SONG AND DANCE CELEBRATIONS HELD IN TALLINN
SONG AND DANCE CELEBRATIONS HELD IN TALLINN
More Than 35 000 People Take Part in Song and Dance Celebrations
4 July (BNS) - Opening the 18th Folk Dance Festival on Friday, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that the dance festival had become an indivisible part of the song festival.
"Today, when thousands of our countrymen from all over the world have gathered in the Estonian capital for these days in July, the dance festival has become indivisible from the song festival," he said.
"In the initial days of Idla and Toomi (resp. gymnastics and folk dance teachers -- BNS) the dance festival came into its own side by side with sports and gymnastics," the prime minister said.
There are more than 8 700 people taking part in the dance festival, including instructors, general conductors, escorts and 7 460 dancers and gymnasts.
The 25th Song and 18th Dance festival, under the name To Breathe as One, is taking place from 2-5 July in Tallinn. The festival was ushered in by a folk music festival in Town Hall Square. There are three folk dance performances, of which the first one took place on Friday, and two song festival concerts, on Saturday and Sunday. One of the main events is the participants' procession from the city centre to the Song Festival Ground Saturday afternoon.
A total of more than 35 000 people are taking part in the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration of 2009.
Eesti Laulu- ja Tantsupeo SA (the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation) said that there are 26 430 singers and musicians taking part in the festival.
There are 864 choirs and bands, including 149 choirs of little children (4 556 singers), 160 children's choirs (4 995), 74 boys' choirs (2 160), 39 men’s choirs (1 194), 109 women’s choirs (3 285), 273 mixed choirs (8 721 singers) and 60 brass bands (1 519 players).
Among others, there are 41 foreign groups with 1 340 singers and musicians taking part in the festival.
To be accepted for participation in the nation-wide festival the choirs and bands had to pass two county-level preliminary rounds.
Foreign Minister Keynote Speaker at Meeting of UN Economic and Security Council
6 July - In his opening keynote address at the high-level meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that health standards all over the world are far from satisfactory and there is a great deal of work to be done before health care is sufficiently competent and accessible.
As the representative of the vice president of ECOSOC, Paet emphasised that in order to make progress in developing world health care and fulfil the Millennium Development Goals, international co-operation must be developed both in UN organisations and among governments, inter-governmental organisations, and businesses.
In his speech, Paet also gave examples of signs of progress in world health care. “Although the co-operation of the World Health Organisation and other international organisations has been successful in reducing child mortality and malnourishment, and steps have been taken towards fighting tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, the situation in sub-Saharan Africa is far from satisfactory,” said Paet. “Improving the health care situation continues to be the most complicated in conflict areas and nations with high HIV infection rates,” Paet noted.
Paet stated that child mortality is still very high in some countries.
“This is also true of infant mortality and maternal death rates. Every year half a million young women die in childbirth or during pregnancy. Ninety-nine percent of these tragic occurrences take place in developing nations and could be preventable with timely treatment,” Paet added.
In talking about the global financial crisis, Foreign Minister Paet emphasised that developing nations have been the hardest hit by the crisis and their health care systems have been placed under even greater pressure. “The health care system is not merely a healing instrument,” said Paet. “Functioning health care systems help with the prevention of disease and social security, which is one of the first prerequisites for economic development and productivity,” emphasised the Estonian foreign minister, saying that the global economic crisis has made the need for better health care even more apparent than before.
To illustrate how Estonia is doing its part, Paet spoke about the development of the health care system in Helmand Province. “Our experience in Helmand shows that even in extreme circumstances, efforts can be made that significantly improve health care opportunities for local people,” Paet said about the work of the Estonian health care expert in Afghanistan.
The Economic and Social Council is the UN’s primary organ for dealing with economic and social issues. The ECOSOC’s mission is to advance economic development, the protection of human rights, and international co-operation in various social areas, as well as to co-ordinate the activities of UN special agencies, programmes and funds. The 54 members of the ECOSOC are chosen by the UN General Assembly.
Estonia’s membership in the ECOSOC began on 1 January 2009 and will last for three years until 31 December 2011. On 15 January 2009 Estonia was chosen as a vice-president of the ECOSOC in the UN’s main headquarters in New York.
