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Estonian Review: May 10-16, 2006

18.05.2006

FOREIGN NEWS
DOMESTIC NEWS
DEFENCE NEWS
ECONOMIC NEWS
IN MEMORIAM


Electronic Map of Estonia
Information Sheet - A Dynamic Economy


FM: EU Must Keep Its Promises to the Balkan Countries

May 15
- At the EU external relations council meeting in Brussels the ministers spoke about the situation in Western Balkans and the Middle East, also paying a great deal of attention to developments in Iraq and Iran. In their conclusions about Western Balkans, the ministers expressed regret at the Serb authorities' low level of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and confirmed that talks on the stabilization and association agreement with Serbia will resume at once after Serbia starts to fully cooperate with ICTY and brings to justice its war crime suspects, including Gen. Ratko Mladic. Foreign Minister Paet emphasized that unless clear prospects regarding the future are offered to the countries of Western Balkans the process of stabilization in the entire region may come to a halt. “The EU has to be a firm partner, who keeps its promises. We have started a serious discussion concerning the enlargement and here we have to avoid negative rhetoric. The Commision's recent report on enlargement states clearly that all the member states and the EU as a whole have benefited from the last round of enlargement,” Paet said. At the general affairs council Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said the EU must stick to a clear policy line on energy in its ties with Russia and Russia must ratify the international Energy Charter. Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik of the Austrian presidency gave her colleagues an overview of preparations for the EU-Russia summit due in Sochi on May 25. The summit meeting is to deal primarily with cooperation in energy field and the development of EU-Russia relations after 2007, as well as cooperation in the so-called four common spaces.
The signing of agreements on simplified visa regulations and readmission is also being prepared. Paet emphasized that energy will be one of the main topics of the meeting. "The European Union must maintain a firm and clear line in this and state that if Russia wishes to be a reliable partner in energy it has to ratify the Energy Charter and join the transit protocol," Paet said. The Estonian minister said it was important to also raise the topic of frozen conflicts and aside from Moldova and Southern Caucasus the situation in Belarus and North Caucasus had to be talked about. As regards possible signing of the treaties on simplified visa regulation and readmission, Paet said Estonia was in favour of having the agreements signed at the summit but added that before the agreements step into effect Russia must fulfil its obligations and sign the necessary readmission protocols with France, Spain and Portugal.


Estonia Plans to Distribute EUR 14.5 mln in Foreign Aid by 2010

May 11
- The Estonian government endorsed a development cooperation plan till the year 2010 whereby the foreign aid provided by Estonia will in four years grow to 0.1 percent of gross domestic product or about 227 million kroons (EUR 14.5 mln) a year.
According to the plan, financing of development cooperation will make up 186 million kroons and humanitarian aid, 41 million kroons of the funds to be distributed in 2010, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said. Estonia's foreign aid is at present roughly 160 million kroons a year. Of this 15 million is included in the budget of the Foreign Ministry to support concrete projects. Most of the foreign aid is part of Estonia's European Union membership payment of which a large part is spent on development cooperation and humanitarian aid. The plan calls for the biggest rise in the development cooperation appropriation to the Foreign Ministry budget, which is supposed to jump from the current to 61 million kroons in 2010. Estonia views Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Afghanistan as its key partners in development cooperation. The principal fields of support are education, environment, promoting of democracy, and economic development. "Estonia has till now participated in military operations in Afghanistan but in future we want to add to it a civilian component," Paet observed. The Foreign Ministry draws up yearly action plans and keeps an eye on their implementation and correspondence to the goals laid down in the overall development plan. The ministry is to present the first action plan for 2006-07 in October.


FM: Estonian-Swedish Development Cooperation Projects are Successful

May 16
- Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met in Brussels with the new foreign minister of Sweden, Jan Eliasson.
The ministers were delighted that the relations between the two countries were very good and stated that partnership in the EU and Estonia's NATO membership had further intensified the relations.
Paet and Eliasson spoke about common projects in development cooperation in third countries and possibilities to further deepen that cooperation.
Paet said joint Estonian-Swedish projects had been launched successfully and that young people from Ukraine currently studying at the Estonian School of Diplomacy had the opportunity to attend courses in Sweden. The ministers proposed the opportunity to expand joint projects to involve Moldova.
As the ministers discussed the situation in Western Balkans and Belarus, Eliasson emphasized the need to deepen cooperation between Nordic and Baltic countries towards these countries.



