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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 Western Europe.
Update No: 269 - (29/05/03)
The Estonian President Arnold Ruutel and Foreign Minister Kristina Ojuland signed on behalf of Estonia the treaty of accession to the EU on April 16th in Athens. Greece is holding the EU presidency for the first six months of 2003.
The accession document will have to be ratified by all EU parliaments and in Estonia the ratification will be preceded by a referendum on September 14th. Before full entry on May 1st 2004, Estonia is now allowed to participate in all EU working meetings, but be unable to vote.
The government resigned on April 10th, but ratified the treaty as a caretaker government on April 15th. Coalition governments are the rule in Estonia and they are changing their composition frequently. It makes absolutely no difference to major policy on an issue as important as the EU. All parties are in complete agreement on the subject.
Opposition to permanent EU presidency
A new government is in the process of formation and is certain to have the same pro-EU line. What is intriguing is the new view already expressed by the Tallinn parliament in opposition to the idea of a second president of Europe put forward by Giscard d'Estaing and his special commission on constitutional matters of the EU.
Tallinn firmly opposes the idea preferring that there should be a rotating presidency, as now. Clearly the Estonians want to have the EU presidency one day. It would be interesting to see what they made of it.
With 25 member states as of May 1st 2004 this means that each would have 12.5 years to wait before having the presidency again. It is likely that the Baltic states would be given a simultaneous co-presidency instead.
The addition of the 10 new countries is likely to change the most eastern of them geographically, an anomaly for a country that is proudly the most Western of them in character, barring Slovenia that is.
Early vote on Estonia's entry in EU on September 8-10
Estonian citizens will be able to cast early votes, from September 8th to 10th, in the referendum on Estonia's membership in the European Union set for September 14th, New Europe reports.
"The referendum will be held in keeping with the rules of parliamentary elections and early voting for Estonian citizens living abroad," Central Election Commission chief, Mihkel Pilving, has announced. The only difference is the period for preliminary voting will be shorter. Ballot papers will be sent to Estonian citizens living abroad whose addresses are known, no later than 50 days before the referendum. The decision to hold a referendum on Estonia's membership in the European Union and on making appropriate amendments to the constitution was made by the Estonian parliament on December 18th, 2002.
Estonia seeks to host EU information technology agency
Estonia wants to host a new European Union information technology agency, with officials here arguing that the country's advanced Internet infrastructure and lower business costs made it ideally qualified. Estonia doesn't now belong to the EU but is expected to join in May, 2004 - around the time the agency is to be founded, said Arvo Ott, of the Economics Ministry's Informatics Department. He said Estonia recently notified the EU of its desire to host the 50-employee office.
The EU agency, dubbed the Network and Information Security Agency, would concentrate on Internet and mobile phone security, including finding ways to prevent fraud in commercial transactions in cyberspace. Nearby tech giants, Finland and Sweden, are also trying to woo the EU agency to their shores.
Ott said one question was how Estonia could begin the application process to become an agency host country when it wasn't yet in the EU. He said Estonians were inquiring of EU legal experts about how this might be done. "This could be a major obstacle," he said.
Dubbed E-Stonia by some, the country ranked No. 8 out of 82 countries in putting the Net to practical use in a recent World Economic Forum report. "We believe we have lots of selling points," said Ott. "We have good Internet systems, a well-educated work force, low costs and excellent contacts with existing EU countries."
Panel expecting bids for UMTS licences by July 11th
The Estonian communications Board is expecting the mobile phone firms Tele2, EMT and Radiolinja to make bids for third general mobile communication (UMTS) licences by July 11th; the issue of licences will be decided by August 1st, BNS News Agency reported.
The Communication Board will issue third-generation mobile communication licences to firms that pay a €4.47m licence fee and a nearly €44,700 state duty by August 1st. The Communication Board published the invitation for bids in Ametikud Teadaanded (Official announcement) on May 8th.
The Board will issue a total of four GSM networks over at least two years. Stage Two will be public, and the fourth licence, as well as licences that may not have been in the direct offer, will be issued in its course. The initial bidding price of the UMTS licence in the public auction will be €4.47m. The Communication Board must announce the public auction by November 1st at the latest. The deadline for the bids will presumably by next March.
The firms that have received the licences must launch their UMTS networks within seven years of the issue of the licence covering at least 30% of the population. EMT has confirmed its interest in an UMTS licence. The attitude of Tele2 and Radiolinja to the process has been sceptical.
Eesti Telekom reports pre-tax profit
Eesti Telekom (Estonia), telecoms group, has reported pre-tax profit for first-quarter 2003 which rose to 20m Euro, against 16m Euro, for the previous year period, although net profit fell to 2m Euro, from 16m Euro. The fall in net profit was due to high tax on dividends paid to the parent company by subsidiaries, RDSL, Europe reports.
Turnover for the period rose by 5% to 71m Euro, while EBITDA rose by 7% to 35m Euro. Turnover was boosted by demand for data communications services, especially ADSL services. The company expects to obtain a licence to offer 3G mobile phone services later in 2003.
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