From the left: Marju Rink-Abel, President of ERKÜ; Matti Prima, moderator; Reneé Meriste, President, Los Angeles Estonian Society; Marcus Kolga, President, Estonian Central Council in Canada.
Reede, 24 November 2017 19:00
Estonian Life No. 47 2017
Panel Discussion: Can Estonians in US, Canada and elsewhere abroad, strengthen relations between diaspora and Estonia?
Tampa, FL, Panelists Marju Rink-Abel, President of the Estonian American National Council (EANC/ ERKÜ); Marcus Kolga, President of the Estonian Canadian Council (EKN); and Reneé Meriste, President of the Los Angeles Estonian Association debated and discussed how Estonian’s living outside of Estonia, specifically, in North America, hold the view that Estonian government leaders may have forgotten Estonians who left as refugees or have emigrated in recent years. A lively conversation moderated by Matti Prima, EANC Treasurer, lead to intense questioning and commentary from a standing room audience.
On Saturday, November 11, 2017, ERKÜ in its effort to include more American Estonians in their business meetings, held its annual public meeting in Tampa, FL as part of its outreach effort so that local Estonians could attend and participate. Besides the business meeting, a series of panels were held to discuss topics that would have relevance to Estonian Americans, Americans of Estonian descent along with those who have recently immigrated to America. This particular panel arose as there is precedence that the other Baltic Nations have much greater interaction with their countrymen living abroad. Latvia has an Ambassador for the Diaspora—Mr. Atis Sjanits while the Lithuanians, since 1994, invite representatives from the Lithuanian American Council to meet members of the Lithuanian Parliament. No such meaningful interaction occurs between Estonia and American Estonian Leadership.
This concern was raised and discussed with great enthusiasm from various aspects of information dispensed about how Prime Minister Jüri Ratas came to the Los Angeles Läänerannikiku Eesti Päevad (West Coast Estonian Days) over Labor Day, How we as Estonians abroad wish to help with expertise if invited, and how our leadership has been ignored or uninvited to functions that are organized by Estonian Leadership. Some of this concern stems from requests from Estonia for support—financial or otherwise—without recognition or understanding the efforts put forth by many North American Organizations such as ERKÜ or EKN to assist in maintaining Estonia’s security.
Many aspects of how the relationship could be strengthened were discussed, be it through the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appointments in the Estonian Parliament. There are many resources in the United States and Canada such as Honorary Counsuls that are available but are not effectively utilized by Estonia’s government. EANC will be issuing a formal request for Estonia to consider a West Coast Office for a permanent counsel as business opportunities are growing, particularly in Southern California. Besides the Global Magnitsky act being passed in the U.S. Congress with the help of Karl Altau, our JBANC representative and Karin Shuey, our Estonian DC Executive Director; Marcus Kolga was cited for his leadership in seeing that the Magnitsky Act was passed in the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. The Magnitsky Act has put significant pressure on the Putin and his Russian Oligarchs, due to the human rights violations related to their activities.