Media information on the new ECMI Director: Prof. Dr. Vello Pettai from the University of Tartu (Estonia)


The Executive Board of the European Centre for Minority Issues has named Prof. Dr. Vello Pettai, currently from the University of Tartu/Estonia, as the new Director of the ECMI. On 19 June, the Chair of the ECMI Executive Board Prof. Dr. Jørgen Kühl introduced Prof. Pettai to the ECMI staff and held a press conference at the Kompagnietor in Flensburg.

Prof. Kühl announced that the ECMI Board was very glad to welcome prof. Pettai to its unique institute located in the Danish-German border region and focusing on minority issues in a European context. The Board was proud to present such a highly qualified and skilled scholar to lead the ECMI, which was founded in 1996 by the governments of Denmark, Germany, and the Land Schleswig-Holstein. Following a thorough search procedure, the Board selected Prof. Pettai as its best candidate among 27 applications submitted from around the world.

Prof. Pettai joins the ECMI with three main assets:

  • he is an internationally acknowledged scholar on minority-related issues;
  • he has practical government experience in minority rights advocacy;
  • and he has been an accomplished organizational leader.

Since the 1990s, Prof. Pettai has published on a wide range of relevant research topics, including the notion of ethnic democracy in Eastern Europe and ethnopolitical regimes more broadly. He has also served as Chair and Representative of the President of Estonia to the country’s Roundtable on National Minorities. And he has successfully led a number of academic departments as well as international organizations.

“My aspiration is to build on the strong achievements of the ECMI across a range of important areas,” said Pettai. “These include international minority rights protection, national representation of minority communities, grassroots diversity promotion, conflict prevention, and normative-analytical models.”

At the same time, Pettai noted, “We are living through increasingly challenging times in terms of minority rights. We see not only the rise of nativist-populist sentiment, but also the stoking of intolerance among many prominent political leaders. The ECMI has to contribute to re-equilibrating this debate by both providing sound objective research as well as engaging with national publics and policy-makers across Europe. I look forward to tackling these goals.”

Prof. Pettai will take up his new position as ECMI Director on 1 March 2020. During the interim period, he will be in regular contact with the staff and Board of the ECMI. He will also participate in strategic planning work and the development of new projects.


Vello Pettai has been Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Tartu since 2005. His research has appeared in a range of international academic journals including Nations and Nationalism, East European Politics and Societies and Nationalities Papers. He has also published five books, most recently co-authoring the monograph Transitional and Retrospective Justice in the Baltic States, (Cambridge University Press, 2015). From 1997 to 1999 Pettai served as Chair and Representative of the President of Estonia to the country’s Roundtable on National Minorities, where he led a series of initiatives related to Estonia’s compliance with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as well as the problem of stateless children. Following this work in the policy domain, Pettai continued to operate as an expert on minority integration as well as teach courses on ethnopolitics.

At the University of Tartu, he served twice as head of his department, during which he oversaw an extensive internationalization of both personnel, research funding, and academic activities. Pettai has also served as Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee of the European Consortium for Political Research and as Chair of the High Council of the European University Institute. He obtained his PhD in Political Science from Columbia University (USA) and spent two years as a DAAD Guest Professor at Leuphana University Lüneburg. He speaks six languages, including German, French, Russian, Estonian and Latvian.

© Thomas Raake

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