Estonian Review: 19-25 November, 2008

28.11.2008

FOREIGN NEWS
DEFENCE NEWS
DOMESTIC NEWS
ECONOMIC NEWS


FOREIGN NEWS

Baltic Presidents Discuss Economic Issues, Energy Security

25 November
- A summit of the presidents of the Baltic States was held upon the invitation of President of the Republic of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
The Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian heads of state met as part of the Baltic Presidents Council at Sausti Manor near Tallinn. The meeting participants primarily discussed economic problems and foreign policy issues.
The global financial crisis, coupled with the overall crisis of trust, affects all countries in Europe, including the Baltic states. The three countries are now facing budgetary tensions and poor economic perspectives just like other countries, concluded the Baltic presidents Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Valdis Zatlers, and Valdas Adamkus.
“Let us view this as our great challenge as we are preparing to adopt the euro, because the common European Union currency will allow us to strengthen our economic security and get an additional boost to restore trust,” said President Ilves. According to the Estonian head of state, the budget deficit topic is becoming a vital issue for us all, and as we plan budgets for the next few years we should by all means avoid exceeding the GDP 3% deficit limit.
The Baltic presidents have stressed at the meeting that in the current complicated economic situation, the Baltic states are viewed as a single entity and the failures of one are extended to all three.
“Because of this, it is imperative that our governments and agencies be engaged in reliable information exchange, ensuring that Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius are equally and promptly informed about serious economic problems and possibilities for solving them,” said President Ilves.
“In the widest sense, the co-operation between the Baltic states must be characterised by trust, pragmatism, practicality, orientation towards the future, the perception of common problems and challenges and the search for their solutions,” stressed the Estonian head of state.
When discussing the energy issues, Presidents Ilves, Zatlers and Adamkus agreed that it is important to create a common energy market in Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Market access and operations must be simplified and made more transparent.
“One common interest of the Baltic states is to complete the Baltic-Swedish electricity cable as soon as possible, as it will considerably reinforce our electricity supply outlook and facilitate electricity deficit prevention,” said President Ilves. “I hope that Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden will very soon reach an agreement as to the cable route on the Baltic side.”
President Ilves has also spoken about the new nuclear power plant project in Lithuania, reiterating that Estonia still wishes to participate in the project.
“Nevertheless, as the process is slow, we are simultaneously looking into all other options for supplying Estonia with electricity, including building our own nuclear power plant,” added President Ilves.
Moving on to foreign policy questions, the three presidents discussed at length several issues related to the neighbouring European Union countries.
“The EU's Neighbourhood Policy should be efficient and carefully considered to motivate our neighbours towards choosing democracy and the rule of law,” said President Ilves, pointing out that it is imperative to support the development of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. “The European Union, interested in the expansion of the common European values and security zone, cannot act like a haughty headmaster - it must instead be a friend and an ally, encouraging the desired development.”
Touching upon the subject of the relations between the European Union/NATO and Russia, Presidents Ilves, Zatlers and Adamkus have asserted that pragmatism must prevail in the spheres where such co-operation is of practical use.
“We believe it is important for the European Union and NATO to continue a dialogue with Russia but, at the same time, it is obvious that we cannot now speak of many common values,” said President Ilves.
Presidents Ilves, Zatlers and Adamkus have also discussed NATO operations, primarily those conducted in Afghanistan. The presidents have stressed that military operations alone are insufficient for establishing peace and stability as civilian projects and development aid aimed at improving the well-being of the population of Afghanistan are essential.


Baltic Prime Ministers Emphasise Common Electricity Market

21 November
- Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Gedimias Kirkilas met in Tartu.
The prime ministers decided that a common electricity wholesale market must be established for the Baltic and Nordic countries by the year 2013. “Along with establishing links, we must connect the wholesale electricity markets of the Baltic and Nordic countries in order to ensure choices in both price and quality,” Prime Minister Ansip said. Connecting with the electricity market of the Nordic countries will help to increase security, meaning that a constant supply of energy will be ensured.
The first step towards this is the harmonisation of the legislation of the electricity markets of the Baltic states on the basis of the market principles of the Nordic countries. Specialists from the three countries will elaborate on a specific action plan next year. It is in the interests of all three Baltic states to have links with the Nordic Countries established as quickly as possible - Estlink 2 and the Baltic-Swedish electricity cable.
The prime ministers also confirmed the continuation of the new nuclear power plant project in Lithuania. “We consider it important that the construction of a new nuclear plant would proceed at an accelerated rate,” said Ansip, according to whom all decisions that are significant from the viewpoint of the project, such as the selection of reactors, will be made jointly by all partners. However, Ansip added that Estonia is considering all opportunities for ensuring the energy supply for Estonia, including the establishment of its own nuclear power plant.
In defence co-operation issues, they agreed the adoption of common principles for air security by 2018 is important. The prime ministers also confirmed the continuation of Via Baltica and Rail Baltica, which offer solutions to high traffic volumes.


