Estonian Review 19 - 29 April 2010

MEETING OF NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS IN TALLINN
FOREIGN NEWS
DOMESTIC NEWS
DEFENCE NEWS
ECONOMIC NEWS
CULTURAL NEWS

MEETING OF NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS IN TALLINN

NATO Foreign Ministers Focused on Development of Alliance

22 April - The informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn began today. In addition to the NATO member states, the representatives of many international organisations also participated in the meeting.
In his opening speech, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, the host of the event, wove together the history of Tallinn and NATO challenges in the 21st century. “Our security is not based on the construction of walls or moats. Rather, we are protected thanks to our indivisible values—democracy, solidarity, openness, and common responsibilities,” emphasised Paet. On the first day of the meeting, the foreign ministers exchanged ideas on NATO’s Strategic Concept, NATO reform, and partnership. The foreign ministers agreed that developments thus far in the formulation of a Strategic Concept and the work of the group of experts brought together by the Secretary General have been positive.
Foreign Minister Paet stated that NATO’s primary tasks—collective deterrence and protection and advancing Euro-Atlantic security—must be clearly stated in the new Strategic Concept. “Collective defence and reliable deterrence must remain at the core of the concept,” Paet stressed. The foreign ministers agreed that new challenges standing before NATO—such as cyber security and partnership relations, especially with Russia—must be addressed in the Strategic Concept in a realistic way.
Another important issue discussed by the foreign ministers was reforming NATO headquarters to update the organisation’s joint financing model and committee system and to make the structure of the International Secretariat more effective. The foreign ministers expressed support in principle for the reform plans of Secretary General Rasmussen. “We wish to ensure that NATO functions effectively and in accordance with today’s standards,” Paet explained.
The foreign ministers confirmed that openness is NATO’s primary principle behind co-operation with all partners that are interested in contributing to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region. “The strategic partnership between NATO and the EU is very significant. Within its framework, both organisations should accept more responsibility to develop more effective co-operation,” Paet added. Foreign Minister Paet also confirmed Estonia’s ongoing support for Macedonia’s endeavours to become a member of NATO.
The meeting continued with a cultural programme introducing Estonia in the Estonia Opera House. It was a journey through Estonia’s nature and outlook that began with early folk culture and ended in the present day.

Unilateral Disarmament of NATO Would Be Dangerous

22 April - Within the framework of their working dinner on Thursday night, the NATO foreign ministers agreed that the 21st century security environment is complex and much less predictable than it used to be. New and old threats are developing into a complex menace in which weapons of mass destruction play a major role. “Nuclear deterrence is one of the pillars of NATO and the role of nuclear weapons in it is unique—it is not possible to replace it or compensate for it with conventional weapons,” Paet stressed, adding, “The placement of American nuclear weapons in Europe preserves close transatlantic ties and allows for greater flexibility in deterrence.”
Foreign Minister Paet stated that Estonia supports internationals arms control agreements and US President Barack Obama’s goal to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. “As long as there are nations in the world that have not joined a nuclear non-proliferation treaty and do not follow its principles, unilateral nuclear disarmament would be dangerous from a security standpoint,” said Paet.
The foreign ministers also confirmed the establishment of a NATO missile defence system. “The goal of a missile defence system is to protect the population and territory of the entire alliance from all sources of danger,” said Foreign Minister Paet, expressing hope that developments in this area would come about more rapidly. Paet expressed recognition of the USA’s ongoing dedication to protecting the European portion of NATO from the threat of ballistic missiles.

Decision to Give MAP to Bosnia and Herzegovina Made in Tallinn

22 April - The NATO foreign ministers decided in Tallinn to give a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first phase of the plan can begin when defence-related property is under the possession of the state.
“The MAP creates a supportive framework for Bosnia and Herzegovina to carry out the necessary reforms,” stated Paet. He added that the MAP is a collection of practical measures that is meant to help new democracies on their path of reform, not an automatic guarantee of membership in NATO. “There are many paths to becoming a member of NATO, and the decision to give membership does not depend on the title or character of the preparation process—what is important is each candidate state’s principled support for the conditions of the Washington treaty,” Paet stressed.

