All good things …

Posted: January 10th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: personal, thoughts | No Comments »

Close to 20 years ago I started my Bachelor studies at Concordia International University Estonia Law School. Frank Emmert was the dean and I was 18 and fresh out of school. This is a very short story of the two decades at what is now TalTech Law School and where my employment ends, for now, on Tuesday, 14 January.

I had chosen CIUE mainly because I was interested in law as general education that gives a wide view of the world, and I did not want to get the same education as 99% of Estonia’s lawyers have (i.e. University of Tartu). I wanted something different, something more modern and cosmopolitan. At the same time, going abroad to study in a Bachelor program was going to be difficult and expensive (though I tried, but failed to get into SSE Riga).

Concordia was special. The faculty and the spirit of the school was something more substantial than the slightly worn Viimsi campus led to think. It tried to aim higher and made you try harder, and I am still relying on the argumentation, critical thinking and writing skills I learned there, alongside with a good understanding of law, especially international and European Union law (and the stark contrast in style between the local and international faculty!). I studied international and European Union law in English with brilliant international faculty and Estonian law by leading local faculty members and practitioners.

Concordia was sadly too good to last: it ended in bitter bankruptcy; probably making such an ambitious thing work in Estonia was impossible. And at some point, the academic limitations of a small private university become too much to bear. Weirdly, I missed the bankruptcy itself, because I went on an exchange traineeship in Hamburg during Winter 2003, so it really happened that when I returned from Germany after three months, there was no longer a university to return to.

The intellectual contents of the Law School were saved by another private university, which was almost an opposite of CIUE. It was Audentes University, where academic quality was not the main aim. It was a great and difficult struggle to try to uphold academic standards we were used to, while at the same time trying to sustain the Law School financially. At the lowest point, the whole Law School was located in a single classroom at the old school building of Audentes.

I finished my Bachelor studies at Audentes University in 2005 and also became involved in the administration of the Law School as the assistant of the Dean and current Director of TalTech Law School Tanel Kerikmäe, who had played a great part in saving what was left of the faculty and intellectual property of the university. Tanel has done so much good to legal education and research in Estonia, but as we were always an underdog challenging the dominant university, these efforts were rarely, if ever, recognised.

So, in my 20s, I was helping to write curricula for the law programmes at the law school, which received almost nothing but praise from international accreditation teams. I also did other things to help the Law School to develop and started slowly teaching, first alongside Tanel, then alone. We were getting better, and hired new people. Of course, I had received no training in lecturing, but after years of practice, including going out in the middle of harsh Winter to teach at the Jõhvi branch that we eventually closed down, I think I became quite good at it.

Audentes University, after a few turbulent years and rebranding as International University Audentes, eventually merged with Tallinn University of Technology (the Concordia media school had previously been overtaken by Tallinn University, where it became the Baltic Film and Media School). TalTech gave the Law School the financial and institutional stability that we needed and had never had, and from 2010 onwards I started to dedicate some extra time to Estonian Human Rights Centre, which we had founded earlier and then spun off from the Law School with my good friend Marianne Meiorg.

In 2012 I finally defended my Master degree at TalTech, which had been delayed by the failure to complete the thesis (my previous four year Bachelor was equivalent to Master). In the end I took an extra few weeks after a conference in Boston, shut myself in the Law Library of Harvard University nearby and completed the bulk of the thesis.

After a while, around 2014, I stopped the administrative and project work at the Law School and became just a lecturer, a rewarding thing because of the students and because of how much one learns oneself, when teaching. But not quite that.

Besides the law department, TalTech School of Business and Governance also includes a world-class department on public administration, called the Nurkse school. They reminded me of the academic vigour I encountered at Concordia and the people there were and are also great; people who really want to make the world a better place. After a bit of a rough start, I found a friend and PhD thesis supervisor in professor Wolfgang Drechsler, a great scholar who had founded the Nurkse school and now also has posts at Harvard and UCL.

