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Estonian Review: February 5-19, 2006

27.02.2006

TOP NEWS
FOREIGN NEWS
DEFENCE NEWS
DOMESTIC NEWS
ECONOMIC NEWS
CULTURAL NEWS



TOP NEWS

Estonia Hails Finnish Decision to Open Labour Market

Feb 17
- Estonian Foreign Ministry welcomes Finland's decision not to extend the restrictions on the free movement of labour from new member countries of the European Union beyond the initial two-year transitional period that expires on May 1, 2006. “It's splendid that Finland has decided to lift the curbs on the free movement of labour,” Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said. "Next to the free movement of goods and capital, free movement of labour is one of the basic freedoms of the EU. It's fine that this freedom will now expand to Estonians in Finland."
As time has shown, influx of Estonian workers into countries that opened their doors to workers from EU newcomer states in 2004 has not been remarkable, the minister observed. "The lifting of restrictions has above all an emotional significance to us," he said. Finnish employers, employees and government decided to end transitional restrictions on the free movement of workers from new EU member countries.
Before the opening of new Art Museum in Tallinn President Rüütel congratulated Halonen once again on her re - election and welcomed the agreement Finland recently achieved on scrapping restrictions to the free movement of labour for new member countries.


Estonian FM: Belorussian NGOs Need More Support

Feb 8
- Jan Czurylowicz, the representative of candidate of Belorussian opposition Alexander Milinkevich on presidential election, visited Estonia as the guest of Open Estonian Foundation. He met with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. Czurylowicz gave to FM Paet an overview of the situation prior to the presidential election, told about the activity of the presidential candidate Milinkievits and of the intended electoral campaign. Estonian FM said: “More attention has to be paid to Belorussian non-government organizations. If the situation in Belarus was handled only briefly last year, then today the issue is constantly on our agenda." According to Estonian FM unification of the Belorussian opposition forces certainly plays a role in this. ”There has to be different approach to Belorussian government figures, and to the civic society - more attention must be paid to Belorussian NGOs, which probably enrol more such people who want to change something,” FM added. At the open meeting of the foreign affairs committee of Estonian Parliament he set Estonia as an example to other EU member states countries because the considerable support of Estonian political forces and civic associations have given to Belarus. As he said, it is very important for Belarus that Estonian Parliament set up the Belorussian support group. Several European countries, such as Poland, had followed Estonia's example. Estonian civic associations have been supporting Belarus for years and their experience and expertise has been very important. The Open Estonia Foundation will despatch 14 observers to the Belorussian presidential elections to take place on March 19. Milinkievits was elected as the joint presidential candidate of the opposition forces at a congress of democratic forces that rallied most Belorussian opposition parties and oppositional NGOs. Czurylowicz is Milinkievits' representative at the European Union since last November.


Kristina Shmigun and Andrus Veerpalu Win 3 Olympic Gold in Turin

Feb 17
- Estonian cross country skier Kristina Smigun won the women's 15 km pursuit in the Turin Winter Olympics on Feb 12. She took another gold medal on women's 10 km classical race. Shmigun finished in 27 minutes and 51.4 seconds, ahead of Norwegians Marit Bjorgen and Hilde Pedersen who finished respectively 21.3 and 22.6 seconds behind.
Shmigun is the second Estonian woman athlete to have won two Olympic gold medals. Erika Salumae won Olympic gold medals in track cycling in Seoul in 1988 and in Barcelona in 1992.
Andrus Veerpalu won the gold medal in the men's 15 km classical race, covering the distance in 38 minutes 01.3 seconds. Veerpalu won his first Olympic gold medal four years ago in Salt Lake City.
Competing under the Soviet flag, Estonian Ants Antson won gold in speed skating in men's 1,500 meters in the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. Kristjan Palusalu won two gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1936.



