here care more about Estonia than you do yourself - all that is important to you is , "No no no, you cannot say ONE bad thing about my country!" Fine - message for you: "Your country is wonderful, not one problem with it." Now please go away and let adults discuss the real issues.

Of course your British boyfriend loves Estonia! I love it! I go once or twice in a month and what I spend for one weekend (thanks to the hellhole Britain) is maybe an Estonian's average salary for the month ! Who doesn't love that? But would your British boyfriend enjoy Estonia so much if he wasn't coming with money he made in Britain (or Western Europe)? I don't think he and you would be having such a nice time if he was coming with an Estonian salary. So stop thinking about how comfortable things are for you two, and think about other people who don't have such a good salary and have to struggle. You are the worse kind of patriot, the kind who would rather see their country to pieces than EVER admit there are things to improve.

Anonüümne ütles ...

estonia visitor, you make it sound as if poverty exists only in Eastern Europe. It may come as a shock but poverty is everywhere, even in the UK. Not everyone is filthy rich in the UK either.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

Poverty exists everywhere even in the UK (yes I admit it, I hope everyone is happy now), and all governments have a responsibility to deal with it. I am just saying that the burden of responsibility is a lot higher on Eastern European governments because there is a lot of "catching up" to do. A few people then took this as a personal insult on their country and launched into various reasons why Estonia was a better place to live than other countries like Norway or the UK, in other words, moving quite far from the point of the discussion. Perhaps these attacks woke up a patriotism I didn't know I had, but I responded by pointing out that while for some people posting Estonia might be a comfortable place, this is not necessarily true of the majority. This debate was not supposed to deteriorate into a "my country is better than your country" argument.

Giustino ütles ...

Also, your assuming immediately that she was Russian shows just how prejudiced and nationalistic you are.

People sometimes think I am Russian too. Anyone that says anything just a little different is suspected of enjoying beet soups and T.a.t.u. :)

Estonia visitor ütles ...

I get the feeling you're quite enjoying these heated exchanges...

As for the UK having the piss taken out of it, well it's not so bad a country... As a Minister pointed out recently, last year the UK created more jobs for Polish nationals than Poland had! ;-)

Anonüümne ütles ...

Well, Economist is a funny magazine. A month ago they praised Estonia's growth. Now, as it turns out, we have a do-nothing government. If a do-nothing government leads to doubling your living standard after every six years then... I wish every country had a do-nothing government.

http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8417995

Giustino ütles ...

As for the UK having the piss taken out of it, well it's not so bad a country... As a Minister pointed out recently, last year the UK created more jobs for Polish nationals than Poland had! ;-)

The UK has redeemed itself for all time by virtue of Monty Python. Anything it did bad in the past is made up for by the Ministry for Silly Walks. Did those guys ever get knighted?

Estonia visitor ütles ...

Don't forget, Estonia bought the rights to "Strictly Dancing" from us, and it's one of the most watched Estonian series of last year - so we're not absolutely useless! ;-)

notsu ütles ...

I totally agree with Estonia Visitor above that _burden of responsibility is a lot higher on Eastern European governments because there is a lot of "catching up" to do_.
Also, I would not state that life is easier in Estonia than in Western Europe and I agree that the EU newcomers have much in common because of our late history (and this is why it makes sense to have a joint conference for us), but the wording of the actual article was such as to blame the former Warszawa block *governments* and this seems, well, a bit unfair. I mean, if UK is a richer country than Estonia, is it thanks to Tony Blair government? Or to make it more extreme, if Italy is a richer country than Estonia, does it mean that Berlusconi was such a great prime minister?

Aside of that, the governments and administration policies seem to be pretty diverse in East Europe. Just think about, for instance, about the Estonian liberalism and Polish conservatism and the crazy situation in Hungary (almost comparable to Ukraine, one could say).