As a Nurkse PhD student, I was able to get a new understanding of the world and learn so much new about innovation, the state and public administration. Even though I have yet to complete the PhD articles (and will be taking a hiatus for now), it has been a brilliant experience.

It is impossible to put in words things that have happened in a span of 20 years. TalTech Law School and, later also Nurkse, and the people I have encountered there, have given me so much in terms of who I am. Personally it has given me opportunities that I never thought I might have had. It is something that will always will be with me and on which I build my future life. More importantly, it has given me an opportunity to educate myself and others and make an impact in this way.

Looking back at 2017

Posted: January 1st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: personal | No Comments »

This change of the year I was at home, ill. So here is a short recap of my 2017. I had a few memorable trips, such as going to Viet Nam with my family and Los Angeles / Las Vegas (and surroundings). In Las Vegas I finally saw the MJ One show, which I had wanted to see for a while. There was also a shorter trip to Paris and Italy as well as Christmas in Lombardy and Venice, Italy.

At the human rights centre, we had great progress in terms of litigation with both asylum area as well as diversity and inclusion. I am especially proud of the European diversity conference we were able to host in Tallinn, another long-term dream of mine that came true. It seems our work is having an impact: we started to become targets of misinformation campaigns by the far right.

At the university I managed to help a lot of great students to learn, I also delivered a number of courses on EU law to public officials that start their service in Estonia. In 2017, I failed to manage any tangible progress on my PhD, which I need to fix this year.

Here are my bests of 2017 (nothing about politics, since not much has happened except for the election of Emmanuel Macron and the ridiculousness that is the Trump presidency):


Best movie: Call Me By Your Name
Runners-up: Dunkirk, The Death of Stalin


Best TV series: Star Trek: Discovery
Runners-up: Black Mirror, A Handmaid’s Tale, American Vandal, 13 Reasons Why, The Crown, DuckTales


Game of the year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Runners-up: Super Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5

Looking back to 2016

Posted: December 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal, thoughts | No Comments »
2016 started off at Kota Kinabalu, for the last few days of my sabbatical in Malaysia. It took me to the Paris at the time of Pride and Nice at the time of the terror attack. I visited some great museums for the first time like the Versailles. But I had also great moments visiting Suure-Jaani and Oti Manor in Saaremaa.
We did a lot at the human rights centre: celebrated the Diversity Day for the second time and had a non-event for Human Rights Day. We helped several refugees and two same-sex couples to defend their rights in court. The Diversity Charter is doing well and we are slowly building the human rights movement in Estonia.
A total of 419 students were enrolled in my courses at TUT in 2016 and it was mostly a great pleasure to teach them. My greatest and proudest achievement this year was the report on the integration of refugees in Estonia I did for UNHCR. However, I stalled with my PhD, which needs extra focus in 2017.

Here are my bests of 2016 from Estonia and the wider world:

Politics (European and global/western)

Politician of the year: Justin Trudeau, for giving hope when there was not much
Runners-up: Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn

Political event of the year: US election result
Runner-up: Brexit

Politics (Estonian)

Political event of the year: Elections of the Chairman of the Centre Party, which brought the change in government
Runner-up: Presidential elections


Court judgment of the year: Joined Cases C-203/15 and C-698/15 Tele2 by the European Court of Justice, which ruled that data retention and mass surveillance is illegal


Best movie: Arrival, Sully
Runners-up: Deadpool, Midnight Special, Nocturnal Animals


Best TV series: Black Mirror
Runners-up: O.J. Made in America, Stranger Things, American Crime Story, Veep, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee


Game of the year: Watch Dogs 2
Runners-up: Transport Fever, Uncharted 4, Mafia 3, Final Fantasy XV, No Man’s Sky, Super Mario Run


Artist of the year: The Weeknd
Runners-up: Frank Ocean, Justin Bieber

2015 in review

Posted: December 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: cool, personal, politics, thoughts | No Comments »

Here are my personal, highly subjective best of 2015 awards as a fun way of rounding up the year. Mostly meaning impact, but also subjective taste (for entertainment stuff).

