Estonia Supports Main Principles of NATO’s New Strategic Concept
17 May - Today the group of experts working on formulating the basis for a new Strategic Concept for NATO, led by former Secretary of State of the United States of America Madeleine Albright, presented its report on the results of its work to NATO.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia is satisfied with the content of the report that was presented to the North Atlantic Council and also released to the public at noon today. “The principles included in the report reflect, in Estonia’s opinion, essential priorities for ensuring the security of NATO member states,” Paet emphasised. “For Estonia it is important that the new Strategic Concept confirms the principle values of NATO and that collective defence is NATO’s primary responsibility, while also addressing contemporary security threats and ensuring the security of member states outside of NATO’s borders,” said Paet.
Foreign Minister Paet noted that Estonia plans to base its position on the principles named in the report during the negotiations for working out the NATO Strategic Concept.
Discussions on NATO’s new Strategic Concept between NATO and the expert group that created the report will continue at the beginning of June. The NATO Strategic Concept should be accepted at the next NATO summit, taking place in Lisbon in November of this year.
The expert group led by Madeleine Albright started working in September of 2009. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were represented in the expert group for formulating the Strategic Concept by one common representative. The Baltic representative in the expert group is current Latvian Foreign Minister Aivis Ronis.
The current NATO Strategic Concept was approved at NATO’s Washington summit in April of 1999.
Young Georgian and Moldovan Diplomats Start Studies at Estonian School of Diplomacy
14 May - The Foreign Ministry is providing scholarships for two Georgian and two Moldovan diplomats to study in a two-semester training programme at the Estonian School of Diplomacy during the 2010/2011 academic year.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that both Georgia and Moldova are moving towards the European Union and more democratic and effective state governance. It is important for both states to work on reforming the state instrument, but this requires the presence of capable state officials. “The goal of the training programme is to share Estonia’s experiences with building up state institutions and a foreign service, thereby helping to increase Moldova and Georgia’s ability to communicate with the international community,” said Foreign Minister Paet. “The study process is also an effective means for creating cultural and other contacts between the nations,” he added. The diplomats of Moldova and Georgia, which are European Union Neighbourhood Policy partner countries, will acquire knowledge of diplomacy, international relations, European integration, international law, and economics. The young specialists will learn about Estonia’s skills, which will enable them to contribute to the development of Moldova and Georgia’s relations with the EU and NATO as well as to the modernisation of the foreign communication system in their countries. The Estonian School of Diplomacy (ESD) has had multi-faceted co-operation with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia since 2003. Scholarship programmes and training courses have been organised for the diplomats and state officials of these countries. The ESD has also provided training for the diplomats of Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Kosovo.
Funding for the training for Georgian and Moldovan diplomats is being allocated from the Foreign Ministry’s budget for development and humanitarian aid.
Ilves Discusses Co-operation, Bilateral Relations with Acting President of Poland
20 May (BNS) - Estonia considers close relations with Poland to be very important, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves stressed in his meeting with Bronislaw Komorowski, acting president of Poland and speaker of the lower house of parliament. "It is important to us for Poland, as one of the large members of the European Union, to have a strong role in the union," the president's office quoted Ilves as saying.
Komorowski reaffirmed Poland's readiness to work towards closer integration within the EU, which he said serves the interests of the whole Baltic Sea region. Ilves and Komorowski also touched on Estonia-Poland and EU-Russia relations.
The need for responsible fiscal policy in the EU was in focus at the president's meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. Ilves stated that it is the so-called new member states of the union who have so far played by the fiscal policy rules. "Considering that of all members of the EU, only Poland succeeded in showing economic growth last year, it is above all Poland that has grounds to demand from other members of the union responsible reaction to economic reality and to call on countries to observe the rules set by themselves," he said.
Sikorski briefed Ilves about the flooding caused by heavy rainfall in the south of the country. Nine Estonian rescuers are going to the flood-hit provinces in the composition of a joint Baltic rescue team to combat the floods.
Ilves thanked Poland for its contribution to the Baltic airspace guarding mission and applauded the decision of the national carrier LOT Polish Airlines to resume regular flights between Tallinn and Warsaw.
