Lithuanian Foreign Minister Visits Estonia
19 March - During their meeting in Tallinn, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and his Lithuanian colleague Audronius Ažubalis discussed energy security matters. “Estonia and Lithuania co-operate in many energy-related projects that help to resolve the energy supply and security issues of these two countries and the entire region,” said Foreign Minister Paet.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia is interested in creating a well-functioning energy market as part of a common energy market with the Nordic countries. “The market regulations of the Baltic countries must be harmonised with the regulations of the Nordic countries in order to ensure that the market functions and that all EU participants in the market are treated equally and that monopoly situations are not abused,” said Paet. “In order to avoid the creation of market distortion, we need to agree on a way to regulate electricity imports from third countries,” added the Estonian foreign minister.
While talking about the economic situation in general and Estonia’s accession to the euro zone, Foreign Minister Paet said that following a responsible economic policy is important to the strength and unity of the euro zone.
Estonia and Lithuania have similar foreign policy priorities, which the foreign ministers agree is the reason for close co-operation and active communication between the two nations on all levels. Foreign Minister Paet stated that Estonia-Lithuania trade relations are growing closer all the time as well. “Lithuania is one of the most important investment destinations for Estonian entrepreneurs,” said Paet. Among the countries that receive Estonian exports, Lithuania ranked in 6th place last year, and Lithuanian goods made up 10.9% of imports to Estonia.
Foreign Minister Ažubalis also met with Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at Stenbock House. According to Prime Minister Ansip, Estonia supports Lithuania’s proposition to prepare an audit of the co-operation between Baltic and Nordic countries by August 2010.
“Estonia is interested in a summarised overview of the relations between the Nordic and Baltic countries, so far, and the thoughts on the development of these relations in the future,” he declared.
The prime minister also stated that Estonia continues to be interested in participating in the Lithuanian nuclear power plant project and approved the latest developments with regard to the project. It was jointly stated that safety must be ensured at the establishment of any nuclear station, including the planned nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad, and the environmental impact assessment must be independent of politics and rely on thorough analysis.
When speaking about the economic situation, both parties stated that during the crisis Estonia and Lithuania have both managed to remain trustworthy in the eyes of international institutions and that the accession of Estonia to the euro zone in 2011 has a positive meaning for all three Baltic States. “Estonia’s adoption of the Euro will send out a clear signal on the direction the entire region is moving towards. When Estonia gets the Euro, it will mean that the fulfilment of Euro criteria is only a question of time for Lithuania and Latvia as well,” said Prime Minister Ansip.
Estonia Supports Council of Europe in Fight Against Cyber Crime
21 March - Estonia is contributing 156 466 kroons (10 000 EUR) to the Council of Europe’s project to fight cyber crime.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cyber Crime is the only international legally binding agreement with the goal of helping to strengthen global cyber security. “The goal of the project is to introduce the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cyber Crime, support nations in joining the convention, and help them to make the necessary changes in their legislation. The project also aims to support the global spread of the principles within the convention,” said Foreign Minister Paet.
Paet stated that the fight against cyber crime is a priority for Estonia. “By supporting this project, we are making a direct contribution to the spread of the convention’s principles all over the world,” stated Foreign Minister Paet. “We have also actively called upon nations to join the Convention on Cyber Crime and to use it as a basis for their legislation. Estonia’s support for the Council of Europe’s project strengthens out national activities in this area as well,” he added.
Estonia was among the nations that initiated the formulation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocols, which came into force in 2004. Today the convention has been signed by 46 nations, and 25 of them have ratified the convention.
Ambassador of Estonian Republic to IAEA and CTBTO Presents Credentials
19 March - Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia Eve-Külli Kala presented her credentials to Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano and Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) Tibor Toth in Vienna.
In the conversation with the secretary general of the IAEA following the presentation of credentials, technical co-operation between Estonia and the IAEA and the IAEA’s important role in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons were discussed. The two also looked for opportunities to increase the number of Estonian experts in the IAEA secretariat. Ambassador Kala thanked the IAEA for supporting three national programmes, two of which addressed radiation therapy and one which addressed nuclear medicine. “The thing that the projects have in common is cancer treatment and prevention, which you named the priority for your first year in this position,” noted Ambassador Eve-Külli Kala.