Estonia and India Consider Combating Pirates to Be Essential

24 November
- Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, in India on an official visit, met with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Muhkerjee and Minister of Science and Technology Shri Kapil Sibali.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet brought up how Estonia is interested in intensifying relations with India, one of the greatest nations and a powerful player in global politics. “India's political and economic importance in the world is rapidly increasing. Estonia is interested in closer communication with India,” Paet added. The last foreign minister's visit to India took place 15 years ago. Paet stated that an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation with India is being prepared to create better conditions for economic co-operation. “We want to promote business contacts as much as possible,” added Foreign Minister Paet, saying that Estonia would welcome an Indian business delegation visiting Estonia.
In his meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Paet outlined Estonia's plans for intensifying bilateral relations. “Estonia has initiated the process of appointing a non-residing ambassador to India,” said Paet. “Estonia's long-term goal is to open its own embassy in India,” he added. Estonia has two honorary consuls in India, there are plans to name honorary consuls in Calcutta and Madras soon as well.
The Estonian and Indian foreign ministers also discussed the fight against pirates in Somalia's coastal waters. Paet stated that in the past few months, ships carrying both Estonian and Indian citizens and residents have been hijacked. India has dispatched its battleships near the Somali coast to increase security for ship traffic. “Only through well co-ordinated international actions will it be possible to reduce piracy,” said Paet.
Other topics were the economic situation in light of the financial crisis and matters related to international agreements necessary for alleviating climate change. Paet stated that the role of the group of G20 nations in alleviating the financial crisis is essential, but it must not become a substitute for the International Monetary Fund, for example. Paet and Mukherjee also discussed India's role in guaranteeing the stability of the South Asian region, the situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma), and relations with Russia. Another topic was the reform of the UN Security Council. Paet asserted that Estonia supports the enlargement of the UN Security Council as well as India being a permanent member. According to Paet, Estonia also considers it important for a spot to be added to the Security Council's elected members for Eastern European countries, including Estonia.
During the meetings, the members of India's Government also expressed an interest in having closer communication. Tourism was highlighted as an already developing area of economic co-operation. Minister of Science and Technology Shri Kapil Sibali stated that India is also interested in increasing contacts with Estonia in the realm of scientific co-operation by exchanging both students and researchers.
The only previous visit by an Estonian foreign minister to India took place in 1993. Foreign Minister Paet acknowledged that more frequent high-level meetings would also boost relations and invited the Indian foreign minister to visit Estonia in 2009.


Estonia Sends Third Aid Shipment to Georgia

21 November
- Estonia's third aid shipment for victims of the August conflict in Georgia began its journey. This shipment, which is made up primarily of donations, is meant first and foremost for children, and contains 15 tonnes of children's clothing, in addition to diapers, baby bottles, and baby food. The total weight of the shipment is almost 22 tonnes.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that in the course of humanitarian inspection, aid will be given to all of those in Georgia who need it, regardless of ethnic background. “The Estonian aid will be of great help to the thousands of small children now living with internally displaced person status during this cold time before Christmas,” said Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. “Seeing as the winter and cold weather are approaching, the children in these DP centres are especially in need of care and support,” he added.
During the children's clothing collection campaign entitled “You Can Help Find a Child's Christmas Joy”, which was held from 31 October to 7 November, the Estonian Union for Child Welfare and the Foreign Ministry called on Estonians to support the small children who were affected by the conflict in Georgia and donate both old and new clothing and baby goods for up to 2-year-old children. Donations of disposable diapers and baby toys were also accepted. The campaign was carried out in five Estonian cities: Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Viljandi, and Rakvere. Many kindergartens, as well as one government institution and many private businesses, responded especially generously to the appeal and opened their own collection points. There was also a local collection point in the Foreign Ministry.
Of the 15 tonnes of children's clothing, 13.5 tonnes were donated by Estonians through the Union for Child Welfare and 1.5 tonnes through the association Humana Estonia.
In addition to the clothing, the Foreign Ministry procured disposable and reusable diapers for children of various ages, baby bottles, jars of baby food affixed with Georgian-language labels, and breast milk substitute. The shipment also includes T-shirts donated by Fazer Eesti.
The shipment will be received in Georgia by the Estonian Embassy in Tbilisi. Distribution of the aid will take place in co-operation with the Georgian Association of Educators, the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation, UNICEF, and non-profit organisations in Georgia.
The humanitarian aid shipment is being funded by the Government of the Republic's reserve fund that is earmarked for providing aid to Georgia.


