Estonian Review 21 June - 1 July 2010

FOREIGN NEWS
DOMESTIC NEWS
DEFENCE NEWS
ECONOMIC NEWS
CULTURAL NEWS

FOREIGN NEWS

Paet Made Proposal to Finnish Colleague to Create Baltic Sea Internal Market

21 June - During his meeting in Tallinn today with Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that creating a Baltic Sea internal market would be in the interest of closer co-operation among the EU nations located along the shores of the Baltic Sea. “So that our ships, when going from one European Union port to another, would not have to go outside of the EU customs area. It would greatly simplify procedures and decrease bureaucracy,” he added.
Paet stated that the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region created a good framework that now needs to be filled with substance. “The Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region allows the Baltic Sea region to be a laboratory for testing the functioning of a European Union internal market,” he stated.
Estonia also made a proposal to Finland to conclude a legal assistance agreement between the two countries. Paet said that the agreement would significantly simplify the management of everyday affairs for the large number of Estonian citizens living in Finland and Finns living in Estonia.
The Estonian and Finnish foreign ministers also addressed strengthening co-operation between the Nordic and Baltic countries. “For example, in areas such as consular aid, defence co-operation, sea monitoring, and development co-operation there is already a good basis for even closer co-operation,” said Paet.
Paet also thanked Stubb for Finland’s support for Estonia joining the euro zone. Energy co-operation was also addressed. Paet said that Estonia has fulfilled all the requirements for establishing the new Estonia-Finland electricity connection Estlink 2. “In order for Estlink 2 to be completed, this region must have a well-functioning electricity market, since in 2013 Estonia will be opening up its electricity market 100%. Uniform rules must be imposed regarding the import of electricity from third countries,” said Paet.

President Ilves Visits Israel

28 June - “Both of us – Israel and Estonia – know what it means to stand up and fight for your existence,” said Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, the first on his state visit to Israel. “Estonia appreciates Israel’s security concerns,” President Ilves continued, “but at the same time, there is a clear need to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East. That peace won’t be won in war: it will be reached through diplomacy and negotiation based on a two-state solution.”
President Ilves described relations between Estonia and Israel as warm, cordial, sympathetic, professional and ever-growing. Today’s meeting between the Estonian head of state and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focused on the economic and trade relations between the two countries. “Since Estonia joined the EU, trade between Estonia and Israel has doubled, but in fewer branches compared to our other trading partners,” Ilves explained. “We are both interested in testing and implementing new technology, so we could work together in the future in such fields as IT, energy-efficient construction, renewable energy and energy technology.” President Ilves and Prime Minister Netanyahu also discussed potential Estonian-Israeli co-operation in the fields of cyber security, e-government and oil shale. The Estonian head of state also met with Tzipi Livni, the leader of the opposition in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) and Bank of Israel president Stanley Fischer.
After arriving in Israel yesterday, President Ilves visited ‘Better Place’, a demonstration centre for energy-efficient solutions at which he saw the preparations being made for the creation of a service network of electric cars. The Estonian head of state was then taken on a tour of old Jerusalem and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Last night President Ilves attended a reception organised by the Estonian embassy in Jerusalem, to which Jews with Estonian roots and Estonians living in Israel were also invited. Today President Ilves visited Yad Vashem, where he wrote in the guest book: “This abhorrent crime against humans and humanity reminds us again and again how important it is to do everything you can to stop totalitarian and hateful regimes from ever coming to power.” While at Yad Vashem, President Ilves also visited the Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations, where a tree has been planted in honour of Estonian Uku Masing. The avenue is full of trees planted in memory of non-Jews who risked their lives to help Jews during the Holocaust.

