“Estonia, digital champion”, on France 2: diving into the Baltic State, where tradition competes with digital expertise

Lunar, the exchange between the former Minister of Education Luc Ferry and the former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit on the LCI set, March 3 – one confusing the Baltic States with the Balkan countries, the other, not denying that there would be four -, will have had the merit of demonstrating one thing: less than two months before the European elections, a visit to Estonia, a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004, in first line against Russia, cannot be superfluous

“Estonia, digital champion”, on France 2: diving into the Baltic State, where tradition competes with digital expertise

Lunar, the exchange between the former Minister of Education Luc Ferry and the former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit on the LCI set, March 3 – one confusing the Baltic States with the Balkan countries, the other, not denying that there would be four -, will have had the merit of demonstrating one thing: less than two months before the European elections, a visit to Estonia, a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004, in first line against Russia, cannot be superfluous.

The magazine “We, the Europeans” made a stopover in the small country of 1.3 million inhabitants, located on the shores of the Baltic. A land of contrasts, between tradition and modernity. Starting point, the island of Kihnu: a confetti of around 16 square kilometers, an hour by ferry from the Estonian coast, unreachable when the ice grips the sea.

Special feature: here, it is the women who decide. A custom remaining from the time when men went fishing at sea. A cultural heritage classified as UNESCO Heritage in 2008. At school, children learn the Kihnu dialect. The girls practice knitting, the boys practice making fishing nets. But soon they will return to the continent, leaving behind an aging population, which questions its future.

The merits of the “e-nation”

On the continent, Tallinn, the capital, offers another face: a super-connected tech city, like a country often presented as the European digital champion. Estonia is not only the first country in the world to have tested electronic voting, in 2005, during general elections. Health is largely digitalized there. Each resident has an account to make an appointment or view their prescriptions.

There we meet Martin Villig, co-founder of the company Bolt, specializing in shared mobility, which already allows you to order a taxi on your smartphone, and who has just developed an application allowing you to rent a car by the minute, like a scooter. A more sustainable solution, he says, because “a shared car is used by eight to ten different people every day,” while an individual car “stays parked 90% of the time.”

Economist and former President of the Republic Kersti Kaljulaid, in office from 2016 to 2021, extols the merits of the “e-nation”, which has reduced bureaucracy for its inhabitants. And it is intended to be reassuring: if, since 2022 and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the number of cyberattacks launched against Estonian administrations and businesses has exploded, the country has been able to cope with them, thanks to its skills in cybersecurity matters.

These attempts at destabilization are no longer surprising. Independent since 1991, the Baltic state has never stopped considering its Russian neighbor as a threat, recalls Major General Veiko-Vello Palm. In the last part of the show, young conscripts talk about their daily lives. They are preparing to spend three days in the forest, in the middle of winter. Every year, 4,000 Estonians do military service. In the event of war, they are the ones who will be called upon to fight.