Prime Minister Ansip Participated in EU-Latin America Summit
18 May - A summit of the heads of state and government leaders from the European Union, Latin America and Caribbean (EU-LAC) took place today in Madrid. Estonia was represented at the meeting by Prime Minister Andrus Ansip. The central topic of the summit was innovation and technology in the service of sustainable development and social cohesion.
At the end of the meeting, the government leaders and heads of state of the EU and Latin American countries adopted a joint declaration, in which they affirmed their commitment to continue the Bi-regional Strategic Partnership based on common principles, values and interests.
The joint declaration addressed climate change, the fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as human rights, gender equality, intercultural dialogue, and other topics.
In addition to the joint declaration, the political leaders of the European Union and Latin America also confirmed a Plan of Action for 2010-2012. The plan determines the key areas for co-operation in the future. At today’s summit meeting, a fund for the European Union, Latin America and Caribbean will also be established.
In the course of the summit, Prime Minister Ansip held a bilateral meeting with Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and Leonel Fernández, the President of the Dominican Republic.
According to Ansip, Estonia primarily sees opportunities to help Haiti in those fields of activity in which Estonia has been successful and gained good experiences. Since Estonia has been successful in developing e-governance, Ansip affirmed Estonia’s readiness to provide assistance in this field.
Opportunities for IT-related co-operation were also discussed at the meeting with the President of the Dominican Republic.
Estonia Helps Palestine Develop e-Services
16 May - The Foreign Ministry is supporting two projects of the e-Governance Academy to increase the e-capabilities of the Palestinian Authority. The e-Governance Academy is helping to develop a portal that brings together electronic databases (X-Road) in order to provide better governing and public services. The e-Governance Academy is also teaching Palestine about Estonia’s experiences with organising e-studies and the use of IT solutions in administering education.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia has successfully built up IT solutions that significantly simplify the work of state officials and increase their effectiveness. “Using contemporary information and communication technology solutions helps to create e-services, which are extremely important to people, and also to establish good and transparent administrative practices,” asserted Foreign Minister Paet. “IT solutions also offer many opportunities for modernising and developing the education system,” he added.
The e-Governance Academy is helping to create documentation and develop the necessary knowledge and skills for establishing a portal for electronic databases (X-Road) in Palestine. Accessing the information in the databases of the Palestinian Authority’s government in real time is complicated. It is only possible to do so in the actual physical location of the database, but mobility is quite difficult for people living on Palestine’s territory. They would like to create a database portal like the one that is used in Estonia.
The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry for Education and Higher Education has expressed interest in learning about Estonia’s experiences in utilising information and communication technology (ICT) in both managing education and in the learning process. The situation in ICT education will be mapped out within the framework of the project. A training session will also be organised for the workers of Palestine’s Ministry for Education and Higher Education, during which an overview will be given of Estonia’s experiences in implementing ICT solutions in education.
In 2009 the e-Governance Academy carried out a project to develop the e-services of the Palestinian Authority, within the framework of which 20 leading officials of the Palestinian Authority attended a week-long training in Estonia on the development of Estonia’s e-state.
Expert From Estonian Rescue Team to Direct Humanitarian Aid Camp in Haiti
20 May - With the support of the Foreign Ministry, Enn Eberg, a member of the Estonian Rescue Team, will go to Haiti to direct the camp of the World Food Programme Humanitarian aid mission. Eberg will be the director of the World Food Programme camp in Haiti from 12 June to 1 August.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the opportunity to direct the field camp of a mission in Haiti being offered to an Estonia expert is a sign that Estonian development co-operation and our rescue team have become extremely trustworthy partners in international rescue co-operation. “The aid of Estonian experts in Haiti has been important and received recognition from the World Bank and many other partners,” said Foreign Minister Paet.
Estonian specialists in Haiti are participating in the joint mission of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Estonia, also known as International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP). The International Humanitarian Partnership mission in Haiti has been a positive example of successful co-operation between nations for providing humanitarian aid. In addition to Haiti, Estonia experts have also provided aid in Namibia, Pakistan and Indonesia, among others.
Currently Estonia’s aid to Haiti totals 6.8 million kroons (435 600 EUR). Humanitarian aid makes up 5.667 million kroons of this sum. Of the humanitarian aid, Estonia donated 2.5 million kroons to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The remaining sum for humanitarian aid was used to send Estonian medics and technical experts to Haiti. All of the Estonian experts sent to Haiti have been members of the Estonian Rescue Team.
