Books on Estonia
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.
The referendum on EU entry was won by the pro-EU side quite comfortably,
66.9% to 33.1% against
Nobody would dispute Estonia's excellent credentials to belong to Europe. Founded by the Teutonic Knights and the mercantile Hanseatic League in the early Middle Ages it was always looking across the sea rather than inland. Just across the Gulf of Finland, it is in all but name a Scandinavian country. It adhered to the Reformation before any other European state in the 1520s and has been a model of Nordic propriety ever since. The Protestant work-ethic is proverbial.
The very success of Estonia since independence outside not only the USSR, but also the EU, however, gave some Estonians second thoughts. The Centre Party, Estonia's largest opposition group urged the nation to vote against EU membership. They object strongly to the fact that the EU is requiring the Estonians to scrap a great deal of their free trade practices, adopted since 1991. It is as if they have to join a new USSR, which does not take account of their peculiarities.
It is arguable that the Estonians could have achieved all that they need from integration into Europe already without the drawbacks. Since independence they have done remarkably well. The Germans, their traditional allies, helped to set up the koruna, their new currency, in June 1992. They soon established a free trade regime second to none in the world. It was a question of a bonfire of controls.
GDP leaped ahead at 5% rates of annual growth. The sagacity of the move to monetary independence was shown in 1998-99 when they were the one FSU state to survive the rouble crisis without much in the way of reverse.
Update No: 282 - (30/06/04)
The EU elections a reverse for the government
The June 13th elections to the European Parliament in Estonia ended with the victory of opposition parties. The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Estonia said that five mandates, or seats in the EU Parliament, will be received by the opposition Social Democrats, centrists and the Isamaaliit party (Fatherland Union).
One mandate or seat will be given to the Party of Reforms, which is a member of the government coalition. Its partners in a parliamentary majority - the pro-premier Res Publica party and close to President Arnold Ruutel People's Union of Estonia - failed to obtain a single seat.
Res Publica leader Prime Minister Juhan Parts said afterwards that his party should draw serious conclusions from the defeat. Nevertheless, Parts said that those most active in the elections was the minority dissatisfied with the government. "Those who support the policy are as a rule passive at elections," said the Estonian premier.
The elections to the European Parliament had an unusually low turnout in Estonia. According to the CEC, only 26.6 percent of eligible voters came to the polls. That was less than half of those who voted in last year's national elections. "There is no wonder about it, Europe is showing us the way even in low voting activity," Tallinn polling station chief Jaan Kollist opined. Thirty-two year-old chemist Signe Leito remarked: "I went to vote just to raise the percentage. It shows Estonia in a bad light to Europe if we have such a low participation in elections."
Shift to the left
But there were signs that the electoral diehards were more intent on handing most of the country's six European seats to the leftist opposition.
A pre-election opinion poll had indicated that Parts' rightist Res Publica party was only third in Estonians' pecking order with a forecast one seat in the European parliament, which in the event it failed to obtain.
There is an undoubted impending shift to the left in Estonia, which would bring it into line with Latvia and Lithuania, where leftish parties are in office.
Doubts about the Euro
The Estonians are wary of the EU, even while they gingerly support EU membership for largely political reasons. More than 60% are unhappy about the eventual disappearance of the Kroon, due in 2006-7 on present plans when Estonia joins Euroland.
The Kroon, adopted in June 1992 (the first post-Soviet currency outside the rouble zone), is the main symbol of the country's independence.
EU entry has brought higher duties on imports of gasoline, sugar, bananas and other exotic fruits. Not everything is rosy in the European fold. But fold it is to keep one safe from the Russian bear.
VP Market opens 2nd Estonia shop
The largest retailer in the Baltic states, VP Market, opened its second T-Market in Estonia recently, New Europe reported.
"With this move we will launch our aggressive expansion in Estonia. We are confident that we will be as successful in Estonia as we are in Latvia and Lithuania," said Gintaras Marcinkevicius, general manager of SIA VP Market who oversees the company's business in Estonia and Latvia. In the near future the company plans to open a store in Maardu, a Tallinn suburb, to be followed by openings in Sillamae, Tallinn, Valga and other Estonian towns.
Estonia's Alta buys Lauma lingerie
An Estonian investment company has announced that it has acquired a majority stake in Latvia's Lauma, one of the Baltics' largest textile producers and most well-known brand names.
Alta Capital, a three-year-old investment group, purchased a 76.4 per cent stake in the lingerie manufacturer for an undisclosed price in a deal arranged by the Prudentia consultancy. Unofficial sources, however, said the price of each share was 3 lats (4.5 euros), or 13 million lats for the entire lot.
Alta purchased stakes belonging to Lauma President Zigrida Rusina (34.68 per cent), Vice President, Viktors Aispurs, (34.31 per cent) and a group of small shareholders (7.45 per cent).
Officials from Alta Capital, which owns one of Estonia's largest textile producers, stressed their willingness to continue developing the brand-name company.
"It's too soon at this moment to speak about our plans concerning Lauma, but I can say that we hope to develop the company further," Alta Capital manager, Andres Ratsepp, said, the Baltic News Service reported.
Firm partner, Indrek Rahumaa, said the new owners wanted "to develop the company and strengthen Lauma's brand and market positions using the company's current platform and cooperation with Western and Eastern markets."
Alta Capital was founded on private capital in 2001. Its biggest acquisition to date is 79 per cent in Estonia's Klementi textile company two years ago. It is also a hotel and spa operator and has an interest in a construction company.
However, Klementi has been struggling since Alta Capital took over. Last year the company posted losses of 22.2 million kroons (1.42 million euros), though this was down from losses of 31.9 million kroons in 2002. Sales were largely flat at 133 million kroons.
In April Klementi opened a sewing factory in Stockholm and in May signed a deal on the distribution of its products in Denmark. It sells women's clothing under its own trademarks through nearly 200 distributors and stores across Scandinavia. The company announced that it was aiming to increase density of display and effectiveness of sales.
Eurodek launches deep-water dock at Muuga
Danish oil transport company, Eurodek, recently launched a new deep-water dock at Muuga port in the Estonian capital Tallinn, New Europe reported.
The Estonian media reported that the new dock would allow the company to increase oil transit through the port. Eurodek has built an oil terminal especially to service this dock.
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