FOREIGN NEWS

PM, Juncker Expressed Hope that All Member States will take a Position on EU Constitutional Treaty

May 10
- Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip met with Luxembourg Prime Minister and Euro Group President Jean Claude Juncker. The meeting, held at Juncker's invitation, focused on the future of the European Union, extension of the euro zone and energy policy issues.
Juncker recognised Estonia's domestic preparations for adoption of euro and noted that there were no political obstacles to Estonia's accession to the euro zone. When Estonia meets all of the Maastricht criteria, Estonia would be not only invited, but indeed very welcome to join the euro zone in 2008, he noted.
Juncker also congratulated Estonia on the ratification of the EU Constitutional Treaty. This was a major decision, and not only for Estonia, he emphasized. Ansip and Juncker expressed hope that all Member States will take a position on the Treaty. “We hope that by ratifying the EU Constitutional Treaty, we have sent a positive signal to the other EU Member States,” said Ansip.


PM Demonstrated Estonia's Preparedness for Euro to EU Presidency

May 11
- Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip met in Vienna with Wolfgang Schüssel, the Federal Chancellor of Austria currently holding the EU Presidency.
The Prime Minister recognised the success achieved by Austria during the Presidency. He specifically emphasised the efforts of the Austrian Presidency to agree on the financial perspective with the European Parliament and the active tackling of the issues related to the future of Europe.
"In order to efficiently use the 70 billion kroons that Estonia will receive after the EU budget framework is approved, we require time for planning. Due to the quick agreement, we have that time," noted Ansip.
The Prime Minister gave Schüssel an overview of Estonia's economic developments and issues related to the conversion to the euro. Federal Chancellor Schüssel understood Estonia's difficulties in meeting the inflation criterion and the need for the continued rapid economic development.
Ansip and Schüssel also discussed the development of the common energy policy of the EU. Ansip acknowledged Austria's initiative for the parallel discussion of energy policy and the common foreign and security policy at the European Council summit in March. "It is important for Estonia that the energy policy and common foreign and security policy are addressed together," emphasised Ansip.
The meeting also touched upon the topics of the European Council meeting in June, such as the future of Europe and EU enlargement.


FM Met with Emirates Counterpart

May 16
- Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in Brussels to speak about relations between the two countries and prospects of their development.
Paet expressed hope that diplomatic relations established between the countries one and a half months ago will help to find possibilities of cooperation in economy, culture and politics alike, as well as expand opportunities for cooperation in international organizations, primarily in the United Nations.
"The UAE is the largest trading partner for Estonia in the Gulf region, at the same time there's still plenty of room for development in our economic cooperation," Paet said.
The minister said Estonia was ready to accept a business delegation from the UAE to present trade and investment opportunities in Estonia.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said the UAE was paying more and more attention to emerging markets and both private and state sector were involved in that process.
He said exchanges of business delegations would benefit both countries.
The ministers also spoke about possibilities to arrange student exchanges to deepen cooperation on all levels.
The UAE minister recognized Estonia's participation in the operation to secure peace in Afghanistan, saying that the success of that operation was very important for both Afghanistan and its neighbours.
Paet took part in a meeting of the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council that was attended by representatives of the EU member states and UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.


President Paid an Official Visit to Georgia

May 10-13
- During the official visit to Georgia Estonian President Arnold Rüütel opened a business forum in Tbilisi. Rüütel, in his opening address, gave an overview of the Estonian economic environment. Speaking about the two countries' economic ties, President noted that an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation is ready for signing and an agreement on mutual protection of investments is in preparation.
President Rüütel met with President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili and Chairman of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze. At the former meeting, various fields of cooperation between Estonia and Georgia were discussed; problems with Georgian wine export were discussed at greater length. President Saakashvili called Estonia a country of hope and an example for Georgia both in politics as well as in economy. President Rüütel said that Estonia supports wholesome and stable Georgia on its difficult but necessary path of reforms, and added that Russian troops must be withdrawn from Georgia according to the schedule.
The topics discussed at the meeting with Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Nino Burjanadze included the strengthening of inter-parliamentary ties, and Georgia's problems in economic relations, primarily with Russia, but also those concerning the production of counterfeit Georgian wines in Europe.
At the meeting with Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Nogaideli among other topics the issues of energy and development of roads network were discussed. Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said that Estonia could contribute a lot to Georgia's court reform, and expressed readiness to organise student exchange with Estonia and mutual language learning.
Foreign Minister Gela Bejuashvili said at a meeting with the Estonian President that Estonia has become a defender of Georgian interests in the EU and NATO. "Estonia has always stood up for Georgian interests in those organizations. At present Estonia is seeking to convince other member states of Georgia being a member of the European family," the minister said.
The President concluded his official visit to Georgia with meeting Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. As the former Patriarch of Abkhasia, Ilia II noted that the problems endangering Georgia's territorial integrity were artificially created. "We hope that Georgia will be once a state that is capable to assist other countries, but for the time being we still need help from Estonia."
The official delegation accompanying the Head of Estonian State to his official visit to Georgia included Minister of Economy and Communications Edgar Savisaar, Minister of Agriculture Ester Tuiksoo, Minister of Justice Rein Lang, Vice-President of the Bank of Estonia Rein Minka, members of the Riigikogu Andres Herkel and Janno Reiljan, and Rapla County Governor Tõnis Blank.