For long-term reconstruction of the nation, Estonia has donated a total of 100 000 dollars (1.285 million kroons) to the multilateral Haiti Reconstruction Fund managed by the World Bank as well as UNICEF. Estonia’s contribution also included two 45 m2 tents with floors, furniture and lighting. Estonia also left IT equipment valuing 86 000 kroons in Haiti.
Serbia Develops e-Capabilities with Help From Estonia
19 May - The Foreign Ministry is supporting a project of the e-Governance Academy that aims to share Estonia’s experiences with implementing a portal that brings together electronic databases (X-Road) with experts in Serbia.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that X-Road, the unique software solution worked out in Estonia, has brought the citizens closer to the state and made the state more effective in offering public service.
The goal of the e-Governance Academy’s project is to train experts and provide information on Estonia’s experiences in order to establish X-Road in Serbia. The current situation is being documented and proposals are being made for necessary actions and future steps for implementing the cross-usage portal. Estonia is prepared to help the Serbian government apply the base technology of X-Road.
Estonia Opens Sixth Honorary Consulate in Sweden
17 May - Today, Minister of Economics and Communications Juhan Parts and Estonian Ambassador to Sweden Alar Streimann opened the Estonian Honorary Consulate in Karlstadt, Sweden. The Estonian honorary consul in Karlstadt is Lars-Åke Johan Brännström.
Estonia would like to further intensify ties between Estonia and Sweden in economic, tourism and cultural areas. This is Estonia’s sixth honorary consulate in Sweden, located near the Norwegian border about 300 km from Stockholm. Karlstad, a famous centre of forestry, paper, cellulose and engineering, is also known for its IT development.
Through the co-operation of Honorary Consul Brännström and the Värmland Chamber of Commerce, a meeting between Minister of Economics and Communications Juhan Parts and the local businessmen and members of the chamber of commerce will take place in Karlstad today. Minister of Economics and Communications Parts will also visit the Ilon Wikland exhibit on display in the Värmland Museum until 20 May and meet with the author herself.
The consular area of Honorary Consul Lars-Åke Brännström is Värmland County, and he himself is located in Karlstad. The honorary consulate is located at Södra Kyrkogatan 11, 652 24 Karlstad, Sweden and the honorary consul can be reached by phone at +46 (0) 70 580 23 37.
Honorary Consul Lars-Åke Brännström was born in 1955 in Gudmundrås and completed his master’s degree at Linköping Institute of Technology. Brännström is well-known and respected on the Swedish industrial landscape as well as in international business life. The honorary consul is the owner of the consultation firm Brannstrom AB and a member of the board of MEWAB Holding AB since 2008. The honorary consul speaks Swedish, English and German.
Baltic States to Send Rescue Team to Polish Flood Zone
19 May (BNS) - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will on Thursday send a joint rescue team, the BaltFloodCombat, to flooded areas in Poland to fight the consequences of the natural disaster. The team consists of 19 members, nine of whom are Estonian, a spokesman for the Rescue Board told BNS. Estonia is contributing seven rescue specialists, an IT specialist and a medic.
The rescuers will be working in the neighbourhood of the cities of Krakow and Katowice in southern Poland, where the situation is most dire. The team will take with it three powerful pumps to pump out streets and buildings. The 11-day mission is budgeted at around 100 000 euros.
BaltFloodCombat was supposed to start its first training in Latvia this week but the three nations' rescue boards decided to dispatch the unit to Poland instead. The Polish flood death toll rose to six on Wednesday.
Netherlands to Start Issuing Visas for Estonia in Suriname
20 May (BNS) - The Estonian government on Thursday gave the nod to a draft agreement whereby the Netherlands will start representing Estonia in visa matters in the South American country of Suriname.
The proposal that Dutch officials start acting on Estonia's behalf in the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo, came from the Netherlands, spokespeople for the government said. If the Dutch representation in Suriname finds that a visa application meets all the requirements and there is no risk of illegal immigration or violation of public order it will issue a visa for Estonia as requested. The agreement will considerably ease and speed up the visa process for citizens of Suriname.
Under the current agreement, the Netherlands represents Estonia in visa questions in Nairobi, Abuja and Amman while Estonia acts for the Netherlands in Pskov, Russia.
