Estonian Review: December 10 - 16, 2001




OSCE mission in Estonia will close down

Dec 13 - The OSCE’s Permanent Council decided in Vienna that it was not necessary to extend the OSCE mission in Estonia, and thus the mission will close down on December 31. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves welcomed the decision of the OSCE Permanent Council. He said that Estonia had worked for years to bring its legislation fully in line with international legislation. "It has been a long and difficult process," he said. Ilves said that the OSCE’s expert opinions have been of use to Estonia. Head of the OSCE mission to Estonia Ambassador Doris Hertrampf pointed out to the OSCE’s Council positive developments in the area of the language law and its application, as well as the opening of legal chancellor's office bureaus in Ida-Virumaa region. The final step that induced the OSCE to close its mission to Estonia was the Parliament’s abolishing of Estonian-language requirements for MPs and municipal councils.

Tallinn to run for European cultural capital

Dec 12 - The Tallinn City government approved a proposal from Newcastle and Gateshead to join the neighbouring British cities in their bid to become the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2008 as the non-EU partner. The European cultural capital in 2008 will be selected from Britain, and as usual an EU city would take a partner from a non-EU country.

Sociologists introduced new human development report

Dec 13 - The Open Estonia Foundation and the Institute of International and Social Studies of Tallinn Pedagogical University held a conference in Tallinn where sociologists introduced the seventh Human Development Report of Estonia. The seventh Human Development Report was compiled in co-operation with 30 scientists and experts. One of the key topics of the report was the ability of the Estonian identity and culture to develop in the globalising world. This years' Human Development Report says that although Estonia belongs to the countries with high human development for the second year already, it still has a long way to go according many indicators. There are questions what kind of impact euro-integration will have on the coherence of Estonian society and what do family politics look like in the European context. Between 1995-2000, the Human Development Report was compiled with the help of the UNDP’s Estonian representation. Since 2001, the Institute of International and Social Studies at Tallinn Pedagogical University has published it and found financial support for the report. The Open Estonia Foundation, UNDP and the Ministry of Education supported this year’s report.

Leader of Estonia's largest opposition party sought mayoralty of Tallinn

Dec 12 - The Estonian Center Party and Reform Party, which formed a coalition in the key municipality of Tallinn to replace a bloc consisting of the Reform Party, Pro Patria Union and Moderates, agreed to nominate Centrist leader Edgar Savisaar as the new mayor of the capital. The Reform Party entered into a coalition with the Center Party, which is the largest opposition force in both the Tallinn council and the national legislature.

Estonian government approves crime prevention action plan

Dec 11 - The Estonian government approved the next year's action plan in accordance with the crime prevention state strategy. The strategy, mapped out until 2005, embraces different preventive measures and campaigns directed at the public at large.

Estonian minister confirm support to X-way program

Dec 15 - The Estonian ministers for transport and communications, justice and the interior signed a co-operation protocol, expressing support for the development of a national information bank, or X-way program. Via the co-operation protocol the ministries confirmed that the population register and the central database of the courts' registry departments must be immediately linked with the X-way program, followed, as soon as possible, by the traffic register and the police board database. The ministers found that efforts had to be made so that the other databanks in the ministries' spheres of administration could also be linked with the X-way program. The X-way program is a system uniting all the most important databases in the country, opening them for inquiries by officials, private individuals and corporations. According to Transport and Communications Ministry Deputy Chancellor Mati Heidelberg, Estonia has nearly a hundred state registers, thirty of them of primary importance for society. "If so far there was no cross-use of the databases and the data in the different databases were dubbed and often different, then the new X-way program makes it possible to bring the system of state databases into a significantly better shape," Heidelberg said. The deputy chancellor underlined that the X-way program is not a new superdatabase, but an IT solution making it possible to used several databases in one environment.

British Sailors remembered in ceremony

Dec 12 - A wreath-laying ceremony took place at the military cemetery in Tallinn to commemorate the arrival of a British naval detachment to assist Estonia in its 1918-1920 War of Independence and the Britons killed here. The British defence attaché, Lt. Col. Patrick Clarke, and representatives of the Estonian navy and the naval officers’ assembly laid wreaths. Estonia’s top military commander, Rear Adm. Tarmo Kõuts, sent a wreath also. The British detachment arrived in the waters of Tallinn on December 12, 1918, to prevent the landing of troops of Bolshevik Russia behind Estonian lines and to assist Estonia with weapons, ammunition and other supplies. During the war, 274 different British vessels and over 250 Estonian vessels were active at sea.

Tickets to Eurovision finals fetch USD 400 in early part of auction in Estonia

Dec 12 - An Internet auction of the first batch of tickets to next year's Eurovision Song Contest finals in Tallinn saw prices rise to 7,000 kroons (USD 400) apiece from the starting price of 4,500 kroons. The public broadcaster Eesti Televisioon is selling 1,500 tickets - left over after the assignment of delegation and sponsor seats, seats for sale abroad and the private and corporate seats at Tallinn's Saku Suurhall arena - by public auction in the portal.


