The Magic of Mongolia: How Its People, Landscape, and Tradition Have Touched My Soul

2023-03-31 08:46:13

Ulaanbaatar, March 31, 2023 /MONTSAME/. On March 28, 2023, MONTSAME Mongolian National News Agency interviewed Mr. Hannes Hanso, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia, with residence in PRC, to Mongolia. Just before giving interview to us, he had presented his credentials to President of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh. Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia in Mongolia L. Khulan and Political Counselor of Embassy of the Republic of Estonia Ingvar Arst were present at the meeting. 


Good afternoon. Mr. Hannes Hanso. I would like to warmly welcome you to Mongolia and congratulate you on your new appointment as Ambassador of Estonia to Mongolia. Could you please share your feelings as the new Ambassador of Estonia to Mongolia? 


-Bayrlalaa, Thank you! First, I am privileged to be appointed as the new Ambassador to Mongolia. Personally, I have a very long history with this country. The first time I came here to Mongolia was 21 years ago, which was 2002. As a young man, I traveled through Mongolia by bicycle with my friends. We cycled from Ulaanbaatar to Mandalgobi soum of Dundgobi aimag, Dalanzadgad soum of Umnugobi aimag, Yoliin Am, and all away to Sainshand of Dornogobi aimag, Mongolia. Then, we reached Mongolia's southern border crosses with China. So, this was a big adventure!  This trip taught us a lot, and we felt the exceptional outstanding friendliness of the people in this country. The nomads of the vast land Mongolia welcomed us into their Gers many times. They were always so kind and gave us food and water. Since that time, I have been to Mongolia more than 20 times. Then, I used to work for the European Union in Beijing about ten or 12 years ago, and back then, we covered Mongolia from Beijing. There were many development projects and political consultations, and these are frequently organized here in Mongolia. So today, coming back here as the appointed Ambassador is, of course, an amazing feeling and a great privilege. Also, I'm really looking forward to during my tenure to come here as soon as possible. I have a very strong personal feeling for this country Mongolia.   


We know that Mongolia has been introducing the know-how, technology, and experiences of Estonia in the IT sector, specifically in developing E-Mongolia. Could you comment on the largest achievements in IT sector cooperation? How can this cooperation be developed further?  


Estonia is a quite small country. But I think we are strong in Innovations, such as adopting innovative methods for governance and running different services to cut off bureaucracy. It saves the country a lot of money, makes Government Services more efficient, and eliminates corruption. Moreover, it is a very environmentally friendly way to run a country. To give you one example, government services in Estonia are running paperless.  


We have developed very close cooperation with several countries worldwide, sharing our experience in the IT sector and helping partner countries to develop similar services. Since 2007, Estonia has already started the first cooperation project with Mongolia regarding digital services - e-Governance. Today, I think it is a major achievement that Mongolia has already created its own E platform – E-Mongolia, based on our e-Estonia platform. Now, Mongolia has a three-digit number of different services available on E-Mongolia, which brings government services even closer to the people. Because people can do a series of things just using a smartphone and laptop. So, there is no need to stay in queues and go between different offices.  

People naturally want quicker, better technology to make things even more efficient. In Estonia, we have more than 3600 different digital services available. As for Mongolia, I don’t know the exact number, but there is clearly still a lot of potential. I think this is a situation where we have to advance our cooperation. Current Prime Minister of Mongolia L. Oyun-Erdene already visited Estonia in 2019 when he used to work as a Head of the Office of Government of Mongolia, focusing on digital governance and E-services. We are planning the next official visit of the Premier in the second half of this year to focus on the abovementioned issues again.  


We have an e-Governance Academy, which is conducting a number of ongoing projects in Mongolia. Delegations from Mongolia will participate in Digital Conferences to be held twice in Tallinn, Estonia, in May and November.

I believe that we stepped at the beginning in the right direction and will continue to walk in this way. 

Estonia is the best model for digitalization that can be introduced in all sectors. In what fields your country’s experience can be used in Mongolia?  


In my opinion, as society and technology develop, digitalization and e-Services become more accessible. This topic is relevant for any sphere, such as the environment, education, health services, municipalities, and government. Since 2005, in Estonia, we have been conducting e-Voting for elections. Parliamentary elections were held in Estonia on March 5, 2023, to elect all 101 members of the Riigikogu (unicameral parliament). More than half of the voters used electronic voting instead of going to the polling station to cast their votes. If there is a mutual interest, of course, we will be very happy to share those experiences.   


Moreover, there is an e-Identity program that is currently being implemented. So, there are several works that we are cooperating with in the field of IT. But, of course, Mongolia has its own goals and aims.

If there is interest, it would be our job to help Mongolia to translate these things into reality. I think we are very flexible in what areas we can cooperate in. 

The two countries have diplomatic relations for 32 years, since 1991. How do you see the potentials and possibilities of bringing the relationship up to next level, expanding the cooperation in other sectors besides IT?


Mongolia and Estonia are both small countries in terms of population. The population of Estonia is 1.331 million. As I remember, the current population of Mongolia is over 3 million. Geographically, we are located in different places, but our political and economic background is identical. We are both transition countries. Estonia was part of the former USSR. Mongolia was very close to the USSR in a host of ways. The society we came from and our effort to reform and change it is very similar.

Also, I found that the people of Mongolia and Estonia have the same mentality. For instance, we are very flexible people, easily adapting to different environments, have to know several languages, and have to be successful and international.

It is natural for people like us from small countries. Basically, Mongolia and Estonia are too small for large businesses. So, What I wanted to say is that we have many similarities. We have a lot of cultural exchanges. Last year, Mongolian Film Festival took place at the University of Tartu, the main and oldest university in Estonia. Furthermore, we have opened the Center for Mongolian Studies.  


The number of tourists between the two countries is also increasing. It is possible to cooperate on many things, such as enhancing people-to-people ties and developing economic relations between the two countries as an ambassador. However, this sort of thing evolves naturally. Governments do not tell private businesses what they can or should do, so it must be natural. In Estonia, there is a lot of interest in fantastic Mongolian products. One of them is fine cashmere. I know that many people find this fascinating fine material and quality. So, there are definitely other things that our countries can do together.  


In my opinion, it is very easy for an Estonian to understand Mongolians since we have the same heritage in many ways, and both our languages come from the Ural-Altaic language family. As an Ambassador, I want to be in my four years as committed as I can to working with this country, and it's always a pleasure to visit.   


As an Ambassador, what will be your priorities in developing the relations between the two countries?  


I think we mentioned the main areas. We have found a good niche for cooperation in terms of advancing technology. We have to enhance the people-to-people ties between the two countries.


In addition, do you have something to say to Mongolians?  


Yes! I promised my children we would ride a horse and go around Khuvsgul Lake. So, we have to do that sometimes. It will take about ten days or two weeks.


I'm very glad that our international parcel Logistics Company which belongs to OMNIVA, Estonian Post Service, has started fruitful cooperation with Mongolia Post. We can deliver goods and parcels internationally and expeditiously from one place to another. It is a new field because it is based on software - very fast automatic sorting line based. We have already started business between the two countries’ national Postal Services. So, we can facilitate the movement of goods even between China and Mongolia, but also between Europe and Mongolia, much cheaper, much more efficient, and most importantly much quicker.  


I have a number of good friends in Mongolia who have lost contact with me. If they read this article, they can send me an e-mail. They can find my e-mail on the website of the Estonian Embassy. Therefore, I would like to meet them again the next time I come to Mongolia.  


Thank you! 

Related news