Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 8
28 February 2000

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Estonia
All the important news from Estonia
since 19 February 2000

Mel Huang

Politics and foreign affairs

Estonia celebrated its 82nd Independence Day on 24 February. The day was marked by festivities and a military parade, as well as the traditional presidential speech. During the speech, President Lennart Meri criticised the lack of ethics in today's Estonia and challenged the youth of the country in that respect.

Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar hosted his Baltic counterparts, Andris Šķēle of Latvia and Andrius Kubilius of Lithuania, for a one-day meeting in Tallinn. Co-operations projects, such as the joint acquisition of military equipment and the creation of an open Baltic energy market, remained high on the agenda. The trio also decided to abandon summer time, following Estonia's decision earlier.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski made a two-day visit to Estonia during the past week. Issues of co-operation were discussed with President Lennart Meri and other officials. There is little in the way of relations between the two countries so far, however.

Chief of Staff of the Finnish military Lt Gen Ilkka Pentti Hollo made a brief visit to Estonia to discuss further co-operation between the defence spheres of the two countries. Lt. Gen. Hollo and Estonian Defence Minister Jüri Luik signed a memorandum confirming the co-operation.

Estonia opened an honorary historical consulate in Oulu, Finland. Jyrki Ristiluoma became the first honorary Estonian consul in Oulu since the late 1930s.

There was chaos in the Riigikogu, as the opposition brought back the old delay tactic of amendment following amendment, interrupted by ten-minute recesses. This time, the issue is over restitution of property to those that emigrated to Germany in 1941. Several extended sessions of the Riigikogu failed to bring about any resolution, and the government is thinking of linking it to a motion of confidence - which cannot be amended.

As if it was ever in doubt, Edgar Savisaar was re-elected chairman of the Centre Party with an overwhelming 732 out of 892 total votes. Shockingly, Kalev Kallo, the parliament member involved in that strange drink-drive incident last summer, gained 20 votes in the strange rehabilitation.

President Lennart Meri was forced to back down from promoting a soldier, who was involved in an unfortunate dispute between two oil transit companies. A group from the Kaitseliit (civil guards), brandishing weapons, took the side of one company in an apparent breach of all military rules. The President blamed advisors for not pointing it out.

Defence Minister Jüri Luik and US Ambassador Melissa Wells signed an agreement on the exchange of classified information. The provision was supposed to be signed years ago, but the Defence Ministry erred on its preparation, causing the embarrassing delay.


Economics and business

The average wage in Q4 hit a record at EEK (Estonian kroons) 4799 a month. Looking at December's average of EEK 5375, the trend appears to be positive despite the record. Hotel and restaurant workers make less than half of the national average, while stockbrokers on average make 2.2 times the national average.

Dutch company G van den Bergh Nijmegen has signed a preliminary contract to acquire Põlva Piim (Põlva Dairies). Terms were not revealed.

The introduction of a new set of EEK 500 notes could be the last in Estonia, according to the Central Bank, which is anticipating the adoption of the euro in the coming years.

PPI in January rose by 0.9 per cent from December, but 3.1 per cent year-on-year.


Social and local interest

Shockingly, the American-like real police show, "Politsei nädal" (Police Week), is the most popular programme in Estonia, with a record audience in January of 208,000 viewers. Some criticise the show for showing excessively graphic scenes of real police work, others find it entertaining to see hilarious moments on the beat with the police. Very much a mix between Rescue 911 and The Keystone Cops.

A study showed that the Red Army left EEK 56 billion worth of damages to the Estonian environment . Most of the damage comes from spilt fuel and chemicals, which have seeped into the soil and at times poisoned the water supply. More than 87,000 hectares of land are involved, about two per cent of the country's territory.

World-renowned and celebrated author Jaan Kross celebrated his eightieth birthday. Kross, the best-known Estonian writer, is the author of masterpieces, such as The Tsar's Madman, and a consummate Nobel Prize for Literature nominee.

And in other news...

Hungarian Cultural Minister Zoltán Rockenbauer opened the new Hungarian Institute in Tallinn.

Seeking Estonians in China? While on a trip to Beijing, Foreign Minister deputy chancellor Mart Helme made a curious inquiry about the long-lost Estonian community in the Manchurian town of Harbin. Most evidence shows the community moved en masse to the United States during World War II.

Exchange rates
As of 25 February 2000

currency Estonian
1 US dollar 15.83
1 British pound 25.28
1 German mark 8.00
1 euro 15.65

[Up to date Estonian exchange rates can be found here]

Prepared by Mel Huang, 25 February 2000

Archive of Mel Huang's Amber Coast articles

News sources

Baltic News Service (BNS)
The Baltic Times
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Reuters news on Yahoo

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