Politics (European and global/western)

Politician of the year: Federica Mogherini – for her leadership during the refugee crisis and Iran negotiations.
Runners-up: Angela Merkel (for her response to the refugee crisis), Justin Trudeau (for offering hope that a new kind of politics is possible), Barack Obama (for not screwing up too much, Cuba policy, Iran, etc). Promising potential: Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders.

Political event of the year: The refugee resettlement proposal, which re-ignited discussions about the identity of Europe and brought much-needed refugee issue to the forefront.
Runner-up: Eurocrisis

Politics (Estonian)

Politician of the year: Taavi Rõivas – PM proved much more resilient and smart than anyone had expected, leading the Reform Party to electoral victory and successfully forming a government later. Adept at avoiding controversies, Merkel-style.
Runners-up: Jevgeni Ossinovski – for re-energising the social democrats, Edgar Savisaar – Tallinn mayor held onto power amid great personal, legal and political turmoil.

Political event of the year: Parliamentary elections in Estonia
Runner-up: Refugee crisis.


Court judgment of the year: C-362/14 Schrems (CJEU) – huge impact all over the world for invalidating US Safe Harbour agreement, establishing further protections of privacy.
Runners-up:  Obergefell v. Hodges (SCOTUS), Delfi v. Estonia (ECtHR)


Best movie: Bridge of Spies
Runners-up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Walk
Disappointment of the year: Spectre
Worst film of the year: Chappie


Best TV series: American Horror Story: Hotel
Runners-up: Empire, Veep, Cucumber

Games (Mac, iOS)
Note: I have played very few proper video games this year. Need to get a PS4.

Game of the year: Cities: Skylines
Runners-up: Prison Architect


Artist of the year: Justin Bieber
Runners-up: The Weeknd, Troye Sivan


Happy new year! 2016 awaits.

September 11, 2001

Posted: May 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: law, memoir, personal, united states | No Comments »

The capture and killing of Osama bin Laden brought me back my memories of September 11, 2001.

I was at a lecture at the time, it was the beginning of my sophomore year at Concordia University Law School.  I had my birthday the day before, but I do not recall any big party or a hangover. It was a lecture of Public International Law by Maureen B Fitzmahan, one of the American permanent lecturers at Concordia. Suddenly, text messages started arriving that New York City is attacked and the whole city blown up, the skyline gone. Everyone was taken aback, but the lecture did go on, people who had relatives or friends in the US were suggested to go and try to contact their relatives. Concordia at the time was very international, with a few American students.

I was quite shocked and thought about the impact to the world when I was waiting for the bus to take me back to my parents flat in Õismäe from Viimsi, where this small private university was located. It was such a clear and beautiful, sunny day, but I wanted to return quickly to find out more what had happened. The world really seemed different.

There have been terrorist attacks before and after September 11, 2011, but not one of those had the same impact on me.

Happy 2010!

Posted: January 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Estonia, personal, youtube | No Comments »

Here is a short video of impressions from the New Year:

Mattress for sale

Posted: February 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: home, personal | No Comments »


I am selling my almost new mattress, because I bought a bed which requires a bigger mattress. The mattress is 140×200, orthopaedic and ecological, it feels really good to sleep on. I want 4 300 EEK for it, as I paid about 5 300 for it five months ago.

On diet until 1 May

Posted: January 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: personal | No Comments »

I have made a pact to go on healthy foods diet from last Saturday until 1 May. This means:

  • no meat (except fish)
  • no white bread, pastries or any other such stuff (only black bread or healthy bread is allowed)
  • no sweets
  • no alcholic beverages
  • no sodas or lemonade (incl Pepsi and Dr. Pepper)

Uh-oh, this is going to be difficult.

Happy 2009

Posted: January 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: personal | No Comments »

Happy 2009

Best wishes for everyone for 2009.

Merry Christmas

Posted: December 25th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: personal | No Comments »

Have a great Christmas, everyone. Enjoy being with your family and meeting you friends during these holidays, as who knows when some of them will not be around any more.