Ilves Hopes for Closer Estonia-Israel Relations in OECD

28 June (BNS) - Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the admission of Estonia and Israel into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) would hopefully make for closer relations between the two countries. "As countries largely focused on export, we are both dependent on foreign markets, but our recent accession to the OECD will certainly help consolidate the balance. It is no doubt a sign of quality for both of us and at the same time a platform where it is possible for Estonia and Israel to usefully exchange experiences," Ilves, during his state visit to Israel, said at a dinner given in President Shimon Peres's honour.
Estonia, Israel and Slovenia became members of OECD at the beginning of June.
Ilves said that there were also good positions for co-operation in the sphere of education and research between Estonia and Israel, for example in working out environmentally friendly energy solutions. He expressed the hope to see more Estonian researchers at Israeli scientific and research institutions and Israeli students in Estonia. The president recalled that according to records as many as 300 Jewish students, 20% of the total number, studied at Tartu University at the end of the 19th century. He added that in 1933 Tartu University became the third university in the world to open a Chair of Judaism. "I am also proud of the fact that during the Soviet occupation Estonia was free of the anti-semitism rampant in Russia, which made numerous Jewish intellectuals look for refuge in the liberal environment of Tartu University. Above all I would mention the renowned scholar Jüri Lotman. The Jewish diaspora has been able to freely grow and develop in the Republic of Estonia and it has also expanded our own world. Estonian society has gained a lot thanks to Jews' contribution to its culture, science and economy. Let us mention, for example, Juri, Mihhail and Aleksei Lotman, Anna and Eri Klas, Adik Levin - to name only a few," the Estonian president said.
Ilves expressed thanks to the Estonian Jews who, along with representatives of many other ethnic communities, took part in the Estonian War of Independence. "Today we are facing new cross-border dangers - we have both fought back cyber attacks and consolidate our energy security," he said.

New Finnish Prime Minister Visits Estonia

30 June - President Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with new Finnish Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi today, who was making her first official visit to Estonia. Discussions between President Ilves and Prime Minister Kiviniemi focused on economic problems in Estonia and Finland and more broadly in the European Union as a whole. They also spoke at length about the Baltic Sea Strategy as an opportunity to development the internal market within the European Union and the free movement of goods and services within the Baltic Sea region. Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip also met with Finnish Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi on her working visit to Estonia. The two prime ministers spoke at their meeting about bilateral co-operation and joint efforts in international organisations, economic issues, energy security, the creation of a digital domestic market and other issues.
At their press conference, Ansip underlined the close relations between the two countries and emphasised that the Estonian economy very much depended on developments in Finland. "Estonia and Finland are both interested in a strong and stable euro," said Ansip, adding that the relations between the two countries would become even simpler and smoother after Estonia's accession to the euro zone.
Ansip thanked the Finnish government for its support to Estonia's accession to the euro zone. Kiviniemi in her part congratulated Estonia for meeting the terms necessary for joining the euro zone. Kiviniemi said that she would continue the work of her predecessor, Matti Vanhanen, at building up a digital internal market.
In addition, Estonia's and Finland's present and possible future transport links with Central Europe and energy security were under discussion.

e-Government Conference Held in Ramallah

29 June - “A stable, successful and financially robust Palestinian state is in the interests of all in the Middle East,” said Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves today at a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. “Achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East is only possible with a two-state solution – with both Israel and Palestine existing side-by-side,” the Estonian head of state said. “What is most important in achieving this is that the approach to both the creation of the Palestinian state and the resolution of Israel’s security concerns remains constructive.”
President Ilves also emphasised the importance of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and strong international support for such negotiations. President Ilves advocated a much bigger role for the European Union in order to bring about peace in the Middle East.
The Estonian head of state praised the steps Palestine has taken in ensuring security on the West Bank, adding: “Estonia considers it very important to contribute to the enhancement of Palestine’s security forces and public service, which in turn will contribute to the building of a state based on the rule of law.”
Appearing at the e-government conference organised by the Estonian e-Governance Academy in Ramallah today, at which the possibilities of the X-Road data exchange system were presented to the Palestinians, President Ilves confirmed that Estonia is prepared to continue assisting the Palestinian Authority in developing its e-government.
“We will also continue to support the Palestinian Authority and offer our know-how in other areas so that your efforts in building yourselves a state are not only as successful as possible, but also as clear as they can be to your people,” President Ilves said. “We are not here to teach you: we are here to share our experience with you,” the Estonian head of state remarked. President Abbas responded that that is exactly what the Palestinians need – Estonia’s experience.
President Ilves extended an official invitation to President Abbas to visit Estonia.