Opportunities of Afghanistan Mission Discussed with ISAF Foreign Ministers

23 April - The meeting of NATO foreign ministers continued on Friday, when the foreign ministers of the countries contributing to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) discussed opportunities for co-operation in reconstructing Afghanistan in Tallinn with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassouli.
The goal of ISAF is to help build a stable nation through co-operation with the Afghan authorities. “In order to hand responsibility for ensuring security over to the Afghans more quickly, we must pay more attention to further developing Afghanistan’s military and police forces,” Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated. The foreign minister added that the positive effect ISAF’s presence has on the development of Afghanistan’s economy must be used to the fullest extent.
“Estonia’s standpoint is that we will remain in Afghanistan for as long as it is necessary,” the foreign minister confirmed. Estonia plans to increase its civil contribution, sending five police officers and one advisor to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. “This year we also doubled our contribution to the EU police mission in Afghanistan,” Paet asserted.
While talking about international military and civil co-operation in Afghanistan, the foreign ministers emphasised the need for more effective co-ordination and to increase the feeling of ownership of the Afghans, which would support the development of the public and private sectors in Afghanistan. Paet expressed hope that the effective co-operation of the EU’s new special representative, NATO’s new senior civilian representative, and the new UN special representative of the secretary general with the Afghan authorities would help to more productively achieve the goals set at the Afghanistan conference held in London in January. Paet also said that Estonia will continue to co-ordinate the development of the health care sector in Helmand Province and also plans to contribute to the Afghanistan Peace and Integration Trust Fund.

Future of NATO-Russia Relations Discussed

23 April - The informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers continued in Tallinn with a discussion on relations between NATO and Russia. The foreign ministers agreed that Russia is an important partner for NATO and an effort is made to engage in practical co-operation that is based on mutual interests. The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) is a forum in which along with issues of mutual interest, differences of opinion are also a natural part of the dialogue. It was acknowledged that there are still problems with NATO’s image in Russia and it will be difficult to change this if the Russian leaders do not do it themselves.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that NATO’s relations with Russia are directly dependent on political will and the fulfilment of responsibilities accepted by both sides. He added that we need time to increase reciprocal trust and that we can move forward with steps founded on agreements and a common vision.
Paet said that there are sectors in which co-operation between NATO and Russia is already developing. “The fight against terrorism and narcotics dealing, transit through Russia to support the Afghanistan mission, and the fight against piracy are potential areas for co-operation. However, there are still many fundamental issues on which NATO and Russia have very different viewpoints,” said Paet.
The foreign ministers confirmed that Europe’s security architecture dialogue must be based on the fulfilment of accepted responsibilities, including those regarding the resolution of crises. “The existing European security architecture fulfils the prescribed responsibilities, and its effectiveness depends primarily on whether and how the nations fulfil the responsibilities each of them has accepted,” emphasised Foreign Minister Paet.

Paet and Rasmussen: New Threats Receive Same Attention

22 April – In their meeting, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the work of the group of experts preparing the NATO Strategic Concept provides a strong basis for the Strategic Concept, and the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Tallinn will mark the starting point of an extensive and substantial discussion among the member states.
Foreign Minister Paet stated that while NATO faces new challenges, such as cyber security, the conventional risks have not disappeared, one example being the Russia-Georgia war. “These threats must be addressed in the Strategic Concept in a realistic way. It is possible to have a constructive approach to developing partnership without misleading wishful thinking,” said Paet.
“Any decision made on the nuclear weapons located in Europe must take into consideration the long-term security perspective and the reliability of deterrence, not be based on short-term political goals or budget considerations,” stressed Foreign Minister Paet. “Although the using of nuclear weapons is unlikely, nuclear deterrence based in Europe must remain, as it preserves close transatlantic ties and allows for greater flexibility in deterrence,” he added.
Foreign Minister Paet recognised Secretary General Rasmussen’s efforts to increase reciprocal trust and co-operation with Russia.
Paet and Rasmussen agreed that the ISAF’s new approach in Afghanistan has been successful and soon it will be possible to begin handing the responsibility for guaranteeing security over to the Afghan authorities. “The feeling of ownership the Afghans will have is equally important to increasing responsibility and improving military and civil co-operation,” Paet emphasised.

