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After centuries of Swedish and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940, it regained its freedom in
1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with
Update No: 260 - (29/08/02)
The Estonians are having to come to terms with a difficult past, as does Latvia and Lithuania. They are doing well in reform and are the
leading Baltic state in this regard and a fortiori in the FSU.
Legacy of war
They naturally want to cement the process by joining the EU. But this means not just complying with the 29 chapters of the Acquis Communautaire concerning
economics, but the principles of human rights enshrined in the council of Europe.
The problem is inherited from the Second World War. It was Stalin, not Hitler, who invaded the Baltic states in 1940. The Germans, when they turned up, were
seen by most of the population as liberators, traditional friends of Estonia. Estonians joined the Waffen SS in droves and fought the Soviets. Naturally, the
Soviets treated them harshly in 1945, 20,000 Estonians being dispatched to the Siberian gulag.
Now veterans of Estonian Waffen SS units want to erect a memorial to their fallen comrades, all at Soviet hands. A statue of a solider in the Waffen SS
uniform would top the monument, to be put up in Parnu The notion has outraged local Russians, 20% of the population, and a protest by the Russian government
would be backed by the EU.
A climb-down by veterans appears inevitable. Some of the troops at the time almost certainly participated in SS horrors and pogroms, rounding up and killing
Jews. If Estonia wants to be accepted in the comity of European nations, it needs to put the sorry story behind it. This is likely to happen, being ancient
history for the younger generation.
Russia becomes more understanding
A fundamental breakthrough has occurred in Estonian-Russian relations. Putin has expressed an unusually broad-minded view for a Russian president. He has
said that he respects Estonia's choice to enter NATO.
The mark of civilisation is to respect someone else's point of view. To attempt to see the world from the other's perspective is the hallmark of rational
discourse, which need not preclude disagreement, indeed invites a fruitful development of the same.
Putin is a realist and a well-informed man. He knows that Estonia is inexorably being drawn to the West. It is better to acknowledge this gracefully than to
be a curmudgeon, constantly grumbling against the inevitable. He has showed this in Russia's policy towards Central Asia and the Caucasus. Now this is on
display on the Baltic shore.
The EU beckons
It is not just NATO, but the EU that beckons. The EBRD chairman, Jean Lemierre, has described Estonia as the top candidate for EU membership. The EU is the
natural home for the Estonians, a Protestant people with strong links to Scandinavia, linguistic, cultural and geographical; it is simply a few miles across
the Gulf of Finland after all.
There are problems on farm quotas and other matters. But Estonia has completed 26 of the 30 chapters of the acquis communitaire. The last four should prove
no serious problem. It is likely to follow the lead of the Poles, who have forged a bloc of the Visegrad countries to negotiate with Brussels.
In the future Europe, this small effectively Scandinavian nation with its wild woods with bear, boar and even wolves; rivers and lakes teeming with salmon,
may occupy a natural wilderness for European urbanites to escape to, comparable to such states as Maine and New Hampshire in the USA.
Estonian officials fear EU membership fee could cause budget problems
The Estonian Finance Ministry states that European Union (EU) accession will result in an up to 4bn-kroon extra burden to the state budget starting from 2004,
ETA News Agency has reported citing the daily 'Aripaev.'
Finance Minister, Harri Ounapuu, said that EU accession would increase the state budget burden. "I would say that we are in a better position as a candidate
country compared to being an EU member," Ounapuu said.
After accession, Estonia has to start paying its membership fee of 1.2bn kroons a year. Most of it will come from customs tax as Estonia will become an EU
border country. The membership fee must be prepaid, but it is hard to predict the exact customs revenues. "After EU accession, Estonia has to collect customs
duty from agricultural products, but we have no experience in this," the head of the Finance Ministry's foreign financing department, Ivar Sikk, said.
Estonian Foreign Minister, Kristiina, Ojuland has said that Estonia would like to reduce the membership fee during the accession talks this autumn. "We would
like to lessen the burden of the state budget," Ojuland said.
The Finance Ministry is hoping to reduce the fee from 1.2bn to 1bn kroons a year. According to the Finance Ministry, Estonia will invest from about 1.5bn to
3bn kroons from the state budget of 2004 in connection with EU aid programmes and part of the amount will be paid back by the EU a year later. Estonia's
public sector will have a chance to get about 3.6bn kroons from EU funds every year, but the money will arrive from the EU funds a year later. To get money
from the EU in 2005, it must be first found in Estonia in 2005. The 3.6bn will not be irrecoverable aid. Estonia must first spend 2bn kroons every year to
Group buys 79% Klementi stake from Finnish PTA
A consortium has bought a controlling 79.08 per cent stake in Estonia's largest women's clothes maker, Klementi, from bankrupt Finnish firm, PTA Group, for
eight million kroons, just-style.com reported on July 16th.
The group, which is made up of Estonian risk capital firm, Alta Capital, London-based Bonfield Asset Management, Klementi's CEO Madis Vooras and local
businessman Sven Mansberg, has also acquired the rights to use the international trademarks PTA, Avenue, MalliMari, MasterCoat, ClubLine and Piretta. The
news agency quoted Klementi, which reported a loss of 4.6m kroons in the first quarter, as saying the acquisition would help boost exports to
Latvian, Estonian presidents agree to boost regional development
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Estonian President Arnold Ruutel have agreed to activate cooperation in developing the regional tourism industry,
discussing also the common stance of their countries on agricultural policies in EU accession negotiations, BNS News Agency reported, BTA News Agency has
reported. The Latvian presidential office reported that Vike-Freiberga and Ruutel, both currently on Saaremaa Island, Estonia, agreed to promote in future
the development of joint Baltic projects, develop the contacts of creative people and cross-border cooperation, as well as tourism between the Baltic
The two presidents also agreed to hold Baltic presidential meetings more frequently outside the country capitals, thus drawing attention to regional
development and tourism in regions of the Baltics. The two presidents also discussed possibilities to develop maritime infrastructure, incorporating the
Baltic state region with the Nordic region and the rest of Europe. The governor of Saaremaa Island, Juri Saar, told the two presidents of projects aimed at
developing ferry traffic with Latvia, Finland and Estonia's islands.
Vike-Freiberga talked about Latvia's stance in EU accession negotiations in respect of agricultural issues, stating that she will be writing a letter to the
president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, to tell him of Latvia's special situation and the need for equal quotas. Ruutel said that he supports
this idea and said that he will be meeting local agricultural organizations to discuss the topic in August.
The Latvian and Estonian presidents were on a three-day visit to Estonia's Saaremaa Island upon invitation of Estonian President Ruutel.
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