Paet: Environmental Friendliness Essential Part of State’s Economic Competitiveness
20 May - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet spoke at the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as part of a conference on opportunities for environmentally friendly enterprise and Estonia’s contribution to addressing climate change. European Union Commissioner for the Environment Connie Hedegaard will also participate in the conference, entitled “Opportunities for Green Industry in Estonia”.
Foreign Minister Paet stated that global economic growth and scientific development have, for a long time, relied on the use of vast fossil energy sources and non-renewable sources of energy. “Environmental friendliness is becoming ever more important to every state’s competitiveness,” stated Paet. “Ensuring sustainable development and environmental safety is indeed an immense challenge, but it also offers a great opportunity to become less dependent on exhaustible fossil fuels, while increasing competitiveness and security at the same time,” he added.
While talking about the effects of climate change, Foreign Minister Paet acknowledged that they do not follow national borders. “Global warming has already made earning a living very difficult in many nations,” said Paet. “This can lead to immigration, instability, and in extreme cases even conflict,” he added.
Paet explained that Estonia has addressed climate change by accepting the responsibility to lower its greenhouse gas emissions both before and after joining the European Union. “In order to prevent global warming, it is necessary for both industrial and developing nations to accept binding obligations to limit greenhouse gas emissions, from which only the least developed nations are exempt,” asserted Paet. To confirm its readiness to contribute to climate issues, within the EU’s climate legislation Estonia has accepted an additional obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.
The use of renewable energy sources in Estonia is progressing very well. “Estonia is now in the top ten in the Europe Union for percentage of electricity produced by wind turbines, and the largest wind park in the Baltics is located here,” stated Foreign Minister Paet. He added that by the end of 2012 the first waste-burning plant in the Baltics should be completed in Estonia.
One Third of Estonian MPs Use Facebook
14 May (BNS) - New social media mediums have been winning growing support among Estonian MPs and one third of them have Facebook accounts, Estonian parliament Speaker Ene Ergma said at a European Union parliament speakers' conference in Stockholm on Friday.
Ergma's speech at the conference was on the issue of new technologies and communication channels. She said that the Internet had given politicians the channel and the opportunity to distribute direct and unmediated information. As a result, the citizens had received the opportunity to take part in different stages of the decision-making process and to influence its results. Participation and involvement had become much faster and more widespread thanks to the new opportunities.
She said that new social media were winning more and more support among members of the Estonian parliament, with 33% of the MPs having Facebook accounts, 27% keeping blogs, and 13% using Twitter.
She addressed online voting, mentioning its benefits and drawbacks, and pointed out that cybercrime had explosively increased in recent years and parliaments would have to set up a legislative basis that would help society cope with the shady side of an information society. "As the influences extend across borders, the solution must be international, at the level of a convention," Ergma said.
But Ergma found that virtual politics and social communication was insufficient and could not replace traditional face-to face communication based on social networks. "Several indicators permit us to believe that the forms of traditional political participation will not disappear in the virtual world. Citizens want less formality and more immediate approach. They do not like to ‘look for truths’, they want explanations in ready-made form seen through their own eyes."
Estonia Climbs a Notch in IMD Competitiveness Ranking
19 May (BNS) - Estonia has climbed one notch to 34th position in the competitiveness ranking of the Lausanne, Switzerland-based international business school IMD.
At the top of this year's scoreboard is Singapore, last year's third, followed by Hong Kong in 2nd like last year, while last year's leader United States dropped to 3rd. Five out of the 20 most competitive nations are Asian.
Of countries in Estonia's neighbourhood, Finland and Sweden ranked among the top 20. Sweden maintained its 6th position but Finland dropped to 19th from 9th in 2009.
Lithuania moved from 31st to 43rd and Latvia was not among the countries surveyed. Russia placed 51st.
IMD's partner in Estonia, the Institute of Economic Research (EKI), observed that Estonia's rise is based on business leaders' assessments of the business environment which in March were considerably improved in comparison with the low point of the crisis a year ago. The statistical indicators of 2009 used in the rankings were meanwhile markedly weaker than a year earlier.
Estonian Contingent in Afghanistan Changes
16 May (BNS) - The Estonian unit ESTCON-8, whose stint in Afghanistan ended last week, handed responsibility over to a new contingent at the Camp Bastion base on Sunday.