FOREIGN NEWS

Consultations Between Estonia and Russia Held in Moscow

Feb 9
- Session of regular political consultations between Estonian and Russian Ministries of Foreign Affairs was held in Moscow. Delegations were respectively led by deputy secretary of political affairs Sven Jürgenson, and by deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov. At the next round of the two ministries' regular political consultations both sides agreed that there were still unused opportunities to develop relations. More attention should be paid to practical aspects of regional co-operation, using opportunities, offered by common European Union policies, for example. According to Jürgenson better use could be made of the potential of European Union's Nordic Dimension policy. It was decided at the meeting to work for closer contacts in order to define the circle of cooperation projects of mutual interest. It was also agreed that consular consultations should take place in the near future. At these consultations would be discussed issues, related to simplifying the movement of people, including visa problems and practical aspects connected with Estonia's accession to the Schengen visa space and dialogue between the EU and Russia and NATO and Russia.
Titov promised to support solution of issues connected with modernization of the Estonian consulate-general in St. Petersburg and finding better premises for the Pskov office of the St Petersburg consulate-general, which are necessary to better serving of gradually increasing number of tourists. Concerning improvement of the Estonian-Russian contractual basis the most attention was paid to agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and pension insurance; the need to sign an agreement on the protection of mutual investments was also underlined. According to Jürgenson, signing of agreements connected with the protection of the Baltic Sea environment, simplifying cooperation in pollution control and organization of rescue work in the Gulf of Finland was found to be of primary importance.
Both the sides stated that relations between the two countries' agencies had become livelier. Of international affairs the situation in Iran and Kosovo was discussed, and information was also exchanged on developments in Moldova and Georgia.
In the opinion of the Estonian Foreign Ministry the consultations proceeded in a constructive atmosphere oriented at practical cooperation. Estonian deputy secretary of Political Affairs Sven Jürgenson extended to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov the invitation to visit Tallinn.


FM Paet: Estonia doesn't think that EU Constitutional Treaty is Dead

Feb 6
- Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said at a meeting with his Latvian, Lithuanian and German counterparts on Friday that in Estonia's opinion the
EU constitutional treaty is not dead and work with it should continue.
He said the rejection of the treaty in the Dutch and French referendums had its positive side, as it gave all EU member states the possibility and duty to think deeper about Europe's essence and future, and also gave rise to public debate.
Paet, Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier focused during the ninth annual meeting held in this format on the future of the EU, Europe's New Neighborhood Policy, situation in the Western Balkans, and energy policy.
The four ministers said they are glad that during the Austrian presidency it has been decided to resume intensive discussion about the constitutional treaty.
The foreign minister of Germany said that discussion of the agreements contained in the constitutional treaty as
well as a wider debate on the future of Europe must definitely continue in the member states.
The Latvian and Lithuanian ministers added that it is very important to restore citizens' trust in Europe.
Therefore it is vital to show that readiness for cooperation persists also in the enlarged EU.
Speaking about the EU budget, the four ministers expressed hope that the financial perspective approved at the end of last year would endorsed also by the European Parliament.
As regards Southern Caucasus, the ministers emphasized that action plans for Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan should be adopted as soon as possible because their implementation would have a positive effect on the entire region.
Paet underscored the need to approach each of the action plans individually, so that the problems, which may emerge with one country wouldn't prevent going on with the others.
In the case of Belarus, one of the biggest problems at this point is lack of adequate information about the outside world.
On the topic of energy policy, Paet said Estonia considers it necessary that the EU would devise a long-term common energy policy, finding ways to increase the energy security of member states and expand the use of alternative sources of energy.
Paet also had a separate meeting with Steinmeier, during which he gave an overview of Estonia's preparations
for adopting the euro currency. The foreign minister invited Steinmeier to visit Estonia.


Estonian Defence Minister and Foreign Minister Attended Security Policy Conference in Munich

Feb 6
- Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Defence Minister Jürgen Ligi attended 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy.
The topic of this year's conference was "Europe and the United States: Restoring the Transatlantic Partnership." The Munich conference is the most important annual event in security policy, also dubbed the Davos of security policy , which this year brings together 250 senior politicians from about 50 European countries, Asia and America.


Training Course for Georgian Police Officers in Estonia

Feb 4
- Twelve police executives from Georgia are attending a six-week training program at the Public Service Academy in Tallinn. Georgian policemen will go through four stages of the course - the basics of contemporary police work, patrol police tactics, basics of criminal law and criminal procedure law, and teaching methodology. In addition to theoretical training practical exercises will be conducted and visits paid to police institutions in Estonia. The present course is the result of co - operation of Estonian Public Service Academy, UN Georgia monitoring mission, the Georgian Police Academy and Finnish police. Estonian government is a co-sponsor of the project.


