The purpose of the Estonian National Defence Course (ENDC) is to introduce Estonia’s security, foreign and defence policies, as well as its broad-based national defence concept, to an audience of Estonian politicians, senior state officials and members of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), local government officials, top economic and opinion leaders, cultural and educational practitioners, journalists and NGOs. Subsequently, it is hoped that ENDC participants will contribute by familiarizing the broader society with these policies, thereby enhancing cooperation and social cohesion in the field of national defence.
ENDC in its present form was first held in November 1999. It was modelled after similar courses that had been offered in Finland as early as 1961. In the framework of Finnish-Estonian national defence cooperation (the so-called Viro projekti, or “Estonian project”), the Finns helped to organise pilot courses in Helsinki and in Tallinn in 1998 and in 1999. To date, some 1,500 people have passed the biannual course. Its current name – the Estonian National Defence Course – was adopted as part of the 2001 action plan of the Public Affairs Department of the Estonian Ministry of Defence (MoD), which also included the organisation of regular shorter-term and less extensive courses for smaller audiences (county governors, teachers, police officers, etc.). Participants in the ENDC represent a cross-section of society, more specifically the part of society that should and must have detailed knowledge of Estonia’s foreign, security and defence policies, specifically the organisational structure of national defence and of the EDF — the areas that the ENDC was set up to teach. So far, it quite successfully fulfilled this mission
Since 2004, the course has been held in the Roosta Holiday Village in Lääne County. The village provides the best fit with the course’s strategic objectives – it is located far enough from Tallinn and other large cities; it offers sufficient facilities for plenary and group sessions; and its accommodation — small cabins in the forest — is particularly suitable for the course, as staying in a hotel/dormitory for a strenuous week-long course could frustrate high-quality work efforts.
The course is held twice a year – in spring and in autumn. The ENDC curriculum starts with general areas and then moves on to cover more specific issues.
A presentation or a lecture usually lasts for 30-40 minutes, followed by 10-15 minutes for a Q&A session and a short break.
The curriculum contains the following components:
|1||General subjects (the interconnectedness of war, society and culture; security issues in a global context; the EU; NATO)||13.6%|
|2||New age of warfare (cyber, energy and information wars)||6.8%|
|3||Threats to Estonia||4.5%|
|4||Foreign and security policy||10.2%|
|5||National defence policy||10.2%|
|6||Military national defence (the EDF, the National Defence League, services)||19.3%|
|10||Academic introduction and opening||3.6%|
|11||Support activities (a demonstration of the equipment used by the EDF and the Ministry of Social Affairs, a film night, a quiz)||3.5%|
The schedule has followed this pattern for many years, with additional contributions in terms of scope from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior. Of course, new topics have also been incorporated into the curriculum. In recent years, the academic component of the course (lectures, group work and seminars) has comprised 43-46 hours.
Speakers at the ENDC are exclusively high-ranking leaders – the president of Estonia, the prime minister, other ministers, senior state officials and leading experts in specific areas, many of whom come from abroad.
In addition to lectures, course participants take part in group work with the purpose of solving assignments on security and national defence. Participants are also offered a unique opportunity visiting EDF units at different services and different locations.
The course is held under the Chatham House rule which has given – and ideally will continue to give – speakers additional flexibility in treating various issues. It also helps to decrease the use of bureaucratese which, in its turn, contributes to the creation of a more open and informal atmosphere even when discussing the most complex topics.
The number of course participants usually ranges between 45 and 50. The organising team has the right to decide who can participate in the course.
The ENDC is held in English and in Estonian. Participation in the six-day long course, along with accommodation and catering, is free for all participants. Successful graduates receive a diploma.
Example of the program.