But coming back to common points, I've heard from people who have visited different conferences in non-EU post-Soviet countries, that people of, say, Georgia and Tadjikistan, seem to take most interest in speeches of participants with experience of "coming off" soviet economy. They are more interested in hearing about e.g. how we did build up a social insurance system out of nothing than in how perfectly do the already well-established systems work. So let's not be hurt by being viewed as different: this difference also means that we already have some valuable experience to share, and there is more to come.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Hot topic, heh. I did not mean to say Estonia is much better country than Norway is. But right now I wouldn't leave Estonia to do a shitty supermarket job in England -standards of living stay almost the same. 7 years ago it had a meaning - you saved some cash and could buy something for that money in Estonia, but not anymore.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Estonia visitor, how big was this number of people who leave UK every year to New Zeeland, Canada, USA, Australia. Its 200 000? Poles need jobs?
I hope brits are more nationalists, becuse they let just their country take over! My boyfriends cousin is member of BMP! I am not suprized!I personally think that british society is in moral crises, because what kind of society produce stags and football hooligans. Thise people just havent any respect to other countries. Everything is Eropean crap you can piss!
My boyfriend dont pay my bills, beacuse I am not like these british women who need breadwinner to survive. My average salary is good enough for me, beacuse I am not spoiled!
Clean nature, family country house, 15 minutes to sea, free university to my son are these things what make things comfortable for me. I am not patriot, but I will see that life in England isnt comfortable enough for me. Problem is our people are much smarter now, people are able to travel (thank you Easyjet) and they see that England isnt like in "Midsummer Murders", posh Oxfordshire neighbourhood!
More interesting facts about UK.
People have separate foreign pasports:)Kids cant be left alone till they are 14! People over 40 dont know how to make internet-banking:)
I might be villager, but I have seen a bit the world and life.
I know british men and their way of thinking too, so I annoyed you specially.Sorry mate! You need stronger nerves for Estonia:) I wish you luck and enjoy Estonia. As I enjoy Wales, Chester, british humor! Not sure about Brirmigham and Strictly Dancing (in both countries)!

Estonia visitor ütles ...

All your points are fine if this was a blog about the UNITED KINGDOM but it is not. If it was a debate about the problems in the UK I would probably agree with most of the things you say. But we are talking about Estonia, you understand? Estonia?

I don't need some special nerves for Estonia, I lived in Estonia for 9 months last year, saw my girlfriend's salary, saw her expenses, same with all her friends, how people count their 100 krones here or there. I saw the bills, how much rent was, how much it cost to buy food at Rimi or Selver. I noticed cost of petrol was almost the same as in Western Europe. I saw how much all this takes out of an average salary. It's not an extremely poor country, BUT life is not that easy for people there like you make it seem.

And I know you that in your opinion my girlfriend must be some "uneducated Russian girl", but in fact she is 100% estonian who had to raise her son by herself after her "wonderful Estonian husband" left her for a younger girl (that seems to happen quite a lot there) and she did this without much help from the bloody government, by working hard at 2 jobs. Many other people I met were in similar situations.

So you can spend as much of your time sitting there and telling me how bad Britain is and how good Estonia is, that is your business if it makes you smile. Me, I am more interested in knowing my Estonian friends' situations and what the government is doing to improve it. If you really cared about your country, you should be interested in this too.

Notsu - thank you. I am glad somebody understood what I was trying to say. You pointed out what you agreed with and what you disagreed with in a concise, civilised way. Can I just point out, I really want your government to do the right things because I have had a fantastic time in Estonia and know some lovely people, and all I want is the best for them. That is why I am critical, not because I get excited sitting at my computer comparing Estonia to the UK.

plasma-jack ütles ...

you know, relax, it is very common among our net commentators to answer to any kind of argument with something like, for example "well you say that US has done some bad things but why the hell didn't you say anything about Russia" or vice versa. happens all the time.

but i agree that it is mostly our business to worry about cleaning our turf and i think that so far we have been doing it pretty well. with that being said, there's always room for impovement everywhere and all intelligent people know that anyway. of course, the job is not finished, in fact it never is.

plasma-jack ütles ...

and about do-nothing government - well, what would you expect from a coalition that has two months until the elections? come on.

Giustino ütles ...

And I know you that in your opinion my girlfriend must be some "uneducated Russian girl", but in fact she is 100% estonian who had to raise her son by herself after her "wonderful Estonian husband" left her for a younger girl (that seems to happen quite a lot there)

What's up with some of the Estonian dudes? You get the feeling that they think women are a lifestyle accessory. This is, however, what endears Estonian women to foreign men. I have no doubt that if I died my spouse could scrap together a living for herself and my daughter. There would be few tears, and lots of doing. Those ladies are resourceful!

Estonia visitor ütles ...

"This is, however, what endears Estonian women to foreign men... There would be few tears, and lots of doing. Those ladies are resourceful!"

You know, if I had to pick only one statement you have made on your blog to agree with, this would absolutely positively be it!

There's an old boy I knew, sadly just passed away last week, but when I was describing my girlfriend to him, he used a word I don't often hear these days but summed her up perfectly. In fact I think it sums up a lot of Estonian women: "plucky".

notsu ütles ...

Do you know the proverb that a proper Saare woman is able to support a drunk husband and four kids? I'have heard the version where "Saare" was replaced by "Estonian". A sexist proverb though;)
(besides my feminism, I'm men's rights partisan too)