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Estonian Review: July 14 – 20, 2003

23. July 2003 - 9:53
FOREIGN NEWS
DOMESTIC NEWS
ECONOMIC NEWS
CULTURAL NEWS
SPORTS NEWS



FOREIGN NEWS

Estonian foreign minister: EU security cooperation must not jeopardize NATO

Jul 15
- Estonia is wary about attempts to replace NATO with some new form of security cooperation in the European Union. "Estonia's view as presented in the EU's future convention is that the functioning of the European security and defense policy must be regarded as part of the transatlantic security architecture," Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland told. "Widening cooperation to defense policy calls for caution, as this might break the underlying structure of European security, transatlantic ties, as well as turn out costly and unnecessarily overlap with the cooperation in the framework of NATO."
Ojuland added that from Estonia's viewpoint the EU and the North Atlantic alliance should complement one another. Consequently, the focus in the context of the European security and defense policy should rather be on prevention of conflicts, civilian crisis settlement and low intensity military crisis settlement in cases NATO has decided not to intervene.
"Estonia is of the opinion that neither structured group cooperation in the European security and defense policy nor assumption of a mutual defense obligation in the European Union is justified," said the foreign minister. "NATO will do."


Foreign Minister: Estonia won't be daunted by unknown Iraqi groups' threats

Jul 16
- Estonia will not be daunted by threats of unknown Iraqi groups, Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland said. "If the state shifted course in response to everything that some unknown group said it could not longer be called a state," the minister said. She added that although every threat needs to be taken seriously, especially if it concerns our soldiers, this does not mean a change in Estonia's positions and conduct.
Two previously unknown Iraqi groups warned countries of the world against sending troops to Iraq where they may come under daily attacks like U.S. troops, Arab TV channels reported.
Ojuland said deployment of Estonian troops in Baghdad shows they are rated highly. In her words, many Estonian soldiers currently in Iraq have previous experience of peacekeeping operations which U.S. troops lack. "The Estonian unit consists of volunteers and they all are aware of possible dangers," the minister stated. "But opting for the military profession in itself presupposes psychological readiness for action in dangerous situations. On the Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina missions, too, the situation was dangerous in the beginning."
Ojuland said that the purpose of the presence in Iraq of Estonia and other partners in the coalition is to reduce dangers for themselves and in the first place the local population. The allies are moving towards giving control over the situation in Iraq to Iraqis themselves, the minister said. "But this takes time and international aid, one of whose donors Estonia is," she stated. "If we wish that someone came to our help in an emergency we must be ready at other nations' moments of crisis to support them not only in word but in deed as well."


Estonian Foreign Minister doubts speedy arrival of visa-free travel between EU, Russia

Jul 17
- The Estonian Foreign Ministry doubts the possibility of travel between the European Union and Russia becoming visa-free soon. "The theme of visa-free travel between the EU and Russia is a long-range issue as was admitted at the EU-Russia summit in St. Petersburg and noted in the final document of the meeting," a spokeswoman for the ministry said. "The question will remain on the agenda of future EU presidencies."
She said this does not mean that no attempt to chart the complexities of the issue will be made. "Possible progress in this question depends certainly on very many circumstances," she added.
President of the European Commission Romano Prodi expressed in an interview with the Finnish magazine Seura the opinion that travel between the EU and Russia may become visa-free already in five years. In his words, there is no reason to fear this, because lifting of visa requirements can be made up for with other methods of control.


Estonian politicians consider major changes in EU treaty unlikely

Jul 14
- Politicians who represented Estonia in the Convention on the Future of Europe are of the opinion that far-reaching changes in the Constitutional Treaty drawn up by the convention are unlikely; Estonia's possible amendment proposals will be decided later on.
"The number of topics opened for amendment at the Intergovernmental Conference that begins in October will apparently not be very big," the Estonian government's representative in the convention Henrik Hololei told. "The prevailing opinion in Europe is that otherwise the balance of the hard-won compromise may disappear."
Hololei said certain changes in the treaty's chapter on EU institutions and in the sphere of the common foreign and security policy might come under consideration.
MP Rein Lang from the ruling coalition Reform Party said that as far as he knows the EU's current Italian presidency is prepared to reopen only four topics. He added that in his personal opinion the IGC may open a maximum of 6-7 areas for review.
Estonia's possible suggestions will be decided later on. "We have formed a position of our own, but it's too soon to speak about concrete provisions," Hololei said. "The convention ended only recently, after all, and a thorough discussion and analysis are now needed."