FOREIGN NEWS

Ilves to Clinton: NATO is in Afghanistan to Get Out Of It

23 April – In his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Ilves stressed that NATO’s new Strategic Concept, which will undoubtedly be based on collective deterrence and collective defence, will only become a guideline for the alliance if embraced and adopted by all the NATO member states. “This shall mean very close mutual consultation over a long period of time and an end to the so-called last minute compromises and agreements, which serve the interests of no-one,” said President Ilves.
At the same time, Ilves admitted that within a NATO context, territorial defence will mean that the defence of our own countries and citizens may start at a greater distance, using the operation in Afghanistan as an example.
Clinton commended Estonia for raising the issue of cyber defence and for its commitment to the subject, which resulted in the establishment of the NATO Co-operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.
In speaking about Afghanistan, the Estonian head of state said that the increase in the number of civil and training projects led by NATO and the EU in conjunction with the increase in military presence is highly important.
“Only this way – by literally building up the country – can we finally achieve a situation in which the authorities of Afghanistan will be capable of controlling the situation themselves,” stated President Ilves. “NATO’s intervention is characterised by one specific factor: the objective of the alliance’s presence is to depart.”
When speaking about the presence of the USA in Europe, the Estonian head of state admitted that while Europe’s problems may seem solved in the eyes of the USA, we must find new points of contact for trans-Atlantic integration with our important allies. “In the same way that NATO needs a more contemporary management scheme, both Europe and the USA will need a new foundation for their relations, as many problems dating back to the times of the Cold War have been successfully resolved since the fall of the Iron Curtain,” said President Ilves.
The Estonian head of state mentioned the fact that the USA succeeded in bringing Russia back into more constructive dialogue, citing the START-arrangement, which was recently signed in Prague, as a highly positive example.
On the topic of Iran’s nuclear programme, the Estonian head of state considered it very important for the international community to understand that nuclear weapon in the hands of a country like Iran will be a threat for all of us. “The resolution of the UN Security Council condemning Iran and imposing some sanctions would be very important; then we need to achieve a situation in which Iran will be alone with its ambitions, in opposition to everyone,” said President Ilves.

Paet and Clinton Confirm Good Estonia-USA Relations

22 April - During their meeting today in Tallinn, Foreign Minister Paet and Secretary of State of the United States of America Hillary Clinton confirmed Estonia and the USA’s good allied relations, especially in long-term security co-operation. Paet added that Estonia also values its close dialogue with the administration of President Obama.
Paet and Clinton discussed opportunities for developing international co-ordination in Afghanistan. “Estonia will continue making a military contribution to Afghanistan for as long as necessary, and is engaging in ever closer co-operation with the United States in the name of this effort. We share common values in the development co-operation field as well, and we see good co-operation opportunities with the US co-operation agency USAID,” Paet said, noting our readiness to expand co-operation with the USA in development co-operation.
Paet and Clinton spoke about goals related to supporting EU Eastern Partnership states. “Estonia and the USA have similar goals in the Eastern Partnership countries. It is essential to make progress with resolving frozen conflicts, but also with Euro-integration in the Balkans and tying Turkey more closely with Europe,” said Paet.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip also met with Secretary of State Clinton and discussed Estonia’s development and contribution to the creation of international security. According to Prime Minister Ansip, Estonia has followed the ideals of liberty and the liberal economic model of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton stated that Estonia has undergone an impressive development into a democratic country with a dynamic economy, today supporting several other countries in need.
The discussion also focused on the economy. Speaking about the situation in Estonia, Prime Minister Ansip affirmed that Estonia’s economy and financial sector are showing signs of recovery from the crisis; the economy has begun moving in an upward direction since the end of last year, and unemployment has begun to diminish.
According to Ansip, Estonia values the preserving of an environment that is supportive of economic development and attractive to foreign investors, which presumes joining the euro zone and maintaining a strict budget policy. “Estonia’s goal is to join the euro zone next year,” said Ansip.
The discussion also touched upon energy security and energy cooperation between the European Union and the USA. As energy security is directly related to national security, close cooperation in questions regarding energy security is highly important, and the foundation of the EU-US Energy Council for the enhancement thereof has been an appropriate and significant measure.