Estonian President Met with the Leaders of Croatia

Feb 8
- President Arnold Rüütel met on his state visit to Croastia with the President Stjepan Mesic, Speaker of the Parliament Vladimir Šeks, and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. President Rüütel opened a Croatian-Estonian business forum. At the meeting of delegations, political and economic relations were discussed. At the meeting with Croatian counterpart president Rüütel said: “Estonia supports Croatia in the process of the EU accession. We are ready to share our negotiation experience with Croatia.” President Mesic said, that Croatia is very much interested in Estonian experience in the framework of the Baltic cooperation - it can be suitable in cooperation in the Balkans region. At the meeting with Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Vladimir Šeks inter - parliamentary relations were discussed. Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Edgar Savisaar and Minister of Finance Aivar Sõerd met with their Croatian colleagues and discussed possibilities of further cooperation and exchange of experience. “Cooperation with Estonia is very important for Croatia,” says PM of Croatia Ivo Sanader.


Ambassador of Algeria Presented his Credentials

Feb 16
- President Arnold Rüütel received Letters of Credential of Abdelaziz Lahiouel, Ambassador of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria. According to President Rüütel Estonia is interested in strengthening political, economic as well as cultural ties with Algeria. "We see possibilities to develop bilateral relations between the EU and the Mediterranean region within the framework of the Barcelona Process. The summit of heads of states in November 2005, dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, gave us an opportunity to summarise the progress made so far and proved that such cooperation is possible and necessary," president Rüütel said. President Rüütel added that Estonia has gained good experience from the cooperation of the Baltic Sea states that might be useful in connection with some areas of the Barcelona Process.
Algerian Ambassador Lahiouel agreed, that relations between Algeria and Estonia are friendly and there is a promising prospective for developing beneficial bilateral co - operation in the interest of our two nations.


Ambassador of Tunisia Presented his Credentials

Feb 16
- President Arnold Rüütel received Letters of Credential of Chebaane Bechir, Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia. At the meeting president Rüütel said: "I would like to remind that Tunisia is not a country that is unknown in Estonia. At the beginning of the last century quite many Estonian intellectuals found their way to Tunisia. There were commercial ties between the two countries and an idea of opening an Estonian consulate in Tunisia was being discussed, though it did not realise before the World War II. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we sincerely wish to strengthen our ties with Tunisia."
President Rüütel added that Estonia's accession to the European Union and NATO has brought with it new possibilities and challenges, but it imposes also new obligations and responsibilities. "I think that the EU-Tunisia Association Agreement, as well as the Action Plan signed in 2004 within the framework of the EU Neighbourhood Policy, will boost also the strengthening of our bilateral relations," he said. Tunisian Ambassador added, that his country is making continuous efforts to strengthen its relations with the EU countries, including Estonia, and to build up well-functioning bilateral EU-Mediterranean cooperation within the framework of the Barcelona Process.



DEFENCE NEWS

Estonian Military Personnel in Afghanistan

Feb 14
- Three Estonian staff officers are serving at the headquarters of the Canada-led Multinational Brigade in Regional Command South at the Kandahar airport during the next six months.
Capt. Hando Tõevere will serve at the brigade headquarters' operations department and act as the elder of the Estonian military personnel serving in southern Afghanistan. Capt Targo Lusti will serve at the medical department and Capt. Taavi Tuisk at the information department.
"Our primary goal is to support the arrival of the Estonian troops in the operation area," Tõevere said.
The Estonian defence forces are preparing to send an infantry platoon, a military observers' team, a mine clearance team, a reconnaissance unit, a support unit and staff officers to southern Afghanistan where the area of responsibility of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) acting under a mandate of the UN Security Council will expand this year. The units of the Estonian Defence Forces will serve in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan alongside British troops. At present there are 22 Estonian soldiers serving in Afghanistan - one staff officer in Kabul, a platform team of three at the Kabul international airport, a mine clearance team of ten in northern Afghanistan, a six-strong observation team and two staff officers in the same area.
Last December the Estonian parliament extended Estonian personnel's participation in foreign operations in Afghanistan by two years for up to 150 members of the Defence Forces.
The Defence Forces are planning to send nearly 120 personnel to Afghanistan by the end of this year. Estonian military have been taking part in the operation in Afghanistan since March 2003.


Commander of the Defence Forces Recognized Estonian Soldiers Serving in Iraq

Feb 15
- Vice Admiral Tarmo Kõuts visited Estonian light infantry platoon ESTPLA -12 and met with leaders of coalition forces. VA was given an overview of situation in operating sector, and co - operation of Estonian and US units. “After discussion with American officers I am proud, again, to be the Commander of Estonian Defence Forces,” said Kõuts. “For sure, good feedback was not caused by politeness.”
ESTPLA - 12 is located in Taji, near Bagdad and is subordinated to 4th Infantry Division 1st Brigade Combat Team 7-10 Cavalry Regiment, 4ID 1BCT 7-10CAV. Four Estonian officers are working in different staffs of coalition forces.