Estonia is Prepared to Share its Schengen Visa Area Experiences with Bulgaria

19 November
- Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Bulgarian Vice President Angel Marini and deputy speaker of Parliament Ekaterina Mihajlova.
Bulgarian Vice President Angel Marini expressed interest in the functioning of the Schengen visa area and Estonia's experiences in it. At the beginning of October, members of the Estonian Border Guard talked with their Bulgarian colleagues about the experience of joining the Schengen visa area. Foreign Minister Paet expressed hope that Bulgaria would also be able to join the Schengen visa area in the future. “Estonia is prepared to share our Schengen visa area experiences with Bulgaria,” said the foreign minister.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet made a proposal for Bulgaria to participate in the activities of the NATO cyber defence centre.
The Bulgarian vice president gave an overview of the economic situation and expressed interest in Estonia's exports. The parties also discussed matters related to tourism. “In Estonia and Bulgaria's economic co-operation, tourism is a very promising area,” said Foreign Minister Paet.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Bulgarian Vice President Angel Marini also discussed peacekeeping operations, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan. “In the case of civilian contributions in Afghanistan, it is very important to co-ordinate them with the state authorities and in accordance with Afghanistan's national strategy,” said Paet. In June of this year, Bulgaria decided to increase its presence in Afghanistan by 70 people, bringing its group to 340 members.


Ansip: Estonia Strongly Supports Kosovo

24 November
- Prime Minister Andrus Ansip met with the president and prime minister of Kosovo in Pristina and declared the continuing support of Estonia for the establishment of an independent and democratic Kosovo that values European values.
Prime Minister Ansip declared that Estonia does not see any alternatives to the independence of Kosovo. “Kosovo is an independent and complete country and is supported by Estonia as such,” said Ansip. According to him, stability and peace in the Western Balkans is important for Estonia. At the same time, the head of the Estonian government stressed that the key factor in the establishment of the state of Kosovo, which is developing peacefully, is the will of the people to make progress in guaranteeing a stable environment that is also attractive for investors. “It is most important to believe that the future of your country is in your own hands,” said Ansip, according to whom the carrying out of reforms is necessary for the country itself; international operators can be there and, if necessary, assist in ensuring Euro-Atlantic Integration via their skills, experience and material means.
President of Kosovo Fatmis Sejdiu declared at the meeting that there have been painful moments in Kosovo's past, but the country is ready to close one chapter in its history and move on with the development of a stable state based on the rule of law that has a strong economy and is open. According to Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, the first steps on this road are making investments in the educational system and information technology, the establishment of the legal environment, and the fast completion of privatisation.
The prime minister recognised the head of state and head of government of Kosovo for their commitment to building up the country, where during the short period of independence, important processes towards an administratively capable country with a civil society have been launched.
According to Ansip, Estonia is ready to assist Kosovo in solving the challenges it is facing, and share its transition and reform experience. Right now, close co-operation in the field of e-governance is advancing.
“Information and communication technology is just the field in which co-operation between two countries can be successful,” said Ansip. At the meeting, it was noted that co-operation towards the development of economic relations may continue.