The chief of the new contingent, Lt. Col. Riho Ühtegi, said ESTCON-8 had raised the bar high and the new unit is facing the serious challenge of keeping it at least as high, the General Staff in Tallinn reported. Commander of Task Force Helmand Brig. Gen. Richard Felton thanked Estonian troops for a job well done and handed over NATO medals for service in international security forces.
The infantry company of the Estonian contingent, ESTCOY-9, started service in the Nad-e Ali district of the southern Helmand Province in November 2009, taking charge of two close-lying military bases and a territory of roughly 30 square kilometers.
The company carried out four operations in its area of responsibility, finding components of improvised explosive devices and a significant quantity of opium. It rendered harmless IEDs planted in the area and arrested two persons suspected of planting bombs whose guilt has by now been proven.
Operation Mushtarak was the most important operation of the whole mission period of the company, the General Staff said. In its course protected population centres were created in the area of responsibility of the Estonian unit, freedom of movement of local people and coalition forces was secured by clearing of roads, and four additional control posts were set up in local villages and by principal roads. In the framework of Operation Mushtarak, ESTCOY-9 started co-operation with Afghanistan's national security forces.
"The biggest achievement of ESTCOY-9 was the improved security situation of villages in our area of responsibility, thanks to which already infrastructure reconstruction through different military support and stabilisation projects has begun," chief of the outgoing contingent Lt. Col. Kajari Klettenberg said.
The Estonian contingent in Afghanistan consists of an infantry company, a logistics support element and staff officers. It serves in the southern province of Helmand as part of the British-led Task Force Helmand.
Ilves, Ansip Visit Large-Scale Spring Training of Defence Forces
16 May - “Reliable, professional, inventive, disciplined,” is how President Toomas Hendrik Ilves characterised conscripts when he visited the “Spring Storm 2010” (Kevadtorm 2010) training in Viljandi and Pärnu counties on 14 May.
The Commander of the Army and general commander of the exercise, Colonel Indrek Sirel, introduced the schedule, objectives, and current course of the training to President Ilves, who is also the highest commander of the national defence. “The Estonian Defence Forces are becoming more and more contemporary and wise, which means that our country is being better protected,” said President Ilves. “I am pleased that even during these difficult times, Estonia’s defence expenditure has remained within the limits that ensure the efficient operability of national defence.”
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip visited the Spring Storm 2010 military exercises a few days later, 16 May, and gave the members of the Estonian Defence Forces high marks for their dedication and professionalism.
“The most important quality is patriotism,” the Prime Minister said. Andrus Ansip, who visited the Spring Storm exercises for the sixth year as prime minister, stressed the continuing development of inter-unit co-operation, communication, and behind-the-lines support in the Defence Forces.
“It is good that Spring Storm takes place in a different region each year,” Prime Minister Ansip said. “The exercise is quite trying for the local residents. I would like to thank all of the Estonian people who realise that such large exercises are necessary. Our people understand that if the Defence Forces do not train during peacetime, it can be very costly in a crisis situation.”
The prime minister spoke with reservists from the infantry brigade participating in the exercise. “We are very grateful that you, as reservists, have felt it necessary to participate in Spring Storm!” the prime minister told the reservists.
The prime minister also answered the reservists’ questions, which dealt with the process for Estonia’s accession to the euro zone and the state of the country’s economy.
In the course of Spring Storm 2010, the 1st Infantry Brigade is also conducting reserve training.
From 3-23 May, 3 500 members of the Defence Forces and the Defence League, as well as reservists, are training in the Spring Storm 2010 military exercises in Pärnu and Viljandi counties. The purpose of the exercise is to develop the joint operations capabilities of the Kalev Infantry Battalion, which was assigned to the reserves this spring.
Defence Minister Hopes for New Security Co-operation Opportunities with Russia
14 May (BNS) - Estonian Defence Minister Jaak Aaviksoo, speaking at the Baltic Defence Policy Assembly in Riga, expressed hope that the joint NATO-Russian analysis of security risks showed new opportunities for security co-operation. According to the defence ministry, Aaviksoo spoke at the assembly in a panel on the future of Europe's security.