Paet, Ansip Met With Afghan Foreign Minister

23 April - During his meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet confirmed Estonia’s ongoing contribution to reconstructing Afghanistan and ensuring security in the country. Afghanistan is a priority country of Estonian development co-operation.
Paet and Rassoul discussed intensifying political and economic contacts between Estonia and Afghanistan. “Estonia’s development co-operation in Afghanistan is based on the preferences of the Afghan government and focuses first and foremost on health care, improving the situation of women and children, and advancing good administrative practice,” Paet stated. Foreign Minister Paet said that Estonia awaits young diplomats from the Afghan Foreign Ministry to attend training at the Estonian School of Diplomacy. “We are increasing our civil contribution, sending five police officers and one advisor to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan,” Paet asserted. Paet added that this year Estonia also doubled its contribution to the EU police mission in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Paet said that it is very important to focus more on agriculture and developing Afghanistan’s economy. “It is essential that quality of life improves in a practical way for Afghans; social and economic development will provide a basis for the stabilisation of the security situation as well,” said Paet. “The Afghan workforce and production should be used to the fullest extent to reconstruct the nation, and Afghan entrepreneurs should be included as well,” he added.
According to Paet, Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, should be included in the security process. “It is not possible to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan without the participation of Pakistan, because developments for the future of Afghanistan depend on developments in Pakistan. It is essential to focus on ensuring security in Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas,” emphasised Foreign Minister Paet. “More attention should be given to security-related co-operation in Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas,” Paet stressed.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip also met with Zalmai Rassoul. Foreign Minister Rassoul thanked Estonia for comprehensive assistance in rebuilding the state of Afghanistan and in peace support. “I thank Estonia for more than simply contributing to the ensuring of security in our country,” said the foreign minister of Afghanistan. “We are also very grateful for assistance in non-military areas, including the rebuilding of the health care system.”
Rassoul hoped that warfare in Afghanistan would end and the co-operation between the two countries could increasingly focus on non-military areas. “I am hoping that Afghanistan will also become a tourist destination for Estonians, too,” Rassoul noted.

Social Security Agreement Being Negotiated with Australia

23 April - During his meeting early this morning in Tallinn with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that the fifth largest community of Estonians lives in Australia (after Canada, Sweden, the United States, and Finland). “In recent years a considerable number of young Estonians have worked in Australia on work or vacation visas. There are nearly 9 000 Estonians in Australia,” said Paet. “To help our citizens living in Australia and to resolve issues related to social security and health insurance, we will continue active negotiations with Australia for concluding a bilateral social security agreement,” stated Paet.
Paet also told his Australian colleague about Estonia’s desire to intensify communication between Australian and Estonian entrepreneurs. “Estonia’s accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the euro zone will certainly make investing in Estonia more attractive,” noted Paet.
Both Estonia and Australia contribute to military activity and reconstruction work in Afghanistan. Paet stressed that Australia is the biggest non-NATO contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. “The exchange of information and co-operation with Australia in the southern part of Afghanistan are valuable to Estonia,” said Paet. “Estonia works in Helmand Province, and Australia is also there in addition to Oruzgan Province and Kandahar,” Paet remarked.