NATO Plans Crisis Management Exercise in Tallinn

28 June - From 28 June – 2 July the planning conference for the NATO Crisis Management Exercise CMX 2011will take place in Tallinn. The planning conference will prepare the training that will take place in spring of next year, during which NATO will practice political, military and civil organisation and crisis management procedures in order to be able to support NATO consultations and the collective decision-making process in a crisis situation.
Foreign Minister Paet stated that NATO must be capable of responding quickly and adequately to a crisis situation within today’s constantly changing security policy environment. “In order to ensure the alliance’s crisis regulation capability, NATO organises crisis management trainings. The fact that this conference is taking place in Tallinn confirms Estonia’s active membership in NATO,” Paet noted. “One of NATO’s most important tasks in ensuring security in its allied nations is warding off crises that would threaten security. NATO’s principles are confirmed by practical co-operation between alliance members, which includes the planning conference for the crisis management exercise that began in Tallinn today,” Paet said.
The conference, organised by the foreign and defence ministries, will be attended by representatives of NATO member states and civilian and military NATO structures. During the planning conference, the basic aspects of the scenario for CMX 2011 will be worked out and technical and practical issues related to the exercise will be discussed.

Estonia Hopes Progress is Made in Accession Negotiations During Belgian EU Presidency

22 June - At the meeting of European Union foreign ministers held in Brussels at the invitation of the foreign minister of the next EU Presidency Belgium, Steven Vanackere, Foreign Minister Paet said that it is essential to move forward with accession negotiations with Iceland, Croatia and Turkey during Belgium’s presidency, as well as to give Eastern Partnership more substance than before. In addition to these topics, Belgium has placed the priorities for its presidency on battling the economic and financial crisis, developing relations with the EU’s strategic partners, building up the European External Action Service, and environmental and climate issues.
While talking about EU enlargement, Paet said that hopefully the low point in enlargement policy will improve during Belgium’s presidency and all the nations involved with the accession process can move forward with their negotiations. “The enlargement process must continue on a fair basis according to the progress made by each candidate state, and this applies to Iceland, Croatia and Turkey. Hopefully Macedonia can begin negotiations soon as well,” said Paet. “In order for the accession process to progress successfully, we must certainly move forward with matters related to visa facilitation and free trade, including with Eastern Partnership countries,” he added.
It is also essential to more precisely define the future development of the European Union’s relations with China, India, Turkey, Brazil and Russia. “The EU must also co-operate more closely with the USA, for example in economic and trade matters,” Paet added.
At the meeting, Foreign Minister Paet also touched on the necessity of European Union special representatives in crisis regions. “I still consider it necessary to have EU special representatives on site in, for example, Afghanistan, the Southern Caucasus, and Central Asia,” he asserted.

Foreign Ministry Sponsoring Summer Holiday for Young Georgian Refugees

25 June - The Foreign Ministry is supporting the summer camp being held in Estonia next week for Georgian youth ages 14-16. The young people coming to Estonia have been forced to live as internally displaced persons since the Russia-Georgia war took place in 2008.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet noted that in the aftermath of the armed conflict that took place in Georgia in 2008, many families have lost their homes and this limits opportunities for youth in their free time. “Unfortunately the situation has not recovered after the Russia-Georgia war in terms of Georgia’s territorial integrity or the lives of Georgian residents,” acknowledged Urmas Paet. “This is why the Foreign Ministry is supporting the opportunity for Georgian children to have a change of scenery and enjoy the summer in Estonia—to help the young people get over the trauma of war,” Paet added.
The project is being carried out by the NPO Soometsa Külaselts. The people working with the Georgia youth are volunteers with a background in organising international youth camps and a great deal of experience in crisis work. The group of participating youth—13 young people and two adult chaperones from Georgia—was put together by the Estonian Embassy in Tbilisi and the Georgian Ministry of Refugees.
During the course of the holiday, the Georgian youth will be accommodated in Pärnu County. During the holiday from 28 June to 11 July, the Georgian teenagers will spend time with the families accommodating them in Pärnu County as well as with youth from the Pärnu County youth centre. They will also participate in the rescue-themed Remnik youth camp, visit notable sites in Pärnu and Pärnu County, go hiking, do crafts, etc.
The Estonian Foreign Ministry contributed 66 368 kroons (4 241 EUR) for the implementation of the youth camp.

