Ümberpööratult
Avaldatud 24 Mai 2014
Abdul Turay

Olen Briti kodanik, kes kandideerib Euroopa Parlamendi valimistel Eestis. Mõned leiavad, et see on põhimõtteliselt vale nii et vaatame seda ümberpööratult.

Mis oleks kui eestlane kandideeriks Suurbritannias? Oleks see märkimisväärne? Kas see oleks uudistes? Ma arvan, et oleks. Ma tean, et see oleks nii.

Poola pankur Przemek Skwirczynski, kandideerib kohalikel valimistel Suurbritannia iseseisvusparteis (UK Independence Party). See lugu on meedias laialdaselt kajastatud, kuigi ta kandideerib vaid linnavolikokku. Ta loodab Poola kogukonna toetusele.

Lembik Öpik on Suurbritannias hästi tuntud poliitik. Tema nime tuntakse poliitikute seas ilmselt kõige paremini ning ta ei ole isegi hetkel mitte parlamendis. Suur tuntus on osaliselt seotud tema Eesti taustaga. Ebatavaline taust ja ebatavaline nimi. Ebatavalisus müüb. Ta valimisringkond on Walesil. Tema valijad räägivad Walesi keelt, mitte Inglise keelt. Kahjuks ta kaotas oma asukoht värvikas karakteri tottu.

Olen poliitikas olnud vaid lühikest aega ja mõistan skeptilisust aga mis oleks kui pikaajaline Eesti poliitik, nagu näiteks Siim Kallas, kandideeriks Suurbritannias Euroopa Parlamendi valimistel?

Kallas kindlasti teab Suurbritannia Peaministrit David Cameroni. Talle antaks ilmselt esimese kandidaadi turvaline koht. Tema valimine oleks garanteeritud. See oleks üle Euroopaline uudis, üle maailmne isegi. Palju suurem kui mina suudaks saavutada.

Mõelge sellele. Ühe maa endine Peaminister on nüüd teise maa valitud Euroopa Parlamendi liige.

See oleks rahvusvahelise meedia kõige räägitum uudis.

Ma kujutan ette, et kui Kallas seda teha üritaks, saadaks teda laialdane kriitikalaine kodumaal. Kuid teisalt oleks see lihtne viis saada Euroopa Parlamenti. Ma olen päris kindel, et kui mina või keegi nagu mina on sel korral valimistel edukas siis keegi kusagil proovib sedasama teha järgmistel valimistel.
ETV debatis 21. mail nõustusid individuaalkandidaadid, et Euroopa Parlamendi liikme panust ei saa hinnata peetud kõnede arvu järgi vaid selle järgi kui tuntud ta on Euroopas.

See ei peaks nii olema. Kuulsus ei garanteeri kompetentsust. Kuid nii see hetkel on.
Ma usun, et enamus kandidaate on nii kompetentsed kui ka targad, kuid see ei näi olevat piisav.

Kes iganes osutub valituks, peab end nähtavaks tegema.

Oleme hetkel kuristiku serval. Kõik võib lõppeda kohutavalt halvasti. Eesti võib libiseda vaesusesse tänu lähedusele Venemaaga mis peletab investorid eemale. See tooks kaasa noorte lakumise parematele jahimaadele.

Hetkel vajame õiget inimest, kes viiks Eesti sõnumi Euroopasse. Eesti on väike riik ja see on oluline maa.

Keda eurooplased meie kandidaatidest märkaksid?”
Mõtle sellele enne kui annad pühapäeval oma hääle!





Delfi Answers


1. Why should voters vote for you?

The most important reason people should vote for me is to guarantee Estonia's security.Estonia needs friends. Military security must come from NATO, from the USA, my country the UK and even from France. The EU is weak on this.

Since I am from the West, there will be a lot of media interest in me. I am already in the international media, the BBC,  Al Jazeera, the Economist. If I am elected, I will able to galvanise the media and the general public in the rest of Europe and the World especially the Anglosphere to take an interest in what is happening in Estonia, to support Estonia, and to defend it in a way that other candidates can't.

Eventually the issue will move beyond me as an unusual politician, and to the bigger issue of European integration and the European dream.

2. Name theme(s) which you plan to be active in the European Parliament and the reason for this choice.
The theme that concerns me most is a decent living salary for everybody.

I don't just mean the many women who are in low paid jobs, I also want to stick up for the 40 per cent of men who are struggling to get by. It is difficult for men to admit when they are not are successful as they would like to be, or when they are not rewarded for doing difficult jobs, or when they can't find a job.

I have been in this situation myself so I know how it feels. I am teacher, so I am an ordinary person. My concern is police officers, prison officers, fireman, teachers, nurses all these people who struggle to get by.

We need to raise the minimum wage across Europe because it will have a domino effect raising wages across the board and we need to strengthen ties with Trade Unions in other European countries, because employers will pay low wages if they can get away with it.

I will fight against big corporations trying to use EU rules to get round national laws. The Trans-Atlantic Trade Investment Protocol, in its current form, is an example of this. If what is been suggested at the moment goes through, big American corporation will be able to sue entire countries for lost profits. Estonia and other European countries should have a veto on whether they will allow regulation that apply in the US to automatically apply in Estonia.