Macedonia* and Albania to Open Embassies in Tallinn

24 April - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with his Macedonian colleague Antonio Milošoski and Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta in Tallinn. Milošoski and Meta affirmed that each nations plans to open an embassy in Tallinn in the near future.
At his meeting with Paet, Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milošoski confirmed that an embassy would be opened soon and that there was interest to use Estonia’s experiences to help prepare Macedonia for European Union accession. Paet stated that Macedonia has Estonia’s complete support. “According to the 2009 progress report, Macedonia has succeeded in implementing all the legislative changes dictated by the European Commission. This is a commendable accomplishment. It is also significant that Macedonia achieved visa freedom with the European Union at the end of last year,” he added.
Within the framework of their meeting, Urmas Paet and Antonio Milošoski signed the implementing protocol for the agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants between the two nations.
During the meeting of the Estonian and Albanian ministers in Tallinn, Albanian Foreign Minister Meta stated that Albania has decided to open an embassy in Estonia.
Foreign Minister Paet said that Estonia also supports the EU-related development of Albania and the implementation of visa freedom between the European Union and Albania. “The agreement on the avoidance of double taxation recently signed between Estonia and Albania gives momentum to the development of economic relations. An agreement for the protection of investments should be concluded as well,” he asserted.
Paet added that Albania, as a new member of NATO, plays an essential role in ensuring stability in the Western Balkan region and Europe as a whole.

* Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

EU Foreign Ministers: Kyrgyzstan Must Set Sights on Free Elections

26 April - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet participated in the meeting of European Union foreign ministers taking place in Luxembourg. While talking about the situation in Kyrgyzstan, the EU foreign ministers were concerned about the unstable situation there following the protests. “The primary goal is to prevent the continuation of any violence and ethnic conflicts and to find balance between the northern and southern parts of the country,” emphasised Foreign Minister Paet, continuing, “In order to stabilise the situation, free elections must be carried out as soon as possible.” Paet said that the interim government must restore public order, honouring rule of law and human rights and fulfilling all of Kyrgyzstan’s international responsibilities and agreements. Urmas Paet believes that how the EU in co-operation with the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) manages to guarantee stability in Kyrgyzstan will have an effect on the development of the entire Central Asian region. The EU foreign policy leaders discussed co-operation in Afghanistan with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the European Union defence ministers. During the joint session they discussed opportunities to more quickly carry out the Afghanistan and Pakistan action plans created in 2009. In order to build up Afghanistan, EU and NATO co-operation must be stronger and co-ordination among them and all the other international donors must be improved. During the joint session, the report on the implementation of the Afghanistan and Pakistan action plans was approved and the council approved the conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy.
During the General Affairs Council, the European Union foreign ministers will discuss the primary principles of organisation in the European External Action Service. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said the member states must reach an agreement on the functioning of the foreign service without wasting any time, so that the proposal could move forward and negotiations could begin with the European Parliament. “It is essential to ensure the transparency of the recruitment process as well as a geographical balance among the personnel,” Paet said. He also stated that it is also essential to add consular function to the European Union foreign representations in case of emergency situations.

President Met With Serbian Counterpart

19 April - President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who due to disturbances in flight traffic began his trip back to Estonia by car from Turkey after the end of his official visit, met last night in Belgrade with Serbian President Boris Tadić. The Serbian head of state assured Ilves of his country’s continued commitment to accede with the European Union. According to President Ilves, Serbia plays an important role in promoting regional co-operation and in maintaining stability in the Balkans. “Serbia has been quite successful on its path to the EU and its courageous steps towards accession must be appreciated for what they’re worth,” said the Estonian head of state. “If Serbia has made a commitment to the European Union, it’s quite natural for the EU to make commitments – which will be not abandoned later – to Serbia.”
Late at night today President Ilves will arrive in Krakow, where tomorrow morning he will place a wreath at the grave of Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria Kaczyńska, who died in the recent plane crash and are buried in the crypt of Wawel Castle Cathedral. Because of the air traffic crisis that has hit Europe, President Ilves could not participate in the funeral ceremony of the Polish presidential couple on 18 April.
The Estonian head of state will drive back home from Istanbul through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. He is expected to arrive in Tallinn early on 21 April.

Estonian Consulate Opened in Shanghai

29 April - During the opening of the Estonian Consulate in Shanghai, China, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet noted that this step would help to advance Estonia-China economic relations and co-operation and make consular aid more accessible. The Estonian consul in Shanghai is Andre Lipand.
Paet stated that with the opening of the consulate in Shanghai, the Foreign Ministry would like to help develop the contacts of Estonian entrepreneurs in China and other Asian nations and introduce Estonia on a broader scale. “The Estonian Consulate will help contribute to developing economic relations during the World Exposition of the Shanghai Expo and afterwards as well,” asserted Foreign Minister Paet. China is one of the most important economic forces in the world, and its predicted economic growth for 2010 is more than 9%. The European Union is the biggest market for Chinese goods.
Paet stated that the opening of the consulate will make consular services and aid more accessible to people living and travelling in that region.
The expenses involved in opening and running the consular representation will be covered in co-operation with Enterprise Estonia. An Enterprise Estonia representative will work in the same space.

