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LMC 2020

Man Plans, and God Laughs

What you have just opened was initially planned as the printed special edition of Diplomaatia (the ICDS’s foreign and security policy magazine), to be given to you on 15 May 2020 at the opening of the 14th Lennart Meri Conference, entitled “My Neighbour’s Problem Today – Mine Tomorrow”.

Eeva Eek-Pajuste

Former Director of the Lennart Meri Conference

New reality. Estonia, currently holding the presidency of the UN Security Council, mobilised an innovative and worldwide reflection on the lessons learned from the Second World War on 8 May 2020, and confirmed Estonia’s image as a digital frontrunner whose contribution to the global cyber domain far exceeds the country’s small size. Photo: Raigo Pajula / Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia

The title, inspired by Horatius’ maxim, nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet (you too are in danger, when your neighbour’s house is on fire), contains a slight dash of prophecy. The conference initially aimed to focus on various aspects of isolationism in these times when local has become global and vice versa. Even if countries try to isolate themselves from global challenges, the problems find a way into their back yards anyway, so isn’t it more rational to take up arms against them together? The main theme of the conference was intended to raise awareness, but we were too late. Our neighbours’ dangers entered our domain before the conference had time to discuss them, and from an unforeseen direction.

What has Covid-19 taught us? Perhaps the first lesson to learn is about the fragility of the upper layer of solidarity, civilisation and common values in the face of a crisis that does not recognise borders. The basic instinct for us as nations is still from the perspective of Stone Age man, trying to save himself and find shelter, with no wider view. We saw this in the restrictions on medical deliveries within the EU, from Poland’s unannounced border closures, and from competition with each other for supplies; all these minor steps mark a significant erosion of the EU and its legacy. And yet we are united, and only in a coordinated way can we fight the malevolent aspect of globalisation: the pandemic.

There will be much to discuss during the conference, which will now take place on 14–16 May 2021. How will the EU, NATO and our common security system emerge from the crisis? Can the UN grasp the opportunity or will it fail to take the lead in tackling global crises? What sort of United States will we see after its presidential elections? How will Russia and China position themselves under new the circumstances?

I dearly hope that mankind can learn the lessons in a progressive way, won’t make decisions based on instincts, and won’t take a U-turn in the cycle of civilisation. The 2021 Lennart Meri Conference will do its best to help keep the discussion going, to analyse the situation and to promote new ideas and viewpoints. For now, the current virtual edition of Diplomaatia is a little appetiser and food for thought: Diplomaatia Lennart Meri Conference Special Edition May 2020 (PDF)

I’d like to end with the words of a young Ukrainian poet, Irena Pavliuk:

Travelling seas
As you keep your eyes open
Powers the intellect, powers the soul,
Having no fear of depth to be trodden,
Treating your country as part of the Whole.

The Estonian word for “sea” is Meri.

See you in Tallinn in May 2021.

This article was published in the Lennart Meri Conference special edition May 2020 of ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.