Estonia, France sign accord on culture institutes

Jul 14
- Estonia's Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland and French Ambassador Chantal de Ghaisne de Bourmont signed an agreement on the status and operation of culture institutes.
The accord puts in place the legal framework of activities of cultural centers based in the two countries - the Estonian Institute in France and the French cultural center in Tallinn, signifying a mutual desire to strengthen bilateral cultural ties, the press service of the Foreign Ministry told.
The institutions have so far operated without an underlying treaty, which has caused numerous problems in their daily work. The agreement provides them with a clearly defined legal foundation.
The French cultural center in Tallinn has been operating since 1992 and the Estonian Institute in France was established in 2001.



DEFENCE NEWS

USA may resume military aid to Estonia

Jul 15
- The United States may resume military aid to NATO candidate countries, among them Estonia, that have not signed bilateral agreements giving Americans impunity from the International Criminal Court.
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield gave to understand in the video press conference for Estonian journalists that President George W. Bush may review the sanctions concerning the candidate countries.
There is no guarantee that the decision will be reviewed, but U.S. military aid will resume after Estonia becomes a member of the North Atlantic alliance.
At the start of this month the United States cut off military aid to a large number of countries that had not signed the impunity agreements by the deadline set by the Congress, July 1.
Estonia, like European Union member states, did not sign the agreement.


Frigate of Britain's Royal Navy arrived in Estonia

Jul 18
- A frigate of the British Royal Navy, HMS St. Albans, arrived in the Estonian capital.
The vessel came here for the unveiling in the Holy Ghost Church Sunday of a commemorative plaque to British sailors who fell in the Estonian War of Independence of 1918-1920, the press service of the defense forces headquarters reports.
The plaque to be unveiled July 20 is dedicated to the memory of the 14 officers and 92 sailors of the Royal Navy and four officers and one airman of the Royal Air Force who were killed in action in the Baltic Sea in 1918-1919.
The commanding officer of HMS St. Albans, Cmdr. Mark Knibbs, had meetings with Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Margus Allikmaa and the chief of staff of the Estonian navy, Lt. Ahti Piirimäe.



DOMESTIC NEWS

President's efforts boost support for EU in Estonia

Jul 17
- A firm "Yes" to Estonia's entry into the European Union by President Arnold Rüütel as the country's most popular and trustworthy politician has raised support for accession to 53 percent of voting-age citizens, a recent poll reveals.
The figure represents a marked rise from June when 48 percent supported entry while 44 per cent were against, the most negative result since June 2001, the daily Postimees reports.
The recent survey by Emor pollsters shows that in the first half of July support for accession grew mainly among elderly people, Aivar Voog from Emor told the paper. In the fifty-plus age group support for the EU had shot up to as much as 61 percent while in the younger age groups it remained slightly below 50 percent like in June. According to Emor's data, support has significantly grown also among women.
Of the citizens who are set on going to the polls in the September 14 referendum, 62 percent intend to vote for and 38 percent against accession and constitutional amendments, which shows the stability of the long-standing 60:40 ratio.
Emor attributed the rise in public support for the EU to the June 25 joint statement of President Arnold Rüütel, parliament Speaker Ene Ergma and Prime Minister Juhan Parts, in which they expressed their firm support to joining the EU and called all citizens to vote for it.


Estonians can vote in 35 polling stations abroad in EU referendum

Jul 14
- Like in the March parliamentary elections, citizens of Estonia residing or temporarily staying in foreign countries can vote in 35 polling stations abroad in the fall referendum on Estonia's accession to the European Union.
Polling stations will open in around 20 European capitals, as well as Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, New York, Washington, Toronto, Ottawa and Sao Paulo. In countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Estonians will be able to go to the polls in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Pskov, Kiev and Minsk.
Votes can be cast between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3, and the dates for voting by letter are from Aug. 27 through Sept. 3. In different foreign representations, different dates have been set for voting.
In the spring general elections 3,033 people voted abroad. The referendum on Estonia's membership in the EU is set for September 14.


Estonian Moderates call to vote for EU entry

Jul 14
- The opposition Moderates, a party that stresses social justice and regional development, have called on all citizens of Estonia to support the country's accession to the European Union in the Sept. 14 referendum.
Estonia has the choice between a path of fast development and solitary stagnation, the policy-making council said in a statement adopted at the party's summer gathering at Sangaste, southern Estonia.
Moderates' leader Ivari Padar told a positive outcome of the EU referendum is a pivotal issue for Estonia. That's why members of the party, leading politicians in particular, attend numerous mass events, he added. "We've even drawn up a timetable for this," he observed.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, member of the Moderates board and long-time foreign minister, said at the council meeting he was baffled by the government's refraining from expressing an unequivocally pro-EU position and leaving the job of persuading the people to political parties, spokespeople for the Moderates report.
"Considering the relatively low trustworthiness of Estonian parties, the government should seize the initiative and explain in the two months remaining till the referendum the consequences a "yes" and a "no" decision will bring in one or another field of life," Ilves said.


