On Tuesday, the government approved and sent to Parliament amendments to the Wage Act, which obliges employers to pay equal wages to men and women for the same work. Laws currently effective in Estonia contain no concrete provisions concerning equal payment for the same work, and do not explicitly forbid the establishment of different wages for men and women performing the same tasks.
The Wage Act will be one of many laws and regulations which will be put to a vote in Parliament this year to harmonize Estonian laws with the laws and regulations of the European Union, as the Estonian government plans to be ready for EU membership by 1 January 2003.
In his speech at Thursday's working meeting of the Baltic Security Assistance (BALTSEA) group, Estonian Defense Minister Jüri Luik stressed the importance of creating a concrete framework for Baltic defense cooperation and thanked BALTSEA on behalf of all three Baltic states for its role so far in upgrading the defense capacity of the Baltic states.
BALTSEA was established in 1997 and unites countries such as United States, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Iceland, Switzerland, Canada and the UK, which all support the military cooperation projects. Projects assisted by BALTSEA include the joint Baltic peacekeeping battalion, BALTBAT, the BALTRON naval squadron, the joint Baltic defense college, BALTDEFCOL, and the common air/space surveillance system, BALTNET.
Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves also commented on that topic during his appearance before the Parliament, saying that cooperation among the Baltic states in the field of security is the best and most efficient that one can find in Europe. Ilves said that a lack of cooperation among the Baltic states was a popular myth that worked against the Baltic states. Though maintaining that the Baltic countries must work closely with each other, Ilves has previously spoken against viewing the three countries as a whole and dismissed the term "Baltic states" as artificial and misleading.
The success of Warhol
The United States Embassy in Tallinn on Wednesday thanked the Estonian public for its noteworthy interest in an exhibition of works by Andy Warhol. The exhibition of 55 of his works, which included "Campbell Soup Cans," "Marilyn," "Mao" and "Jackie," in the Rotermann Center for Contemporary Arts was up for more than a month and attracted more than 20,000 visitors, making it one of the most attended art shows ever in Estonia. The Embassy also acknowledged the professional staff of the National Art Museum and all the others who contributed to the success of this undertaking.
On Tuesday, the Estonian government approved a follow-up program to the ambitious Tiger Leap project aimed at computerizing Estonian society. The program defines as its central goal the use of technology with maximum efficiency in schools.
Education Minister Tõnis Lukas said that the goal is to use such technology in primary schools and colleges as efficiently as possible to ensure a good return on the large investment in the sector.
Estimated state funding for the five years comes to EEK (Estonian kroons) 167 million (about USD 10 million), while contributions from local authorities is expected to be EEK 220 million. Also, donations amounting to several tens of millions have come from different international funds and projects for IT purchases for schools.
New working hours act
On Wednesday, Estonian lawmakers adopted a much-disputed working and rest hours act. As the bill was criticized for its severity, the Parliament voted in numerous relieving amendments and passed it at 38 to one, with four abstentions.
According to the law initiated by the government, the general national standard for the working hours of employees is eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. The legislation prohibits people from holding several jobs and restricts the weekly working time, overtime included, to 48 hours.
On Wednesday, the Parliament passed a law under which Riigi Teataja (The State Gazette) would publish official texts of laws on the Internet.
Justice Minister Märt Rask said the bill was aimed at expanding the public availability of Riigi Teataja as a database offering comprehensive information about legal regulations. The bill provides for free usage of the online version of the official gazette.
And in other news...
- German car manufacturer BMW is considering Estonia as one of the possible locations for its new assembly plant. President Lennart Meri on Tuesday sent a letter to Joachim Milberg, chairman of the BMW concern, inviting the company to invest in Estonia. The Finance Ministry, which has submitted information to BMW on the country's tax system, has suggested the free trade zone at the port of Muuga, east of Tallinn, as a possible site for the plant. Also, Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn) is very interested in having the factory built at Muuga.
- Estonian Parliament Speaker Toomas Savi asked Russian Ambassador Konstantin Provalov, at their meeting on Tuesday, to help Olympic gold medalists Alevtina and Pavel Koltshin get back their medals, which are being held in Russia. The cross-country skiing couple, ethnic Russians living in the south Estonian resort town of Otepää who competed under the colors of the Dinamo sports club, was asked by their former club to send their two Olympic golds and seven World Championship golds to Russia for a temporary exhibition. Unfortunately, the medals were never returned. The Russian ambassador promised his help in this matter.
- An armed robber took EEK 2.15 million (about USD 128,000) in both Estonian kroons and foreign denominations from a bank in the small central Estonian town of Põltsamaa. At 07:30 on Monday, an unidentified man dressed in dark colors and carrying a weapon made his way into an Ühispank office and forced an employee to open the vault. No violations of security regulations or rules for keeping cash have been discovered. The stolen cash was covered by insurance.
- Indrek Neivelt, chairman of the board of Hansapank, is among the 100 young leaders the World Economic Forum (WEF) has named as a Global Leader of Tomorrow. The WEF picks 100 leaders of the future every year, giving the title to successful persons of up to 42 years of age who have risen to an influential and responsible position in their chosen field. Indrek Neivelt has said that he regards the WEF nomination as recognition of the achievements of the Hansapank Group.
Kristin Marmei, 26 January 2001
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