Ex-PM Mart Laar to Serve as Adviser to Georgian President

May 10
- MP Mart Laar, who served as Estonia's prime minister from 1992-1994 and 1999-2002, will become adviser to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on reforms in a United Nations-funded job.
Laar will be flying to Georgia for week-long stints starting from the end of May and his task will be to coordinate the various reforms at Georgian ministries.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said officials from the Foreign Ministry would provide Laar with extensive background information as well as recommendations for the Georgian leadership.
One aspect of Laar's mission would be to explain to the Georgian president and government the current positions of the EU and NATO, so as to make sure that Georgia's moves and expectations are realistic, the foreign minister said.
Laar added that Georgia, which has been part of the CIS so far but is targeting membership in NATO and the EU, is highly interested in the reforms undertaken in Estonia immediately after the restoration of independence. He compared Georgia's present situation with that of Estonia in the early 1990s and observed that Georgian politicians in the early 1990s only talked about Western orientation but failed to take any steps in that direction. "Even though reforms have often been carried out there by means of campaign and particularly protection of property, independent legal system and development of democracy leave better to be desired, Georgia nevertheless stands a chance," Laar said.


PM Recommended Consistency in Ownership Rights Protection at the EU-Latin America/Caribbean Summit

May 12
- In his presentations at the EU-Latin America/Caribbean Summit Prime Minister Ansip introduced the development of the Estonian economy and stressed the need for international cooperation in protecting the principles of the rule of law.
"A strong economy is the best social policy and globalisation creates new jobs," the Prime Minister stated at the working group led by the President of Nicaragua. Ansip noted that both Latin American/Caribbean countries and the European Union will win from enhanced cooperation.
Ansip also stressed the importance of protecting foreign investments: "Estonia respects the right of ownership. Clear ownership laws and direct foreign investments are the basis for our economic success. It is important to cooperate so as to use the knowledge accompanying direct foreign investments."
In the working group led by the Greek Prime Minister, Ansip emphasized the importance of energy policy and supported Panama's proposal to move forward with the Kyoto Protocol: "The question is not the price of the CO2 quota tomorrow, but in the year 2012 and further on. We need new rules for distributing the CO2 quotas." The Prime Minister explained Estonia's interest in the CO2 quotas because 97% of electricity in Estonia is generated from oil-shale.
Speeches from the summit are available on the website of the EU Presidency


GOV Imposes Visa Ban on Belarusian Top Officials

May 11
- The Estonian government imposed in line with European Council positions a visa ban and financial sanctions on top officials of Belarus including President Alexander Lukashenka.
The government is going to take the necessary steps to prevent the entry into and transit through the Estonian territory of Belarusian top officials.
In addition to visa restrictions, Estonia is going to apply financial sanctions whose aim is to make Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials responsible for violations of human rights and generally accepted election norms release and rehabilitate political prisoners, change election legislation and refrain from such violations in the future.


Estonia Hopes Newly-elected UN Council will Do a Good Job

May 11
- The Estonian Foreign Ministry hopes the UN Human Rights Council elected on May 10 will be efficient and the countries that secured seats on it prove their suitability as members. "The election of the Human Rights Council was a significant landmark in the reform of the United Nations and its human rights protection system," the spokesperson of the ministry said. In her words, the election showed that the council created in March represents a fresh beginning.
"There was real competition among candidates and the need to win the support of the majority of UN members forced them to prove their suitability as members of the Human Rights Council," she said. "For the first time the countries vying for seats on the Council decided to undertake concrete human rights-related commitments and all those countries' human rights situation will in the coming years also be assessed in the framework of the new, mutual human rights review procedure."
As the next step, the first session of the Council in June has to confirm this fresh start and show the body's ability to work more efficiently and in a greater spirit of cooperation than its predecessor the spokesperson added. "Thus, the new members of the council have to prove their pledges already at the first session," she said.
Estonia is seeking membership of the UN Human Rights Council for the 2012-14 period. Spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry have earlier said such a timetable allows Estonia to better plan and prepare for membership.