Estonian Reconnaissance Squadron Started Service in Kosovo

Feb 16
- Fifty-two members of the reconnaissance squadron BALTSQN-13 made up of Estonian military personnel will depart for Kosovo. A 13-strong advance team including the unit's commander flew to Kosovo. “The squadron's main task will be to carry out reconnaissance and patrol missions. In case of necessity members of BALTSQN-13 will also man guard posts, search buildings, check vehicles and individuals and secure various operations in the densely populated Mitrovica area,” said Cpt Müürissepp, representative of General Staff.
The Baltic squadron that serves alongside a Danish battalion is recruited by the three Baltic States by rotation. Last BALTSQON unit was recruited by Latvia. Estonia also has a 22-strong multipurpose military police unit, ESTPATROL-13, and two staff officers serving in Kosovo. Estonian Defence Forces have participated in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo since November 1999.


The Chief of Finnish Headquarters Visited Estonia

Feb 10
- Lieutenant General Esa Tarvainen visited the Headquarters of Estonian Defence Forces to make himself more familiar with different areas of co - operation between Estonian and Finnish DF-s. Lieutenant General Esa Tarvainen was introduced to situation in EDF, with his counterpart Brigade General Alar Laneman they made plans for further collaboration. “One of topics discussed was participation in battle groups of EU military forces,” Brigade General Laneman said.
Lieutenant General Tarvainen visited garrison in town Paldiski, where Scouts Battalion and Centre of Peacekeeping Operations are located. Tarvainen was introduced to armament, equipment and barracks of the units. Both sides agreed, that it is essential to share experience of missions and logistical network due the future co - operation.


Russian Helicopter Violates Estonian Airspace

Feb 17
- According to the Estonian Border Guard Russian helicopter violated the Estonian border above Lake Peipsi on several occasions on Feb 16, penetrating more than four kilometres into the Estonian air space. The MI-8 helicopter illegally crossed the control line above the border lake at an altitude of 200 meters. The Estonian Border Guard has notified Russian representatives. The Russian liaison officer has informed the Estonian side that the helicopter belongs to the Russian customs service, however, the Russian northwest border administration admitted that their MI-8 helicopter flew above Lake Peipsi but denied it had violated the border.



DOMESTIC NEWS

Baltic States should Join Schengen Space Together - Interior Ministers

Feb 10
- Interior ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania met in Kuressaare, Estonia, to discuss issues, common for all Baltic States. The common opinion of ministers was, that the Baltic States should join the Schengen space at the same time. By joint accession to the Schengen space establishment of external borders of the EU between the three states can be avoided. All the three countries are preparing to join the Schengen space in autumn 2007, the ministers added. The issue of co-operation of Police Forces was discussed, as well. The draft of an Estonian-Latvian agreement on cross - border cooperation of law enforcement institutions must be completed by the beginning of June.
A key topic of the meeting was the use of biometric data in identification documents and border checking procedures. Preparation for introducing biometric data into travel documents has been started in Estonia.



ECONOMIC NEWS

Port Sillamäe is Planning to Build up to 10 New Wharves

Feb 6
- The port of Sillamäe on the Northern coast of Estonia plans to build up to 10 new wharves in coming years, increasing the area of the port by a maximum of 100 hectares. The port commissioned a study to evaluate the environmental impact of the construction, filling and dredging works. Member of the board of the Sillamäe Sadam (Port of Sillamae) company Margus Vahi says, that the enlargement of the port did not meet significant opposition among local residents. However - they would like this expansion to take place in a way that spares the environment and people. Residents of Sillamae are aware that the enlargement of the port will create extra jobs. The territory of this port will grow by a maximum of 100 hectares.


Estonian Hotels Received More than 2 Million Tourists in 2005

Feb 14
- More than two million tourists stayed at Estonian accommodation establishments last year, which is 8 percent more than a year earlier, show data by the Statistical Office.
70 percent of the guests who stayed overnight were foreign tourists and 30 percent Estonian residents. "Over the year the number of Finnish tourists declined by almost 45,000 while the number of tourists from Britain, Germany, Sweden and Russia increased the most," leading statistician Helga Laurmaa observed.
A tourist spent two nights at a hotel on the average. Some 62 percent of overnight visitors were on holiday and 25 percent on a business trip. Biggest numbers of foreign tourists came from Finland, Russia, Sweden and Britain.


