No final agreement on passenger train traffic
Estonia's Edelaraudtee (Southwest Railways) and the Transport and Communications Ministry agreed on Tuesday to set up a joint working group to draw up a long-term plan for subsidies to passenger rail traffic.
Last year, the Riigikogu earmarked EEK (Estonian kroons) 845 million (about USD 50,3 million) for Edelaraudtee to maintain passenger traffic on the Tallinn-Viljandi and Tallinn-Pärnu lines over the next ten years. In the course of the debates, passenger trains operating on the infrastructure of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railways) from Tallinn to Narva, Valga and Võru were left out of the long-term accord. Basically, it would have meant termination of passenger train traffic in northeastern and southeastern Estonia and its replacement by bus traffic.
Edelaraudtee presented its proposals to the government last month. On Tuesday, the government decided partly to support Edelaraudtee's proposal to continue passenger rail traffic in southeastern Estonia on the infrastructure of Eesti Raudtee. However, it is still planning to replace some trains with buses, as rail traffic is unprofitable at the present volume in that part of the country.
Lingering negotiations between the government and Edelaraudtee will deepen Edelaraudtee's financial troubles, as estimated operating losses may exceed EEK 50 million. Edelaraudtee has also announced that if the government will not accept the company's proposals concerning ways to maintain train traffic, it will fire 228 workers.
Trade unions are organizing a protest against the discontinuation of passenger train traffic on Toompea in Tallinn on 21 February .
President Lennart Meri issued an order to Defense Forces commander Rear Admiral Tarmo Kõuts to check assertions, made by former Võru county governor Robert Lepikson and Center Party newspaper Kesknädal, that Prime Minister Mart Laar practiced target shooting with a portrait of Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar at a Defense Forces combat school in Meegomäe in May 1999.
The Prime Minister's office has denied any kind of shooting at Savisaar's postcard-size portrait. According to the criminal code, such alleged acts by the Prime Minister and other officials may qualify as criminal hooliganism.
Defense Forces commander Kõuts will give an account of the shooting incident to the parliament in the near future.
Foreign Minister visits Germany
Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves made a two-day visit to Germany, where he met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's foreign advisor, Michael Steiner, officials from Defense and Foreign ministries and also with the members of the Bundestag committees for Foreign and European affairs.
During Ilves's meetings, the German side expressed its support of the enlargement of the EU as early as possible. The issues discussed at the meetings included enlargement of the EU and NATO, cooperation with Russia and transatlantic security issues and bilateral Estonian-German relations.
On Monday, Ilves gave a speech at Berlin's Humboldt University consisting of two parts. First, Foreign Minister Ilves attempted to dispel the EU member countries' fear of enlargement and involvement of new members, then he presented his vision of the European Union's future and the transparency of its decisions.
NATO to assess Estonia
A high-level NATO expert group, including Assistant General Secretary of NATO Klaus-Peter Klaiber, visited Estonia this week to give an assessment of the country's preparations for accession to the Alliance.
A working group gathered first-hand information about the Estonian Defense Forces, government agencies and political institutions. Estonian Foreign Ministry officials briefed NATO experts about Estonia's economy and its talks with the EU. Also, the Estonian working group reported to NATO experts on the implementation of the annual national plan (ANP) and the individual partnership program (IPP).
On the basis of this information, representatives of the Alliance will draw up a report they will present to NATO's political body, the North Atlantic Council (NAC). In April, there will be a 19+1 meeting of delegations of NAC and Estonia, where Estonia will present a report on the implementation of this year's ANP.
Nine milimeters saved Olympic gold medal
Experts hired by the Czech Athletic Federation to analyze Estonian decathlete Erki Nool's questionable discus throw at the Olympic Games in Sydney established that Nool missed overstepping by 9mm in the much-debated last attempt, which made him the gold medal winner.
After Erki Nool's last and sole successful discus attempt, the umpire first disqualified it and later declared it valid. The Czechs, with two very strong decathletes on their team, were the most vociferous in expressing their protests against Nool's victory. Although their official protest remained unsatisfied, hairsplitting in the Czech press continued for weeks after the conclusion of the Games.
And in other news...
- On the initiative of 39 public figures, an Estonian-NATO NGO, was established in Tallinn to raise public awareness of NATO's activity and objectives, promote Estonia's efforts to join the alliance and expand ties with NATO member states and partner countries. The society elected an 11-member council chaired by Grigore-Kalev Stoicescu, former ambassador to the US.
- Eesti Telekom earned a net profit of EEK 1.176 billion (about USD 70 million) in 2000.
- Some of the world's most influential scientific journals, such as Swiss journal Facts and German publications Focus and Nature, wrote about the Estonian gene bank in January, praising Estonian legislation which speeds up genetic studies and the benefits of the project. The aim of the Estonian gene bank project is the voluntary mapping of the genes of a large number of the population, which would provide the opportunity for the prevention of, above all, hereditary diseases and to discover individual forms of treatment.
- The World Bank will close its representation in Tallinn by 1 July, as it becomes the first office in Eastern Europe to be scrapped under the bank's efforts to focus more on developing countries in Africa and Asia. Contacts between Estonia and the World Bank will, in the future, be maintained through the office in Warsaw.
- The Estonian reference lab diagnosed 99 people with the HIV virus in Estonia in the first five weeks of this year. All of them are from eastern Estonia counties. Presently, there are 541 HIV-positive individuals in Estonia; six with full-blown AIDS. Twenty-six persons infected with AIDS have died over the years.
Kristin Marmei, 9 February 2001
- Archive of Estonian news reviews
- Archive of Mel Huang's articles in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on the Baltic states through CER
- Return to CER front page