US authorities laud Baltics' progress on NATO course

Dec 11 - Senior US officials at a Baltic Charter meeting in Washington admitted that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have achieved great progress on their course to accession to NATO. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that because of their serious attitude to the preparations, the Baltic countries could be set as models for other candidates. Stephen Hadley, the US president's Deputy National Security Adviser, said that the issue of NATO enlargement was seriously on the agenda and accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania depended above all on the political, democratic, economic and military development of those countries in the time remaining until the Prague summit. Armitage spoke out for the vigorous continuation of reforms both in the economic and military spheres in order to ensure invitation of the Baltic countries to NATO at the Prague summit next year. The US deputy secretary of state also underlined that Russia would have no right of veto in issues of enlargement of the alliance in the NATO-Russia partnership council. Dwelling on the issue of the fight against terrorism, Armitage underlined the Baltic countries' quick and decisive reaction to the terror attacks and the taking of active countermeasures. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves underlined that the meeting of the partnership council of the charter was important both as an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest as well as the countries' expression of solidarity during the tense world situation created by the tragic events of September 11. US Political Affairs Under Secretary Marc Grossman, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis were present at this year's meeting of the Baltic Partnership Charter signed between the United States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1998. The issues discussed at the meeting covered the fight against terrorism and NATO enlargement, as well as bilateral relations, regional and global issues.

Estonian peacekeepers in Kosovo replaced

Dec 15 - The multi-purpose military police platoon ESTPATROL-5, consisting of 22 Estonian peacekeepers, left for a six-month mission in Kosovo. The Estonian peacekeeping unit in Kosovo belongs to NATO's KFOR Multinational Specialised Unit. The main duty of the peacekeepers is to patrol under the Italian Carabinieri regimental command and to participate in periodic searches of houses to find weapons, drugs and persons illegally staying in the country. Estonian peacekeepers first went on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo on November 1999.


Baltic Assembly proposes joint EU referendum idea

Dec 15 - The Baltic Assembly adopted an appeal to the parliaments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with a proposal to consider, in appropriate time, the expediency of holding the referenda on the accession to the European Union simultaneously. Head of the Estonian delegation, Trivimi Velliste, said that a simultaneous referendum could have a tremendous foreign policy resonance and an unprecedented synergetic effect in the three countries' domestic policy. At the same time, he said, there could be problems with carrying out the idea. "Estonian law, for example, establishes a number of time limitations as to when it is possible to carry out the referendum. There are certainly similar factors also in Latvian and Lithuanian law," Velliste said. He added that the aspect of European Union talks was another issue, and it was difficult to accurately forecast when any of the countries would conclude them. "But in any case, the idea of a simultaneous referendum is worth a wider discussion."


Estonian-Bulgarian free trade treaty signed

Dec 11 - The Estonian Foreign Ministry's deputy chancellor for politics, Väino Reinart, and Bulgarian Deputy Economics Minister Lyubka Katsakova signed a bilateral free trade agreement in Sofia. The accord will step into force after ratification by both parliaments, but in accordance with an agreement between the parties, it will be applied from January 1, 2002. The treaty lifts restrictions on trade in manufactured goods and liberalises trade in farming produce, giving Estonian goods access to the Bulgarian market under favourable terms. "The relations between Estonia and Bulgaria are excellent, but they contain many untapped opportunities. Bilateral trade and co-operation in general require a boost, and also more should be done to raise mutual awareness," Reinart said.

Estonia's largest passenger ferry christened Romantika

Dec 16 - Finnish shipyard Aker Finnyards launched Estonia's largest passenger ferry, which was christened Romatika (Romance) at a corresponding ceremony. Hansatee Grupp ordered the passenger ship. The vessel will be the largest Estonian passenger ship. The 2.6 billion-kroon ship will become operational on May 15, 2002. The 193-metre ship can carry around 2,500 passengers and 500 cars.

Currency Rates in Kroons
December 14, 2001

British pound - GBP - 25.189
Canadian dollar - CAD - 11.087
Swiss franc - CHF - 10.607
Danish krone - DKK - 2.100
Finnish markka - FIM - 2.631
French franc - FRF - 2.385
German mark - DEM - 8.000
Japanese yen - JPY - 0.135
Latvian lat - LVL - 27.792
Lithuanian lit - LTL - 4.339
Norwegian krone - NOK - 1.949
Russian rouble - RUB - 0.571
Swedish krona - SEK - 1.659
US dollar - USD - 17.356
Euro - EUR - 15.646


Business magazine proposes Estonian Prime Minister as head of a dream government

International business magazine Worldlink proposes Estonian prime minister Mart Laar as one of the possible heads of a world "dream government". The magazine's first choice for the head of a dream government would be Swedish prime minister Göran Persson and the second choice would be Mart Laar. The magazine points out Laar's successful national minorities policy as compared to heads of governments of other ex-Communist countries. The magazine would choose Canadian finance minister Paul Martin and Ghana finance minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo as the finance and economy ministers of the dream government, and U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell as the foreign minister of it.


When Mart Laar won office for a second time in 1999 (he had a short spell in 1992 for less than a year) Estonia’s economy was in some disarray following the Russian financial crisis. Two years on and the economy is forecast to expand 5% in 2001. Business taxes have been cut, most state-owned enterprises have been privatised and inflation is low. Of the EU accession candidates, Estonia is among the most advanced in membership talks.

Laar has also managed his country’s ethnic tensions far more effectively than other leaders of post-communist countries. Half of the approximately 400,000 ethnic Russians living in Estonia have no Estonian citizenship, and unemployment remains high in the east of the country where most Russian immigrants live. But the prime minister has pushed for bilingual education and Russian-language television programmes, and Estonian language tests required to obtain citizenship are now less stringent.

Despite the progress, the prime minister’s policies have been met with some discontent. The recent presidential election victory of Arnold Ruutel, an ex-Communist opposed to Laar’s privatisation programme, is proof of that. But the prime minister appears undeterred. Even in the face of resignation calls, Laar is fighting to remove the Estonian language requirement for public-office holders. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, citing positive moves on minority integration, is set to close its offices in the country as long as the language requirement is dropped. And Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has heralded Estonia’s integration policies as an example for central, eastern and even western Europe.

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