During the ambassador’s conversation with executive secretary of the preparatory commission for the CTBTO, Tibor Toth thanked Estonia for its political, technical and financial support. Toth introduced the ambassador to the operations of the CTBT verification regime, within which 300 monitoring stations are located on the territory of 89 nations all over the world, identifying all larger natural and man-made explosions. “It is necessary to implement the agreement banning nuclear testing so that all of the biggest nuclear countries can ratify the agreement,” asserted Executive Secretary Toth.
Another topic addressed at the meeting was the 2010 Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which will take place in New York in May of this year. Ambassador Kala asked both Yukiya Amano and Tibor Toth’s thoughts on the preparation process for the conference as well as the desired outcome.
Eve-Külli Kala was born in 1959 in Tartu. Kala has worked in the Estonian foreign service since 1992. From 1992-1996 she was in the Foreign Ministry’s political department, from 1996-1999 at the Estonian representation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and from 1999-2001 Kala was the director of the Foreign Ministry’s division for Central and Northern Europe. From 2002-2006 Eve-Külli Kala was the Estonian ambassador to the Czech Republic, and before assuming her current position Kala was the director general of the Foreign Ministry’s personnel department. Ambassador Eve-Külli Kala speaks English, German, Finnish, Russian, and French.
Estonia Applies for Observer Status in International Organisation of Francophonie
20 March - Estonia is applying for observer status in the International Organisation of the Francophonie (Organisation Internationale de la Framcophonie, OIF). The International Organisation of the Francophonie stands for the vitality of French-language culture in the broadest sense possible and makes a contribution to resolving the primary international problems of today. The organisation brings together 70 nations, which includes 14 observer countries all over the world.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that many cultural points of contact have formed between Estonia and the francophone cultural space. “Estonia feels it is important for international integration to be as close as possible; this include contacts with countries in the French cultural space,” Paet noted. “This year Estonia is applying for observer status in the International Organisation of the Francophonie. The International Organisation of the Francophonie subscribes to the same goals that Estonia prioritises in its foreign policy—the promotion of democracy, human rights and freedoms and the assurance of peace and development. Observer status in the International Organisation of the Francophonie would help give additional momentum to cultural exchange and research co-operation with francophone countries,” he said.
Paet also stressed Estonia’s desire to continue inspiring Estonians, especially state officials, to learn the French language. “For example, language instruction programmes for state officials have been partially funded by the International Organisation of the Francophonie and its members France, Luxembourg, and the French-speaking community of Belgium,” stated Paet.
On the occasion of International Francophonie Day Foreign Minister Urmas Paet sent his congratulations to the International Organisation of the Francophonie, which was also celebrating its 40th anniversary today.
Ambassador to Portugal Opens Honorary Consulate in Ponta Delgada
23 March - Estonian Ambassador to Portugal Mart Tarmak opened the Estonian Honorary Consulate in Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel in the archipelago of the Azores. The Estonian honorary consul is Horácio Franco.
Ambassador Mart Tarmak stated that the Azores, located far from the mainland in the Atlantic Ocean, have unique nature that is making them a more and more popular travel destination for Estonians, which means that opening an honorary consulate in the archipelago is important and necessary.
The consular area of the new Estonian honorary consul is the entire Autonomous Region of the Azores. The honorary consulate is located at Rua dos Manaias, no. 53/57, 9500-084 Ponta Delgada. The honorary consulate can be reached by phone at +351 296-205340 or fax at +351 296-287146, or emails can be sent to the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honorary Consul Horácio Franco was born in Ponta Delgada in 1954. He studied at the Ponta Delgada School of Commerce and Industry. Franco is a well-known entrepreneur in the Azores who deals in the tourism and car rental sector. Honorary Consul Franco speaks Portuguese and English.
