Estonian ambassador in Paris: freedom cannot be taken for granted

Yesterday, 5 July, a discussion on freedom was held at the Estonian embassy in Paris, with a focus on the transformed security environment in Europe following Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. After the discussion, the exhibition Freedom in the 21st Century, curated and produced by Jaak Visnap, was opened.

In his introduction to the discussion, Estonian Ambassador to France Lembit Uibo said that the freedom we are enjoying in Europe is something we should cherish. “The war brought to the heart of Europe by Russia and the trends challenging Western democracies have led like-minded countries to realise that the freedom we have long enjoyed in Western societies cannot be taken for granted,” Uibo said, adding that the West is currently making efforts to maintain this freedom.

Artist Marko Mäetamm and film director and essayist Ilmar Raag represented Estonia at the discussion. France was represented by Céline Bayou, Professor at INALCO and editor of the online magazine Regard sur l’Est; Nicolas Tenzer, international affairs expert and lecturer at Sciences Po; and Bruno Tertrais, political scientist and Deputy Director of the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS).

“The issue of sovereignty is crucial for Estonia,” Ilmar Raag said at the discussion. “Being a frontier state, we must always be prepared to defend ourselves. In the war in Ukraine, Estonia is not only helping and, due to our geographical location, standing at the frontline of the war, we sense that we are actually in the war alongside the Ukrainians. This sense is different in the western and eastern parts of Europe.”

“Estonia is known for Arvo Pärt. It is very important to promote Estonian artists in the world, as their works can take the history, sensibility and culture of our people to the world. Our culture is our oil!” Jaak Visnap, who conceived the idea of the freedom collection, said, adding that cultural diplomacy had plenty of room for development.

All 21 artists represented at the exhibition created one artwork inspired by freedom. Works by the following artists are exhibited: Raul Meel, Marko Mäetamm, Kiwa, Laurentsius, Jaak Visnap, Urmas Viik, Navitrolla, Kadri Alesmaa, Jüri Arrak, Leonhard Lapin, Hardi Volmer, Kadri Kangilaski, Evi Tihemets, Peeter Allik, Jaan Toomik, Ivar Kaasik, Liisa Kruusmägi, Tarrvi Laamann, August Künnapu, Maarit Murka and Priit Pärn.