Estonian Review: March 6-14, 2006


IN MEMORIAM: President Lennart Meri


President Lennart Meri

The President of the Republic, the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic announce with deep sorrow that Lennart-Georg Meri, the President of the Republic in the years 1992-2001, has died on March 14, 2006, in Tallinn. The people of Estonia and our state will remember the years of Meri's presidency as a youthfully fast and dynamic time of stretching our wings, the following period of maturing and becoming ourselves is based on the work, inspired by the sense of mission, of that time. Being a charismatic personality and a skilled orator, Lennart Meri received a lot of attention in the world and earned recognition not only to himself but also to his fatherland. His nature as a creator and his knowledge of languages helped to alleviate stereotypes spread about the people who had stayed behind the iron curtain. He has received Honorary Doctorate degrees from a number of universities, has been awarded decorations by several states and has earned significant prizes and honorary titles both at home and abroad. He was also an initiator and patron of many praiseworthy undertakings. Since 2001 he has been a member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. Diverse and extensive activity of Lennart Meri will remain an outstanding page of Estonia's recent history and undoubtedly deserves further attention and interpretation also in the international context. Meri was brilliant and sharp-witted. He was a full-blooded European, who, as an erudite, thoroughly knew his way in the surrounding time and space, and was therefore able to influence the epoch in which he lived. This is an opportunity given by fate, which requires sense of responsibility and greatness of mind and is given only to few of us. The President of the Republic, the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic express deep condolences to the family and relatives of Lennart Meri. The entire state of Estonia and its people bow their heads in mourning and gratitude.

We remember Lennart, our first minister, colleague and friend with deep sorrow over his demise but we are, however, more than glad that he was with us. We remember him as a man who comprehended Orwellian threats better than many others. We remember him as an international persona and a great Estonian, who placed Estonia back on the map of the world. As a man who could see farther and think broader than the limiting boundaries predetermined by the smallness his nation would have suggested. Without Lennart Meri, Estonia in its present form would be unimaginable.
Full text of the Foreign Ministry's Obituary

An ecumenical service will be held in Tallinn Kaarli Church on Sunday, 26 March, as part of the state funeral for President Meri. All those who wish to, can say goodbye to President Meri in the church on 25 March. The online condolence book is available at

World leaders mourn

Finnish President Tarja Halonen:
"The Estonian nation has lost an outstanding leader and pathfinder in Lennart Meri. The Finnish nation lost a close and sincere friend and the world, a great statesman who was one of the leading architects of the post-Cold War world."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
"The news of the death of Estonia's former President Lennart Meri filled me with consternation. In Meri, we lost an outstanding statesman who was not only devoted to restoring Estonia's independence but served the whole Europe. Meri had a special relation with Germany already since childhood and relations between our countries were near to his heart."

French President Jacques Chirac:
President Lennart Meri laid the groundwork for renewed Estonian independence. Mr Meri was an active participant in the convention on the future of Europe, which witnesses his deep interest in the continued building of Europe. With Meri's passing, France has lost a friend of its culture and literature whose proposals, writings and translations of works by French authors helped raise awareness of the French culture.


FM: The European Perspective given to the Western-Balkans Must Have Concrete Substance

Mar 11
- European perspective given to the Western Balkan countries must have concrete substance, said Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the European Union foreign ministers' unofficial Gymnich meeting in Salzburg.
"Visa facilitation, for example, would make the European perspective more tangible for people of the Western Balkan countries," he said. "Before the citizens of the former Yugoslavia were in the most favourable situation having freedom of movement to the west and east but today their possibilities are the most limited," the minister noted. He added that full visa freedom with those countries would be conceivable only in a longer perspective.
Foreign Minister Paet also pointed out the importance of regional co-operation and conclusion of a common free trade agreement. "Regional co-operation is not only a condition for joining the EU but serves also the interests of the Balcan countries," the minister said. "Conclusion of a common free trade agreement promotes even closer mutual co-operation, contributes to the economic development and growth of competitiveness in the whole region," he added.
The EU foreign policy leaders found that the Western Balkan countries have achieved considerable progress in the areas of stability, democracy and economic recovery and have made significant steps along their road towards the EU. The foreign ministers underlined that the countries must now increasingly focus on adopting and implementing European standards and on fostering conditions for sustainable stability and prosperity throughout the region.
Speaking about the future status of Kosovo, the foreign ministers of the EU member states and Western Balkan countries agreed that every effort should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement of the status of Kosovo, mutually acceptable to the parties concerned. The foreign ministers also recalled the importance of continued and effective standards implementation during the negotiations.