Estonian, Russian MPs Stressed Importance of Contacts between Border Areas

May 15
- Members of the foreign affairs committees of the Estonian parliament and the Russian parliament's upper chamber who met in Pskov, Russia, emphasized the importance of cooperation between border areas.
The chairman of the Estonian parliamentary committee, Enn Eesmaa, said cross-border cooperation has a big role in the European Union, especially now that Finland, which has identified developing the Northern Dimension as a priority of its presidency, is about to assume the presidency of the EU.
Also the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Federation Council, Mikhail Margelov, said contacts between Russian and Estonian border areas are important since they influence integration processes between the states, the development of legislation and other conditions for cooperation.
Marko Mihkelson, the vice chairman of the Estonian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said that the meeting in Pskov was rather an event of exchanging information. The more topical political matters could be taken under discussion at the next meeting that is to take place in Tartu in the autumn, he said. Mihkelson said that then also a broader discussion together with teachers and students from Tartu University could be held on the future of EU-Russia and Estonian-Russian relations.
Overall, the forum in Pskov was the fifth meeting of representatives from the foreign affairs committees of the Estonian parliament and the Russian Federation Council.
The delegations decided to hold the meetings twice a year from now on.


Estonian, Russian Diplomats Held Consultations in Moscow

May 11
- Consular consultations of the Estonian and Russian foreign ministries took place in Moscow. The Estonian delegation was headed by Jaanus Kirikmäe, director general of the ministry's consular department, and the Russian delegation, by the deputy director of the consular department, Andrei Podyolyshev.
The parties agreed that there exists a sufficient legal basis between the two states although the functioning of the laws has to be reviewed regularly and improved if necessary.
"Our activity's prime objective must be to facilitate travel for citizens," Kirikmäe stressed.
The Estonian ministry finds that in future bilateral cooperation both obligations arising from the European Union and Schengen visa regulations and agreements to be concluded between the EU and Russia have to be taken into consideration.
The parties further exchanged information about the procedure of appointing honorary consuls.
"It is important and positive that the consular consultations took place again after an interim of several years," Kirikmäe said and invited a Russian delegation to visit Tallinn.


Estonian Ambassador Met with Russia's Vice Foreign Minister

May 11
- Estonia's Ambassador to Russia Marina Kaljurand met in Moscow with Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko who is in charge of European Union-related matters.
It was a traditional get-acquainted visit at which also several forms of cooperation were under discussion, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said.
The ambassador and the minister talked about cross border cooperation between the EU and Russia and the Northern Dimension aimed at developing Europe's northern regions, she added.
Kaljurand briefed the minister about a conference on the Northern Dimension Estonia and Finland are jointly organizing in the Estonian capital on June 9. Russia's participation in the forum was discussed.
The concreteness and effectiveness of the projects in the framework of the Northern Dimension are important to Estonia and Estonia is working on identifying possible joint projects of mutual interest, the ambassador noted.


Estonian Ambassador Presented Credentials to Irish President

May 11
- Estonian Ambassador to Ireland Andre Pung presented his credentials to President Mary McAleese.
In the conversation following the ceremony, the president recalled her visit to Estonia and meeting with the then Estonian head of state, Lennart Meri.
Pung in turn noted that when Estonia joined the European Union Ireland held the rotating presidency of the bloc. Estonia and Ireland are both small countries at the opposite ends of Europe whose main wealth is their people and culture, he said.
Pung, 36, is the second Estonian ambassador residing in Ireland. He is a gradute of the Tallinn Technical University. Pung joined the Foreign Service in 1993, holding various positions in the foreign economic policy department. In 1996-99 he served as an economic diplomat at the Estonian embassy in Riga and in 2001-05, as consul general in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The ambassador is married with two children.