I will fight to make sure that Europe grants money is not spent on fly-by-night foreign businesses coming from outside Estonia who won't stay in the country anyway. Money should be spent on local people and local communities.

But much of my work will be outside of the European Parliament. I will use my position in the international media to spread the message that Estonia is a great country with a great future. A good place to invest, raise a family, study or even retire.


3. Which subject or area is the European Union dealing with now which in your opinion it shouldn't actually be concerned with.

I think the whole furore over same sex marriage is a giant red herring. There are more important things to worry about, at both a national level and international level.

4. Would you as a Member of the European Parliament support a proposal to freeze temporarily CO2 quotas emissions or raise the value of quota? How would you vote is such a plan would raise electricity prices in Estonia?

Look, if bills go down in Estonia this is always a good outcome. We should think about ordinary people what they can afford to spend. A lot of old people suffer because of high energy bills.

5. The situation in Ukraine has shown that the European Union can't influence relationships with Russia by applying sanctions. In what way must the European Union deal with Russia.

As I wrote above it is quite clear that in terms of defence, Estonia should look to NATO and the Anglosphere countries not to Europe. Europe lacks strong leadership, that is its central problem. In the long run I truly believe leadership can come from my own country, Britain, but first there has to be a sea change in the way British people view Europe, That is a difficult task, it will take at least a decade.

On the question of sanctions it is too early to say that sanctions won't be effective. Sanctions are a slow cure not a quick fix.

I don't thing Russian troops are going to march into Narva, but there is a real danger. That danger is the rest of Europe, and the World, will come to view the entire region as unstable. 
Estonia will lose investment and ultimately people and slowly and surely come under Russian influence.

It will be my task to try to stop this from happening by sending out a positive message about Estonia.

6. Please forecast how the six places in the European Parliament will be divided between the parties and the solo candidates.I don't want to make any predictions.
 

Delfi Kusimused

Answers in English


1. Miks valija just teie poolt peaks hääletama? 

Olulisim, miks inimesed minu poolt peaks hääletama, on garanteerida Eesti turvalisus. Eesti vajab sõpru. Sõjaline kaitse peab tulema NATOlt, USAlt ja minu sünnimaalt Suurbritanniast ning isegi Prantsusmaalt. EL on selles osas nõrk. Kuna olen läänest pärit, tekitab see meedia huvi minu vastu. Välismeedia juba kajastab minu lugu – BBC, Al Jazeera, The Economist. 

Kui ma osutun valituks, avaneb mul võimalus meediat ära kasutades tekitada huvi Eesti vastu Euroopas ja kogu maailmas, eriti just inglisekeelsetes riikides. See toob Eestile toetuse ja kaitse moel, mida ükski teine kanditaat ei ole suuteline tagama. Lõpuks huvi minu kui tavapoliitiku vastu hääbub ning olulisemaks saab küsimus Euroopa integratsioonist ning Euroopa unistusest. 

 2. Nimetage teema(d), millega Euroopa Parlamendis tegeleda kavatsete ja põhjendage valikut. 

Teema, mis mind kõige rohkem muretsema paneb on inimväärne sissetulek kõigile. Ma ei pea silmas mitte ainult neid paljusid naisi, kes teevad vähetasustatud tööd, vaid ka 40% raskustes olevaid mehi. Meestel on raske endale tunnistada, et nad ei ole nii edukad kui sooviksid olla, või kui ei hinnata nende rasket tööd või olukorda, kui nad ei leia tööd. Olen selles olukorras ise olnud ja tean mida see tähendab. Olen õpetaja, tavaline inimene.

 Mulle teevad muret politseinikud, vangivalvurid, tuletõrjujad, õpetajad ja õed – kõik need inimesed, kes näevad kurja vaeva toime tulemisega. Meil on vaja tõsta miinimumpalka kogu Euroopas, sest see vallandab doominoefekti, tõstes palku igal pool. Meil on vaja tugevdada sidemeid ametiühingutega teistes Euroopa maades, sest tööandjad maksavad madalaid palku nii kaua kuni nad seda teha saavad. Ma astun vastu suurfirmadele, kes kasutavad ära ELi eeskirju, et hiilida kõrvale riigis kehtivatest seadustest. Atlandiülene kaubandus- ja investeerimispartnerluse protokoll on üks näide sellest. Kui praegu välja pakutu peaks läbi minema, võivad suured Ameerika korporatsioonid kaevata kohtusse terved riigid kaotatud kasumi pärast. Eestis ja teistes Euroopa riikides peaks olema vetoõigus, kas nad lubavad määrusi, mis kehtivad USAs, automaatselt rakendada. Ma võitlen selle eest, et Euroopa tagaks, et raha ei kulutataks üheööliblikatest välisfirmadele, kellel ei ole plaani jääda Eestisse. Raha peab kuluma kohalike inimeste peale, kohalike kogukondadele. Suur osa minu tööst kulub ka Europarlamendi välistele asjadele. Ma kasutan ära oma positsiooni välismeedias ning levitan sõnumit Eestist kui suurepärasest maast helge tulevikuga. Heast kohast investeeringuteks, laste kasvatamiseks, õppimiseks ning miks mitte ka pensionipõlve veetmiseks. 