Poll: Estonian government's rating up

Jul 17
- The rating of Estonia's Juhan Parts-led government has risen to the level of April, a recent survey by Emor pollsters showed.
According to the poll conducted from June 25 through July 2, the government's rating stands at 5.49, compared with 5.48 in the middle of April. Support for the Cabinet was highest in mid-May at 5.61 and at the lowest in the middle of last month when the rating was 5.06.
Emor gauged support on a scale of ten, with one standing for "don't support at all" and ten for full support. Emor interviewed 500 people aged 15-74.


Poll: Trust in Estonian government, parliament decreases

Jul 14
- Trust in the government and parliament that soared after the March general elections has by now dropped to the pre-election level, it appeared from a recent survey.
Trust in the government that is marking 100 days in office this week is back at the pre-election level, a poll of almost 1,000 people commissioned by the daily Eesti Päevaleht and carried out by the ES Turu-uuringute AS (ES Market Research) pollsters showed.
Whereas in April 59 percent of the polled trusted the government, then in June the figure was 52 percent, or the same as the corresponding figure for the previous Cabinet in the last pre-election month. At the same time the proportion of people who had no confidence in the government grew from 34 percent in April to 44 percent in June.
The parliament's reliability, too, has sunk in the eyes of the people from April's 57 percent to 43 percent in June. Like in the case of the government, the share of people who have no faith in the parliament rose in two months -- from 37 percent in April to 50 percent in June.
Trust in the government and parliament is higher among politically active, younger, more highly educated and more highly paid people and residents of bigger towns.


Estonian government posts coalition agreement implementation timetable in Internet

Jul 17
- A timetable for fulfilling the promises contained in the Estonian ruling alliance's coalition agreement is from Thursday accessible on the government's Web site at http://www.riik.ee/.
Visitors can check realization of the agreement that covers the 2003-2007 period by chapters, a spokeswoman for the government said. The page will be renewed three times a year -- before a regular general meeting of the coalition in September, after the end of the budget year on Jan. 10, and before a regular general meeting in March.
The government formed by Res Publica, Reform Party and People's Union is marking its first 100 days in office on July 19.


Professional cyclist Lauri Aus dies in traffic in Estonia

Jul 20
- Professional cyclist Lauri Aus died in a traffic accident caused by a drunken driver in the Estonian Tartu County. Aus died of injuries while being taken to hospital.
Lauri Aus, eight-time Estonian champion, was born on November 4, 1970. He launched on the career of a professional and has gained 11 stage wins during the period. In 1995-96 Aus rode for Mutuelle Seine & Marne, in 1997-99 for Casino and since 2000 for Ag2r-Prevoyance.
Aus was 5th at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and 7th at the 1997 World Championships in the road race.



ECONOMIC NEWS

SH Nordbank expects high economic growth from Baltic countries

Jul 16
- Germany's HSH Nordbank expects high economic growth from the Baltic countries this and the next year, but regards high current account deficits as a problem.
Real GDP (gross domestic product) growth is expected to remain strong in all the Baltic countries, but as this is largely driven by domestic demand, all Baltic states have been posting high current account deficits of between 6 and 12 percent, HSH Nordbank said. This is somewhat critical, the bank said in its July markets review. The bank warned that the high current account deficits might lead to a critical debt level in the medium and long term - especially if direct investment declines and the economy loses in momentum.
However, HSH Nordbank forecasts that the expected recovery in the euro zone should initially fuel Baltic exports and hence counteract a further increase in current account deficits. The bank also forecasts that Estonia and Latvia will follow Lithuania in September holding positive referendums on EU accession.
This year HSH Nordbank expects the fastest economic growth, of 5.5 percent, from Lithuania. Its growth forecast for Estonia is 5.4 percent and for Latvia 5.2 percent.
Next year, it expects Estonia to show the fastest real GDP growth among the Baltic countries, by 6.4 percent, with the Latvian growth rate at 6.0 and the Lithuanian rate at 5.7 percent.


Estonia's Hansapank lowers economic growth forecast to 4.9 pct

Jul 17
- Hansabank Markets has lowered its economic growth forecast for Estonia to 4.9 percent from earlier 5.5 percent.
Hansapank lowered its forecast in the growth of the gross domestic product from 6 percent to 5.5 percent, but does not rule out better results next year. "According to our assessment, the economic growth is mainly based on domestic demand, but the share of households consumption will considerably fall as of Q2, partly also because of the very high basis of comparison," Hansapank Markets analysts said in their H1 economic review.
Hansapank said that growth in investment could be stronger than last year, but contrary to 2002, when construction played a very big role, investment into machines and installations would become the dominant this year. Also the continuing renovation of the Narva Power plants would have a major effect.
According to Hansapank's expectations, inflow of foreign investments would make up 6.8 percent of GDP as compared with 4.5 percent last year.
In terms of the export of goods and services the bank is forecasting 7.2 percent and in terms of their import 8.2 percent increase. The yearly current account deficit should remain at 12.5 percent of GDP.
Hanaspank's forecast of the average growth in consumer prices this year is 2.4 percent.