The personal exhibit of Markus Kasemaa “Figures” will be opened in the Ribiera Grande City Theatre on the island of São Miguel today, 23 March. The exhibit consists of 22 large-format works and will remain open for one month. The exhibit has been organised in co-operation with the government of the Autonomous Region of Azores. The Azores have been named the “European Region of the Year 2010”, so the art of different EU member states is being introduced on the islands.
State Decoration Presented to Diplomat Matthew Bryza
19 March - President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, arriving in the United States of America for a working visit, last night presented the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana IV Class to the influential United States diplomat Mr. Matthew J. Bryza at the Estonian Embassy in Washington.
“This represents Estonia’s acknowledgment and gratitude for the assistance you have offered to the co-operation between Estonia and the USA in promoting democracy and stability in Eastern and Southern Europe and in the Southern Caucasus region,” said the Estonian head of state. “This is the contribution of our two countries into making Europe a safer and more successful place.”
President Ilves also highly regards the activities of Mr. Matthew J. Bryza in seeking solutions to Europe’s energy security issues, increasing our energy-related independence and diversifying suppliers. “For Europe, this is not just an issue of energy, but a part of our security,” emphasised President Ilves.
The Estonian head of state bestowed the decoration upon Mr. Matthew J. Bryza at the beginning of February, on the eve of this year’s Independence Day.
President Ilves Speaks at Harvard University
23 March - President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who is currently on a working visit to the United States of America, visited Harvard University yesterday afternoon, where he gave a presentation on European and Trans-Atlantic security in the 21st century.
The facilitator of the lecture was Professor Nicholas Burns, who previously worked as United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. During the first half of the 1990s, in the capacity of a high-ranking official of the US National Security Council, he was closely involved with the negotiations for the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from Estonia.
President Ilves mentioned relations and co-operation in the European Union, NATO, and United States of America triangle as a sphere that is highly important for both Estonia and all other democratic countries.
“We have common interests – above all, a successful operation in Afghanistan, the resolution of Iran’s nuclear problems and preventing the distribution of nuclear weapons in general, fighting cyber attacks, and energy security as well as bringing an end to the recession,” said the Estonian head of state. “Strong partnership between the European Union, NATO, and the United States of America is required to overcome these issues. This needs to be more efficient and visible than it has been previously.”
President Ilves emphasised the importance of the Trans-Atlantic bonds remaining strong, especially now that NATO has expanded to embrace 28 member states and the security of all of the European allies of the USA is stronger than it has ever been during the last fifty years. “I can also say the following: Estonia’s security has never been guarded as well as it is now,” said the Estonian head of state.
President Ilves met with Estonian students studying at Harvard University and other universities in the Boston area before the lecture. He commended the students for their entrepreneurship in learning abroad, calling it good and useful experience, but also encouraged them to return to Estonia after completing their studies to pursue a career in their homeland.
Prime Minister Views Fresh Human Development Report as Positive
23 March (BNS) - Prime Minister Andrus Ansip regards the fresh human development report on Estonia that was published on Monday as positive and pointed at trends that should be continued.
Income inequality in Estonia corresponds to the European Union average, the prime minister said on Tuesday. He observed that while in the EU the income gaps have widened over the past decade, the opposite is true for Estonia and efforts in the same direction have to be continued.
In Ansip's words, some European countries that 20 years ago were at the same level as Estonia failed to make as good a use of their opportunities. "Thus, Estonia at present ranks 40th in the global human development index, whereas Russia lies in 71st," he said.
The head of the government also singled out the increase in life span, pointing out that in the past decade life expectancy has risen by one year every year. "This has not happened in some countries that were at the same level as we were 20 years ago," he said.
The economic downturn has highlighted Estonia's weak institutional capability and an overly simplified approach to the connections between the economy and human development, editor in chief Marju Lauristin summed up the findings. The Estonian economic model is in need of a major overhaul and the rhetoric of carrying on as before after the crisis is extremely dangerous, one of the editors of the report, Erik Terk, said at the presentation of the document.