 3. Mis on need teemad või valdkonnad, millega Euroopa Liit praegu küll tegeleb, aga teie hinnangul ei peaks tegelema?

 Ma arvan, et kogu furoor samasooliste abielu üle on hiiglaslik ülepaisutatud teema. On palju olulisemaid asju, mille pärast muretseda nii rahvuslikul- kui ka rahvusvahelisel tasandil. 

 4. Kas oleksite Euroopa Parlamendi liikmena toetanud ettepanekut külmutada ajutiselt CO2 kvootide enampakkumised, et kvoodi hind kasvaks? Kuidas hääletaksite siis, kui säärane plaan kergitaks Eesti elanike jaoks elektri hinda?

 Kuulge, kui arved Eestis alanevad, on see alati hea tulemus. Me peaksime mõtlema sellele, kui palju tavainimesed on suutelised endale lubama. Paljud vanurid ägavad suurte elektriarvete all.

 5. Olukord Ukrainas on näidanud, et Euroopa Liit ei suuda Venemaa suhtes mõjusaid sanktsioone rakendada. Kuidas peaks Euroopa Liit Venemaa suunal tegutsema? 

 Nagu ma eelnevalt kirjutasin, on selge, et Eesti peab kaitseküsimustes vaatama NATO ja inglise mõjutustega riikide poole, mitte Euroopa suunas. Euroopas puudub tugev juhtimine. Pikemas perspektiivis ma tõsiselt usun, et juhtimine saab tulla minu enda maalt, Suurbritanniast. Kuid esiteks peavad Britid tugevalt muutma oma vaadet Euroopale. See on raske ülesanne, mis kestab vähemalt aastakümne. Sanktsioonide küsimuse koha pealt on liiga vara öelda, et need pole efektiivsed. Sanktsioonid on aeglase toimega, mitte kiire parandus. Ma ei usu, et Vene väed marsivad Narva sisse, kuid oht on reaalne. See oht seisneb selles, et Euroopa ning kogu ülejäänud maailm hakkab seda regiooni pidama ebastabiilseks. Eesti kaotab investeeringud ning lõpuks, aeglaselt kuid kindlameelselt, satuvad inimesed Vene mõjusfääri. Saab minu ülesandeks proovida vältida selle stsenaariumi tõeks saamist, saates välja positiivseid sõnumeid Eestist.

 6. Palun ennustage, kuidas jagunevad erakondade kandidaadid ning üksikkandidaadid Eesti kuue koha vahel Euroopa Parlamendis. 

 Ma ei taha teha mingeid ennustusi.


Debate on 10 May in Tartu
Marju Lauristin
Abdul Turay
Marianne Mikko
Toomas Alatalu

Your Host is Mihkel Raud 







USA saadik: “Ma tõesti tahtsin hipi olla”
Eesti Ekspress 13 märts 

Kui Venemaa näitab jälle muskleid, on paras aeg uurida, mis mees on USA suursaadik Eestis ja millised jõud on tema isikut vorminud. 

Eesti jaoks on hea uudis, et 59aastasele, kuid poisilikule USA suursaadikule Jeff Levine’ile “tõesti, tõesti meeldib Eesti”.

Halb uudis militaristidest eestlaste jaoks on, et Levine pole sõdalane. Südames on ta hipi, armastuse ja rahu inimene, “make love not war”- ja “väed Vietnamist välja”-mees.“Olen pisut liiga noor, et olla hipi, aga ma tõesti tahtsin hipi olla,” täpsustab Levine. “1970. aastal olin 15aastane. Punkarit minust ka enam ei saanud. Hipiliikumine oli viimane, mille ma omaks võtsin.”

Levine on väga meeldiv, avatud ja aus. Intervjuu kestel ei kao naeratus tema huulilt. Temaga rääkides tekib selge pilt, milline ta 1975. aastal võis olla – üsna samasugune nagu praegu, kuigi tal olid ilmselt pikemad juuksed ja võib-olla ka habe.

Levine on üks neist inimestest, kes justkui ei vananegi. Tema väärtused ja maailmapilt pole muutunud, ta on optimistlik ja pakatab energiast ning tal on põhjalikud teadmised tänapäeva popkultuurist.

Esimese põlve ameeriklane
Ilmselt on tähtsam see, et me meeldime USA suursaadikule ja diplomaatilisele korpusele üldisemalt. Selle sõnumi edastavad nad ka kodumaale. Just sellised mitteametlikud emotsionaalsed kontaktid tsementeerivad tugevaid liite.

Et mõista, miks Levine’ile “tõesti, tõesti meeldib Eesti”, tuleb vaadata tema tausta ja karjääri.Esiteks, tema etniline taust. Levine kirjeldab end kui esimese põlve ameeriklast. Tehniliselt on ta teise põlve ameeriklane, sest tema ema põgenes USAsse enne sõda Ungarist. Isa on samuti hiljutine immigrant Leedu-Valgevene piirkonnast. Levine jätab täpsustamata, millal see pool tema perest Ameerikasse jõudis. Ema sugulased, kes põgeneda ei jõudnud, langesid natside ohvriks. Levine kasvas üles jidiši- ja ungarikeelses keskkonnas. Tüüpilise teise põlve ameeriklasena on ta võitlev patrioot ning kippus lapsepõlves ja noorukieas oma juuri eitama.“Tahtsin assimileeruda nii palju kui võimalik ja muutuda täielikult ameeriklaseks. Isa poolt oli mul selles osas väga vähe mõju. Mul polnud endal [juurte vastu] huvi, kuni välisministeeriumis töötades tekkis ühel päeval võimalus Ungarisse tööle minna,” ütleb ta.