FM: Ukraine Must Continue Reforms for Closer Integration with the EU

Mar 11
- Ukraine's closer integration with the European Union presumes continuation of the present economic and social reforms, said Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the EU foreign ministers' unofficial Gymnich meeting in Salzburg.
Speaking about Ukraine the EU foreign ministers found that the outlook for free and fair elections in Ukraine was better than ever before. They emphasized that regardless of the electoral results the support to pro-reform forces should continue.
According to Estonian Foreign Minister the further strengthening of ties between the EU and Ukraine is very important and for this purpose work should be launched on two agreements. "Estonia supports the opening of consultations to conclude the agreement on enhanced relations between the EU and Ukraine that would replace the present partnership and co-operation agreement," Paet said. "It is also important that talks are opened over a free trade agreement, after Ukraine joins the WTO," he added.
The EU foreign policy leaders were of the opinion that the benefits stemming from the European Neighbourhood Policy for carrying out reforms need to be explained more thoroughly to Ukraine. "We must clearly indicate that Ukraine's potential integration with the European Union is only possible if economic and social reforms continue," Estonian Foreing Minister said. He added that promotion of contacts with people in the neighbouring countries was another important aspect of the Neighbourhood Policy. "We hope that the talks over the facilitation of the visa regulations with Ukraine, that are now almost at the finish line will bring positive developments in that area," Paet said.
The EU foreign ministers stressed that the EUBAM on the border between Ukraine and Moldova should continue its work and lauded Ukraine for the decisive steps taken to intensify the border control. "Ukraine's decision to start implementing the customs agreement with Moldova is laudable," Estonian Foreign Minister said. "Now the parties have to continue building up a well-functioning border and customs control," he noted.

Estonia to Increase its Contribution to Upgraded CERF

Mar 10
- Estonia is planning to increase its contribution to the United Nations upgraded Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Estonia was the first country to allocate money for the fund.
"For Estonia the support of the victims of humanitarian crises is a matter of both conscience and international solidarity," the Estonian permanent representative to the United Nations Tiina Intelmann said at the opening function of the upgraded CERF, attended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Jan Egeland and foreign and development co-operation ministers.
Intelmann said that Estonia had supported UN humanitarian activities through the annual voluntary contributions to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) since 1998. “In addition Estonia has already for few years been active supporter of United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system by sending our experts to participate in the UNDAC teams in the humanitarian hot spots,” she noted. “Estonia finds it increasingly important to strengthen even further the UN humanitarian response capabilities and the upgraded CERF gives us the opportunity to support it,” the ambassador added.
The aim of the upgraded CERF is to increase readiness of the United Nations to more urgently and in more equal amounts react in the case of all disasters.

Joint article from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Mr. Jonas Gahr Støre, the Minister of Development Cooperation of Sweden, Mrs. Carin Jämtin, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Mr. Urmas Paet

Estonian PM: EU Must Remain Open to New Members

Mar 7
- The European Union must leave its door open to all nations who wish to join it, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip stressed in his speech on European Union policy issues to the Riigikogu.
"Otherwise our recommen-dations for those countries to carry out European-style reforms will no longer be credible," he noted. "Estonia wants more Europe and we should not be afraid of declaring it out loud to our European Union partners," said Ansip.
In his speech the Prime Minister also said that life in Estonia has improved since accession to the European Union. He referred to the rapid development and decrease in unemployment. "The decrease of unemployment from 9.4 per cent to 6.2 per cent is the fastest in the European Union," said Ansip.
According to Ansip, Estonia must also ensure that the future European Union would be the best place for achieving common goals. “It is in our interest to have a Europe based on the principles of solidarity and openness. We need an open economy and real competition in the European internal market to ensure that Europe will also remain a stronghold for prosperity and well-being in the future,” Ansip stressed.
Full text of the Prime Minister's speech

Speaker of the Parliament visited Poland

Mar 10
- Speaker of the Estonian Parliament Ene Ergma met with Polish President Lech Kaczynski during her visit to Poland.
The Polish president lauded Estonia for economic success and rapid adaptation of the common rules of the European Union. He also emphasized the need for clear co-operation between EU countries. Ergma also met with Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and discussed several EU related issues.

Estonian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Raised Topic of Visa-Free Travel in the US

Mar 7
- Vice Chairman of the Estonian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Marko Mihkelson raised the topic of visa-free travel at the meetings with the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried and other high-ranking officials of the State Department.
Lugar said the prospect of visa-free travel for Estonia and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe was under the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee's continued attention.
In the course of the visit to the US a wide range of topics of foreign policy were discussed, such as supporting reforms in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and in the neighbourhood of the EU in general. Worrying developments in Russia and Belarus, nuclear proliferation, situation in the Middle East, European security, energy security and matters related to NATO were also dealt with.
Speaking about NATO, the parties emphasized the need to make sure that the nature of the organization corresponds to the security policy situation of today's world.
"Summing up the meetings, it can be said that relations between the United States and Europe are coming out of the low where they came to in the early days of the Iraq conflict," Mihkelson said. "Both sides feel that a better result in defending and strengthening democratic law-based states can be achieved first and foremost as competing partners, not as forces opposed to each other," Mihkelson said.

