Interregional Study Visit in Estonia Within Coop4RuralGov Project

In the period of 7th to 10th of May an interregional study visit focused on good practices of rural development was organized in the regions of Tartu and Tallinn, Estonia within the Coop4RuralGov project, under the Interreg Europe Programme. Partners and stakeholders from the four participating countries, Bulgaria, Estonia, Ireland, and Spain, took part in it.

The participants first visited Mesi Tare Site which is located in the village of Old Believers village of Varnja on the shore of Lake Peipus. The Site is offering guests accommodation in an authentic Old Believers’ home and different seasonal activities. The host family welcomed the participants, explained about local traditions and life, and showed them around.

The partners of the project Coop4RURALGov also visited the Old Believers Museum. A newly renovated museum in the village of Old Believers village of Kolkja offers visitors an insight into the lives, customs, and beliefs of the Russian Old Believers, who settled in the area more than 300 years ago.

The project participants shared good practices at Alatskivi Castle. This is a fairy-tale castle on the eastern border of Estonia that dates back to the 17th century. It was rebuilt in the late 19th century by Baron Arved von Nolcken, modeled on the royal residence of Balmoral in Scotland. The Castle links three completely different cultures: the Scottish culture, which is expressed in the architecture of the castle, the Estonian peasantry as people who lived and worked in the castle and land of the estate, and a German nobility representing aristocracy and old German traditions. In the castle, partners and stakeholders took part in a seminar focused on regional programs specifically designed for this region. Local citizens and stakeholders described the overall structure and ideas behind these regional programs. Additionally, best practices from beneficiaries were introduced.

Another part of the event was dedicated to good practices and policy learning activities on the topic: How we support Estonian rural development through digitalization, e.g. knowledge-based regional policy design and rural proofing e-desktop. During that part, participants were introduced to digitalization and digital tools that provide valuable information to policymakers. Ms Kadri Koel from the Agricultural Registers and Information Board shared their experiences, tools, and visions to support rural development through digital tools.  Additionally, “My Municipality” tool was presented. The goal of this platform is to better support local governments’ services all over Estonia, providing extensive information on 20 different criteria and assessments for each Estonian municipality.

Ms. Krista Habakukk and Ms. Marianne Ubaleht gave an overview of the initiative “Day of Living in the Countryside”. The purpose of this day is to open the doors of municipalities to active and bright people to help them find a suitable place to live in the countryside.

The event was finished in Toompea Castle (Estonian Parliament building), where some interesting good practices at national level targeting at rural regions were shared. Topics were: How to support rural development through creating a positive knowledge-based interaction between regional actors, different ministries, Cabinet Office, and parliamentary committees.