Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bid to Join Europe's Club Puts Estonia on the Map Public Relations Assault Awakens Diplomats and Mapmakers to the Tiny Baltic Democracy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bid to Join Europe's Club Puts Estonia on the Map Public Relations Assault Awakens Diplomats and Mapmakers to the Tiny Baltic Democracy

Article excerpt

A veritable knowledge explosion has taken place in Brussels recently regarding Estonia. And the Estonian Mission to the European Union has the numbers to show it.

"It used to be that in the European Commission there were only 50 people or so who knew what Estonia was. Or where," says a mission official who asked that his name not be used. "Now there are at least 200."

He pauses to reconsider his estimate of the earlier figure. "I think 50 may be too high. I don't think it was quite 50 before."

This Baltic republic's relentless campaign for a place on the list of prospective new members of the European Union appears to have paid off. Estonia, one of the dark-horse candidates for entry, is one of five East European countries recommended for membership. It also is the first prospective member that used to be part of the Soviet Union itself, and not just the Soviet bloc.

Knowledge is power

To make their case, the Estonians have produced 2,000 pages of documentation on their country, and answered a lot of questions again and again. "People were so surprised: Are you really so advanced? Is your economy really so liberalized?" the mission official says.

The Estonians are clearly thrilled to be on the list, and the Commission's written opinion on their prospects for membership is being translated into Estonian and widely read on the Internet. The mission official catches himself before calling it a "bestseller," but says, "A lot of people have been looking at this document."

In times past, this official goes on, many maps of Europe left Estonia off. The place where Estonia should have appeared was often occupied with an inset box giving the map's legend instead. But that has changed. "All the newspapers ... have produced very nice maps, with Estonia in the right place."

The official finds a reassuring precedent in the case of two of his neighbors. As recently as the early 1990s, he says, a Commission map of Europe showed Finland identified as Sweden, and vice versa. Since 1995, both countries have been members of the EU - and correctly identified on the maps. …

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