Estonian Review: February 21-27, 2005



Estonian Independence Day

Feb 24
- The Republic of Estonia was founded on 24 February 1918, when the Salvation Committee (Päästekomitee) declared the independence of the Republic of Estonia. This date was celebrated as Independence Day until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940.
During the Soviet occupation, Independence Day was celebrated in Estonian communities around the world. Every year, the US Secretary of State would honour this day by sending greetings to the chief diplomatic representative of the Republic of Estonia to the United States Ernst Jaakson.
On 24 February 1989, the red flag of Soviet Estonia was replaced by the blue-black-white Estonian national flag on Toompea, and since that time Independence Day has been celebrated once again as a public holiday. This year Estonia celebrated the 87th anniversary of the declaration of independence.
This year celebration included the official flag raising ceremony at Toompea Castle, the Defence Forces Parade at Vabaduse Square, a church service at Kaarli Church, the awarding of this year's national prizes for science and culture in the Academy of Science on Toompea and a festive Concert at the Estonia Theatre followed by a reception hosted by the President of the Republic and Mrs Ingrid Rüütel at the Estonian National Opera House.

Most Estonian residents in favour of EU constitution

Feb 21
- More than 60 per cent of Estonia's residents are in favour of the European Union's Constitutional Treaty Agreement, while just a tenth are opposed to it.
The Eurobarometer national report showed that 64 per cent of Estonian residents back the Constitutional Treaty Agreement, while 11 per cent are against it and 25 per cent have no definite opinion.
Compared with the previous similar survey in October 2004, the number of supporters had grown by 10 per cent and the number of those opposed and those without an opinion had dropped by four and five per cent respectively.
In each age group more than half of respondents were in favour of the constitutional treaty agreement. The ratio of respondents backing the treaty was 57 per cent in the age group 55 and above, and 68 per cent among 15 to 24-year-olds.

Parts: An Important Step Taken in European–U.S. Relations

Feb 22
— After the European Union–U.S. summit, Prime Minister Juhan Parts said that the NATO summit and the meeting between the heads of EU member states and U.S. President George Bush had been an important step in the development of European–US relations. “To sum up today’s meetings, we may state that they were practical discussions carried out in a clearly positive atmosphere, which focused on cooperation between Europe and the U.S., based on our common values and interests,” said Prime Minister Parts.
One of the topics discussed at the meeting of the heads of the European Union member states with the U.S. President was relations with Russia. According to Parts, Bush and the EU leaders shared the opinion that relations to be developed with Russia must be based on values, and that Moscow had to put an end to its unfounded criticism of EU member states.
The main topics on the agenda of the NATO summit were Afghanistan and Iraq, and the future of NATO. Parts said that it was significant that everyone speaking at the summit confirmed that NATO maintains its central role in the transatlantic dialogue. “This is also Estonia’s clear position”, he added.
According to the Prime Minister, one of Estonia’s priorities in the defence alliance is the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Estonia intends to increase its contribution by participating in a recovery team. The relevant negotiations are currently under way with Great Britain. The Riigikogu has given permission to use up to 25 members of the Defence Forces for the Afghanistan mission, until the end of the year. Regarding activities in Iraq, Parts said that Estonia has contributed to the NATO training mission in Iraq. “Our weapons and ammunition arrived there at the end of January, and an Estonian training officer is receiving preparation in the NATO staff in Naples,” Parts added. In the prime minister’s opinion, the EU should expand its participation in the reconstruction of Iraq.
During the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers with the new U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the topic of the abolition of visas for the new EU member states was raised.
Parts said that even though the topic of visas was a complex one, certain developments had taken place and the United States had begun to understand the need to treat all EU members in the same way. "A sort of road map is being prepared on that subject," the Prime Minister said.


