Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 10
13 March 2000

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Estonia
All the important news from Estonia
since 4 March 2000

Mel Huang

Politics and foreign affairs

President Lennart Meri made a week long trip to Great Britain. Meri met with military and government leaders to promote bilateral ties. He also spoke at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and visited several locations outside London with large Estonian communities.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Sakari Tuomioja made his first foreign trip to Estonia to discuss bilateral relations. This was the first trip for Tuomioja since replacing Tarja Halonen, who became Finland's President.

Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen made a three-day visit to Estonia to discuss EU and NATO integration.

Agriculture Minister Ivari Padar voiced objections to genetically-modified foods, saying it should be considered only as a last resort.

Defence Minister Jüri Luik made a visit to the United States to discuss NATO integration. In addition to reaffmirming Estonia's dedication to developing its national defence, Luik also confirmed its support for European capability in the sphere of defence.

President of the Nordic Council, Anna Þórðardóttir, visited Estonia to discuss regional relations.

The Riigikogu formed a friendship group with Taiwan, led by Jüri Kaver.

The stand-off in the Riigikogu ended, when the government suspended the bill on the restoration of property to Germans who repatriated in 1941. The Riigikogu was nearly paralysed during the sessions, as the opposition used delay tactics in several marathon sessions.

Ambassador Peeter Reštšinski delivered his accreditation to Romanian President Emil Constinanescu. Reštšinski resides in Warsaw.

The Riigikogu rejected an opposition bill to restrict land sales to foreigners. The government said they will submit a bill on this issue soon.

Peep Jahilo presented his credentials to King Harald V of Norway. Jahilo becomes the first Esotnian ambassador to Norway to reside in Oslo.

Tallinn Mayor Jüri Mõis outlined plans to cut two-thirds of the city's workforce of 30,000. Mõis said it would be possible by continued privatisation of municipal property, and that it would allow wages to rise as well.

The Riigikogu approved a law on the legality of digital signatures, and the government must now establish the conditions.

The Riigikogu also ratified the European Convention against Money Laundering.

Former Finance Ministry chancellor Agu Lellep and deputy chancellor Peep Lass were charged with corruption over the acquisition of official cars.


Economic and business

The Statistics Department announced that Q4 preliminary figures in 1999 showed the economy grew by 1.9 per cent from the same period in 1998. This fell far below expectations of three to five per cent growth, and most feel the full-year 1999 figures would fall far into the negative side. Preliminary numbers indicate a drop of 1.4 per cent in 1999's GDP.

There was no change in the CPI in February.

The January trade deficit fell to EEK (Estonian kroon) 900 million, with exports at EEK 3.3 billion and imports at EEK 4.2 billion.

The largest regional bus service, Eesti Buss (Estonian Bus), has been declared bankruptcy. However, the lines will remain operational.

The Mazda dealership in Estonia is beginning a scheme to sell cars on the Internet. Only one model will be sold during the experiment, which will begin in coming weeks.

Fitch IBCA upgraded the long-term ratings of Ühispank from BBB- to BBB.

Former head of the failed ERA Pank, Andres Bergmann, and several top managers, were arrested in connection with the failure. However, the men were released later in the week.

Petrol prices crossed the psychological barrier of EEK ten per litre, as world oil prices continue to rise.

The Merchants Association said that a quarter of all retail trade in Estonia is in the grey or black market.


Social and local issues

Polls show that Euroscepticism is growing in Estonia, with EU support down in the last two years by 14 per cent, to 44 per cent. Eurosceptics have jumped by 15 per cent over two years, hitting 40 per cent.

The World Tourism Organisation said Estonia has the fastest growing tourism market in Europe, with overnight stays up by 15 per cent and total visitors by nine per cent.

A recent poll showed some nine per cent of Estonians use the Internet daily.

Half of the anti-drugs squad moved to quit over disagreements with police heads. This comes after Kalev Kukk, the squad's commissioner, resigned over disagreements with the country's police leaders. This could leave the squad with only 12 investigators.

A tax loophole was closed for military pensioners, as the pensions will now be taxed beyond the minimum deductible of EEK 800 a month. Though this affects about 9000 Russian military pensioners, another 400 or so of Estonian veterans in the Finnish military also face the same situation. The Russian Embassy in Tallinn called this move a violation of the 1994 troop withdrawal agreement between the two countries.

A fight over control of the unions continues, as Mõõdukad MP Raivo Paavo said he would not run again for the leadership of the unions.


And in other news...

A baggage trolley at Copenhagen Airport rammed an Estonian Air jet, damaging the plane. The Boeing 737 remained in Copenhagen for repairs.

The government earmarked EEK two million for the ambitious project to map the genes of Estonians.

Pop group the Pet Shop Boys will play a concert in Tallinn on 6 June, as part of their Baltic and regional tour.

Exchange rates
As of 10 March 2000

currency Estonian
1 US dollar 16.18
1 British pound 25.62
1 German mark 8.00
1 euro 15.65

[Up-to-date Estonian exchange rates can be found here]

Prepared by Mel Huang, 10 March 2000

Archive of Mel Huang's Amber Coast articles

News sources

Baltic News Service (BNS)
The Baltic Times
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Reuters news on Yahoo

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