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Estonians for Europe

National Activism for European Integration, 1922–1991


Pauli Heikkilä

Estonians for Europe provides a unique insight into nearly eighty years of the history surrounding European unification. Concentrating on Estonian aspirations for an integrative organization in international relations, the book illustrates a number of parallels and differences between commonly held narratives of twentieth-century European history.
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Chapter 5. The Disintegrating 1930s

← 74 | 75 → CHAPTER 5


Tõnisson and Pusta in Geneva in September 1931

The Estonian discussion on European unification may have been triggered by contemporary events but it touched the fundamental elements regarding the issue of nation-building. Furthermore, this discussion of a cultural dimension (meaning of borders, history, relations between nations) was expanded from the ideological discussion to a practical method aimed at promoting unification in the League of Nations. When the Study Commission met in September 1931, Estonian Foreign Minister Jaan Tõnisson detached the question of European unification from political and economic issues onto “the basis of comprehensions and convictions”, to use the expression of Postimees.1

First of all, Tõnisson was not going to hide the enormous challenges of this undertaking. He discerned two sides in European unification and economic consolidation had advanced recently since the worst of depression. “The adjustment of the economic interests of Europe” was nevertheless insufficient on its own but required support from the ideological sphere “to restore complete harmony between the various nations”. Due to an outdated “notion of an absolute and exclusive sovereignty”, economic sanctions were considered a bigger threat to national ideals than to material income. This, according to Tõnisson, formed the greatest burden for international development.2

Tõnisson wanted “to bring about an evolution of theoretical notions” and promote “the advent of a new form of public law which will be really European”. To achieve this goal, he proposed that the Commission would ← 75 | 76 → invite...

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