Nagu enamik teise põlve ameeriklastest tunneb temagi kaasa rahvusvähemustele ja toetab rahvuslikku mitmekesisust – see peegeldab ta enda tausta.

Levine sündis New Jerseys, kuid kasvas üles San Franciscos 60ndatel ja 70ndatel, mil see muutus vastandkultuuri keskuseks. Ta mäletab oma esimest armastuse suve.“Seal üles kasvades ma ei mõistnud, kui erilise kohaga on tegu: ülimalt kaunis, tolerantne ja loominguline. Alles sealt lahkudes sain aru, et ülejäänud maailm ja USA ei ole täpselt samasugune,” ütleb Levine.“Kui vaadata, kus said alguse hipide, naisõiguslaste, geide liikumised, siis need algasid või muutusid tugevaks just selles piirkonnas. Kõik sõltub sellest, kui tolerantsed ja avatud meelega on inimesed. See tõmbas ja tõmbab ligi tohutult ajupotentsiaali. See on tehnikatööstuse keskus. Käin seal ikka veel igal aastal.”Peruu plahvatused ja LahesõdaArvatakse, et diplomaadid elavad mugavat ja mõnusat elu, naudivad luksust, söövad kallites kohtades ning kohtuvad kuulsate ja ilusate inimestega. Kõik tahavad neile meeldida.Levine töötas 1980. aastail Peruus, kui Sendero Luminoso maoistlikud fanaatikud üritasid iga hinna eest teda ja kõiki ülejäänud kodanlasi õhku lasta.“Ükskord toimusid plahvatused kohas, kus ma nädal aega varem naisega olin käinud, viiel päeval järjest. Pärast kaht aastat sellises keskkonnas sa väsid. Olin rahul, et sain sealt tulema.”



Esimese Lahesõja ajal oli ta Egiptuses, kus valitses “pingeline olukord”.Tema viimatine lähetuspaik oli Ungari. Peresidemete tõttu oli ta meelsasti valmis sinna minema, kuid pidi ka pettuma.“Ungarlased on kulutanud palju aega minevikku vaatamisele, sest nad kaotasid sõja lõpus tüki oma riigist,” ütleb Levine. “Nad pole päriselt leppinud oma sõjaaegse tegevusega ja arusaamatul põhjusel pole ka suutnud üles ehitada tugevaid demokraatlikke institutsioone ega kehtestada head valitsemistava. Eestlased on üleminekuga palju edukamad, raiskamata liiga palju aega tagasivaatamisele.”Eesti on väga lahe koht elamiseksNiisiis on Eesti Levine’i jaoks meeldiv töökoht. Seda ihkavad kõik diplomaadid. Riik, kus on lihtne hakkama saada. Riik, mis on sarnane tema kodumaaga. Tagatipuks pole siin ka tapmisohtu.“Kultuuri mõttes on Eesti nendest riikidest, kus ma töötanud olen, kõige sarnasem USAga. Seda toetab inglise keele tase. See on väga lahe koht elamiseks.”

Levine’ile avaldab erilist muljet Eesti IT-kogukond. “Paljud eestlased veedavad rohkem aega Californias kui mina.”Eesti pole nii multikultuurne kui California, kuid Levine’i sõnul on ta siin kohanud vähem antisemiitlust.Levine on just seda tüüpi inimene, kellel tekivad inimeste ja kohtadega tugevad, elukestvad sidemed. See ei kehti sugugi kõigi diplomaatide kohta, nii nagu see ei kehti kõigi tavainimeste kohta.“Paljud välisteenistuse töötajad ei saa 20 või 30 aasta pärast enam aru, kus või mis on nende kodu,” selgitab Levine. “Mu keskkooliaegne parim sõber on endiselt mu parim sõber ja ta on ka Sacramento Bee arvamuskülje toimetaja. Mu sõbrad välisteenistusest on tõenäoliselt üle maailma ja üle USA laiali.”Pole oma väljendustes vabaLevine ei kavatsenud diplomaadiks saada. “

Läksin kolledžisse selge tulevikuplaanita, nagu paljud inimesed. Õppisin humanitaaraineid. Õppejõud ütlesid, et olen päris hea kirjutaja ja seetõttu sattusingi ajakirjandusse.”Levine oli päevalehe USA Today üks esimesi ajakirjanikke.“Tagasi vaadates on see hea kogemus, kuid tegelikult oli seal õudne töötada. Avastasin, et mulle ei meeldi halvad uudised. Kuid selleks, et meedias läbi lüüa, peavad halvad uudised sulle meeldima, nad peavad sind ümbritsema ja sind innustama. See polnud minu jaoks. Paari aasta pärast tahtsin juba midagi muud teha ja kui tekkis võimalus astuda välisteenistusse, oligi aeg küps,” räägib Levine avameelselt ajakirjanduse probleemidest