Estonia Names Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
3 July - The Estonian Foreign Ministry named Ambassador Harri Tiido special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to Foreign Minister Urmas Paet several states have named special representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan and a group of special representatives has been formed. “Afghanistan is Estonia’s most important international security mission, and Pakistan plays a key role in solving the issues in Afghanistan,” Paet stated. “Therefore it is important for Estonia to partake actively in the decision-making process and participate in the group of special representatives, which also supports closer and more effective co-operation with our strategic partners,” Paet emphasised.
The Estonian government adopted the country’s updated Afghanistan strategy in which Estonia has elaborated its Afghanistan policy for the coming years. When presenting Estonia’s updated Afghanistan strategy, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the most important goal is to help create conditions that will allow representative democracy to function in Afghanistan, enabling the Afghan people to independently ensure peace and security in their country and assure that Afghanistan will not pose a strategic risk to international security.
According to Foreign Minister Urmas Paet it is not possible to assure peace and stability in Afghanistan solely by military means. In order to achieve Afghanistan’s goals it is important to engage with civil means as well as development aid. “In the field of civilian assistance, Estonia prioritises health care, education and the implementation of good governance practices. We will also double the number of Estonian experts in the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan this summer,” Paet said. “The naming of our special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is the next step in our effort in Afghanistan,” Paet said.
In the field of defence co-operation, Estonia continues to participate in ISAF and preparations are being made for creating a joint US-Estonian OMLT. In order to provide security for Afghanistan’s presidential elections on 20 August, Estonia is temporary deploying its ESTCOY-E infantry company. Estonia has also supported the 2009 presidential and provincial council elections in Afghanistan with 500 000 kroons (32 000 EUR) through the United Nations Development Programme. According to Foreign Minister Paet, the upcoming elections will play an important role in shaping the future of Afghanistan.
Estonian’s updated Afghanistan strategy takes into account the changing international context, the situation in Afghanistan and also the experiences and lessons from Estonia’s work on the ground in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister of Luxembourg Supports Estonia’s Attempts to Join Euro-zone
1 July - Prime Minister Andrus Ansip met with Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who expressed strong support for Estonia’s efforts to join the Euro-zone. He also regarded the steps taken by the government as justified for the achievement of the goal.
At the meeting, Juncker expressed his opinion that Estonia’s accession to the Euro-zone is possible by the date that has been set as a goal, which is 1 January 2011. “It is important for Estonia to be able to implement the steps planned to meet all criteria,” said Juncker. At the meeting, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that Estonia wishes to join the Euro-zone at the first available opportunity. “Estonia regards a strong and stable Euro-zone as important, and meeting the Maastricht criteria is an important part of it. By meeting all requirements, we wish to join the Euro-zone in January 2011, at the latest,” said Ansip.
The prime ministers declared that bilateral relations between Estonia and Luxembourg are good. Both countries wish to see a strong European Union, support the further expansion of the Union and the development of the common market. At the meeting, the Prime Ministers discussed energy and the European Council as well.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, is the head of the so-named Eurogroup and one of the leaders of the Euro-zone establishment project, as well as the Minister of Finance of Luxembourg. He is regarded as one of the best experts on common currency in the European Union. In 2005, Juncker was elected as European of the Year. He was on an official visit to Estonia in December 2007.
Paet: Economic Decline Should Not Impair Humanitarian Activity
7 July - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Ibrahim Osman in Geneva.
During his meeting with Ibrahim Osman, Paet emphasised that the activities and reputation of the international Red Cross organisations, as impartial and independent non-governmental organisations, are extremely important in today’s ever more complicated humanitarian environment. “The activities of international Red Cross organisations are valuable in helping victims of natural and man-made disasters and improving the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons. They do this by both promoting international humanitarian co-operation and working at the crisis zone itself,” Paet noted. “The work that international Red Cross organisations do for predicting disasters and paying special attention to children in crisis situations is also very important,” he added.
Paet told Ibrahim Osman about Estonia’s humanitarian aid work, which has significantly increased in recent years. “Estonia allocates aid to give voluntary support to humanitarian aid organisations and to react to humanitarian crises. We also make contributions through international Red Cross organisations and the Estonian Red Cross,” Paet said.
Paet and Osman expressed hope that soon all of the G20 nations would be considered significant contributors to humanitarian aid. “Along with high international significance comes an increased responsibility towards humanitarian activities,” Pat noted.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is an international humanitarian aid organisation that functions as the umbrella organisation for the Red Cross’s international representations and helps to build up co-operation among them. The IFRC deals with natural disasters and accidents with technological causes; the IFRC also helps refugees.