The six chapters of the human development report were written and edited by 36 noted social scientists, economists and experts. The UN launched global human development reports in 1990. Estonia has been compiling such reports since 1995.
Government Approved Concept for Estonian Security Policy
19 March - The Government approved the concept for Estonia’s national security policy, which was formulated under the leadership of the Foreign Ministry, and sent it to the Riigikogu for a decision. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that the goal of Estonia’s security policy comes from the constitution: to ensure the Estonian state’s independence and autonomy, territorial integrity, constitutional order, and the safety of the people.
Foreign Minister Paet stated that the concept for Estonian security policy provides a basis for creating sector-wide or more detailed development or action plans and allows for the nation’s security policy to be implemented in a purposeful way. “The security policy concept is a fundamental regulating document in which Estonia’s approach to security is written out in detail, reflecting all of the fields that are essential to ensuring the safety of the nation,” said the Estonian foreign minister.
The security policy concept is also confirmed by Estonia’s goal for the size of the defence budget in relation to the state budget. Paet stressed that determining Estonia’s defence expenses takes place on the basis of NATO methodology. “Our goal is to achieve a defence expenses budget of 2% of the GDP and maintain that,” said Paet.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the biggest difference between the renewed concept and the previous one from 2004 is Estonia’s broadening approach to security. “Since 2004, events have taken place in the world that have continued to broaden our views on security,” explained Paet. “Estonia’s security policy takes into account all of the factors that affect our national security, regardless of where or how they are created. The realisation of the security policy includes all of the fields essential to ensuring security. For example, we are constantly becoming more involved in energy and cyber security; the activity and participation of civil society is also becoming increasingly important to security policy, as are the coherence of the society, public health, environmental security, and psychological protection,” said Paet, introducing Estonia’s new security policy concept.
Ergma Re-elected Speaker of Parliament
25 March (BNS) - The Estonian parliament on Thursday re-elected incumbent Ene Ergma as its speaker. The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) deputy collected 55 votes and the other candidate, Indrek Saar from the oppositional Social Democratic Party, 42 votes in the secret ballot. Three ballots were declared invalid by the election commission.
Ergma, 66, has been member of the parliament's board since 2003. She served as speaker from 2003-2006 and was second deputy speaker in 2006-2007, becoming speaker again in April 2007 when the new lineup of parliament convened. In 2007 Ergma was elected with votes 91-6 and in 2008 with votes 83-2. Last year she was backed by 74 deputies and 11 members of the 101-strong chamber voted against.
The post of parliamentary speaker belongs to IRL and that of the first deputy speaker to the Reform Party under the coalition agreement. The office of second deputy speaker is traditionally filled by the opposition. The Reform Party has said it is in favour of returning Keit Pentus into office for another term and Centre backs re-election of Jüri Ratas.
Deputy speakers will be elected by secret ballot after the vote on speaker. The mandate of the parliamentary board runs for one year.
Estonia in 25th Place on World IT Competitiveness List
25 March (BNS) - According to the Information Technology Report of the World Economic Forum published on Thursday Estonia fell seven places, landing in 25th place for its IT capability.
In the years 2009-2010 the position of Estonia has fallen considerably, but it is still far above the other new member countries of the European Union, said the Development Fund, a partner of the World Economic Forum in Estonia. In this ranking Slovenia is only in the 31st position, with Latvia and Lithuania ranking respectively 41st and 52nd.
In the post-crisis world Sweden has risen to become the IT leader ahead of Singapore and Denmark. The USA fell to the 5th place and Finland is in the 6th place for the second year running. Countries that have made some of the biggest development leaps are China and India, having risen by nine to ten places but still behind Estonia.
The leaders of the IT list are characterised by balance between the three main factors ensuring development of information technology: existence of an environment favouring IT, public institutions', companies' and individuals' readiness to use IT, and actual IT use.
In terms of some indicators Estonia is still among the leaders, such as for the availability of digital services (first place), IT legislation (third place) and IT in government institutions (third place).
