Kihnu Island, Estonia 6-9 September
Excitement grew among ESIN representatives to the 5-day 2022 AGM event as they travelled by plane, train, bus and ferry from eight European member countries to the island of Kihnu, off the southwestern coast of Estonia in the Gulf of Riga of the Baltic Sea. The island has an area of 16.4 km2 and population of about 650 which swells dramatically in the summer months.
Kihnu has a very rich cultural history and is included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It is a living culture and delegates were entranced by the handicrafts, cooking, music, dancing, and folk costumes. Included in the island tour were visits to local fish processing plants – Kihnu is historically rooted in seafaring and fishing activities – and woodworking enterprises. Highlights were the workshops on handicrafts as well as folk dancing. The busy day was polished off with a banquet of local dishes with dancing and singing late into the night. The colourful traditional clothing worn for the dance as well as the bright and multi-coloured buildings were a pleasure to see and left the visitors impressed.
The following day the ESIN AGM conference discussed “Island Policies and Habitability.” Christian Pleijel presented an overview of the concept of habitability factors in determining the strengths and weaknesses of islands with regard to their future success. Christian’s colleagues, Pia Prost (vice-Chair of ESIN) and Rose Marie Hellen then led an excellent workshop and presentation on determining habitability.
After a sumptuous lunch, academics, politicians, island cognoscenti and civil servants working on Island Policies elaborated on existing and planned policy documents The speakers, from Ireland, Scotland, Estonia and Croatia outlined the basis of their countries policies and, in some cases, Acts of government. There were similarities – for example, all agreed that islands are an important part of their country’s heritage, integral to the fabric of rural life.
Islands need to be considered differently to the mainland and “one side does not fit all” in terms of creation and implementation of policies. Core services such as access, communications, transport, education, potable water supply and electricity creation and supply to name a few must all be looked at considering island circumstances. More and more, islands must become even greener, more self-sufficient places and must be supported in their efforts to progress through policy creation and implementation.
The AGM included the election of officers to the Board including the unanimous re-election of John Walsh (Ireland, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann) as Chair. Also unanimously elected were the Vice-Chair for the Atlantic region Camille Dressler(Scotland, SIF – Scottish Islands Federation) and Pia Prost for the Northern Islands (Finland, The Archipelago Institute, FÖSS). A vice-chair from the Mediterranean region will be determined at a later date while Anetté Johansson of the National Association for the Swedish Archipelago was also unanimously re-elected Treasurer. Rhoda Twombly of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann will continue as Secretary.
The Board of ESIN would like to sincerely thank Riina Kaljulaid (ESIN delegate from Estonia) and her entire team, the caterers, dancers and musicians plus all those who made this event such a success. The welcome, organization, tours and cultural events were outstanding and we appreciate the hard work expended on our behalf. Well done to all!