The backbone of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement are its international representations. The Estonian Red Cross became a member of the IFRC in 1992.
Foreign Minister Discusses Estonia’s Support for UNHCR
7 July - In his meeting with Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Erika Feller, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that Estonia highly values the work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in improving opportunities to protect refugees and internally displaced persons and in reducing the number of refugees.
Paet emphasised that as vice president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Estonia is trying to increase the common understanding among UN member states regarding humanitarian aid issues. “Estonia is one of the biggest supporters of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Eastern Europe. Estonia’s total contribution to the High Commissioner’s budget in 2008 was 4 million kroons, which is 35% of all Estonia’s donations to various international organisations,” Paet said about Estonia’s donations to the UNHCR.
Both Paet and Erika Feller expressed concern during the meeting over the safety of humanitarian aid workers. “The safety of humanitarian aid workers is required in order for aid to reach crisis zones. A sad statistic shows that in 2008, more humanitarian aid workers died than peacekeepers. Altogether 260 humanitarian aid workers were killed, kidnapped or seriously injured. According to UN data, in 2008 the number of deaths of UN workers increased by 36%,” Paet said.
During the meeting, they also addressed the complicated situation of refugees and internally displaced people in Afghanistan and Georgia. “In Georgia, aid workers still do not have access to South Ossetia, and in Abkhazia access is also difficult. Access for aid workers is first and foremost in the interest of the victims,” Paet added.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet also invited UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to visit Estonia.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, is an international humanitarian aid organisation whose primary responsibility is to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. In addition, the goal of the UNHCR’s activity is to guarantee legal protection for stateless people or those without citizenship, help with the repatriation of refugees or their re-settlement elsewhere, and if needed also to provide material aid.
Estonian Ambassador Presents Credentials to Greek President
1 July (BNS) - Estonian Ambassador Andres Talvik presented his credentials to Greek President Karolos Papoulias.
During the conversation that followed the ceremony, the ambassador and the president found that relations between Estonia and Greece are good, yet they should be further intensified.
The Estonian envoy said that in addition to bilateral visits "we also wish to intensify contacts between officials and make consultations between the countries regular."
Talvik forwarded to the Greek president compliments from Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves together with an invitation to visit Estonia.
The ambassador acknowledged that the problem of illegal migration is a concern for the whole of Europe and the solidarity of the EU and joint efforts are needed to solve it.
"Being a border country ourselves, we understand the concern of Greece and the need to make co-operation between EU member states in this domain more efficient," the ambassador said. He underscored that Estonia remains ready to contribute to solving migration problems and managing the EU's external border via the European Frontex agency.
Talvik joined the foreign service in 1992. He has served as director of the Foreign Ministry's foreign economic policy department and worked at Estonia's embassies in Paris and Brussels, serving as ambassador to France from February 2002 onwards.
His previous post was that of head of the Foreign Ministry's 3rd Division responsible for Asia, Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
President Ilves Met With Infantry Company Bound for Afghanistan
6 July - “We do not know how long NATO and, subsequently, Estonian troops will remain in Afghanistan, but what we do know is that we will remain there for as short a period as possible and as long as necessary,” said President Toomas Hendrik Ilves today in Paldiski, where he met the infantry company Estcoy-E, commanded by Captain Ain Tiidrus, which has been formed to provide security during the presidential election in Afghanistan. The head of state reiterated the fact that the term security is a defined concept, and in ensuring the security of NATO territory, it is vital to avert tension, which may spread to endanger countries located away from the source of the tension.
“Therefore, I can say with confidence that the NATO states will continue to participate in foreign missions in the long-term,” President Ilves said.
“I have never been among those optimists who assumed that stable results would be achieved in Afghanistan in a year or two, or even five. Anyone who has even the most basic knowledge of history knows that this is not how things work. This just is not possible,” remarked the head of state. “However, I have also never sided with the pessimists who have stated that the NATO operation makes no sense as the situation in Afghanistan will never change anyway.”
President Ilves assured that success can be achieved in Afghanistan; however, achieving it will be difficult, even more difficult than in Iraq where, regardless of all the complications, we are finally seeing some positive results. However, Iraqi society enjoys long traditions of statehood, which have been destroyed in Afghanistan as a result of more than three decades of war, the president added.
“Therefore, we need patience and understanding as our commitment to a long-term mission is required for achieving success,” stressed President Ilves.