.Levine’i kultuuritarbimine peegeldab tema kasvatust.“Esimene plaat, mille ma ostsin, oli Janis Joplin, siis tulid Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Jesse Cohen Young.”Nüüd kuulab ta ka folk- ja indirokki: The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Islandi bänd Of Monsters and Men ja eestimaine Ewert and Two Dragons.Ta loeb moodsat ameerika kirjandust, mainides näiteks Jennifer Egani mittelineaarse narratiiviga rock-and-roll-romaani “A Visit from the Goon Squad”, ja samuti kriminulle.Endast rääkides on Levine väga siiras. Ilmselgelt on ta teinud välisteenistuses suurepärast karjääri, kuid möönab, et on pidanud seetõttu paljustki loobuma.“Olen enamiku oma täiskasvanupõlvest tundnud, et ma pole oma väljendustes vaba või pole saanud oma seisukohti välja öelda. Seda ei saa teha püstolreporter ja seda ei saa teha ka diplomaat,” tunnistab ta.“Saan aru, kuidas Facebookis paistab välja isegi see, kui ma midagi “laigin”, ja kuidas see võib vale mulje jätta. Isegi siis, kui ütlen, et teen seda eraisikuna, olen Eestis ikkagi ju suursaadikuna. On vähe asju, mida saan eraisikuna teha.”

 Ukraina kriisist: “See on kohutav!”Kui tõsiseks ohuks peate Venemaad Eestile?Ukraina situatsiooni valguses on käsitlus muutumas. Aga me ei näe seda ohuna, mis nõuaks täiendavat reaktsiooni lisaks NATO poolt garanteeritule.Mõned ütleksid, et Ukrainas on teistmoodi. Vene rahvas sai alguse Ukrainas. 

Mida arvate?Üks valdkondadest, kus oleme Venemaaga filosoofiliselt eriarvamustel, on mõttekäik, et Venemaa võib omada mõjusfääri. Et Venemaa peaks tohtima dikteerida, millised julgeolekugarantiid ja milliseid poliitilised suhted neil võivad olla. Meie arvame, et 21. sajandil on igal rahval õigus endal otsustada, kellega liidus olla, ning see kehtib ka Ukraina kohta.Mida arvate Putini tegevusest Krimmis?See on kohutav. Minu arvates on venelased tunginud teise riiki sisse. Keegi ei tea täpselt, kuidas see laheneb, kas nende eesmärgiks on territoorium või kaos Ukrainas, kuid 21. sajandil peab olema paremaid mooduseid. Venemaa peab aru saama, et ta ei saa dikteerida oma naabritele, mida need peavad tegema, ei saa kasutada ära fakti, et teistes riikides on vene vähemusi.Iga kord, kui Venemaa hakkab muskleid näitama, muutuvad inimesed närviliseks.

 Ka Eestis on väga suur venekeelne vähemus. Mida te veel saate eestlastele kinnitada, peale selle, et USA kaitseb oma liitlasi?Ma ei usu, et saaksin öelda midagi, mida pole veel öeldud. Eesti on NATO liige ja alliansi vundamendiks on artikkel 5, mis ütleb, et kui üht liiget rünnatakse, tulevad teised talle appi.USA võtab seda kohustust väga tõsiselt, eriti Eesti puhul, kes on olnud meie väga hea liitlane, panustades nii palju NATO julgeolekusse.Kõike, mida Eesti on teinud, hinnatakse, ja meie pühendumine artikkel 5-le on kindel. Mõistame, et saame vajadusel olla siin suurte jõududega ja jõuame siia kiiresti. Venemaa peaks seda mõistma. Kohustuse olemasolu iseenesest peaks ära hoidma selle elluviimise, kuid see on reaalne.Kas USA väed võiks paigutada Venemaa piiri äärde?Ma ei näe stsenaariumi, mille puhul see oleks lahendus. Urmas Reinsalu tõstatas selle küsimuse ja me hindame Eesti soovi.Kõigil oleks hea meel, kui uksel seisaks sõbralik valvur, kuid arvestades ohu tegelikku tõenäosust ja vajalikke ressursse, ei näe ma, et see võiks niisama juhtuda.Sõjaline sekkumine pole siis päevakorral?See ei tundu praegu tõenäoline. Ma ei saa kindlalt öelda, et seda ei juhtu, kuid praegu on fookuses diplomaatilised jõupingutused. Ma pole näinud midagi, mis viitaks sellele, et me kaaluks sõjalist sekkumist.On see liialdus, kui Eesti meedias räägitakse kolmandast maailmasõjast?Ma ei näe seda juhtumas, ükskõik kummalt poolt vaadata.







I really wanted to be a hippy
Interview with the US Ambassador Jeffrey Levine.
Published Eesti Ekpress 13 March

Most people believe that for security, Estonia must always look to the United States, not to Europe.

With Russia flexing its muscles again, now would be a good time to look at the U.S. Ambassador, to find out what kind of person he is, and what forces have shaped him.

The good news, for Estonia, is that Jeff Levine, the boyish, 59 year old US representative, to paraphrase Sally Field's Oscar infamous acceptance speech; " really, really, likes Estonia.""

The bad news, for hawkish Estonians, is Levine is not a warrior, at heart he is a hippy. Love and peace, man, make love not war, troops out of Vietnam, all of that.

"I am a bit too young to be a hippy, but I really wanted to be," Levine clarifies.