Mart Laar Responded to Putin's Article on Energy in WSJ

Mar 9
- Former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar has in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal criticized an editorial feature by Russian President Vladimir Putin on energy, published in WSJ earlier.
"Somehow Mr Putin's article reminded me of speeches of former Soviet leaders, when peace was praised but in reality preparations for war were made," Laar said. "Russia's recent actions against Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have made absolutely clear that Moscow has decided to use energy deliveries as a political weapon," he said.
Laar said that these new goals appear somewhat curious when set against the lack of respect for a rules-based energy system in today's Russia. "His intentions became obvious when Russia unilaterally withheld Ukraine's gas supply following their price dispute, and in Moscow's actions against Moldova and Georgia," the former Estonian Prime Minister said. "As long as Mr. Putin is inclined to use oil and gas as a foreign policy weapon, a rules-based energy system will be impossible - regardless of how many articles Mr Putin chooses to pen in the international media," Laar noted.

Estonian Rescue Board Participates In The UN Evaluation Mission In Tajikistan

Mar 10
- Head of the Foreign Relations office of the Estonian Rescue Board, Jevgeni Jutkevitš takes part in the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination mission in Tajikistan.
The UNDAC mission has 11 experts and it will last for two weeks. The main goal of the mission is to assess capability of the country's disaster readiness system and give recommendations to the government for its improvement and optimization.
Jutkevitš has previously taken part of the UNDAC missions in Indonesia and Pakistan.

Estonia Established Diplomatic Relations with Rwanda

Mar 13
- Estonian Ambassador to Belgium, Malle Talvet and Rwandan Ambassadors to Brussels, Joseph Bonesha, signed a joint declaration on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The diplomats noted after the ceremony that both countries give priority to the development of information technology. Bonesha acknowledged Estonia's progress in IT development and said his country would be interested in co-operating with Estonia in this field. Estonia is prepared to share its experience with Rwanda, said ambassador Talvet.
Rwanda recognized the independent Republic of Estonia on Dec. 31, 1992.

Bangladeshi Ambassador presented his Credentials

Mar 10
- Ambassador of the People's Republic of Bangladesh M. Amir Hussain Sikder presented his Letter of Credentials to President Arnold Rüütel. In the words of the President of the Republic, Estonia highly regards the aspirations of Bangladesh to develop good relations with the European Union.

Argentine Ambassador presented her Credentials

Mar 10
- Ambassador of the Republic of Argentina Lila Subiran de Viana handed over her credentials to Estonian President Arnold Rüütel.
"Estonian-Argentina trade and economic relations certainly need to be broadened and deepened. In order to know each other better, we both have to do a lot of work. I believe that mutual exchange of business delegations will certainly facilitate that process," President Rüütel said.
In the words of the Ambassador of Argentina, the small but very highly appreciated Estonian community that lives in Argentina has also definitely influenced the deep ties of friendship between our two countries.

Estonian Foreign Ministry Mourns Estonian Honorary Consul General in India Kasturi Lal Vig

Mar 6
- Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs mourns Estonian Honorary Consul General in India Kasturi Lal Vig and expresses deep condolences to his family. Kasturi Lal Vig died after a long illness on Sunday, March 5 in New Delhi.
"Estonia has lost a very good friend. Mr Vig's commitment to the development of bilateral relations between Estonia and India was exceptional," said Estonian Foreign Minister in his letter of condolences.
Kasturi Lal Vig's achievements and contribution were recognised also by Estonian President Lennart Meri - in 2000 Kasturi Lal Vig was bestowed with the 4th class Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana. "He has served this country with great distinction and I am personally most indebted to him for providing us with such magnificent support during my state visit to India last year," said President Meri then, "It is largely thanks to him that relations between Estonia and India have developed in such a dynamic fashion." Kasturi Lal Vig served as the Estonian Honorary Consul General in India since September 1993.
Kasturi Lal Vig's son Anil Vig continues as Estonian Honorary Consul in New Delhi with the operating region in the whole India. Estonia also has Honorary Consul in Mumbai, Sunil Khanna, his operating region is Maharastra, Gujarati and Goa.