EU enlargement to increase Estonian-Finnish freight ship traffic

Jul 14
- The freight volume in trade between Helsinki and Tallinn is growing fast, and shipping lines are increasing the capacity of regular routes before Estonia's expected accession to the European Union (EU), the Finnish business daily Kauppalehti reported.
In mid-August, Viking Line will transfer the Rosella from the Åland Islands and Stockholm route to the Helsinki-Tallinn route and will start making two return crossings a day. The Cinderella, which has a lower freight carriage capacity, will later be transferred to the Swedish traffic. Silja Line's subsidiary SeaWind Line came on the route at the end of last year and Tallink's Meloodia is making two round trips a day due to increased freight carriage. The freight carriage capacity has considerably increased compared with last summer, the paper wrote.
The freight carriage volume between Helsinki and Tallinn has increased at the rate of ten and even 20 percent a year and no change is expected in that respect.


Estonia is popular travel destination in EU

Jul 17
- Demand for Estonia as a travel destination is on the rise in countries of the European Union, a survey by the Tourism Agency of the Enterprise Estonia foundation showed.
The surveys the agency conducted in Finland, Sweden and Germany showed that Estonia is considered one of the safest countries outside the EU.
Some 91 percent of tour operators in Germany predicted travel to this Baltic state will triple in the coming years. More than half of the tourists visiting Estonia arrive here by passenger liners from Finland and Sweden.
This year also 248 cruise ships with more than 250,000 passengers are scheduled to visit Tallinn.


Estonian agency issues first UMTS license

Jul 17
- The Estonian Communications Board handed over to Radiolinja Estonia a UMTS or third general mobile communication license. The board will issue the second UMTS license to EMT, which has already paid the required 70.7 million kroons (EUR 4.52 mln) for the license and state duties.
The Communication Board said it issued the licenses on condition that in seven years at the latest each operator has to establish a UMTS Network corresponding to European standards covering at least thirty percent of the Estonian population and with the data transmission speed at least 144 kilobits per second in towns and 64 kilobits elsewhere.
The board will issue a total of four third generation mobile phone licenses.


Number of EMT clients up by 8,800 in Q2

Jul 17
- The total number of clients of Estonia's biggest mobile communication firm AS EMT increased by 8,800 as a result of discount campaigns this May and June, Eesti Telekom reported.
The number of contractual clients increased by 5,500 during that period.
As of the end of June, the operator had 439,400 clients, of these 291,300 contractual and 148,200 prepaid call card clients.
On the basis of the number of clients, EMT assesses its market share at nearly 50 percent. EMT belongs to the Eesti Telekom group.

Currency Rates in Kroons

July 17, 2002

British pound - GBP - 22.237
Canadian dollar - CAD - 10.046
Swiss franc - CHF - 10.178
Danish krone - DKK - 2.104
Japanese yen - JPY - 0.117
Latvian lat - LVL - 24.327
Lithuanian lit - LTL - 4.531
Norwegian krone - NOK - 1.876
Russian rouble - RUB - 0.457
Swedish krona - SEK - 1.701
US dollar - USD - 13.933
Euro - EUR - 15.646



CULTURAL NEWS

An Estonian production of “Miss Saigon” in Germany and Luxembourg

Jul 18
- The troupe of 105, playing “Miss Saigon” by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Shönberg (directed by Swede Georg Malvius), will leave Tallinn on Saturday, July 19, to give 4 performances in Germany and 5 in Luxembourg. Along with Estonian actors, the two leading roles will be played by Michelle Nigalan and Christopher Wollter, both of whom have played these parts on Broadway.
Nick Davies, a renowned conductor from London, conducts the musical about a young Vietnamese girl and an American seaman. The first appearance will take place in Xanten, Gemany, July 24.



SPORTS NEWS

Two silver medals for Estonia at the European Championships U23

Jul 19
– Two silver medals were won by Estonians at the European Championships U23 in Athletics in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Argo Golberg surprised everyone by taking the silver in 100 meters with 10,28 seconds, which is a new national record. Indrek Turi won a silver medal in the decathlon with 7864 points.





EESTI RINGVAADE is compiled from local news services, including BNS and ETA, and is issued by the Press and Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Eesti Ringvaade is also available through the Internet at http://www.vm.ee
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