Currency Rates in Kroons
February 19, 2006

British pound - GBP - 22,8691
Canadian dollar - CAD - 11.397
Swiss franc - CHF - 10.0295
Danish krone - DKK - 2.096
Japanese yen - JPY - 0.111
Latvian lat - LVL - 22.484
Lithuanian lit - LTL - 4.531
Norwegian krone - NOK - 1.940
Russian rouble - RUB - 0.466
Swedish krona - SEK - 1.66397
US dollar - USD - 13.1678
Euro - EUR - 15.6466



CULTURAL NEWS

Biggest Art Museum in Nordic Region and Baltic States KUMU Opens in Estonia

Feb 17
- Some 2,000 people, including the presidents of Estonia and Finland, gathered in Tallinn for the inauguration of the biggest art museum in Europe's Nordic and Baltic states. At a press conference dedicated to the opening of a new building of the Estonian Art Museum, KUMU (Kunstimuuseum), the Estonian culture minister and directors of the museum said Kumu could become an international art centre.
"As long as seven years ago Stockholm's Moderna Museet and Helsinki's Kiasma were almost unattainable models for us," Culture Minister Raivo Palmaru said reporters. “Kumu has every chance to become a North-European art centre. Finally Estonia is among countries that present their museums as visiting cards. For a small nation like Estonia the new art museum feeds our national pride - just as the three gold medals that Estonia has won at the Olympic Games."
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who was in Turin, sent a public letter of congratulation to the inauguration of the art museum. "Today is a great day for Estonian art. It is a great day for Estonia", Ansip said in his address.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who was also present at the opening, expressed the hope in her speech, which she read out in Estonian, that Finns, too, would certainly find their way to Kumu. Referring to architect Pekka Vapaavuori she referred to Kumu as a Estonian-Finnish joint project.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga sent her greetings to the opening ceremony of Kumu as well.
The total floor area of Kumu, opened to the public on Saturday, is 23,910 square meters, of this 5,000 square meters exhibition space, 1,700 square meters of deposits and 1,100 square meters of offices and workshops. The building has seven floors and can accommodate up to 400 visitors. The permanent display of classical Estonian art (from the early 18th century until World War II) is on Floor 3, with another permanent display of Estonian art of the period 1945-1991, including many from the Stalinist era, on Floor 4 and Floor 5 reserved for renewable exhibitions of modern art. Some 50,000 works of art have been transferred from the Art Museum of Estonia to go on exhibition at the new museum. The museum also has a educational centre, library, lecture-room, archives, a reading room and cafe. The museum has, also an education centre, library and archive, restoration workshop and auditorium.
Construction of the museum began in 2002 and cost some 43 million euros (50 million dollars). Some of the funding has come from gambling tax. The museum is located in Tallinn's park Kadriorg, which was founded nearly 300 years ago by order of Russian Tsar Peter the Great.


The Anniversary of Heljo Mänd Was Celebrated With Books and Exhibitions

Feb 9
- At the National Library in Tallinn the 80th anniversary of Heljo Mänd, the children's author was celebrated with an exhibition and a mini-conference, in addition on the occasion of the writer's anniversary her three new books were published.
In the Cupola Hall of the National Library a mini-conference "Behind a Pine Tree there is a Forest", at which Krista Kumberg treated at length Heljo Mänd's work extending over a lifetime as well as its variety, and the writer answered the questions.
In the main exposition hall of the library an exhibition dedicated to the 80th anniversary of Heljo Mänd “Writing back into childhood” was opened with the participation of the celebrator. Several leading figures of government and cultural life were present.
At the exhibition Heljo Mänd's books from the collection of the National Library and manuscripts from the collection of the Estonian Literature Museum, the author's original illustrations for her children's books, photos of the preparation for the children's TV show "The Magic Stone" and of the participants in the show "The Bear and the ABC" were exposed.
The exposition has been prepared in co-operation of the Estonian National Committee for UNICEF, Estonian Television and Publishing House TEA.
In honor of the celebrator three publishing houses published her new works.
Children's writer Heljo Mänd was 80 years old on Saturday, 11 February.






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