Ambassador Opened Honorary Consulate in Graz

28 April - Estonian Ambassador to Austria Eve-Külli Kala opened the Estonian Honorary Consulate in Graz. The new Estonian honorary consul in Graz is Michael Friedrich Seidl.
Prior to the opening of the honorary consulate, Ambassador Eve-Külli Kala and Honorary Consul Seidl met with Governor of the state of Styria Franz Voves and Mayor of Graz Siegfried Nagli. At the introductory meeting they discussed opportunities for advancing co-operation with the local government. The ambassador mentioned that the state of Styria is known for it beautiful nature and ski mountains and is recognised by Estonians primarily as a training ground for our cross-country ski team, so that state could find itself a good partner township or county in Estonia.
Ambassador Eve-Külli Kala said that Graz, the capital of the state of Styria, belongs to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, just like Tallinn. “Graz was the European Capital of Culture in 2003—that same experience awaits Tallinn next year. Common experiences create a good basis for closer contacts and the development of co-operation in the tourism and cultural sectors,” confirmed Ambassador Kala.
The service area of the new Estonian Honorary Consulate covers the states of Styria and Carinthia. The honorary consulate is located at the address 3., Wastlergasse, 11, 8010 Graz, Republic of Austria. The honorary consul can be reached by phone at +43 (0) 316 381 925 or by email at michel.seidl@gmx.at. The Graz honorary consulate is the third Estonian honorary consulate in Austria, after those in Vienna and Salzburg.
Michael Friedrich Seidl was born in 1954. He graduated from the law department of Salzburg University and worked as a lawyer for the government of the state of Styria for nearly ten years. The honorary consul has many connections with Estonia and Estonians. For example, Seidl first visited Estonia in 1997. In university, one of his instructors was current Estonian Honorary Consul in Salzburg Henn-Jüri Uibopuu. The honorary consul speaks German and English.

Ambassadors of Bangladesh, Algeria Present Credentials

29 April - President Toomas Hendrik Ilves met today in Kadriorg with the Ambassadors of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, who presented their credentials to the Estonian head of state.
Credentials were presented by Ambassador of Bangladesh Saiful Hoque, who resides in Moscow, and Ambassador of Algeria Abdelkader Khemri, who resides in Warsaw.

DOMESTIC NEWS

State Decoration Given to Danish Cultural Minister

27 April - President Toomas Hendrik Ilves today presented Danish Minister of Cultural Affairs Per Stig Møller with the 1st Class Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana in Kadriorg. The President awarded Møller with Class I Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana in his resolution of 3 February 2010.
As the Danish foreign minister from 2001-2010, Minister Møller was committed to supporting EU and NATO accession policies on behalf of Estonia and the other Baltic states, and he contributed to the successful completion of both accession processes.
“Estonia has always acknowledged friends who have been there for us during both the good and the complicated times,” said President Ilves, as he handed over the decoration. “Your contribution to supporting the Baltic states is invaluable and definitely much greater than your position required.” The head of state also acknowledged the book published by minister Møller in 1990 – Historien om Estland, Letland og Litauen – which helped to clarify the history and ambitions of the Baltic states at a time when very few were willing to take such an approach.
During his visit to Estonia, Danish Minister of Cultural Affairs Per Stig Møller also had a meeting with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

State Forest Manager to Plant Over 10 Mln Young Trees in Spring

26 April (BNS) - The state forest management company RMK has started the spring planting of trees in the course of which it plans to put more than 10 million tree plants in the ground all over Estonia.
In all, 6 500 hectares of state forest will be rejuvenated, with young trees to be planted on 4 500 hectares, seeds sown on 1 500 hectares, and 500 hectares prepared for natural rejuvenation.
Tavo Uuetalu, board member of RMK, said that the planting of young trees was already underway in some places of Estonia, whereas in others more time was needed for the ground to dry up enough after the melting of snow. "By the end of May 5.8 million spruces, 3.6 million pines, 670 000 birches and a few oak groves should have been put in the ground," Uuetalu said.
Uuetalu added that residents in rural areas have displayed great interest in signing up for the work this year, therefore no public campaign is needed. RMK manages 38% of Estonia's forests.