Estonia's fall has been caused by some indicators that had so far been Estonia's trump cards such as spread of the internet, the price of mobile communication and the number of its users as well as public sector internet services becoming generally accepted. In order to stand out it is necessary to have more than just infrastructure and passive readiness to use IT, the Development Fund said.
The Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010 of the World Economic Forum covers 133 countries and is the most extensive analysis of the influence of IT on the development and competitiveness of countries.
Defence Minister Predicts Growing Frequency of Cyber Attacks
19 March (BNS) - Opening a cyber security companies' forum at Stanford University, Estonian Defence Minister Jaak Aaviksoo said that cyber attacks were a growing trend in the whole world and it was only a matter a time before such an attack was launched against a major country.
"Cyberspace has many more hideouts from where the attacks could be launched than in the physical world," Aaviksoo said at the forum, "Besides it is clear that legal opportunities for the avoidance of cybercrimes and attacks are clearly underdeveloped today," the ministry reported the defence minister as saying.
Aaviksoo said that it was only a matter of time before attacks similar to those launched against Estonia in 2007 would be directed at some bigger country on a much greater scale. The defence minister also underlined at the forum that the key for the avoidance of cyber attacks was better co-operation between the private sector and governments, because both the parties were clearly interested in it. "Most IT infrastructure in the world is in the ownership of the private sector and also most internet users are private companies, and so they are bound to suffer the biggest losses if a country should fall victim to cyber attacks," the defence minister said.
In addition to his speech at Stanford University, during his visit the defence minister met with Estonian companies operating in Silicon Valley and the leaders of Stanford and San Francisco universities and Symantec, with whom developments in the cyber security sphere and possible joint projects were discussed.
"Estonia's activity in the cyber security sphere, particularly following the attacks of April 2007 and starting up the NATO Centre of Excellence, is an object of very high international interest. We must take significantly more advantage of these opportunities, and not just on the initiative of the Defence Ministry. A small country such as Estonia has a unique chance to transfer its fame and capability in the cyber defence sphere into economic and political capital, for which we need more purposeful co-operation between different government agencies and the private sector than before," the minister underlined.
Labour Productivity in ICT Sector Twice the Average
19 March (BNS) - Labour productivity on the basis of value added of the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector in 2009 was twice the average of the business sector, Statistics Estonia reports. Preliminary data put the value added of the ICT sector in 2009 at 7.6 billion kroons (EUR 485.6 mln), which accounted for 9% of the total value added of the business sector.
Labour productivity of the ICT sector exceeded the average labour productivity of the business sector by more than two times. This was mainly due to telecommunications enterprises whose labour productivity was four times higher than the average of the business sector.
In 2009 enterprises in the ICT sector sold goods and services worth 24.9 billion kroons, accounting for 5% of the total net sales of the business sector. Service enterprises generated the biggest part of the net sales of the ICT sector (19.6 billion kroons).
Net sales of ICT manufacturing enterprises were 5.3 billion kroons. Persons employed in the ICT sector numbered 16 000, accounting for roughly 4% of the total number of persons employed in business enterprises. At the same time, the personnel costs of the ICT sector made up 7% of the personnel costs of the business sector.
Statistics Estonia compiled an overview of the ICT sector for the first time in 2009. The ICT sector comprises economic activities of manufacturing and service whose products maintain, transmit or display data and information electronically.
AirBaltic to Open Its Base in Tallinn
23 March (BNS) - The Latvian state-owned airline airBaltic will open its base in Tallinn on 1 June in order to support its growth in Tallinn Airport. AirBaltic will publish more information about its future plans on 31 March, when Tallinn-Tampere direct flights will be launched, the company said.
"The Estonian market is considerably underserved and needs more flights. AirBaltic has made its first strategic move by adding seven direct flights from Estonia. We will increase our presence in Tallinn Airport with the opening of an airBaltic base," Bertold Flick, CEO and President of airBaltic, said in a comment.
Tallinn is the first airBaltic base to be opened this year. Starting in June, airBaltic will have bases in all the three Baltic capitals. AirBaltic has seven direct flights from Tallinn and one direct flight from Tartu.