"I was 15 in 1970, I was never a punk. Hippy was the last movement I really embraced," he said.

Levine is a very amiable, open and honest. Through the whole interview he never stops smiling. Talking to him you get a clear sense of what he must have been like in 1975, pretty much like he is now, though he probably had longer hair and maybe a beard.

He is one of those people who doesn't appear to get old. His values and world view haven't changed. He is optimistic and energetic, and he has a sophisticated knowledge of contemporary pop culture.

This interview also contained a surprising twist, .... but we will come to that at the end.
First we discussed about the pressing issue of the day. (See side bar) What he says is pretty much party line. As you would expect him to say.

It is important the U.S ambassador, and the diplomat corp in general, should like us, and give us the thumbs up to the folk back home, it is these unwritten emotional bonds which are the real glue to strong alliances.

To understand why Levine “really really likes Estonia” you have to look at his background and his career.
Firstly there is his ethnic background. Levine described himself as 1st generation American. Technically he is 2nd generation, that is to say his mother fled Hungary before the war and became an American. His father's side is also of recent immigrant from the Lithuanian, Belarus, area. Levine is a little hazy about when this side of the family came to America . Those of his mother's family who didn't escape were killed by the Nazis. He grew up hearing Yiddish and Hungarian but as was typical of 2nd generations he is fiercely patriotic, and tended to reject his roots as a child and adolescence

"The focus was to assimilate as much as possible and become full American. On my father's side very little ethnic influence,” he said.

"(There was) no interest of my own, until I was in the State Department and at one point the opportunity to be the state officer for Hungary came up."

Like most 2nd Generationers, he is also very sympathetic to ethnic minorities and diversity, because this reflects his own background.

The same forces that shaped Liz Wahl, The Russia Today news anchor, who resigned in a live broadcast last week, also shaped Levine. Wahl is also a 2nd generationer of Hungarian descent.

Then there is the place he calls home.

Levine was born in New Jersey, but he grew up in San Francisco in the 60s and 70s when it became the epicentre of the counter-centre movement. He remembers the first summer of love. It is interesting to listen to him talk about it. Even when he is talking ad hoc it is like a speech; beautiful parallel structures.

"Growing up there you don't realise what a unique area it is until you leave. Uniquely beautiful, uniquely tolerant and uniquely creative and all of that. You have got to leave to recognise that the rest of World and the rest of the United States is not exactly like that."

"If you look at where the Hippy movement, the women's movement and gay liberation movement started, all the social movements started in this area or really took hold in that area."

"It has a lot to do with how tolerant and open-minded the people are, it attracts and is attracting tremendous brain wealth. It is the centre of the tech industry. I still get back there every year."

"It is where I want to end up it is, where I have always known I will end up."

Finally there is his career in the State Department. People assume being a diplomat is an comfortable and easy life. Diplomats get to live in luxury, eat well, meet famous and beautiful people. Everybody courts their favour.

Levine was Peru in the 80s when Maoist fanatics the Shining Path tried their damnedest to blow him and all members of the bourgeoisie to smithereens.

"One week, places were my wife and I had been a week earlier were blown up five nights in a row.

"After two years of living in that kind of environment it does get to you. I was pleased to be leaving," Levine said.

Then he was in Egypt in the first Gulf war.

"It was a tense environment to be there."

Levine, last assignment was Hungary. He was keen to serve because of his family background but there were frustrations.

"The Hungarian have had a much more difficult transition, they have spent much more time looking backwards to the territory that they lost at the end of the First World War.

"They have not done a very good job in coming to terms with their activities in the Second World War and for whatever reason, they haven't been able to move to strong democratic institutions and good governance."

"The Estonians have been far more successful in their transition and not spent too much time looking backwards."

So for Levine, Estonia is the cushy number all diplomats look forward to, finally. A country similar to his own in terms of get up and go, language, and institutions. Plus there are no chance of being blown up.

"In terms of culture it is the closest to the United States in any country I have served in and certainly the level of English adds to that. It's a very easy place to live."

Levine is particularly impressed with the IT community here.

"There are a lot of Estonians, who spend more time in California than I do

He plans to stay in touch with the tech people when he leaves the region.

"They are such a fascinating bunch and they are doing so much."

Estonia is not as diverse as California, but Levine says he has encountered less anti-Semitism in Estonia than in any other assignment, he also says something else very interesting, but more of that when we come to the twist.

Levine is the type of person who forms strong life long emotional ties with people and places. This is not true of all diplomats, as it is not true of all people.

"At lot of people, in the foreign service after 20 or 30 years really don't have that sense of home any more," he said.

"My best friend in high school is still my best friend and he is actually the editorial page editor for the Sacramento Bee.

“My foreign service friends are likely all over the world and all over the United States."

Levine didn't plan to be a diplomat. His background was in journalism, he didn't plan that either.

"I went into college like at lot of people not quite sure what I was doing.

"I was taking a lot of humanities courses, professors commented I was a pretty decent writer that sort of moved me into journalism as a profession."

He was on the founding staff of USA Today.

"Looking back I enjoyed the experience but it really was a terrible place to work. So at the end of two years I was really interested doing something else, so when the opportunity came up to join the foreign service came at the right time.”

Levin talks candidly about the flaws in the media.

