Politics and foreign affairs
US millionaire Gregg Bemis, who sponsored a controversial and heavily criticised dive to the wreck of the ferry Estonia, suggested that his team may have found a hole in the ship's hulls. Jutta Rabe, the head of the German crew that filmed the dive, said they were not sure if the hole was caused by an explosion or not, but they have collected samples for testing. Members of the international commission that investigated the sinking watched the video but said it showed nothing new. However, reports that there were bodies outside the hulls alarmed many, including Swedish Cabinet Minister Mona Sahlin, as earlier sanctioned dives to the site showed no bodies outside the wreckage. Estonian public television paid USD 2000 for the edited footage.
The local media, citing anonymous government sources, said that the two Russian diplomats that were ordered out of Estonia for espionage, Vladimir Telegin and Yuri Yatsenko, were checking out Estonia's border security equipment. The expulsions caused a tit-for-tat reaction from Moscow, as two unnamed Estonian diplomats were also expelled from Russia.
Prime Minister Mart Laar represented Estonia at the UN Millennium Summit, after President Lennart Meri chose to stay in Estonia to deal with the nomination of a new Defence Forces commander. Laar spoke about the increasing role of IT in the world, as well as the advantages of an open economy. Laar also said Estonia supported reforms in the peacekeeping role of the UN. The UN press office blundered, however, as the official press release listing the participants somehow listed ex-Premier Mart Siimann as a participant.
During the trip to New York, Prime Minister Laar met with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to discuss co-operation in the IT field. Laar promised assistance to Macedonia in its IT development. Laar also met with Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres to discuss the results of Portugal's recent EU presidency and the role of small nations. Finally, Laar signed a treaty against funding terrorists groups.
President Meri officially proposed Rear Admiral Tarmo Kõuts for the commander's job at the Defence Forces to representatives of the Riigikogu factions, saying the head of the Border Guards is the best man for the job. No official comments as of press time from Kõuts, who may think twice about the post, as ousted ex-commander Lieutenant General Johannes Kert appears to be hinting at a departure from the Defence Forces.
President Meri also nominated Justice Ministry Deputy Chancellor Priit Kama to be the new legal chancellor. The opposition is attacking the candidate, because of his affiliation with the Prime Minister's party, the Pro Patria Union, and his age, 28.
State Audit Office Director Juhan Parts angered the ruling coalition when he asked the Riigikogu not to confirm the report of the 1999 budget. Parts complained of bad methodology and bookkeeping, calling it "unreliable," "incomprehensible" and "incomparable." Finance Minister Siim Kallas shot back, saying the report was worked on in conjunction with the State Audit Office.
Estonia's NATO membership campaign received a moral boost from a visiting delegation of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The Assembly's Vice President, Tahir Köse, said that the Baltic countries should be invited to join NATO in the next enlargement, possibly in 2002.
Estonia and Thailand signed a treaty allowing prisoners to serve sentences in their home country. The negotiations for the treaty were prompted by the incarceration of four Estonians in Thailand for drug smuggling. However, it could still be months before the four are transferred to Estonian prisons.
Economics and business
Provisional figures project Estonia's Q2 GDP growth at 7.5 per cent, exceeding even the highest expectations of about 5.5 per cent. As Q1 GDP grew by 5.2 per cent as well, most analysts are now raising 2000 GDP estimates to six per cent growth.
The Finance Ministry announced that the budget deficit in July fell to 0.49 per cent of the expected 2000 GDP (before any revisions from the earlier number), down from 0.86 per cent in June.
Prices rose by 0.1 per cent in July, compared to June.
Sweden's energy giant Vattenfall won the bid to buy Pärnu Soojus (Pärnu Heating) for EEK (Estonian kroons) 55 million, along with promised investments of EEK 70 million over the next decade. There has been a quiet war in the Baltics between Vattenfall, several Finnish energy companies (including Fortum and Kotkan Energia) and France's Dalkia over municipal heating utilities.
The Business Software Alliance said that the use of pirated software by businesses dropped this year to about 75 per cent, down from last year's 86 per cent. Latvia saw a drop from 90 per cent to 85 per cent, while Lithuania registered a drop from 92 per cent to 81 per cent.
Social and local interest
The Keila Town Council and the Russian Embassy contributed EEK 63,000 for the rededication of a Soviet war cemetery in that town.
The Cultural Ministry showed the nation how it felt about reading, when it appeared that cost-cutting at libraries could result in massive redundancies, as well as the closing of Tallinn's Academic Library. State funding of culture has been under massive attack in recent months, topped by the resignation of world-famous choral conductor Tõnu Kaljuste from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.
And in other news...
Estonia lost its World Cup 2002 qualifying match against Euro 2000 runner-up Portugal by a score of 1:3, in a match in Tallinn that was over minutes into the second period.
Rally car driver Markko Märtin signed onto the top Subaru World Rally Team for next season.
Estonian officials lifted restrictions on domain names of common items, such as pank (bank) and arvuti (computer). Earlier, the restrictions were placed to prevent common words from being used or becoming a victim of a cybersquatter.
Prime Minister Mart Laar's interactive news conference on his party's website was marred by a prankster, who answered several late questions after the session was apparently already over. The local media reported some of the items as top news, until the prank was discovered. The Pro Patria Union said they will continue the interactive news conferences despite the debacle.
As of 8 September 2000
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|1 British pound||25.85|
|1 German mark||8|
Mel Huang, 11 September 2000
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