"The security of Estonia and the other Baltic countries is stronger than ever before in history, which is due to our integration into different international security structures from the United Nations and the OSCE to NATO and the European Union. There is a hope that the joint NATO-Russian analysis of security risks that has now been kicked off will show new opportunities for security co-operation and growth of mutual trust, as a result reducing the treatment of NATO, including in Central and East European countries, as a hostile force," the minister said.
According to Aaviksoo, Estonia along with the other EU countries is vitally interested in successfully co-operating to address growing demographic tension, terrorism, and uncontrolled spread of weapons of mass destruction in some countries close to us.
The defence minister said that NATO would remain the main backer of collective security in Europe, while as a result of the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty new opportunities were developing to strengthen also security cooperation in the EU.
The aim of the Baltic Defence Policy Assembly is to identify in co-operation with the leading politicians of the Baltic countries the most important risks to the security of our region and their possible solution, and to collect new ideas of fighting against new dangers of the modern world.
Ansip Speaks at Opening of Senior Courses in National Defence
17 May - According to Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the opening the spring session of the Senior Courses in National Defence, from a security standpoint we are probably living in our most secure period as a nation – we are members of both NATO and the European Union, and our economy is becoming increasingly integrated with the rest of the world. “We do not have reason to doubt NATO or the functioning of Article 5,” Prime Minister Ansip said. He said that our security will also be increased by Estonia’s accession to the euro zone and the OECD. After these accessions, Estonia will be the most integrated country in the Baltic Sea region. The head of government confirmed that defence spending in Estonia must correspond to the assurances that we have made to our NATO partners – this means two percent of our GDP. “Currently, the level of Estonia’s defence spending is one of the highest in NATO, but it is still only 1.86% of our GDP,” said Ansip. He said that Estonian defence spending must increase to the promised 2% level. “I hope that this will happen the year after next year,” he added.
The prime minister also told the attendees about his recent visit to Afghanistan. Ansip stressed the importance of achieving the co-operation of the local population, as the success of the military operations depends on this.
More than 900 people from various fields of activity have completed the Senior Courses in National Defence, which have been conducted since 1999. The participants in the courses include politicians, government officials, members of the Defence Forces, businesspeople, journalists, educators, and active people in other spheres of life. In the course of six days, the attendees receive a thorough overview of Estonia’s security and defence policy, foreign policy, organisation of national defence and its legislative environment, international defence-related co-operation, Estonia’s defence investments, domestic security, and the various spheres of life related to national defence.
State Budget: 30.5 Percent Inflow in Four Months
18 May (BNS) - The Estonian Finance Ministry said that 25.7 billion kroons (EUR 1.64 b) revenue, 30.4% of the annual target, was paid into the state budget in four months. Expenditures of the state during the period totalled 27.6 billion kroons, 30.2% of the target. Inflow after four months is at the forecast level, the Finance Ministry said.
Of the revenue paid into the state budget in four months, 19.3 billion kroons was tax revenue, and 6.4 billion kroons non-tax revenue. The inflow of tax revenue is 31.2% and non-tax revenue 28% of the target. Of major types of revenue, 8.7 billion kroons of social tax and 6.3 billion kroons value-added tax has been paid into the state budget in four months.
Of expenditures of the state budget social subsidies accounted for the biggest proportion - 12.3 million kroons. During the four months 4.8 billion kroons or 31.5% of the annual target was used for operating expenses of the state.
As of the end of April, there were liquid financial assets (deposits) and bonds to the tune of 13.7 billion kroons in the state budget. Since the beginning of the year liquid financial assets of the state have contracted by 5.1 billion kroons, mainly due to the purchase of shares in OU Elering.
In the Finance Ministry's opinion the budget shortfall of the government sector budget was about 3.5 billion kroons in Q1 or 1.62% of the gross domestic product forecast for 2010. Compared with the spring forecast of the Finance Ministry, a deficit was expected after the first quarter.
Estonia’s Industrial Output Growth in March Was Biggest in EU
17 May (BNS) - The 11.6% annual increase in industrial output seen by Estonia in March puts it in the first place in the European Union, Statistics Estonia said.
Estonia and Latvia were among the EU countries posting the biggest drop in industrial output in almost all months of 2009, Rita Raudjärv, head of the service for industrial, construction and energy statistics at Statistics Estonia, said in the Statistics Estonia blog. In March both countries emerged among EU members with the biggest growth.