Estonian Rescuer Left on Mission to Suriname

May 11
- A member of the Estonian rescue team left on a mission to Suriname, the South American country suffering from massive floods.
Argo Parts went to Suriname as deputy head of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team.
According to the head of the Rescue board's foreign relations department, Parts' task will be to assess the situation in the disaster area and coordinate arriving international assistance.
Estonia has been represented on the UNDAC team since 2000 by the director-general of the Rescue Board, Mati Raidma, head of the crisis regulation team Jaan Tross, head of the foreign relations department Jevgeni Jutkevits, and Parts, an infectious diseases specialist.


Estonia and Grenada Established Diplomatic Relations

May 12
- The Estonian and Grenadian Permanent Representatives to the UN, Ambassadors Tiina Intelmann and Ruth Elizabeth Rouse signed a joint statement on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in New York.


Estonian MP to Observe Montenegrin Independence Referendum

May 12
- Member of the Reform Party faction in the Estonian parliament Väino Linde is going to observe the May 21 independence referendum in Montenegro. Estonian Foreign Ministry will also send its representative to observe the referendum.
The Estonian lawmaker will be observing the referendum together with a Finnish parliamentarian in the hills near the capital Podgorica.


Interior Minister Attended Baltic Sea Ministerial Meeting in Finland

May 12
- Estonia's Interior Minister Kalle Laanet took part at a meeting in Finland of ministers from countries surrounding the Baltic Sea to talk about forming a joint work group to combat crime.
The ministers discussed cooperation of the police, customs and border agencies to fight organized crime and map out future plans.
The ministers were also given an overview of the work of the Baltic Sea countries' anti-organized crime task force under the coming Finnish presidency. Finland holds the presidency of the task force since January 2005. In 2007 Estonia will take over for the next two-year period.
"I'm glad Estonia will have a chance to steer the task force. We intend to do our best for the efforts of the task force during the Estonian presidency to be even more strongly oriented toward tangible results," Laanet said.



DOMESTIC NEWS

Estonia's European movement Picked Writer Jaan Kross for European of the Year

May 11
- The writer Jaan Kross received the title of European of the Year from the president of Estonia's European movement, Riivo Sinijärv.
The council of the organization decided to give the title to Kross for his contribution to raising awareness of the Estonian culture and history in Europe and presenting European values in Estonia.


European Cities Sign Initiative for Green Capital of Europe in Tallinn

May 15
- Representatives from 15 European cities and the Association of Estonian Cities have signed a memorandum on the Green Capital of Europe, proposing that the European Commission institute such a title to be awarded on an annual basis.
The memorandum was signed during the ceremony in the Estonian capital by Tallinn and Tartu. The other signatories are Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Madrid, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, Glasgow, Dartford, Kiel, Kotka, and the Association of Estonian Cities.
Under the proposal, the title of Green Capital of Europe would be awarded for a period of one year to a city observing the principles of sustainable development, which has improved the quality of public transport, expanded parks and green areas, implemented modern waste disposal practices and innovative solutions to improve the overall living environment in the city.
The memorandum will be sent to the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.
The idea of introducing the title of Green Capital of Europe was put forward by Tallinn's City Mayor Jüri Ratas earlier this year.


Survey: People Believe EU Accession Had Positive Effect on Estonia

May 16
- Most people in Estonia find that the country has made fast progress since becoming a member of the European Union, a recent survey by the pollster Emor indicates.
The survey looked at resident's perception of the changes in their personal lives and their opinion of the progress Estonia has made over the past two years.
An overwhelming majority or 60 percent of the respondents believe that Estonia's development has accelerated in the past two years, 28 percent think there has been no acceleration, and only one percent believes there has been a slow-down. Yet 60 percent of the respondents also see their own life as having neither improved nor deteriorated since Estonia's accession to the EU, against 29 percent who say their life has improved and eight percent who see their life as having deteriorated.
Both ethnic Estonians and non-Estonians see EU accession as having a positive effect on life in Estonia, with 62 percent of Estonian and 57 percent of non-Estonian respondents believing membership gave a boost to Estonia's development.
Thirty-one percent of non-Estonians and 28 percent of Estonians saw an improvement in their personal lives.
Emor conducted the survey by interviewing 500 permanent residents of Estonia aged between 15 and 74.