According to the president, a strong emphasis should be placed on improving the political stability and economic situation in Afghanistan in order to achieve success, aside from just military efforts. “The main reason for your mission, the election of a president in Afghanistan, represents one step towards creating a stable society in this country. The more a lawful government can independently control its interior security situation and settle various problems, the less need there will be for the NATO presence. When speaking of problems, I am referring to, above all, the issues related to the nursery of terrorism as well as drug trafficking,” told President Ilves to the troops bound for Afghanistan.
“Stability also means economic stability, aside from security. This means jobs, education for children, medical aid and everything that is taken for granted by us but not by the people of Afghanistan,” said the head of state.
He confirmed that the allies have always appreciated Estonian soldiers for their bravery and professional Defence Force members, who fulfil their duties remarkably well so far from home.
To end, President Ilves wished soldier’s luck to the Defence Force members and patient waiting to their next of kin.
Currency Rates in Kroons
(Bank of Estonia)
Enterprise Estonia Contributes EUR 12.8 Mln to Product Development
1 July (BNS) - Enterprise Estonia (EAS) is supporting Estonian businesses with 200 million kroons (EUR 12.8 mln) through a product development programme launched in June 2008 under which enterprises plan to invest more than 400 million kroons altogether.
EAS said project funding distributed over the past year more or less equals the sums granted in 2004-2006.
The foundation has backed 36 development projects and roughly the same number of projects is under work.
The product development support is meant for all Estonian enterprises regardless of size that wish to develop new products, services or technologies or improve existing ones.
A company is supposed to put up at least 50% of the necessary money and the ceiling of funding for one project is 50 million kroons.
The product development support programme is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and its budget till 2013 is one billion kroons.
Electricity Exports Up 45 Percent on Year in May
1 July (BNS) - Estonian power plants exported 180 gigawatt-hours of electricity in May, which was 45% more than in the same month last year, the statistics office reports.
Exports in the first five months of the year totalled 1 059 GWh, representing a year-on-year increase of 65%.
The volume of import of electric energy increased 46% year on year to 223 GWh. The five-month imports swelled in comparison with the same period in 2008 by 77% to 1 001 GWh.
Estonian power plants produced in May a total of 574 GWh of electricity, a drop of 15% from the same month last year.
Businesses consumed 78% and households 22% of the electric energy sold on the domestic market.
Airbaltic to Launch Flights Between Tartu and Riga
2 July (BNS) - The Latvian carrier Airbaltic will on 3 July launch direct flights between Riga and Estonia's second-largest city of Tartu.
Airbaltic will be making four weekly flights on the route on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, the company said today.
The flights will be served by a Fokker 50 aircraft. A one-way trip lasts 50 minutes.
The cost of a one-way ticket on the Tartu-Riga route starts at 640 kroons (EUR 41) inclusive of all charges and taxes.
The airline said the new route opens the way for flying from Tartu via Riga to West Europe, Scandinavia and CIS and Mediterranean countries.
Eesti Energia Announces Tender to Build New Units
2 July (BNS) - Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Plants), a subsidiary of the Estonian power utility Eesti Energia, has announced a tender to design and build a new oil shale-fired thermal power plant near the north-eastern city of Narva.
The autonomous thermal power plant to be built on free land of the existing Estonian Power Plant and in its immediate vicinity is to have one or two energy units with a capacity of 300 or 400 megawatts, it appears from the tender announcement.
One unit consists of two boilers and one turbine. As an alternative, bidders also can put in an offer for mono-units of one boiler and one turbine.
According to the tender conditions, applicants for tender documents are required to have had average net turnover of at least three billion euros in the last three business years.
The company reserves the right to cancel the construction of one generating unit within about one year of the signing of the contract. The first unit is supposed to be completed in 2015.
The planned starting date of the tender is 30 June 2010 and the planned end date 4 March 2015.
Applications for participation in the tender will be accepted until 17 September.
Eesti Energia CEO Sandor Liive has earlier said that the new energy units will cost 800 million euros.
The two generating units built at the Narva-based power plants in the middle of this decade cost 250 million euros.
Number of Freight Trains Arriving in Estonia Grows in June
1 July (BNS) - Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway) received in June an average of 17.2 freight trains a day at the border, which is exactly one and a half trains more than in May and 0.9 trains more than during the same month last year.
In May the number of trains received daily averaged 15.7. A year earlier the average number was 16.3.
In the first six months of this year Eesti Raudtee received an average of 17.5 trains per day.
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