Estonia Supports Visa Freedom with European Union for Macedonia

20 November
- Foreign Minister Urmas Paet began his visit to Macedonia, which included meetings with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Vice Premier for European Affairs Ivica Bocevski. They discussed bilateral relations and matters related to the European Union and NATO.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia supports Macedonia's ongoing wish to accede to the European Union and NATO. “We have always supported an open-door policy for nations that are prepared for it,” said Paet.
While talking about Macedonia's visa freedom perspective, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet expressed hope that the nation will be able to fulfil the conditions set forth by the European Commission's visa freedom road map as quickly as possible and as a result, Macedonian citizens could visit the EU without visas. Estonia supports the idea of giving visa freedom with the EU to all the Western Balkan nations, Foreign Minister Paet emphasised.
The vice premier for European Affairs gave the members of the Estonian delegation an overview of Macedonia's reforms while moving towards the European Union.
Foreign Minister Paet opened Estonia's first honorary consulate in Macedonia in Skopje. It is also the first Estonian honorary consulate in all the Western Balkans. The Estonian honorary consul in Macedonia is Saško Miladinov. “Our new honorary consul wants to help with enlivening business and economic contacts between Estonia and Macedonia and with advancing cultural ties,” Paet stated at the opening of the consulate. Also present at the opening were the Macedonian foreign minister and the chairman of the Macedonia-Estonia parliamentary friendship group.
The honorary consulate can be visited at the address Kole Nedelkovski 6, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia, and can be reached at the telephone number 389 2 322 5229.
Saško Miladinov (52) graduated from Kiril and Metod University in Skopje and has been a clothing manufacturer in the textile industry for 25 years. He is the owner and director of the company Albatros, which produces clothing for men and women.


Paet Discusses Estonia-Armenia Relations

21 November
- Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, who was in Estonia for a visit.
Topics of discussion at the meeting were bilateral relations and matters related to Armenia and the European Union, as well as the situation in the Southern Caucasus, including the impact of the Russia-Georgia war on the region. Armenia's relations with its neighbours were also addressed.
While talking about bilateral relations, the Estonian and Armenian foreign ministers acknowledged that political and economic ties between the nations require further development. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet brought up the topic of visa freedom for Estonian citizens. “Exempting Estonian citizens from visa requirements would certainly be helpful for enlivening economic contacts between the two countries, and also for tourism ties,” he said. “Estonia is also prepared to share its experiences for making Armenia's economic environment more attractive,” said the Estonian foreign minister. The foreign minister thanked his Armenian colleague for the help he provided in bringing Estonian citizens home safely during the Russia-Georgia conflict in August.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian thanked Estonia for the aid it has received within the framework of development co-operation, emphasising the importance of Estonia sharing its information technology-related experiences. The Estonian foreign minister was interested to know in which other areas Armenia would be interested in advancing co-operation in the future.
Also under discussion were the situation in the Southern Caucasus region and Armenia's relations with its neighbours. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has an important position in Armenia and Azerbaijan's European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans.
Foreign Minister Nalbandian gave a brief overview of Armenia's developments in fulfilling the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan, and confirmed that relations with the European Union and the successful implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan are extremely important. Foreign Minister Paet stated that increasing the EU's role in stabilising our neighbourhood is essential. “We have to offer concrete aid and co-operation to our eastern neighbours in order to increase stability, security, and economic well-being in the European Union's close neighbourhood,” Paet emphasised. Paet noted that Estonia supports beginning negotiations for visa facilitation and a free trade agreement within the new trade regime to be concluded between the EU and its Eastern Dimension target states.


Estonia to Help Finance EU Anti-Pirate Mission

19 November
- Estonia is set to give 160,000 kroons (EUR 10,220) to help finance the European Union's anti-pirate security operation off the Somali coast.
While Estonia will not directly participate in the mission, it will help cover the costs of the mission via the Athens financing mechanism, just like it is doing in the case of other EU military operations.
All EU member states that have joined the Athens mechanism are taking part in the financing. Subject to joint coverage are the planning, communication, logistics, and staff maintenance costs of external EU operations.
On 10 November in Brussels, the EU foreign ministers endorsed the Atalanta naval operation, in the framework of which EU ships will help to protect UN and other vessels bringing relief to Somalia.
There are at least seven vessels in the mission, including three destroyers and a supply ship. The mission will have aircraft support.
The command centre of the mission is in Northwood, north of London. France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, and Spain have contributed to the operation.