Estlink’s Free Capacity Increasing Traders’ Interest
23 March (BNS) - The Estonian main grid company Elering believes that traders' interest in the Estlink price area is growing, as the share of the capacity of Estlink 1 going into the disposal of the market is considerably greater than originally planned.
The Nordic countries' Nord Pool Spot (NPS) Monday said that the owners of Estlink 1 had promised to give into the disposal of the market between Finland and Estonia a capacity of 197.3 megawatts and between Estonia and Finland 122.4 megawatts.
"While it was initially believed that 50 megawatts would be given into the disposal of the market, the NPS information surpasses all our preliminary expectations," CEO of Elering Taavi Veskimägi said.
He said that the announced capacity would increase the interest of the Nordic countries' traders in the Estlink price area and the interest of third countries traders in sales to the Nordic market via the Estonian price area.
"Besides, in the light of the framework agreement between Elering and Fingrid, this information can be seen so that we are now taking a long step closer to making the Estlink 2 investment decision, because giving additional capacity will animate the market and prove a positive outlook for the opening of the market," Veskimägi said.
NPS said on Monday that the two biggest owners of the direct current cable, Eesti Energia and Latvenergo, would give a large proportion of their capacity of the cable to the disposal of the electricity market, Elering said.
The final decision to be made by one owner of the cable may increase the capacity to be given to the market. According to earlier information, it is necessary for the functioning of the market that owners of the 350-megawatt Estlink 1 should give to the disposal of the market 155 megawatts southbound and 140 megawatts northbound.
The owners of Estlink 1 are Eesti Energia with 29.9%, and Latvenergo and Lietuvos Energija both 25% with the remaining share of 10.1% divided between Pohjolan Voima and Helsingin Energia.
Danish Furniture Maker Flexa to Relocate Factory to Estonia
19 March (BNS) - The Danish manufacturer of children's furniture Flexa intends to shift production to Estonia and in connection with this, Flexa Eesti plans to increase its staff to up to 240 people.
In the course of the restructuring of the Flexa group, a plant will be relocated from Denmark to Estonia, board member of the Estonian operation Marianna Paas told BNS on Friday. "Furniture for children will be produced as before, it's just that the part which used to be produced in Denmark will henceforth be produced in Estonia."
Plans are for the Danish factory to continue working till the beginning of July and for the Estonian unit to fully take over its tasks in late summer. Flexa Eesti, which currently employs 210 people, plans to hire up to 30 new workers.
Paas said the last two years have been very difficult for the Estonian unit. "We have become considerably more cost-effective, but what we need to achieve in order to continue properly working is turnover," she said.
Flexa Eesti made a loss of 89.3 million kroons (EUR 5.7 mln) in the business year ending in October 2008 after posting a profit of 23.8 million kroons the year before. Flexa Eesti AS is part of the Danish group Flexa Holding A/S.
Port of Tallinn Expecting 275 Cruise Ships This Year
25 March (BNS) - Estonia's Port of Tallinn expects a total of 275 cruise ships with about 400 600 passengers to visit the port this year. Port of Tallinn public relations officer Sven Ratassep told BNS that 273 cruise ships with 400 000 passengers were expected to call at Tallinn City Harbor and two cruise ships with 600 passengers at Saaremaa Harbor.
Ratassepp said that the exact number of visitors could be quoted only at the end of the season, as a few more ships could come or fail to arrive during the season.
The first cruise ship will visit Tallinn on 24 April and the last on 20 September, Ratassepp said. He said that 254 cruise ship visits had been planned to City Harbour and eight visits to Saaremaa Harbour.
Last year a total of 307 cruise ships with 415 000 passengers called at Tallinn, 10% more than in the season of 2008. 302 cruise ships called at City Harbour and five cruise ships at Saaremaa Harbour. The longest ship that visited Tallinn last year was the Norwegian Jewel, of 294.13 meters, while the Emerald Princess brought 3 298 passengers to Tallinn on 17 July.