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 Western Europe.
Update No: 270 - (26/06/03)
The Estonians may be the FSU Baltic people furthermost to the east, but they are actually the most Western of them, indeed of the FSU itself (which status they disdain), just over from Finland across the Gulf of Finland. That country indeed, is their natural ally, closely allied in language (Finno -Uguric languages) and culture, both early Protestant powers (earlier than England).
The small, cohesive republic has a long way to go to catch up with Scandinavia, its GDP being only 91% of its 1989 level. But the economy has been growing by over four per cent annually for years. FDI, especially from Finland, Sweden and Germany, has been high. The EU beckons in May next year and NATO entry a few months beforehand. The prospects are bright.
The blessing of Orthodoxy
Constantinople patriarch Bartholomew 1st wished Estonians well and success in their referendum on the EU, to be held on September 14th. Its outcome is indeed, a foregone conclusion - a resounding yes.
The Patriarch has an influence on the 20% Russians among the local population. His blessing, therefore, is a big plus.
But as a quid pro quo, Estonia is called upon to quicken the process of naturalisation for the more than one in ten of the population still stateless, some 170,000 people. These are nearly all Russians.
Centre Party backs EU
What makes the EU referendum a shoe-in is that the prominent Centre Party, formerly leading a coalition government, is coming out in favour of EU membership, ahead of its congress on August 9th when the decision is to be formally made to support a referendum yes or not.
There were 16 signatories to a petition in favour recently, all of them former ministers. The one dark horse who will announce his position only at the congress is Tallinn mayor, Edgar Savisaar, a key figure in Estonian politics. With even the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople in favour, Savisaar's stance is pretty predictable, a definite yes.
New government forms
Also in favour of course is the new coalition government. Governments come and go regularly in Estonia. This one is the outcome of parliamentary elections held on March 2nd. It has taken time to form a new coalition.
The new government took its oath of office in April. It is made up of members of the Res Publica Party, the Reform Party and the People's Union, which together won 60 seats in the 101-strong parliament. The new prime minister, Juhan Parts, spoke at the ceremony, as did former premier Siim Kallas.
The formalities over, Parts got to work with his 13 ministers in a broadly balanced portfolio. With EU and NATO entry ahead it should be a truly historic government.
Estonian central bank notes good economic growth and high level of confidence
Due to the forthcoming accession to the EU, the Estonian economy finds itself in a situation characterized by the highest level of confidence ever, by interest rates that are harmonized with the EU and almost limitless offers of foreign money, the Bank of Estonia says in its economic and political quarterly commentary published on 11th June, Estonian Radio has reported.
To preserve the high confidence, which has come as an advance, what is needed is a speedy accession to the EU, balanced economic decisions in the private sector and by private individuals in particular, risk management by banks and well-considered budgetary and economic policies, the Bank of Estonia notes.
The Estonian economy increased by 5 per cent in the first quarter.
Vilnius, Tallinn get Microsoft offices
After 10 year of operating in Lithuania and Estonia through its partner companies, information technology giant, Microsoft, has decided to open subsidiaries in Vilnius and Tallinn, New Europe reported recently. "This is part of a natural development process," said Torben Andersen, head of Microsoft Baltic in Riga. "Microsoft has seen 300 per cent growth in the Baltic states over four years, so we feel its time to be closer to our customers in the region."
Andersen said that Microsoft Baltic chose Riga for its regional office in 1999 "purely for logistical reasons" and that customers in Lithuania and Estonia had been asking for a closer relationship with the company ever since. "These new offices are a big commitment for us, one that we can't go back on very easily," he said. While worldwide IT growth from the Baltic states in 2004 and said that this number would likely remain "in the double digits" over the next few years. "Lithuania is the largest IT market in the Baltic states and the one with the largest potential," said Martynas Bieliunas, a Microsoft sales representative in Lithuania.
Eesti Telefon to become Elion in August
Eesti Telefon will be renamed and become Elion in August, Telecom.paper reported recently. The new brand name applies also to its subsidiary - the retail chain Hallo. Eesti Telefon Management Board chairman, Valdo Kalm, said the company has ceased to be a mere telephone services provider, New Europe has reported.
"Eesti Telefon was established 10 years ago and we have coped with all the tasks we were obliged to undertake at that time. The challenges facing us today are completely different and that is the reason why we have to change our name," he was quoted as saying.
Kalm said Eesti Telefon is not a suitable name for the company whose development is fastest in the Internet, data communication and information technology. "Eesti Telefon has been in the Internet business since 1998 and today we are the leaders in the dial-up as well as broadband markets. By the overall number of IT professionals Eesti Telefon ranks the second among IT companies in Estonia. The company has also changed because of the business environment. Eesti Telefon is no longer a monopoly operator. Estonia was the first country in Central and Eastern Europe that liberalised its telecommunications market. We have successfully coped with competition and managed to stabilise our market shares," Kalm said.
He noted that under the new brand name the company wants to become the best telecommunications and IT services provider in Estonia. "We have come up with a set of measures to reach this goal. For example the same brand name and similar commitment to customers will apply to our retail chain Hallo. We have already increased the Call Centre operators to 130. We aim to answer 70 per cent of calls in 30 seconds and 90 per cent of calls in 60 seconds," he said.
"We keep developing our web-based e-Services so that our customers have a comprehensive overview of what we offer, they can conclude e-Agreements and subscribe to user facilities without calling us or going to our services centres. We simplify our product portfolio and offer even more solutions to business as well as private customers," he added.
"The company will launch its new logo and corporate visual identity in the second half of August. All the existing brands of Eesti Telefon (Atlas, et, Hot), except the Internet search engine NETI, will cease to exist. Gradually the new look will replace the old one in our retail outlets, on buildings and vehicles. We keep the Hot e-mail addresses and home pages as they are today, but the brand name Hot itself will disappear and the layout of the Web-based communication centre at www.hot.ee is going to change."
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