Estonia Supports Study Opportunities for Young Belarusians

27 June - The Estonian Foreign Ministry is helping to provide Belarusian university students with opportunities to study in the European Union by donating 200 000 kroons (12 780 EUR) to support the European Humanitarian University of Belarus in Vilnius.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the Humanitarian University of Belarus is a place where, among others, Belarusian students that have difficulties acquiring higher education in their homeland due to their views can study. “In 2007 we discussed solutions in the European Union for continuing to finance the European Humanitarian University of Belarus. Then it was decided to create a fund at the Nordic Council of Ministers,” said Foreign Minister Paet. “Estonia is supporting study opportunities for Belarusian youth through the trust fund created in 2007. We want to guarantee that young Belarusians can experience an open society,” Paet emphasised.
The European Humanitarian University of Belarus is an accredited educational institution that offers bachelor, master and doctorate programmes. Within the eight departments of the university on can study philosophy, theology, political science, psychology, international law, international economics, art history, international cultural tourism, or information technology.
European Humanitarian University of Belarus functions in Vilnius after the school was closed in Minsk in 2004. Prior to that, the school operated in Minsk with international financial support since 1992.
Estonia also supports students from Belarus that continue their studies in Estonian universities.

Protection of Indigenous Peoples Important Topic for Estonia

29 June - The Foreign Ministry is supporting the activities of the United Nations and its sub-organisations that protect the indigenous peoples of the world in order to guarantee that the organisations and communities of indigenous peoples have the opportunity to protect their rights and develop their culture and way of life.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia has supported various UN organisations that focus on indigenous peoples since 1996. “Estonia’s aid is directed towards the economic and social development of the organisations and communities of indigenous peoples, as well as the support of their culture, education and health care,” said the Estonian foreign minister. “Another goal of Estonian support is to ensure the protection of the human dignity and human rights of indigenous peoples,” Paet noted, also stating that indigenous issues and helping to preserve indigenous peoples is historically an important topic for Estonia.
This year the Foreign Ministry is allocating a total of 500 000 kroons (32 000 EUR) of its development co-operation budget for UN sub-organisations that deal with the protection of indigenous peoples. Of the donation, 100 000 kroons will go to the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, 100 000 kroons will go to the UN Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, 100 000 to the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues and 200 000 to the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.

Estonia Sending New Health Care Expert to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province

30 June - In July the Foreign Ministry will send a new health care expert to Helmand Province in Afghanistan to co-ordinate Estonia’s development co-operation. Estonia’s new health care expert Priit Paju will replace Anu Raisma, who was been working in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province since 2009.
Afghanistan is one of the primary partners for Estonian development co-operation, and within Estonia’s aid projects health care is a top priority. “As a result of the work of our health care expert, we have been able to bring great progress to the development of medical aid in Helmand,” stated Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. “For example, Estonia has initiated supplementary training for health care workers in Helmand Province as well as fist aid training for adults. We are also working on establishing a training centre in Helmand Province and we support a school for nurses and midwives,” said Paet, talking about the Estonian health care projects in Afghanistan. Estonia has also supported the increase in medical care capabilities and quality at the central hospital of Helmand Province.
Foreign Minister Paet stated that there is still much to do in Helmand’s health care sector. “The work and help of the Estonian health care expert is highly valued and awaited by his or her Afghan colleagues,” said Paet.
The primary responsibility of the Estonian health care expert is co-ordinating the building up of Helmand Province’s network of medical establishments, emergency medical service, and other elements of the health care sector. Member of NPO Mondo Priit Paju has long-time experience in crisis areas and has participated in missions to various crisis regions, such as Pakistan and Haiti, under the auspices of the Estonian Rescue Team.
According to Estonia’s new health care expert Priit Paju, in a short time Estonia has become a considerable actor on the international rescue and crisis regulation landscape. “Through various humanitarian and rescue missions, we have proven ourselves to our partner countries as well. Through development co-operation in Afghanistan, we also get to help people who have needed it for years,” Paju said of NPO Mondo and the Estonian Foreign Ministry’s joint activities in Afghanistan.
Since March 2008, an Estonian health care expert has been working in the city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province as part of the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). Prior to March 2009 the Estonian health care expert in Afghanistan was Argo Parts. Anu Raisma will be filling the role until July of this year.
There are about 1.4 million people living in Helmand Province and fewer than 100 doctors. There are medical aid stations in the larger centrums of the region such as Musa Oala, Kajaki, Sangin and Naw Zad, but these are merely primary health care stations, and many of them lack a fully trained doctor.

