The lion roars again
Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallén took Sweden down memory lane by visiting Narva, once debated as a possible "second" capital of the Swedish Kingdom. Hjelm-Wallén discussed integration and the development of the north-eastern city with national and local officials and also opened the new Swedish honorary consulate in the city. The new honorary consul is Meelis Virkebau, who is the CEO of Kreenholm Textiles—which is owned by Sweden's Borås Wäfveri.
During the trip, Hjelm-Wallén also dedicated a replica monument to Sweden's victory over the Russian Empire in the 1581 Battle of Narva. The monument, bearing the Swedish lion, was originally dedicated by King Gustav V in 1930, but it—alongside the entire historic town—was destroyed by Soviet forces in 1944. The success at the Battle of Narva, engineered by Pontus de la Gardie, was perhaps the last major military victory by Sweden.
Estonia supports Euroarmy
Defence Minister Jüri Luik, who met with defence ministers from the EU and associate countries in Brussels to discuss the EU's new rapid-reaction force, added his country's support to the ambitious plan. The Estonian proposal foresees the involvement of a military police unit, which is currently serving in Kosovo. Other early possibilities include mine-sweeping forces and civilian specialists, as well as several naval craft.
Luik also suggested that Estonia's contingent in the joint Baltic peacekeeping force, BALTBAT, would be ready to participate in the force in 2003, with an upgrade likely by 2005. Estonia has always been keen to work with the EU's CFSP arm and was considered a hopeful for membership in the now-defunct WEU.
In a related story, Estonia received its new flagship this past week. The former Danish frigate, Beskytteren, was delivered to the Estonian Navy. She is to be re-christened as the Admiral Pitka (after the founder of the Estonian Navy in 1918). The Admiral Pitka will serve as a supply and logistics frigate.
Old tech fighting back
Eesti Post (Estonian Post) has slashed postal rates for the coming Christmas season, in an attempt to fight the growing influence of new technology, mainly electronic greeting cards. During a two-week period, prices for sending letters will drop by 18 per cent and 15 per cent for packages.
The amount of greeting cards sent last year dropped by over a million, which can be partly attributed to the government instituting an e-card rule for its Christmas cards (real cards were sent only in cases that involved protocol, such as those sent by the Foreign Ministry).
The Estonian Customs Department had another big success story, as it confiscated some 28,000 pirated CDs from a lorry that came from Lithuania. This dwarfs a recent large catch of 2000 pirated CDs en route from Russia. Estonia has been cracking down on pirated CDs, after further complaints from the European Commission about the protection of intellectual properties. However, the main market for pirated CDs is Finnish tourists. Officials will now have to examine each seized CD to determine its legality, and pirated CDs will be destroyed.
But some in the local press are suggesting that police are being bribed to let pirated CDs be sold at places such as Tallinn's infamous Kadaka Turg (market). Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Toomas Luman harshly criticised Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus for not doing enough to stop the piracy industry.
And in other news...
- The Riigikogu shot down an opposition proposal to partly compensate farmers for fuel price and excise rises.
- Rare earth metals processor Silmet was hit by a rare theft, as four large barrels of tantalum hydroxide were somehow hijacked from their facilities. The estimated value of the chemical, of which its oxide is used in the hi-tech industry, is about EEK (Estonian kroons) 1.5 million. Silmet is one of a very few facilities in the world that can handle such substances and has offered a reward for information on the crime.
- Sounding much like the Pentagon, the defence ministry is under fire once again for a tender gone dodgy. It has been revealed that the Ministry paid EEK 1.9 million for 306 chairs to be used in a meeting hall. Price per chair? More than EEK 6000. The Ministry is still reeling from a bad tender on the country's airspace surveillance radar, which received ample complaints from bidders, forcing a new contest.
- Heart patient Triinu-Liis, the 18-month old that broke the hearts of Estonians when the Health Fund at first refused to pay for her life-saving surgery, is recovering from a successful surgery in Helsinki. The Health Fund later allocated funding to the case, alongside donors from Estonia and Finland. Triinu-Liis will need further surgery in a few years.
- Reputed mobster Oleg Lvov was let off with a three-year suspended sentence for bribery. However, he is still being investigated for other crimes, including tax evasion.
- The Reform Party began its "caucus" system of choosing its candidate for the autumn 2001 presidential race, with a meeting of its members in Kuressaare. Party members gave Riigikogu Speaker Toomas Savi 128 of 226 votes ahead of the other three candidates. The Reform Party will do the same in several other cities, though the support for Savi amongst the party's candidates is clearly overwhelming.
- Though the Estonian-Russian border has not been officially demarcated by bilateral agreement, border guards are putting up signs along the border to keep people from accidentally straying into Russian territory. Russia, earlier, had unilaterally demarcated the border, despite a lack of a border agreement.
- The national health service continues to face difficulties at the end of the year, with some hospitals cutting back on services. The Health Fund noted that the hospitals have not informed them of the funding crunch. This has also earned the harsh criticism of Social Minister Eiki Nestor, who accused hospitals of poor management.
- The average monthly wage in Estonia dropped in Q3 to EEK 4694, down from EEK 5031 in Q2; this is attributed partly to the summer season.
- Though industry officials continue to complain, hotel occupancy rates in Q3 were 74.59 per cent. Two large Tallinn hotels boasted occupancy rates of over 90 per cent, while two others were over 80 per cent. This comes despite an increase of an estimated 20 per cent of hotel rooms registered in the survey.
As of 23 November 2000
|1 US dollar||18.56|
|1 British pound||25.99|
|1 German mark||8|
Mel Huang, 24 November 2000
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