"I came to discover about myself that I really don't like bad news and to be highly successful in the media you got to like bad news and be surrounded by in and intrigued by it. It just wasn't me."

Levine's cultural tastes reflect his upbringing. Mostly he likes rock music.

"The first album I ever bought was Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the holy company, Jefferson Airplane was there. The Grateful Dead, Jesse Cohen Young."

Now he listens to folk and indie rock bands, The Lumineers, Mumford and Son, Icelandic band, Of Monsters and Men and our own, Ewert and Two Dragons.

He reads modern American fiction. He mentions "A visit from the goon squad" by Jennifer Egan, a rock and roll book with a non-linear narrative, and mystery novels.

When he is talking about himself, Levin is most candid. Clearly he has had a great career in the foreign service but he admits it has come at a price.

"I felt that for most of my adult life I haven't been free to express myself or express my own opinions.

“Because you don't get to do it as a street reporter and you don't get to do it as a diplomat.

"Even now I am aware of what it would look like on even if I like something on Facebook. I am aware of what it could look like if it were skewed, I am still in Estonia as an ambassador, there is very little I can do in a personal capacity.

"After I have done all this, the ability to speak freely and the ability to comment is something I am looking forward to."

It is at this point the interview took its surprising twist. As a former journalist it turns out the ambassador was just as interested in me as I was in him.

Suddenly I was the one being interviewed. Some of what we discussed I can't write, let's just say he was interested in all sides of the arguments about Ukraine.

He asked me about how and why I came to Estonia, if I liked it, about my election to Volikogu and about my candidacy for the European Parliament. The US ambassador seemed genuinely excited about the prospect of an visibly different, ex-pat, representing Estonia at an international level.

"It was great to see you here and it was great to see you wanting to be involved, it was great to see you being elected," he said.

I was really pleased, it is a testament to the Estonians.”

"There is not a lot of diversity here compared to the rest of the World. It would be great to have Estonia as a cosmopolitan city that attracted people from all over the World."




Side Bar

The party line

On America commitment to Estonia.

How big a threat do you consider Russia to Estonia?

Perception are changing with the situation in the Ukraine. We don't see it as the kind of threat that needs addition reaction other than what is guaranteed by NATO.(ed note Since this interview the US has sent troops to Estonia as have other NATO nations)

Some people would said Ukraine is a different case. The Russian nation was founded in Ukraine. What do you think?

One of the areas of disagreement that we have had with Russia philosophically is this idea that Russia should be allowed to have a sphere of influence. The Russia should be allowed to dictate what kind of security relations they can have, what kind of political relationship they can have. And our position has been that in the 21st century every nation has the right to decide its alliances and this applies in the Ukraine as well.

What do you think of Putin's actions in the Crimea?

(They are) awful. I think the Russians have invaded another country. Nobody knows exactly how it will be play out, whether they are after territory, after chaos in the Ukraine, but the 21st Century there have to be better ways. And Russia has to understand that it can't dictate to its neighbours and can't use the fact that there are Russian communities in these countries.

Whenever Russia starts to flex it muscles people start getting nervous because of the history of the region and because Estonia has a very large Russian-speaking minority. What assurances can you give, beyond what has already been said that America is standing behind its ally?

I don't think there is anything that I can say that hasn't been said already.
Estonia is a NATO ally and the bedrock of the alliance is Article 5 which says that if one country is attacked all the other countries will come to its aid.

And America takes this commitment very seriously, especially with a country like Estonia that has been such a good ally, has done so much to contribute to the security of the alliance. Everything they have done is appreciated and our commitment to Article 5 is solid, we understand we have the capability to be here large, and be here, fast.

Russia's understanding of this commitment should prevent it from ever becoming a necessity but it is very real.

How about placing U.S. Troops at the border?

I don't see a scenario where that would be a solution. (Urmas) Reinsalu raised the issue, we appreciate Estonia's desire to have a U.S. Security presence. Everybody would like a friendly guard at their front door, but given the real threat, plus national resources I can't see it happening in any routine sense.

Military intervention is off the table then?

It is currently nothing that looks very attractive. I can't say concretely that it can't happen. But right now the focus is on diplomatic efforts. I haven't seen anything that say we are considering military action.

So when some people in the Estonian press start talking about World War III that is an exaggeration?

I don't see it on the cards, on either side.

On the Snowden revelations that America spied on its allies.

How can America rebuild trust with Europe after spying on them?

Snowden definitely been problematic. President Obama has been so committed to a transparent style of government. Our response for years was we don't comment on intelligence matters and this really changed that dynamic and changes the conversation.

So the President was willing to speak. Just because we are bigger at it or better at it doesn’t change the dynamic, “let's talk about it”, but it is not a public discussion. He has not said we will not use our intelligence assets. We are not going to say that we are going to stop doing, but he did say just because we can do it does it mean we should do it.

We are sharing those changes with the people who need to know. We do understand that this was unsettling to the European public, the American public and national leaders. This generated a discussion everywhere. But there is no evidence, because non exists, that any part of this intelligence was used in an oppressive way. It was really being done in an intelligence sense. It was never done for economic benefit, or industrial espionage.

It was done because the intelligence did offer protection especially in the counter terrorism world. That there was a security benefit to the United States.