DOMESTIC NEWS

Estonia Has Highest Ranking in Eastern and Central Europe on Digital Economy Scoreboard

29 June (BNS) - Estonia was ranked 25th on the digital economy scoreboard for 2010 drawn up by The Economist magazine and IBM, down from 24th place in the survey for the previous year. It still occupies the highest place among the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the table ranking 70 states.
Compared with 2009, Estonia dropped lower in categories such as business environment, technology infrastructure and government policy, IBM Eesti said. "The top performers in the 2010 digital economy rankings – led this year by Sweden, which dislodged the perennial e-readiness leader, Denmark, 2nd, by a narrow margin – demonstrate a high degree of connectivity and score well on all fronts, from the quality of their business and legal environments to social and cultural drivers of digital progress, the existence of sound public policy on ICT, and the levels at which consumers and businesses actually use digital services," authors of the survey said.
The USA ranked third and Finland fourth. Of countries of Central and Eastern Europe, after Estonia came Slovenia in 29th place, the Czech Republic in 31st, Lithuania in 34th, Hungary in 35th and Latvia in 37th place.
"The digital economy scoreboard, which earlier used to be known as e-readiness scoreboard, is good feedback to those who feel that Estonia does not have a lot left to aspire to in the domain of information and communication technology. We do stand out in the context of Central and Eastern Europe, but looking at the survey as a whole the public has more reason to speak about the leap upwards by Finland, Japan and South Korea – these countries improved their standing in the table by six notches," said Kersti Ordlik, chief of marketing and communications at IMB Eesti.
On a ten-point scale, Estonia scored 7.06 points overall, getting 6.40 for connectivity, 7.16 for business environment, 6.77 for social and cultural environment, 8.40 for legal environment, 7.98 for government policy and vision and for 6.60 consumer and business adoption in the 2010 survey.

Ansip: Current Time is One of Brightest in Country’s History

23 June (BNS) - The time Estonia is living now is one of the brightest in the country's history, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said in his speech at the cemetery of War of Independence fallen on Wednesday. "This is primarily because we as a nation have made good choices, the right decisions. And the main thing – we have done good, forward-aspiring work. This is also the reason why Estonia's position in the international security space is secure," Ansip said.
The prime minister said that Estonia’s prospects in the international economic space were also on secure footing. "The Estonian economy has been assessed as being one of the most sustainable in the European Union, and this despite the biggest economic crisis that has hit the world since the Great Depression," he said.
The prime minister said that Estonia was not alone and was engaging in day-to-day cooperation with its partner countries in the European Union, NATO, the Schengen area, the OECD, as well as in the euro zone starting from next year.
"That work has been done and is being done for the sake of Estonia's future, for free Estonia. And this links us quite directly with the heroes that have been before us, and their struggles," Ansip said.
The prime minister made his speech as part of the events to celebrate Victory Day, the anniversary of the victory of Estonian troops in the battle of Võnnu (Cesis) in 1919. The celebrations culminated with a Kaitseliit (Defence League) parade in the southern Estonian county capital Viljandi on Wednesday. Victory Day is followed in Estonia by a second day of public holiday, Midsummer Day, on 24 June.
Estonia marks the anniversary of the victory over the Baltic-German Landeswehr in the Battle of Cesis as Victory Day. In the battle that took place in the area of the North Latvian town of Cesis from 19-23 June 1919, forces of the fledgling Republic of Estonia fought against the Landeswehr together with the North-Latvian Brigade, winning the battle and taking the city on 23 June.

Estonia Switches to Digital Television

1 July (BNS) - Leaders of Estonian television stations and members of the digital distribution government committee Thursday morning at 5 a.m. turned off old analogue television transmitters and the whole country switched to digital program distribution.
According to the TNS Emor pollster, 44 000 households or 8% of all households still viewed analogue television in Estonia at the beginning of June.
From 1 July all Estonian television transmitters will stop transmitting analogue television and television programs can only be viewed digitally via an ordinary aerial. All those who received the television picture by an ordinary aerial and saw only three Estonian television channels until the present must now acquire a digibox or a new digital television in order to view programs. It is not necessary to accede to any service provider for digital reception of the free Estonian television channels (ETV, Kanal 2, TV3, ETV2, Kanal 11).