DEFENCE NEWS

New Estonian Units Head to Afghanistan

29 April (BNS) - Two new Estonian units, the infantry company ESTCOY-10 and the support unit NSE-9, departed for the Afghanistan mission area on Thursday morning. The troops were seen off by army chief Lt. Gen Ants Laaneots and the ambassadors of the United States and Britain, Michael C. Polt and Peter Carter.
ESTCOY-10, led by Maj. Meelis Jõgeva, and NSE-9 under Capt. Asso Treksler will relieve ESTCOY-9 and NSE-8, which have been serving in Afghanistan since November 2009. The Estonian company serves in the composition of the British-led Task Force Helmand.

Troops Training Use of Mistral Missile Systems in Latvia

29 April (BNS) - Conscripts serving in the Estonian Air Defence Battalion are on Thursday in Latvia for their first Mistral missile system firing practice, which is the highlight of their training. In previous years firing trainings of the battalion were held in Finland, but this year the Latvian Skede training ground was chosen because it's less expensive to hold live-fire training there, military spokespeople said. Latvia has a training ground with a seaward extending sector of fire, radars and established safety procedures. One team of each group of conscripts, which has in the course of tests and exams proven it is the most deserving, will be doing the firing.
"The fact that only best of the best will get the chance of pulling the trigger added a moment of competition and motivation to the training process. But I can affirm that all thirsted for the skill to use the missile system, because it's a new, exciting and very efficient system," battalion commander Maj. Mati Tikerpuu said.
The air defence system consists of Giraffe AMB radars, command points, communications equipment, missile launch units, Mistral missiles and training equipment. The radars, command points and communications system were supplied by the Swedish Saab, and the missiles and firing equipment, by MBDA France.

800 Personnel to Take Part in Victory Day Parade

27 April (BNS) - Around 800 members of the Estonian Defence Forces are to march in this year's Victory Day parade in the city of Viljandi in June. The parade will be held on the usual scale, i.e. with the participation of 800 members of the Kaitseliit (Defence League) voluntary corps, its women's and boys' corps, and the Police and Border Guard Board, 2nd Lt. Taivi Kuuse from Kaitseliit told BNS. There will be no foreign guests among the participants this year.
The units participating in the parade will line up in Viljandi's Vabaduse (Freedom) Square. After the parade viewers will be able to examine the equipment of Kaitseliit and taste soldier's soup.
The Victory Day celebrations also feature performances by military marching bands in Tallinn's Vabaduse Square on 22 June and in Viljandi's square of the same name a day later. According to current information, there will be three bands – one from Estonia, Lithuania and the United States each, but Kuuse said more may sign up later on. The Victory Day parade also took place in Viljandi in 1998.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Number of Boat Passengers From Tallinn Surges as Flights are Cancelled

16 April (BNS) - The air traffic shutdown due to the ash clouds from the Icelandic volcano eruption has sent the number of Baltic Sea boat travellers soaring ahead of the weekend, with all tickets to Tallink's Stockholm-Helsinki ferries for Friday already sold out.
Tallink spokesperson Luulea Laane told BNS that a significant increase in demand could be observed already on Thursday evening. "Right now the situation is such that on the Stockholm-Helsinki route all tickets for Friday have been sold out. For those wishing to travel from Stockholm to Helsinki we offer the opportunity to travel to Helsinki by boat via Tallinn," Laane said.
The air space of Estonia has been closed to air traffic because of the ash clouds, officials said Friday morning. Tallinn Airport said all flights out of Tallinn until 1 p.m. had been cancelled.
The Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southern Iceland that erupted on Wednesday hurled a plume of ash six to 11 kilometers into the atmosphere and it drifted south. Aviation experts said the ash could cause jet engines to fail and airlines have warned the fallout from the eruption could take days to clear, leaving passengers in many parts of the world stranded.