Many other countries have this capability and none of those countries has stepped forward and said we are not going to do it either.

One thing to spy on enemies, another friend?

Certainly where it has been most problematic,

So no reassurance to European allies?

In a general sense, No. More of an attempt to explain how and what was being done.

On the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Protocol (T-TIP)which the United States is currently driving for.

Some people say T-TIP is nothing to do with trade, is about U.S. companies being able to sue national government for lost profits.

The T-TIP is trying to deal with the two large bureaucratic systems, at the core of that is coming to agreement of common standards, we will either harmonise what we require of industry or accept each other certification.

It says “if is cleared in America we will accept it is Europe, it is cleared in Europe we will accept it in America.” That is hard to do. I don't think it a attempt to take advantage of the other system.

So is not about forcing GM foods on countries that don't want them?

NO. T-TIP is no directed at any one industry or one product, it is just a way to make trade easier.





Social Democrats are solid as a rock
Published Postimees 17 February 2014

When I raised the issue of Russian language education to a young man I know, he took his glasses off, paused for a second, then he started to rant. He was talking so fast in English I couldn't take it all in.

“If Russians want to live in Estonia they should learn our language and there could be no compromise”

This was the gist of what he said. I haven't heard anybody shout like that about politics since the 1990s.

Education funding has been in the news a lot lately. But of the three issues, the mergers of schools, the drying up for funding to private schools, and funding to the Russian language Vene Lyceum, it is clearly the third that causes most passion.

So it was that the deputy mayor responsible for education, Mihhail Kõlvart, faced a vote of no confidence in the City council last week.

He was always going to win. The Centre party have an absolute majority, and what they say, goes.

The attempt to impeach him was led by the two right-wing parties IRL and Reform Party. Whereas they seemed firm in their resolve to fight corruption and stand up for Estonian culture and language, my party, the Social Democrats, said one thing one day, and then another a few days later.

Just a week before the vote the Social Democrats announced they were not going to join the vote of no confidence.

Within days Riigikogu member, and head of the Tallinn party, Rainer Vakra announced that he was sure that the majority of the faction would support the vote. Then the faction announced that it was for the Russian Lyceum, but against Kõlvart himself.

It seemed like we were floating in the wind. Well it didn't go down that.

Let me tell you what really happened.

I sit in Tallinn city council, two weeks ago we met up with Kõlvart. At that meeting he said decisions on education were political and he would have done things differently. He denied all responsibility for bad actions, but he was careful not to mention the mayor, Edgar Savisaar. The fact this meeting took place and what was said is no secret.

Kõlvart then announced a couple of days later to the press, that education was his remit and he, not Savisaar, was responsible for everything. This much you may know.

Here's what you don't know, two days before the vote, the party met with Kõlvart again.

This time it was not just the city council faction, or the party leadership, the entire active party membership, everybody and anybody who was interested, were there. There were a few well known people at that meeting; three Riigikogu members, but most were just ordinary party members, both ethnic and Russian-speaking Estonians, who were just interested in the issues. They were angry they had been lied to.

We all sat down in a room too small to hold 40 people and drilled Kõlvart for close to an hour.

To be fair to Kõlvart, it was brave of him to show up. I can't imagine Savisaar putting up with such an interrogation.

“How much money was going into the Lyceum precisely?”

“How many students are there, how many students will there be?”

“What were the subjects they were studying?”

“Why is the Lyceum outside the school system?”

“Can you prove the money is going for the intended purpose and not for something else?

“You don't need us, so why are you here?”

After he left, we discussed the issues for another couple of hours, then we took a vote. Readers will understand social democrat members are not fanatically anti-Russian, but still we draw the line at Kõlvart's shenanigans. It was an an almost unanimous decision. Kõlvart wasn't exactly lying but he was not telling the whole truth. We didn't even believe that the money for the Lyceum was really being used for that purpose.

We voted to support the vote of no confidence. It was in this way, and for these reasons that our faction voted the way it did last Thursday.

This was a decision from the bottom up not from the top down. A decision made by ordinary party members and therefore by ordinary Estonians.

We were taking a risk making this decision because the Russian press could spin it that the social democrats are against Russians.

Whilst the Reform Party ad IRL, would get the glory from Estonian nationalists for taking this action. And it was all kind of pointless. Kõlvart was always going to win in the end.

I am even taking a risk writing this article because up until now, I've avoided writing from a party line, even after I got involved in politics myself.

But it was the right decision, a democratic decision, made by a democratic party. It was also a decision made by looking at the evidence and looking at the man behind it. I am pretty sure that Kõlvart did not discuss things with the IRL and Reform party membership.

The IRL have made a huge deal out of fighting the nationalist cause. They even got the central city administrative council (the borough level administrative council that approve planning permissions, school long term planning, etc) to endorse the no confidence vote, contrary to its remit.

But if the IRL really are “keeping an eye on things” where the hell were they!?”

When it came time to vote, half of the IRL faction were missing.

Either they were angry at Reform for stealing the glory, or it was lack of discipline by the leadership, or just plain apathy. It wouldn't have made any difference to the final vote, but it does show the IRL are not what they seem.



We were there, and we voted against Kõlvart for all the right reasons. Social democrats are not floating in the wind, we were steady as a rock, and the rock was the party membership. I know, I was there.