DEFENCE NEWS

Head of Maryland National Guard Discussing Co-operation in Cyber Sphere in Estonia

28 June (BNS) - Brig. Gen. James A. Adkins, commander of the National Guard of the State of Maryland, is in Estonia discussing co-operation with Estonian organisations, including in the cyber defence sphere.
On Monday Brig. Gen. Adkins met Sven Sakkov, Deputy Secretary General for defence policy at the Defence Ministry, to discuss the two countries' defence co-operation and general security policy issues. Brig. Gen. Adkins will also meet with Brig. Gen. Neeme Väli, Chief of Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, and leaders of the Air Force, the Defence League and the Interior Ministry, a spokesperson for the US embassy told BNS. He will also have meetings at the Border Guard aviation squad, the ESTSOF special unit belonging to the Reconnaissance Battalion, and at the Cyber Defence Association. Brig. Gen. Adkins will also visit the air base and the cyber defence centre.
Participation in foreign missions as well as co-operation between the Maryland National Guard and Estonian organisations will be discussed, including between the cyber defence unit of the Maryland National Guard and the Cyber Defence Association. The National Guard of the State of Maryland has co-operated with the Estonian Defence Forces and the Defence League since 1993. The National Guard has organised training of members of the Defence Forces and of the Defence League in the USA and has contributed to the strengthening of the Defence League as a voluntary national defence organisation.
Brig. Gen. Adkins was the co-ordinator of co-operation with Estonia in the 1990s in Maryland, and in connection with this he has been decorated with a Class II White Star Service Badge of the Defence League.

Marshall Centre Names Neeme Väli Alumnus of the Month

30 June (BNS) - The George G. Marshall Centre in Germany appointed Estonian Brig. Gen. Neeme Väli Alumnus of the Month in June. The title of Alumnus of the Month is given to those graduates of the centre who have played an active role in promoting ideas of the centre in their further work and service.
Väli said that what he learned at the Marshall Centre was very valuable. "The knowledge I received about the principles of building up national defence and the civilian management characteristic of democratic state order are important in my present service. It is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of the contacts and the communications networks rising in the Marshall Centre," Väli said.
Brig. Gen. Väli passed a strategic planning and military economy course in 1997 and a senior management seminar in 2006 at the Marshall Centre.
The George C. Marshall European Security Studies Centre was set up in 1993 in Germany with the aim of widening security and defence co-operation to new Central and East European countries. The Marshall Centre is a joint project of the German Defence Ministry and the US European Command.

Defence Forces to Get Mortars, Drones from USA

1 July (BNS) - In the framework of an assistance programme, the Estonian Defence Forces will get from the United States 81-mm mortars and Raven small unmanned air vehicles. Peeter Tali, head of the information department in the Defence Forces general staff, told BNS that the mortars and the drones would be used by the infantry battalion serving in Afghanistan. He added that the number of the mortars and drones was not public.
The RQ-11 Raven drones are small tactical unmanned air vehicles used by US Marines. Ravens have been used by the Estonian infantry company Estcoy-E, which was temporarily dispatched to Afghanistan last year to provide security to the Afghanistan elections, Lt. Col. Tali said.
Estonia will receive the mortars and drones in the framework of a programme financed by the Pentagon. The Defence Forces of Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia and Hungary are also supported by the programme in order to increase their capability to carry out operations in Afghanistan together with US forces.

Admiral Cowan to Take Part in NATO Response Forces

1 July (BNS) - Starting from 1 July the Estonian mine-hunter Admiral Cowan will belong to the 15th rotation of the NATO Response Forces. According to a decision of the parliament, the Admiral Cowan with a crew of up to 45 belongs to NRF-15 from 1 July until next 30 June. NRF will be in readiness until this 31 December, but the mandate will last longer because the response forces could be activated also at the end of the readiness period.
Taking part in the naval component of NRF-15, the Admiral Cowan will be part of the NATO mine hunting squadron SNMCMG1 and be involved in mine hunting operations. The Admiral Cowan joined the squadron at the end of June. If the mine-hunter does not take part in operations it is in five-day readiness in Estonia.
North European and Scandinavian NATO countries' mine hunting units belong to the composition of SNMCMG1, which mainly operates in the northern region.
The Baltic Battalion Wednesday ended its six-month readiness in the composition of the 14th rotation of the NATO response forces. Since the beginning of January an infantry company, a reconnaissance platoon, two military police squads, an ordnance disposal team, a logistics support unit, staff officers and a non-com officer, a total of more than 200 members of the Estonian Defence Forces, were in the composition of the Baltic Battalion. The leading country of the 800-member unit was Lithuania, which manned nearly three quarters of the composition of the battalion.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Sales of Digital TV Receivers Grew in June

