Interview with Mariliis Mets - Being European for the Young Generation of Women in Estonia

By Capucine Goyet | 25 July 2013

To quote this document: Capucine Goyet, “Interview with Mariliis Mets - Being European for the Young Generation of Women in Estonia”, Nouvelle Europe [en ligne], Thursday 25 July 2013,, displayed on 03 June 2023

Business O Feminin has interviewed Mariliis Mets, a former member of Nouvelle Europe, for a study dedicated to the young generation of women in the EU. As a 27 year-old Estonian, Mariliis Mets is currently a Chief Expert at the Estonian Ministry of Defence.

1- How would you define yourself?

Active, curious, restless... I don't like to do things halfway: if I have to work, I don't count hours, but when it is time to go out and have fun, I don't hesitate either. For me it is important to do what you   love, be surrounded by people you truly appreciate, travel, laugh until you cry - to feel alive. What I wish to avoid is regrets. You can learn from your mistakes but you cannot learn from things you haven't done.

2- Do you feel European, if yes in which sense? And if not why?

Yes, I do feel European. To be honest, I have never asked myself why and in which sense. It has always seemed so natural to me. The first time I lived abroad I was 17 years old, I have lived in different countries and I have friends from all over Europe. Each experience is another piece of the puzzle. I'm no longer a "true" Estonian, I'm European. But the good news is that we don't need to choose, we can just add new layers of identity, take the best of each experience.

3- What do you associate the European Union with?

The freedom to travel, study or work anywhere in the European Union. Cultural diversity. Tolerance. Protection of citizens and consumers.

4- Do you speak other foreign languages beside your mother tongue? Which one(s)? What other European languages would you like to learn and why?

I also speak French, English and some Russian. I would like to learn Spanish because it opens the door to so many countries and cultures that I would like to discover.

5- Would you live in another Member State of the EU? Which one(s) and why?

I moved back to Estonia only three months ago. I spent almost seven years abroad, of which one in Hungary, in Budapest (Erasmus exchange year), and the rest of the time in France (in Dijon and Paris) where I studied and worked.

I think I could live almost in any country. For now I'm planning to stay in Estonia for a while, to "rediscover" my country. But why not Brussels in a couple of years? I like the idea of working where Europe "is done" on an everyday basis. Its central geographical position would also be a bonus for travelling.

Once you go abroad, you cannot stay in one place for long time.

6- How do you see today’s European Union? In the future?

Today, Europe is no longer a dream, something we wish to have. The EU is more considered as something faraway, complicated or as a scapegoat. Despite the crisis, we shouldn't either forget the responsibility of States and of our politicians who never miss a chance to take the credit for the successes and blame Europe for all the problems.

If we can't find new “motors” for the EU, new ways to "sell" Europe to younger generations who have never seen a war, who have always travelled freely and paid in euros, this European project might falter.

Europe should be a will to live together. The EU shouldn't exist for itself but for its people who must see its added value. We must use this crisis to re-launch the European Union and overcome these difficulties stronger than before.

7- Your main concerns?

I'm sad to see that for so many people, the EU is a synonymous with problems rather than solutions.

The rise of nationalism, far right movements, stirs up hatred and conflict, which weaken Europe even more. Yes, Europe is facing difficulties but instead of resigning, or even worse - being satisfied with this situation -, I would like to see more initiatives aiming to give a new breathing to Europe, bring it closer to citizens. I also hope that truly European (not national!) leaders will emerge. You need inspired and inspiring people to get something moving.

8- How would you describe the new female generation (20 to 35 years old) in your country?

It's a generation between two periods: Estonia under Soviet occupation and independent Estonia. It means that on the one hand we have the impression that now everything is possible, the world is open and waiting for us, but on the other hand nothing comes easily, we always had to face competition (baby boom generation). These women are strong, independent, highly educated and at the same time they try to conciliate all the new opportunities with personal relationships, family and simplicity in life. They are very demanding with themselves and others (men in particular). I believe that this generation of women has to find its own way, a new balance in this continuously changing world where they are expected by the society to fill so many different roles.

9- How do you feel about gender balance issues? How does it work in your country? To what extent is the issue highlighted?

I work in a rather masculine environment. I have been in situations where somebody makes you feel inferior, not equal to others, because you are a woman (and even worse: young and from Eastern Europe!). So yes, I feel personally concerned about gender equality.

In Estonia we have the biggest gender pay gap in Europe, the representation of women in decision-making positions is insufficient and so on. But I’m glad to see this topic is now on the agenda. A public campaign about gender balance was recently launched. But these are only the first and cautious steps. It will take a lot of time and efforts to change the mentalities.

 It is also up to women to make things change: follow your own path, even if a job is not considered something that women should do, dare to dream, ask for respect. Yes, society needs to change but if we don’t start the movement, nobody will do it for us.

10- Is there a European woman you admire the most and why?

For example Julia Laffranque (Estonian) who is judge of the European Court of Human Rights. She is very intelligent, strong and has achieved a lot professionally. She is an active citizen (and a European) who is also active in other domains such as theatre and has a family.

Further reading

On Business O Feminin

On Nouvelle Europe

Sources photos: © Businessofeminin et © Mariliis Mets.