Estonia, Russia Discuss Consular Matters

20 November
- Matters related to visas and consular co-operation, among other things, were discussed during consular consultations between Estonia and Russia in Moscow.
The head of the Estonian delegation, director general of the Foreign Ministry's consular department Lauri Bambus, said that at Thursday's meeting direct emergency contacts were exchanged to be able to more quickly provide consular assistance in the event of major accidents, natural disasters and emergency situations.
Also addressed were matters related to visas.
Bambus said the conclusion was reached that despite the changing of border crossing regulations for residents of border areas in January of next year, communication between residents of the border areas can continue under the EU-Russia visa facilitation accord.
"On the basis of that agreement, it is possible to offer a variety of eased terms which have not been used very much so far," he said.
Consular consultations between Estonia and Russia are held once a year. The next consultations will take place in Tallinn in the second half of next year.


Estonia Condemns Punishment of Democracy Supporters in Myanmar

19 November
- The Estonian Foreign Ministry united with the European Union's standpoint, which condemns the decision of Myanmar's (Burma's) military regime to sentence more than 30 supporters of democracy to 2 to 65 years of jail time.
“Estonia is calling on Myanmar's military regime to begin an involved and constructive dialogue with the democratic opposition and minority representatives,” said Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. “The only crime of those individuals sentenced was internationally recognised peaceful self-expression in support of democratic reforms and a better Myanmar,” Paet emphasised, acknowledging that under the current conditions the elections scheduled for 2010 cannot be legitimate.
Referring to the UN Security Council's October appeal and the EU foreign ministers' council's November conclusions, Estonia is encouraging Myanmar's military regime to unconditionally free Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and all of the more than 2000 political prisoners, including those sentenced during the past few days.


British, Estonian Ambassadors Visit Helmand

24 November
- Estonian non-resident Ambassador to Afghanistan Harri Tiido and British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sherard Cowper-Cowles completed a two-day weekend visit to Helmand province in Afghanistan. The ambassadors met with Estonian and British troops in Now Sad as well as military and civilian leaders working in Helmand. The pair also had dinner with Deputy Governor of Helmand Abdul Sattar.
The goal of the visit was to get a get a better understanding of what is taking place in Helmand and to show support for the troops.
Task Force Helmand's Commander Brigadier Gordon Messenger commended the work of the Estonian soldiers and expressed hope that future co-operation would continue to go smoothly. Ambassador Cowper-Coles had heard of the good reputation of the Estonian contingent from British soldiers and was happy to acquaint himself with the work of the Estonians on the ground.
In the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, visits were made to the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and Bost Hospital, where an Estonian health care expert is responsible for Estonian and British development co-operation projects. At the press conference in Lashkar Gah, the ambassadors emphasised that the international community is in Afghanistan first and foremost to help and support Afghans. However, it is the united activities of the government of Afghanistan, local governments, and the Afghans that play the most important role in the future construction of the nation.
In talking about civilian projects, the British ambassador brought up an example from the agricultural sector. Cowper-Coles explained that Great Britain supports Helmand's Governor Mangal's wheat seed distribution programme, which has the goal of allowing the farmers of Helmand who have chosen not to grow poppies and who grow grains instead to make an income.
Estonian Ambassador Harri Tiido explained how Estonia and Great Britain can help the people of Helmand prior to the elections. He also noted that a large portion of the work must be done by the Afghans themselves. “In addition to the help from the international community in ensuring the security of the election, the local media also has a very important role to play. Media can be one medium through which the people can be informed of the importance of participating in the future of their country,” said Ambassador Harri Tiido.



DOMESTIC NEWS

Snowstorm Wreaks Havoc in Estonia

24 November
- A snowstorm that raged in Estonia on Sunday left thousands of households without electricity and disrupted road, sea and air traffic.
Rescuers had a busy day on Sunday, responding to 287 calls to remove trees that fell on roads, houses, power lines and vehicles, take down loose advertising placards, and dismantle unstable scaffolding. People were not hurt in any of the cases.
By Monday morning power supply had been restored to around 4,000 customers of the national power company Eesti Energia, but some households and businesses were still without electricity. During the night, emergency teams were able to work in substations, and work to repair broken power lines began in the daylight.
Helsinki- and Stockholm-bound ship traffic out of Tallinn was disrupted on Sunday but resumed on Monday. Ferry traffic between the mainland and the islands was also able to resume.