The impact of the crisis started to show in both countries in the first quarter of 2008 as a result of declining domestic demand and turned into a steep decline at the end of the same year when the worldwide crisis cut back export opportunities too.
In Lithuanian industry, the first signs of decline only appeared at the end of 2008. Compared with the other two Baltic countries, the share of the industrial sector in Lithuania is bigger and its structure different from those in the other two.
The industrial sectors of the three Baltic countries taken together account for less than one percent of the EU industrial sector, Raudjärv pointed out. "In a small economy changes show as bigger fluctuations," she said. The industrial sector has been showing signs of coming out of the crisis for three successive months now, Raudjärv added.
March industrial output grew 6% in the EU and nearly 7% in the euro area year on year. In most EU countries rapid recovery of export has been the main engine of growth in recent months.
Kalev Has 39.3 Percent Market Share in Estonia
17 May (BNS) - The market share of Kalev Chocolate Factory on the Estonian chocolate and confectionery market was 39.3% by volume in the period from February to March, up 1.5 percentage points year on year, according to the market research company Nielsen. In terms of turnover Kalev's market share grew 1.9 points to 35.4%, Kalev said on Monday.
In the three Baltic countries the market share of Kalev was 14.3% by volume and 12.7% by turnover. The marketing chief of Kalev, Aili Kukumägi, pointed out that Kalev has managed to increase the number of consumers of its products in Latvia and Lithuania despite the economic decline. The main area of business for Kalev Chocolate Factory is production of chocolate and sugar confectionery products and sale of chocolate, sugar and flour confectionery products.
The main foreign markets for the company are the Baltic countries, Scandinavia and Russia.
Cargo Handling at Estonian Ports Up Nearly 19 Percent on Year in April
18 May (BNS) - The statistical office said that Estonian ports handled 3.9 million tons of goods in April, 17.5 % more than in April 2009. Compared with this March, cargo handling grew by 16.2 at the ports in April.
In April 3.1 million tons was loaded and 810.900 tons unloaded, respectively 22.7 and 1.3 % more than in the same month in 2009 and 16.5 and 15.2 % more than this March.
In the four first months this year a total of 14.1 million tons of goods were loaded and unloaded at Estonian ports, 12.5 % more than in the same period in 2009. In the first four months this year 11.4 million tons of goods were loaded on ships and 2.8 million tons unloaded from ships.
Tallinn Opens Fish Market in Fishery Port
15 May (BNS) - On Saturday a fish market was opened in the immediate vicinity of the Old Town of Tallinn at the Fishery Port. For the time being it will be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The city government said that the aim of the fish market was to offer to fishermen an opportunity to market their fresh catch and to add another sight to the city. In addition to trading, it is also possible to take part in excursions, hear songs about the sea, and watch seamen's games and competitions.
The fish market was opened on a property belonging to Pro Kapital Eesti at 1 Kalarand Street. It is the location of a historical market where fish trade went on a hundred years ago.
After the market day the market square will become an open city space where people can spend free time, walk around, and see sights connected with the sea. An old fishing boat, the Solveig, will be anchored at the fish port in the future. It will be open for visits and the plans are to open an information point there.
Foreign Minister Opens Exhibit on “Convoy nr. 73”
14 May - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet opened the exhibit in the Museum of Occupations entitled “Convoy no. 73—Convoy with a Singular Fate”, which is dedicated to memory of the 900 French Jews who were deported to Tallinn and Kaunas in 1944.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War still require our attention. “We must work together in the name of getting archives opened to everyone, increasing peoples’ awareness of what happened, and making sure that these crimes against humanity are never repeated,” Paet emphasised in his speech.
“To this day we do not know, and we will probably never know, exactly how many people sentenced to death were brought to occupied Estonia. People became numbers that were only known to the planners and implementers of the crimes,” stated Paet, adding that a concrete list of Holocaust victims is still being worked on today.