Defence Minister: Nearby Regions Should be EU's Priority in Security Assistance

Mar 7
- The European Union should identify nearby regions as its priority in providing security assistance to other countries, Estonian Defence Minister Jürgen Ligi said in his speech an at informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Innsbruck.
Ligi underscored the importance of co-ordination of activities between NATO and the EU. "The purpose of both organizations is to promote peace and stability in the world; in doing so we must avoid overlapping endeavours and tasks. We must make co-operation and co-ordination between these two organizations more efficient," he said. Ligi said that in giving security assistance the EU must treat its nearest neighbourhood as a priority, which is why assistance to Western Balkans, Moldova and Georgia must continue.
Within the framework of the Innsbruck meeting also a meeting of the steering committee of the European Defence Agency was held, which dealt with matters related to devising the EU's strategy for research and development. Ligi said that while allocations of money for research and development must be increased, decisions about the exact sums must be made by each individual member state on its own. Contributions to the defence field in general have to be increased, at the same time making sure that existing resources are used more effectively, the Defence Minister said.

Women Make Up 14 Percent of Estonian Military

Mar 8
- 403 women are serving as regulars in the Estonian defence forces, making up 14 percent of the total number of the defence forces' regulars.
There are 79 officers, 261 NCOs and 63 soldiers among the female regulars. Eight women are serving on missions abroad right now, including five as part of the BALTSQUADRON-13 in Kosovo and three in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two of the women serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina are members of ESTGUARD-1 and one is serving there as staff officer.


The President of The Republic Handed Over State Decorations to the Olympic Winners

Mar 14
- President Arnold Rüütel handed over the 1st class Order of the White Star to the Olympic winner Kristina Šmigun, and the 3rd class Order of the White Star to skiing coaches Anatoli Šmigun and Mati Alaver. The Head of Estonian State also handed over the fourth class Order of the White Star to the sports leader and Member of the Riigikogu Jüri Tamm, and the Medal of the Order of the White Star to the promoter of the Olympic movement Martti Raju.

Crew Safe after Cargo Ship Sank in Gulf of Finland

Mar 6
- A ship carrying aluminium sank after colliding with another cargo ship in an ice channel in the Estonia's territorial waters on Sunday, March 5, near
the Vaindloo lighthouse, 45 kilometers from the Finnish coast. The crew of the ship was taken on board by a Russian icebreaker.

Estonian Motor Sport Association Planning Monument to Markko Märtin's Co-Pilot Michael Park

Mar 8
- The Estonian Motor Sport Association (EAL) intends to erect a monument to Michael Park, the British co-pilot who died tragically in a WRC event last September.
According to plans the monument would stand by Tallinn's seaside promenade next to the monument to Charles Leroux, a French parachutist who was killed during a jump above the Bay of Tallinn in 1889. The monument would be erected by Park's 40th anniversary of birth on June 20.


Currency Rates in Kroons
(Bank of Estonia)

Moody's Upgraded Estonia's Sovereign Rating Outlook to Positive

Mar 9
- The international rating agency Moody's Investors Service upgraded Estonia's sovereign rating outlook to positive and affirmed the long-term credit rating of A1.
The previous outlook notation was “stable”, the Bank of Estonia noted. "The decision by Moody's shows how important joining the eurozone is for the Estonian economy. The positive rating outlook confirms that Estonia inspires trust in investors," central bank governor Andres Lipstok said.
Estonia's sovereign rating from FitchRatings and Standard & Poors is A, with positive outlook.

Baltic Energy Companies Signed Nuclear Plant Memorandum

Mar 8
- Heads of energy companies of the Baltic States signed a three-way agreement to explore the possibility of building a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania.
Plans are to carry out the feasibility study by November 1, 2006, Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) said. According to the memorandum, the three Baltic energy companies will take part in the project on equal basis and for managing the project a steering committee will be set up. Leaders of each national energy company will be represented in the commitee. The costs of the project will likewise be divided equally.


Estonian Jazz Music Days Took Place in St. Petersburg

Mar 9-11
- Estonian Jazz Music Days took place in St. Petersburg. The event was organized by Consulate general of Estonia in St Petersburg in co-operation with Estonian Jazz Music Union and Estonian Jazz Music Festival Jazzkaar. On March 10, Peeter Allik's exhibition “Painter and chicken” was opened in the art gallery NoMi. Estonian band Weekend Guitar Trio performed at the opening. In the programme of the days there were two concerts in the St. Petersburg State Jazz Philharmonic Hall and one concert dedicated to the memory of outstanding jazz musician Aleksander Rjabov, where Estonian jazz musicians performed together with David Gološokin, the art director of St. Petersburg State Jazz Philharmonic Hall.

An Art exhibition of Estonian painter Malle Leis was opened in Riga

Mar 9
- An art exhibition "Magic of the flowers" of Estonian painter Malle Leis was opened in Riga.
Malle Leis was born in 1940 in Viljandi (1940). She graduated from Estonian State Art Institute in 1967. Malle Leis is the member of the Estonian Artists' Association and the Estonian Union of Aquarellists. Her numerous art exhibitions have been held in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, USA, Poland, Germany, Ireland and Russia.
The exhibition will be open until 20 April.

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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