Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 23
29 November 1999

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 20 November 1999

Mel Huang

Politics and foreign affairs

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the speech given by Prime Minister Mart Laar at the OSCE Istanbul Summit an "impermissible interference" into Russia's internal affairs. During the meeting, Laar said the "demonisation" of the Chechen nation was "racism, pure and simple," and harshly criticised the Russian military action in the breakaway province.

In the continuing judicial review over the loss of USD 10 million in a sham-investment deal by the now non-existant Pohja-Eesti Pank (North Estonian Bank), the Supreme Court ruled the Central Bank failed in its regulatory duties in this financial mess. The Court placed blame on the former head of the Central Bank, current Finance Minister Siim Kallas, for lax regulations and controls on activities during that time. Kallas and his advisor, Urmas Kaju, remain tied to a criminal case connected to the loss, as the Supreme Court earlier sent back one part of their acquittal to the lower courts for further review.

Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves was in Brussels to meet with top European Union (EU) officials. Issues concerning CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) and the rapprochement between the EU and WEU were discussed with the the new foreign policy chief of the EU, Javier Solana, while matters concerning Estonia's EU membership were discussed with Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen. Ilves also travelled to Luxembourg to attend the WEU summit, alongside Defence Minister Juri Luik.

A week long minesweeping exercise was held off the coast of the island of Saaremaa. Ships from the NATO northern fleet joined Baltic minesweepers in the exercise.

The Pensioners' and Families' Party announced it will merge with the Estonian People's Party. The latter is a recent merger product itself, composed of the old Estonian Rural People's Party and the Rural Union. The various parts of the new party, spread out in two different factions, number under a dozen.

Estonia's Ambassador to Ukraine, Tiit Naber, unveiled a computerised classroom in the Ukrainian town of Ivankovo. The Estonian government earlier earmarked Estonian kroons (EEK) 343,000 for the new classroom in the secondary school, but later another EEK 35,200 was needed to finish the project. The classroom will have 18 computers and 2 printers, as well as all necessary software - provided by the firm Datel. Estonia has consistently given assistance to Ukraine, especially in areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which includes Ivankovo.

Economics and Business

The Estonian government and US energy company NRG Energy have agreed to invest USD 327 million into the two power plants in north-east Estonia. NRG is in negotiations to buy 49 per cent of the two power plants, which generate over 90 per cent of Estonia's electricity. The investment plan is for 15 years, but the first 5 years would cover USD 220 million with the construction of a new power bloc for each of the power plants. The new blocs would be environmentally sound and would secure a place for oil shale-generated electricity in the future. Estonia is the only country that uses oil shale for its primary electrical generating fuel. The deal between the government and NRG is scheduled to be completed by year's end.

The average wage in Estonia rose by 8.5 per cent in the third quarter, reaching EEK 4261 (or USD 281) monthly. The survey also showed that brokers make on average 2.3 times the national average, while hotel and restaurant sector workers made only 53 per cent of the national average.

The producer price index rose in October by 0.6 per cent.

Privatisation Agency officials say they received three bids for the near-bankrupt news agency ETA, however, one may be invalid. The Agency will not announce any info about the bids until the decision is made on who wins. Latvian news agency LETA is known to be one of the bidders.

Estonia's TV3 increased its hold on the country's audience with a 54 per cent stake of the viewing market. However, at the same time, advertising revenues dropped by 29 per cent. The Swedish owners of the many TV3 companies in the Baltic and Scandinavia regions said the Russian crisis has been the culprit in the falling revenues.

Social and Local Interest

The government decided to raise the minimum wage to EEK 1400 a month (about USD 93) starting in the new year.

A new survey shows that 110,000 individuals in Estonia (about 7.3 per cent) use the internet at least five times a week.

The winter ice claimed its first two victims, as two boys drowned after falling through a thin section of ice. A man heroically jumped into the icy water to attempt a rescue, but he was unsuccessful.

Yet another sign of a growing underworld war, suspected mob boss Boris Malinovski was shot while playing billiards in the Russian Cultural Centre. The shooting came almost at the same time as a statement made by the Centre Party denoting the Russian Cultural Centre as a source of underworld activities. Malinovski has since been released from the hospital.

And Others...

The Estonian Foreign Ministry is still waiting to hear from the German Labour Ministry regarding work permits for the construction crew scheduled to work on the Estonian Embassy building in Berlin. The building, purchased by Estonia in the 1920s and only recently returned, remains empty as the construction crew has been waiting for many months for work permits. For now, the Estonian Embassy is functioning out of a rented space, which is unnecessarily wasting taxpayers' money.

A group of schoolchildren from Tallinn donated collected clothes to a childrens' home in Pskov, Russia. Originally, the children were on their way to Moscow on a school trip, but it was cancelled due to the bombings.

Exchange Rates
As of 26 November 1999

currency Estonian
1 US dollar 15.43
1 British pound 24.90
1 German mark 8.00
1 euro 15.65

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

Prepared by Mel Huang, 24 November 1999

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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