29 June (BNS) - Leading home electronics retailers in Estonia, where aerial transmission of analogue television is scheduled to end on 1 July, sold several times more units of digital television receivers in June than in May. Martin Pedai, managing director of the Sandman Group that operates the Euronics chain of stores in Estonia, told BNS that in their stores a twofold increase took place in the number of units sold in June. The sales of digital aerial receivers have been stable and there's no buying boom yet, Pedai said, adding that many people who needed a new device for the switch to digital television chose to buy a whole new television set equipped with a digital receiver. A wave of buying is still being expected as many people put off the purchase until the last minute, Pedai added.
Andres Ello, product manager for audio and video products at the Klick chain of electronics stores, said that at Klick stores the sale of digital television receivers jumped more than fourfold in June compared with May, making it by far the most successful month in terms of units sold.
Both Pedai and Ello said retailers had enough stocks of the devices and nobody should fear not being able to watch television after 1 July as a result of stores running out of the receivers.

April Exports Grow 37 Percent on Year

28 June (BNS) - Exports of goods and commodities from Estonia in April grew 37% over the same month a year ago to 10.6 billion kroons (EUR 67.7 mln), while imports increased 18% to 11 billion kroons, Statistics Estonia said on Monday.
April's trade deficit was 0.4 billion kroons, a more than four times bigger figure than in April 2009. In money terms, exports increased by 2.9 billion kroons and imports by 1.7 billion kroons compared to April 2009. Compared to March, exports of Estonia increased by 8%, but imports to Estonia decreased by 12%. Year on year, exports increased in all commodity sections, especially fuels.
The main countries of destination for Estonian exports in April were Finland with 18% of Estonia's total exports, Sweden with 14%, as well as Russia and Latvia. Compared to April 2009, exports to Sweden and Finland increased the most -- by 0.5 billion kroons both.
Machinery and equipment, accounting for 20% of Estonia's total imports, and mineral products, accounting for 16%, were the leading articles of import in April. The turnover of imports increased in all main commodity sections compared with April 2009. The main countries where imports came from were Finland with 16% of Estonia's total imports, Latvia with 13%, and Germany.
The biggest increase year on year took place in imports from Finland, Latvia, Germany and Sweden – by 0.4 billion kroons each. Imports from Lithuania decreased by 0.4 billion kroons.

Mobile Operator EMT Boosts FY Sales to EUR 2.2 Mln

29 June (BNS) - Sales by the Estonian mobile communications company AS EMT in 2009 climbed 2.2% from the preceding year to 3.1 billion kroons (EUR 200 mln) and the company earned a net profit of 512.1 million kroons. Operating profit of EMT dropped 24.5% year on year to 860.8 million kroons. Net profit was smaller by 46.2% or 440 million kroons as a result of income tax liabilities arising from a bigger dividend, EMT said in its annual report.
EMT paid out 1.43 billion kroons in dividends for 2008, compared with 820 million kroons for 2007.
Undistributed profit of EMT as of Dec. 31, 2009 totalled 739.6 million kroons. Of that the company intends to pay out 440 million kroons in dividends this year. After that there will be 300 million kroons on retained earnings left.
EMT's market share remained at 47% last year and the number of subscribers was 486 000. The number of clients of EMT's prepaid service dropped by 12 000 during the year to 280 000.
Investments in mobile network quality and product development by EMT last year amounted to 255 million kroons.
The Swedish Teliasonera group at the beginning of this year became the sole owner of Eesti Telekom, the parent company of EMT and the landline service provider Elion.