Port of Tallinn Leads Baltic Ports in Q1 Freight Flows

19 April (BNS) - In the first quarter of this year Estonia's Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn) recorded the largest freight throughput of the four largest Baltic ports, handling 8.47 million tons of goods or 11.6% more than during the same period of 2009.
The port served 1.45 million passengers in the three months, up by 6.1% year on year.
Freight turnover of the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, at 7.4 million tons, marks a year-on-year increase of 14.2%.
Some 7.2 million tons of cargoes passed through the port of Ventspils in Latvia. The amount is 8.1% smaller than in the first quarter of 2009. The port of Riga posted freight flows of 7.11 million tons in the first quarter, a year-on-year decrease of 4.2%.

Electricity Comes From Finland to Estonia Via Undersea Cable for First Time

26 April (BNS) - After the launch of the Estonian electricity exchange at the beginning of April, deals were transacted for the first time last week that sent electricity moving from Finland to Estonia via the Estlink submerged power cable on the bottom of the Gulf of Finland.
"By way of exception, the bottom line for the Estlink price area had been laid by electricity providers of the Helsinki area when on Sunday night the price in both the Helsinki and Estlink price areas was 20 euros per megawatt-hour during two hours and electricity was physically supplied from Finland to Estonia," Margus Vals, director for energy trade at the Estonian state owned power utility Eesti Energia, said.
In the Estlink price area (Estonian electricity exchange) the price remained the same from 2 a.m. till 9 a.m. Sunday. In all 40.2 megawatt-hours of electricity was imported to Estonia from Finland. During the week, 30.9 gigawatt-hours of electricity was bought and 71.8 gigawatt-hours sold in the Estlink price area. Export to Finland declined by 1.3 gigawatt-hours to 41.0 gigawatt-hours.
The price of electricity on the exchange for the Estonian market area dropped on the average 7.3% last week to 34.24 euros per megawatt-hour. On nearby markets the decline was smaller, being 3.3% in both the Helsinki area and in Lithuania.

Copterline Plans to Resume Tallinn-Helsinki Flights

22 April (BNS) - The Estonian unit of the Finnish helicopter operator Copterline plans to resume flights on the Tallinn-Helsinki route this year.
The company is at present seeking the Estonian Civil Aviation Administration's permission to resume operations, board member of Copterline Estonia Tõnis Lepp said.
He said all the necessary applications have been handed in and the next couple of weeks should bring clarity as to how long their processing will take. "The idea is to start flying again this year," Lepp said.
In his words, it should become clear in mid-May how soon the flights can resume. "We need to know before Midsummer Day so we could start a couple of months later, after the aviation administration completes the final procedures," he said.
As to the planned number of flights, Lepp said there will probably be fewer flights than before as the company feels it should make a cautious start.
Copterline suspended flights between the Estonian and Finnish capitals indefinitely in mid-December 2008, citing shortage of customers as the economy was hit by crisis.
Copterline Estonia posted a loss of 4.8 million kroons (EUR 0.3 mln) for 2008.

CULTURAL NEWS

Documentary by Imbi Paju Premieres in Athens

29 April - Imbi Paju’s documentary “Sisters Across the Gulf of Finland” premiered in Athens on 28 April. The premiere in the Finnish Institute was organised by the Estonian Embassy in Athens and the Finnish Institute. The film addresses the common history of Estonia and Finland through women’s history and a personal and human dimension.
The Estonian and Finnish ambassadors to Greece, Andres Talvik and Erkki Huittinen, also participated in the screening. Imbi Paju spoke at the screening, as well as Finnish PhD in history Tiina Kinnunen, who gave an overview of the histories of the women’s auxiliary movements Lotta Svärd and Naiskodukaitse and their fate during the war and after. Guests at the screening included the English-Greek writer of Russian descent Sofka Zinovieff, who will appear along with Paju at the Baltic Book Fair in Tallinn on 7 May.

 

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