No. 25




Estonia-Finland Transnational Space: Possibilities and Risks

14 June 2012


RiTo No. 25, 2012

  • Mari-Liis Jakobson

    Mari-Liis Jakobson

    Associate Professor of Political Sociology, Tallinn University

  • Leif Kalev

    Leif Kalev

    Professor of Political Studies, Tallinn University

  • Rein Ruutsoo

    Rein Ruutsoo

    Tallinn University, Professor of Political Theory

This year’s population census and several initiatives have brought the people who have left Estonia after the restoration of independence to public attention.

Most researches have focused on the number of emigrants or potential emigrants, and on how to attract people to return. Due to the great difference in the standards of living, attracting to return has greatly remained rhetoric and in many European countries there are quite large communities of Estonian emigrates. The article introduces one part of the recently completed collaborative project TRANS-NET, financed by the European Commission – analysis of the Estonia/Finland transnational space.

There is no point in regarding the established situation only as a situation of emergency because it also contains possibilities. During the last decade, research of transnationalism has emerged in the social sciences. Globalisation or reducing the impact of geographical and social restrictions also means that people are more and more connected with several places of residence, keeping old and establishing new connections, and working in several countries. It is possible to maintain relations with people across the border. The problem is how well we know these possibilities, and what we are ready for ourselves. Estonia and Finland are at the same time close and also different countries. This has brought along a kind of functional differentiation, with one country having one set of possibilities and limitations, and the other country the other, and the operator in the transnational space has the possibility of compiling a satisfactory package of them.

On the other hand, to a certain extent such differentiation has also made the transnational space a space of unequal possibilities. A successful state needs a strategy for cross-border governing. As the research showed, Finland in many ways already has it – they are able to use Estonia as an extension of their labour market and economy, to engage in negotiations with their diaspora, etc. However, Estonia has great many possibilities for improving its position. Instead of ignoring the issue of emigration or simple attracting-to-return schemes, we need a more carefully planned policy of transnationalism that takes into account the real situation of these people. Purposeful work is required to use the possibilities of transnationalism successfully. It is an important and so far quite little used resource of development tiny Estonia has in the globalising world.

Full article in Estonian