Estonia's Ergma invites Russian Duma Speaker to Tallinn

Feb 22
- Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma presented an invitation for Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov to come to Estonia to the delegation of the Russian State Duma Lower House on a visit to Estonia.
Ergma expressed regret during the meeting that relations between the two Parliaments were lukewarm.
"I have been Chairman of the Riigikogu for two years and today I have the first opportunity to meet with a delegation of the Russian State Duma. I find that relations between the Parliaments of the two countries need to be improved," Ergma said.
Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with Ergma about the state of affairs in inter-parliamentary relations.
Meetings have taken place frequently in Strasbourg at the level of Chairmen of the Foreign Affairs Committees. Mutual visits of the Foreign Affairs Committees are organised once a year, he said.
Kosachev voiced regret that a group for inter-parliamentary relations with Estonia hasn't been set up in the Russian Parliament. Ergma meanwhile said there was a 34-strong parliamentary group for ties with the Russian Parliament in the Estonian legislative body.
"We should start doing our work in such way that we would start listening to each other. Then we'd also have an opportunity to move forward with improving our relations," she said.
Kosachev said Estonia and Russia should discuss relations in a direct dialogue and stop accusing each other in the media.

Russia extends hand of friendship to Baltics -- Putin

Feb 25
- Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged the Baltic countries' right to their own view regarding the results of World War II and added that despite that he awaits the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian leaders to in Moscow on May 9.
Putin said that events and results of World War II could be assessed differently. "We respect the opinion of the people in the Baltics who believe that the end of World War II entailed the tragedy of their national independence being lost," Putin told reporters in Slovakia.
He added that the decision regarding the 9 May event was up to the Baltic leaders to make. "Whatever the decision, we will be building up our relations with those countries. We hope that common sense will take the upper hand and political pretences will be the domain of historians and propagandists," he said.


Former Foreign Minister becomes Head of European Affairs Committee in the Riigikogu

Feb 25
- Former Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland became head of the European Affairs Committee in the Riigikogu replacing new Foreign Minister Rein Lang. Liina Tõnisson was re-elected Deputy Head of the committee.
The European Affairs Committee observes the government's politics vis-a-vis the European Union and the effect of EU initiatives as well as forming opinions concerning the most important EU acts in co-operation with other parliamentary committees.


Estonia: industrial output index up by 0.5 per cent in January

Feb 21
- The industrial output producer price index increased by 0.5 per cent in January compared to December 2004.
The producer price index in January was influenced by higher prices in the chemical industry, textiles and garments, the Statistical Office reported.
In power generation, the producer price index rose by 1.6 per cent in January, in mining by 0.5 per cent and in the processing industry by 0.4 per cent.
The export price index climbed 1.4 percent compared to December and by 4.1 per cent compared with January 2004. The import price index was 0.7 per cent higher in January than in December and 3.7 per cent higher than in January 2004.

Unemployment rate in Estonia drops to 8.5 per cent

Feb 23
- The rate of unemployment in Estonia dropped in the fourth quarter of 2004 from 10 per cent to 8.5 per cent of the working-age population while the number of economically inactive people increased.
In the fourth quarter of 2004, 601 000 people aged 15-74 were employed, 56 000 were unemployed, and 391 000 were economically inactive, a labour force survey showed.
Compared with the same period in 2003, the number of jobless was down by 6 000. The Statistical Office attributes this solely to an increase in non-activity, as employment did not grow in comparison with Q4 of 2003.

Currency Rates in Kroons
February 27, 2005

British pound - GBP - 22.624
Canadian dollar - CAD - 9.541
Swiss franc - CHF - 10.142
Danish krone - DKK - 2.102
Japanese yen - JPY - 0.113
Latvian lat - LVL - 22.481
Lithuanian lit - LTL - 4.532
Norwegian krone - NOK - 1.896
Russian rouble - RUB - 0.427
Swedish krona - SEK - 1.723
US dollar - USD - 11.854
Euro - EUR - 15.646


First Estonian Children’s Feature Film in ten years released

Feb 24
- A new Estonian children’s feature film "Mat the Cat" by Rene Vilbre premiered. The film is about a 10 year-old boy Martin who lives with his single mother. After moving to the countryside, he runs into trouble at school. The girl he likes, Marta, seems to fancy the bully Kevin, the only son of a single businesswoman. Everything changes when a cat follows Martin to his hideout. Despite his less than average appearance, the cat has the incredible ability to turn into a half-wizard called Nitram. Together they experience friendship and solve the everyday problems that only a ten-year-old boy can have.

EESTI RINGVAADE is compiled from local news services, including BNS, and is issued by the Press and Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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