DEFENCE NEWS

Prime Minister and Defence Forces Commander Thank Military Personnel in Kosovo

23 November
- Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Commander of the Defence Forces Ants Laaneots met with the Estonian military staff in the membership of the Danish battalion in Kosovo and thanked them for their good service. According to Prime Minister Ansip, Estonian military personnel are courageous and reliable partners who, by helping the countries that need assistance, help ensure the security of our own country as well.
“Estonia wants to thank all of you who helped other countries that are striving to build a democratic and economically successful society. By helping others, you will help our own country as well, so that we can keep developing safely,” said Ansip. “In international co-operation, the role of Estonia is considerable -in missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, but also in Iraq and earlier in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Ansip added.
The prime minister pointed out our military personnel as an example for strengthening the will to protect. “If there are people who are ready with a gun and, if necessary, to sacrifice their life, it is difficult to attack our own country as well,” Ansip added. “Thank you for serving your fatherland,” said Ansip.
The prime minister and the commander of the Defence Forces presented the military staff with the NATO Service Medal as well.
In addition to the Danes, the Estonian military personnel are also co-operating with the French in the region of Mitrovica in Northern Kosovo, which is a mixed settlement of Serbians and Albanians. The area is located in the industrial centre of Kosovo, with the greatest number of residents from different ethnic backgrounds.


Defence Ministers Discuss Southern Afghanistan

22 November
- Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo was in Halifax, Canada, participating in a meeting of the defence ministers of countries that contribute troops to Southern Afghanistan. The ministers discussed the general security situation in the area and made plans for further activities.
It was recognised at the meeting that the opposing military force is losing its positions in Southern Afghanistan and that the importance of central power is moderately increasing. The defence ministers stressed the need to strengthen international and regional co-operation, and above all to work on enhancing co-operation between Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to improve the security situation.
Sending one additional US Marine brigade to Afghanistan was also discussed. Depending on the decisions adopted by the new administration of the USA, the deployment of up to four additional brigades in southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan can be expected.
According to Aaviksoo, this year's most important task is to ensure the safety of the local population, while keeping the approaching presidential elections in mind.
“Estonia's contribution is rated very highly, especially with regard to our capacity to ensure general security by patrolling the area. There's a significant shortage of manoeuvre units in Afghanistan; therefore the contribution of the Estonian servicemen is much bigger than the mere numbers would make us assume,” Minister Aaviksoo said.
According to the minister, Estonia should also consider increasing civil support. “The work of the Estonian medical co-ordinator in Helmand province serves as a fine example of providing much-needed aid to the local population.”
The defence ministers and officials of the UK, US, Estonia, Canada, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Romania participated in the meeting of defence ministers of troop-contributing countries to Southern Afghanistan.



ECONOMIC NEWS

Currency Rates in Kroons
(Bank of Estonia)


Estonian Air Lowers Fuel Surcharge

24 November
- Estonian Air will reduce the fuel surcharge by 4 euros (EEK 63) on all its scheduled flights.
The lower fuel surcharge will be applied to all Estonian Air regular flight tickets purchased on or after 25 November 2008. For reservations made before that date, the current fuel surcharge valid from 11 July 2008 is applied.
The lower fuel surcharge is EUR 12 for scheduled Helsinki and Vilnius routes and EUR 17 for the rest of the scheduled services. No fuel surcharge is applied on the Tallinn-Kuressaare route.
"Estonian Air is considering further reduction of the fuel surcharge if the fuel price stabilises," said Andrus Aljas, president and CEO of Estonian Air.
Estonian Air applied the fuel surcharge in spring 2008 in connection with a significant rise in fuel prices.


Tallink to Start Hotel Operation in Riga in 2010

24 November
- OU TLG Hotell, a subsidiary of AS Tallink Grupp of Estonia, and SIA Happy Trails of Latvia have concluded a preliminary agreement regarding TLG Hotell starting the operation of a hotel in Riga in 2010.
A new 250-room hotel building in the center of Riga will be built for SIA Happy Trails by 2010. The rental terms will be set out in the rental agreement, to be concluded before the start of the operation.
Tallink Grupp is not investing in the construction of the new hotel. The transaction will not have a significant effect on the consolidated accounts of Tallink Grupp, Tallink said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.
Tallink said the transaction was a related party transaction according to the stock exchange rules. SIA Happy Trails is 100 percent owned by AS Infortar, the main shareholder of AS Tallink Grupp.





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