“We can try, but we will never completely understand what those people were feeling, the ones who were sent from occupied France to occupied Estonia in May 1944 as part of ‘convoy nr. 73’,” said Paet. “In a moment, the future was slashed and what used to be Europe became, for the captive peoples, a uniformly grey spider web of railway stations and concentration camps, in which each thread served a role in the evil system,” the foreign minister added. Paet stated that within the past decades an invaluable amount of work has been done in Holocaust research and preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
Out of the 79 convoys that deported French Jews from Drancy in France between March 1942 and August 1944, only one was sent to the Baltics, for reasons that are still unknown. It was convoy number 73, which departed from Drancy on 15 May 1944. Of the people in the convoy, nearly 600 men were sent to Fort IX in Kaunas and five cars carrying about 300 people moved on to Tallinn, where they most likely arrived on 20 May. On 1 September, 34 survivors of convoy no. 73 were deported to the Stutthof concentration camp. Only 22 survivors returned to France in 1945.
Other participants in the opening of the exhibit were chairwoman of the Estonian Jewish Community Alla Jakobson, director of the Museum of Occupations Heiki Ahonen, and French Ambassador to Estonia Frédéric Billet. The exhibit dedicated to the memory of those deported in convoy nr. 73 was created by the association “Relatives and Friends of the Deported in Convoy 73” with the support of the Shoah Memorial Fund, French Embassy in Estonia, and the Estonian Embassy in France. There will also be a memorial stone dedicated to the memory of those deported in convoy number 73 that will be opened on 2 June near Patarei Prison, where the deported were held.
Both France and Estonia are members of the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
Neeme Järvi to Become Chief Conductor of ERSO in Fall
14 May (BNS) - Maestro Neeme Järvi will start working as chief conductor of the Estonian State Symphony Orchestra (ERSO) from this fall. Neeme Järvi was ERSO's artistic director and chief director also in the years 1976-1980.
In 1980 Neeme Järvi and his family left Estonia and settled in the United States. Since 1982 he has been the Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. This year his tenth season as the Chief Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was also marked. Maestro Järvi is also the first Principal Guest Conductor of the Japanese Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra.
On Friday the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra will be conducted for the last time by Nikolai Alexeev, who served as the Chief Conductor of ERSO for the past nine years.
Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Violin and the Bells by Rachamaninov will be played at the final concert of ERSO's 83rd season and Alexeev's last concert in the Estonia Concert Hall on Friday.
President’s Wife Plants Roses in Chopin’s Honour
15 May (BNS) - Evelin Ilves, patron of the Chopin Year in Estonia, Saturday took part in the planting of a Frederic Chopin rose garden in Tallinn.
The president's office reported that Evelin Ilves expressed her delight that the Polish Embassy took on such a large-scale project in Estonia to mark the bicentenary of Chopin's birth. "Several concerts have already taken place in the framework of the year, including an international children's piano concert in Narva and a competition for schoolchildren dedicated to Chopin's life and work," the president's wife said. "I extend my thanks to the Polish Embassy for this gift – a fragrant and living monument to Chopin is really something extraordinary, conspicuous and memorable," Evelin Ilves added.
The roses were planted in Eller Square in front of the Georg Ots Music School. In addition to Evelin Ilves, participants included Polish Ambassador Tomasz Chlon, Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, Headmaster of the Georg Ots Music School Aarne Saluveer, Chairman of the Estonian Piano Teachers' Association Lembit Orgse, one of the youngest piano students, Ida-Ulita Vooglaid, from the preliminary class of the Old Town Music School, and members of the Chopin Year Honorary Committee.
The year 2010 is being market as Frederic Chopin year, as 200 years have passed since the birth of the famous composer and pianist. Organising committees are set up in many countries where Poland has diplomatic or cultural representations to organise cultural, scholarly and musical events dedicated to the composer. In Estonia, Evelin Ilves is head of the committee and patron of the Chopin Year.
South Korean University to Start Teaching Estonian
19 May (BNS) - A leading South Korean higher education institution, the Soul-based Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), will start offering a course on the Estonian language in 2013, the Korean TV channel Arirang reported.
The president of the university, Park Chul, said HUFS intends to include nine new foreign languages in its curriculum in coming years, and classes in Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian will be available in 2013.
Park said the school will continue to expand the scope of language education in order to foster communication specialists who can meet growing demands for diverse languages.
Founded in 1954, Hankuk University is one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in South Korea, especially in the field of foreign languages and international affairs and diplomacy. Among its graduates are many past and current Korean diplomats and ambassadors.