Survey: Over Half of Non-ethnic Estonians Regard Estonia as their Homeland

May 15
- Fifty-three percent of ethnically non-Estonian residents of Estonia consider Estonia their homeland, one-fifth are naming Russia and about 15 percent the former Soviet Union, it appears from a survey carried out by Saar Poll in March.
While non-Estonians with Estonian citizenship and undefined citizenship see mainly Estonia as their homeland, residents who are citizens of Russia see Russia and citizens of other countries, other countries as their homeland.
In comparison with a similar survey carried out in 2000 the percentage of Russian citizens considering Estonia their homeland has grown from 23 percent to 31 percent. Of Russian citizens, 40 percent named Russia as their homeland in both 2000 and 2006. The percentage of Russian citizens seeing the former Soviet Union as their homeland meanwhile had declined from 29 percent to 22 percent.
Fifty-two percent of the non-ethnic Estonians living in Estonia were born in Estonia and one-third in Russia. Of the non-ethnic Estonians born in Estonia, 80 percent regard Estonia, 11 percent the former Soviet Union and seven percent Russia as their homeland. Of people born in Russia, 48 percent named Russia, 25 percent Estonia and 24 percent the Soviet Union, with two percent naming some other country.
For the survey commissioned by the Estonian Migration Foundation, Saar Poll conducted oral interviews with 980 non-ethnic Estonians aged from 18 to 74.


Survey: Most Popular Presidential Candidate in Estonia is Ilves

May 11
- Nearly 40 percent of Estonian residents see Toomas Hendrik Ilves as the next president, according to a recent public opinion poll.
The Social Democrat Ilves would be elected president by 39 percent of Estonian residents, including 49 percent of ethnic Estonians and 13 percent of Russian-speakers; it appeared from a poll the Faktum&Ariko company carried out for daily Eesti Päevaleht in the second half of April.
Ilves enjoys even stronger support among rural residents than in towns, as according to the survey he has 42 percent backing in the countryside and 37 percent among urban residents.
The incumbent president, Arnold Rüütel, has the support of 20 percent of Estonian residents. Some 15 percent of ethnic Estonians and 33 percent of non-Estonians would like to see him re-elected for a second term.
The third most popular presidential candidate is deputy speaker of the parliament Ene Ergma with 5 percent support.


Estonian Integration Program Under Review

May 11
- Estonia is drawing up a new integration program for the 2008-13 period putting more emphasis than before on the social and economic aspect.
"Although all residents' knowledge of the official language remains an essential consideration, this time around the aim is to include in the program more social and economic measures," Population Minister Paul-Eerik Rummo said after the first meeting of the expert commission coordinating the drafting of the program.
The initial version of the program is to be completed early in 2007 after which it will be presented for public debate.
The new program is being mapped out in a social situation that clearly differs from conditions in Estonia in 1999, the office noted.


GOV Set up Commission to Combat Money-laundering, Terrorism

May 11
- The Estonian government formed at the Finance Ministry's proposal a commission to prevent money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The commission is headed by the Finance Ministry and its members come from institutions dealing with questions of money-laundering and terrorism.
The body will include officials from the Justice, Interior and Foreign ministries, state prosecutor's office, security police, money-laundering information bureau of the central criminal police, financial supervision authority and the Bank of Estonia.
In addition, the commission has the right to set up an advisory council of representatives of the private sector.
The commission will start analyzing questions relating to money-laundering and terrorism and work out common solutions for problems. Among other things, the body will be coordinating the implementation of respective legislation and the drafting of a new law on preventing money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The commission is further to make proposals on how to improve the efficiency of measures to fight money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, and take part in international cooperation and the devising of the European Union's policy in this field.



DEFENCE NEWS

Estonian Troops Start Operations in South Afghanistan

May 13
- A six-strong military observation team, MOT-2, the first Estonian unit to arrive in Helmand province in South Afghanistan, started operations this week.
Going into action on Tuesday, the unit which is part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team carried out nine operations in the first four days.
The team joined British troops in foot patrols in the province capital Lashkar Gah, night patrols in the city, guarding of an airfield near the capital and escorting VIP convoys.
"The streetscape of Lashkar Gah is very mixed and needs careful watching to be prepared for surprises," the chief of the team, Capt. Georg Linkov, said.
In his words, the unit will soon start carrying out also observation duties in Lashkar Gah to collect information about what is going on in the city, and further plans include some longer reconnaissance patrols of up to several days.
The team which arrived in the area of operations in the second half of April was before going into action briefed about the security situation in Helmand and southern Afghanistan in general, had some shooting training and got ready the unit's supplies and equipment.
The soldiers also underwent driving and tactical training for British armoured vehicles as their basic means of transportation is armoured Snatch Land Rovers.
"Afghanistan is the principal field operation of the Estonian defence forces and NATO," the commander of the Estonian military contingent in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Raivo Tamm, said.