Balbiino Starts Export of Ice Cream to Ireland

30 June (BNS) - The Estonian frozen products maker AS Balbiino has started the export of ice cream to Ireland by producing the cookie ice cream marketed here under the Raks brand for one Irish and one English dairy company. The first batch of ice cream made by Balbiino has already been sold in Ireland and agreements regarding quantities have been signed, Balbiino said.
The vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two pieces of cocoa biscuit is sold by Balbiino in addition to Estonia also in Latvia, Lithuania and Finland under the Raks brand.
Founded in 1995, AS Balbiino is one of the largest ice cream makers in Estonia. It belongs to the investment company NG Investeeringud and gives work to 158 people. Beside ice cream, Balbiino makes frozen and refrigerated food products.

Maag Dairy Co Ups Sales, Profits in 2009

29 June (BNS) - The Estonian dairy company AS Maag Piimatoostus earned a profit of 33.4 million kroons (EUR 2.13 mln) on sales of 513 million kroons in 2009, with sales growing 27% and profit 5% compared to 2008.
Of sales, production of other dairy products, including butter, gave 62%, processing of raw milk 23%, production of cheese and curds 11%, production of ice cream 2% and production of ready made foods 2%, it appears from the annual report. Eighty-eight percent of revenue was generated in Estonia and the rest mainly in Latvia and Lithuania.
Investments in fixed assets during the reporting period totalled 21.6 million kroons, of which 19.7 million kroons was invested in machinery and equipment. The average number of employees of Maag Piimatoostus last year was 263 and wage costs totalled 35.6 million kroons.
The company plans its sales revenue this year to cross the 520 million kroon mark. Undistributed profit as of year-end stood at 75.3 million kroons.

Fuel Trader Olerex Increases FY Earnings by Nearly 27 Percent

28 June (BNS) - The Estonian equity fuel trader Olerex made a profit of 18.9 million kroons (EUR 1.21 mln) in 2009, an increase of 26.7% over the preceding year.
Antti Moppel, marketing chief of Olerex, said in his comments to BNS that profit grew thanks to greater efficiency and increase of market share.
As a result of the cheapening of oil products on the world market the turnover of Olerex decreased 20.3% in comparison with 2008 to 1.2 billion kroons. Of the 2009 turnover, 737 million kroons was the result of wholesale operations, 384 million kroons of the operations of filling stations and 106.8 million kroons of the operation of stores.
During the year Olerex added three new filling stations to its chain and closed one station. It had 42 stations across Estonia at the time of reporting.
Olerex employed 221 people and its labour costs last year amounted to 40.2 million kroons.
The profit of 2009 was retained and directed toward expanding the sales network. Undistributed profit of the company as of year-end was 29.6 million kroons.

June Sales by Baltika Group Grew 8 Percent

1 July (BNS) - Consolidated sales revenue of the listed Estonian garment group Baltika in June totalled 68.9 million kroons (EUR 4.4 mln), marking an increase of 8% over June 2009. Retail revenue increased by 5% to 66.25 million kroons. This was the first time that Baltika's sales grew on a month-on-month basis since the end of 2008, Baltika said.
In June, retail revenue increased by in 1% the Baltics, including 15% in Estonia, and by 22% in Eastern Europe, including by 26% in Russia. The sales growth was achieved through higher sales efficiency, which surged by 18%, while average sales area decreased by 11%.

CULTURAL NEWS

Foreign Minister Discusses Sharing Estonia’s Story with “Singing Revolution” Director

1 July - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met in New York with the director of the film “The Singing Revolution” James Tusty. Paet spoke with Tusty about the films the latter has made, through which Estonia’s 20th century history and cultural heritage are reaching audiences in the United States and Canada.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that the work James Tusty has done to share Estonia’s story in the United States through his film about Estonia’s path to re-independence “The Singing Revolution” is extremely important. “In addition to a successful run in American cinemas, ‘The Singing Revolution’ will also reach close to 600 American schools,” said Paet. “The film ‘The Singing Revolution’ will become instructional material in American schools. The goal is to introduce the story of our independence to over a million schoolchildren in the USA with the help of the film,” he said.
Paet stated that distributing “The Singing Revolution” as much as possible worldwide is a good opportunity to introduce the story of Estonia’s re-independence and should be strongly supported.
James and Maureen Tusty, the directors of “The Singing Revolution”, are working on a new film that introduces Estonia’s Song Festival tradition and will be visiting Estonia again soon.

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