Estonia commemorates 14 June 1941 deportation
The 60th anniversary of the mass deportation in 1941 when the Soviets shipped thousands of Estonians to Siberia in cattle cars was marked in Estonia with several nationwide and regional events. Meetings began on 14 June with the noon ringing of church bells across Estonia in memory of the deportees.
The government gave EEK (Estonian kroons) 741,000 (USD 40,000) from its reserve for the commemorative events. Among them, President Lennart Meri conferred the Broken Cornflower Badge on surviving victims of reprisals and a memorial was held on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.
Meri shook hands with 6600 victims of repressions all over Estonia as he bestowed the badge he initiated. In all, 10,000 victims of foreign powers received the badge, but more than 3000 were kept from the events by health or other reasons and will receive their badges from local government leaders.
A victim himself of Soviet repressions in the 1940s, Meri thanked those who had survived the hard times for having preserved the state and the people of Estonia. He invited people to look into the future, but never forget what happened 60 years ago. "It is possible to forget, but we must never forget our past," Meri said, adding that Russia should admit the occupation of Estonia and the other Baltic states. "Estonia is still hoping for the Russian Federation to turn its glance into the future and stop repeating the absurdity that the Republic of Estonia joined the Soviet Union voluntarily in 1940, " Meri said.
Ilves underscores Estonia's interests at EU meeting
In talks with the European Union on 12 June in Luxembourg, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves emphasized the need to take Estonia's interests into account, as the decision concerning entry into the EU will be made by the Estonian people. Negotiations require mutual understanding and flexibility from both sides, said Ilves. "We cannot adopt decisions which the Estonians are against because the final decision about the entry into the EU will be made by the Estonian people," he said.
The 12 June talks dealt with six chapters: financial control, free movement of services, environment policy, taxation, free movement of individuals and the customs union. The first three don't require additional negotiations at the moment and are provisionally closed. In the free movement of services and environmental policies, the transition period sought by Estonia has been granted.
Economic minister survives confidence vote
An opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence in Economics Minister Mihkel Pärnoja was rejected by Parliament. Forty-one deputies signed the bill blaming Pärnoja for scandals related to the privatization of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway) and irregularities on the engine fuel market. A minimum of 51 votes in the 101-seat chamber was needed for the motion to be carried.
People's Union elects presidential candidate
The People's Union confirmed Chairman Arnold Rüütel, 73, as its official presidential candidate at a congress on 9 June. A rival, Ene Tomberg, withdrew from the race, urging delegates to give their votes to Rüütel, former chairman of the Supreme Council of Soviet Estonia. The overwhelming majority of the delegates backed Rüütel, so that a count of votes was deemed unnecessary.
Baltic defense ministers meet in Tartu
A three-day seminar in the Baltic Defense College starting on 11 June featured, among other speakers, Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius, Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis and Estonian Defense Minister Jüri Luik.
The seminar's goal was to analyze security dimensions in the northeastern and southeastern parts of Europe and to investigate the achievements, shortcomings and future prospects of mutual cooperation. The seminar took place in the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace Program (PFP). Participants included 70 leading security specialists and scholars from government and academic institutions in 25 NATO and PFP countries.
Estonia will send reconnaissance unit to Bosnia
The government on 12 June endorsed the formation of a reconnaissance company comprising 100 men and its deployment in August to Bosnia and Herzegovina with NATO peacekeeping troops alongside a Danish battalion.
The Estonian Defense Ministry will pay the unit's pre-mission expenses as a part of a Danish battalion in the Nordic-Polish group.
Russian-speakers adopt Estonian names
Many Russian-speakers in Estonia are changing their names to Estonian ones, hoping that an Estonian-sounding name will make life simpler.
So far this year, 29 Russian-speakers have chosen an Estonian name, the daily Eesti Päevaleht reported. Maria, a student at Tartu University who adopted an Estonian surname this spring, said name changes in the spring are connected with graduation exams in April. "If a person changes names before graduation exams, he will get the graduation certificate in the new name," Maria said. "The old name remains in school archives. A new name will help one's career."
And in other news...
- On 12 June, Parliament banned the purchase of aluminum and copper cable as scrap metal until the end of 2003, backed by a fine of up to EEK 500,000 (USD 27,000) for violation. Theft of metal, a major problem for many years, has left entire villages without lights or telephone connections after thieves sold wires for scrap.
- The average gross monthly wage increased in 2000, compared to 1999, by 10.5 percent, averaging EEK 4907 (USD 273).
- An Estonian man, who stepped one meter into Latvia's territory on 9 June as he was taking a photo of his wife and child, found no forgiveness with Estonian border guards who fined him EEK 265 (USD 15).
Kristin Marmei, 15 June 2001
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