Defence Chief: NATO, EU Need to Avoid Overlapping

May 12
- The European Union and NATO need to work hand in hand and coordinate their activities in order to avoid overlapping, the commander of the Estonian defence forces said.
Vice Adm. Tarmo Kõuts took part in a session of the EU Military Committee in Brussels at which mapping out the bloc's long-term plans and participation in crisis regulation operations were under discussion.
The EU's long-term plan outlines the development of the bloc's civilian and military capability in the longer perspective taking into account the goals set in the European security strategy.
"Estonia is for setting clearly defined tasks and dividing responsibility among EU member countries and structures in accordance with the capability development mechanism," Kõuts said.
According to the army chief, military cooperation and coordination between NATO and the EU is essential in order to avoid overlapping and achieve interoperability.
Gen. John Reith, operational commander of the EU Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, briefed the committee about the EU peace enforcement operation Althea. Estonia increased its contribution to operation Althea by a platoon-size contingent. The unit formed of members of the Kaitseliit (Defence League) volunteer corps is serving at Tuzla togather with an Austrian unit.


Estonia to Accede to EU's Common Defence Acquisitions Regime

May 15
- Estonia has decided to become part of the European Union's common defence acquisitions regime that is aimed to open up the defence market within Europe and strengthen the European defence industry.
Estonian Defence Minister Jürgen Ligi took part in a meeting of the steering committee of the European Defence Agency in Brussels which dealt with developing the EU's military capabilities and the strategy for European cooperation in research and development.
Ligi said that while the resources earmarked for research and development in the field of defence have to be increased, their share of the defence budget must be a matter of decision of each separate EU member state.
The meeting approved a chapter of the European defence acquisitions regime which must secure equal opportunities in tenders for small and medium-size companies.
The regime ensures equal opportunities for all EU member states and will significantly expand the opportunities of businesses from small countries like Estonia to take part in international defence tenders.
For Estonia one of the most advantageous aspects of the accession to the regime is implementation of the code of good practice of the supply chain, which opens the door for Estonian defence companies as well as other businesses to take part in European defence acquisitions.
The regime, which Estonia has decided to join, steps into effect from July 1 this year.
In his remarks at an official meeting of EU defence ministers, the Estonian minister expressed support for the British strategic air transportation initiative. Estonia backs the initiative because firstly it is an important matter that needs to be solved, and secondly because the matter has to be solved in close collaboration between the EU and NATO.


Defence Minister: Estonian Defence Forces Getting Ready for Extension of Iraqi Mission

May 12
- The Estonian parliament has not yet discussed whether or not to continue the Iraqi mission but the defence forces are preparing for extension of the mission. "The defense forces have been given instructions to get ready for extension of the Iraqi mission," Defense Minister Jürgen Ligi said.
The minister said the reasons why Estonia is participating in the Iraqi operation are still valid. "The reconstruction of Iraq continues," he said.
Estonian troops are deployed in Iraq on the basis of the mandate the coalition force was given by the UN Security Council, Ligi added. The security situation in the country and the international situation have not changed much in the meantime, he noted. "Current decisions are of course influenced by the situation in Iraq," the minister said.
The defence forces prepared for the extension of the mission also before the parliament's previous respective decision as there would not have been enough time for training once the decision was made.
At present a 34-member light infantry platoon, ESTPLA-12, is serving in Iraq. In addition, there are four Estonian staff officers in coalition headquarters. Estonian soldiers have been deployed in Iraq since
June 2003.


This Year's Largest Military Exercise Kicked off in Estonia

May 10
- The Estonian defence forces' largest exercise this year, Spring Storm, opened with a formal line-up at the stadium of the Avinurme School in the northeastern Ida-Viru County.
"Taking part in Spring Storm are the three most important mainstays of Estonia's national defence: personnel in active service, Kaitseliit volunteers, and reservists, who make up the essential strength of the defense forces," said Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Alar Laneman.
Laneman said that aside from performing directly defence related tasks the defence forces would be building their most important capacity in the exercise - people's trust in the state and the defence forces.
The largest domestic exercise of 2006 is held from May 8 through 27 in the Ida-Viru and Jõgeva counties to polish different staffs' and units' interaction skills. Like in previous years, the primary objective of the war games is to train interaction of an infantry battalion as part of a brigade, with the staff of the Kuperjanov Single Infantry Battalion and conscripts forming the core of the unit.
According to the scenario of the drills, the units forming the infantry battalion have to halt the advance in Estonian territory of troops of a fictitious country and create the conditions for a counterattack.



ECONOMIC NEWS

Currency Rates in Kroons
(Bank of Estonia)


Estonian, Finnish Trade Unions Signed Cooperation Accord

May 11
- Acting in the wake of the opening of the Finnish labour market to workers from new EU member states from May 1, Estonian and Finnish trade unions signed a cooperation agreement in Tallinn.
According to the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL) under conditions of free movement of labour, matters of labour life in both countries have become vitally important for Estonian and Finnish unions. The agreement will help to intensify contacts in matters relating to the common interests of both sides. The parties are planning meetings between the leaders and experts of Estonian and Finnish trade unions, cooperation in the exchange of information, training and organizational matters.


GOV Planning Postponement of Excise Taxes

May 10
- The Estonian government is planning to put off a rise in the excise tax rate on alcohol, tobacco and fiscally marked fuel in order to curb inflation and thus meet the Maastricht inflation criterion.
According to plans of the government the rise in the excise on alcohol and tobacco excise would be postponed from July 1 this year to January 1, 2008, and the excise on fiscally marked fuel from January 1, 2007 to January 1, 2008.
The government also wishes to lift the excise from fiscally marked diesel fuel used in the Estonian fishery industry and light fuel oil as of January 1, 2007.
"The aim of the bill is to slow down the pace of inflation by postponing rises in excise tax rates," the government press office said.
As a result of the measures the planned state budget revenue will fall by 75 million kroons in 2006 and by 535 million kroons in 2007. At the same time, relying on a forecast of spring 2006, inflow of revenue above the target into the budget is expected to be 2.8 billion kroons. As a result the inflow of extra revenue the target would be more than 2.7 billion kroons.


In March Tourists were Eager to Use the Services of Health Resorts

May 16
- According to Statistics Estonia, in March one fifth of accommodated tourists stayed in accommodation establishments providing the services of health resorts.
In March 30,000 tourists stayed in accommodation establishments providing the services of health resorts. 77% of foreign tourists came from Finland, 11% from Sweden. More than a half of tourists were residents of Estonia. The interest of residents of Estonia in using the services of health resorts and spending their free time healthily is increasing.
Compared to March of the previous year, the number of residents of Estonia who stayed in accommodation establishments providing the services of health resorts increased 29%. If Estonians stayed in health resorts on an average for 2 nights, then foreign tourists stayed there longer - on an average about for 5 nights.
In March 136,000 tourists stayed in accommodation establishments of Estonia, 32% of them came from Finland, 44% were residents of Estonia and 24% came from other foreign countries.
In March 552 accommodation establishments with 14,000 rooms and 29,000 beds were available for tourists. The room occupancy rate was 38%. In March about one half of tourists staying in accommodation establishments of Estonia were on a holiday trip - 55% of foreign tourists and 41% of residents of Estonia.
The average cost of a guest night in an accommodation establishment was 430 kroons. The cost of a guest night was highest in Tallinn (560 kroons) and lowest in Southern Estonia (285 kroons). In hotels and motels the average cost of a guest night was 491 kroons, in other types of accommodation establishments - 232 kroons.



IN MEMORIAM

Udo Petersoo, Archbishop of Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad, Has Passed Away

May 15
- Udo Petersoo, archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) abroad, died in Toronto on Sunday, May 14, at age 72.
Petersoo was born in Tallinn on May 8, 1934. The family fled to Sweden to escape Soviet occupation, moving on to Canada later, the Consistory of the EELC said.
Petersoo graduated from Waterloo Lutheran University, Waterloo Lutheran Seminar and the teacher-training college of the University of Toronto. After graduation he worked as
a teacher during 17 years.
Petersoo was ordained as member of the clergy in 1975. He served various exile Estonian congregations during 30 years, serving the longest with the Estonian congregation of Sault St. Marie and St. Andrew's of Toronto.
When Archbishop Konrad Veem retired in 1990, the EELC Church Council elected Petersoo, the dean of Canada and pastor of the Toronto St. Andrew's congregation to replace him.
The EELC Consistory said in its eulogy that Petersoo was a church leader and prominent figure in public life who dedicated his strength to serving the exile community and the struggle for Estonia's freedom.





EESTI RINGVAADE is compiled from local news services, including BNS, and is issued by the Press and Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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