Books on Estonia
Update No: 291 - (01/04/05)
Estonia's government collapses
The government of Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts collapsed in late March.
The Parts government stepped down on March 24 after parliament voted no
confidence in Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher. A new candidate to form a new
government will be appointed within two weeks.
Parts announced the dissolution of his coalition government - the 10th to lead
the country since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 - after some
coalition lawmakers sided with the opposition in a no-confidence vote against
Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher. Vaher has come under fire for his proposal to
draw up a system of annual quotas for the number of corruption cases to be
handled by regional prosecutors.
The government's resignation took effect on 24th March. After that, President
Arnold Ruutel had two weeks to name a candidate for the post of prime minister.
Parts, 38, has said that he would work to form a new government.
The next general elections in Estonia are scheduled for March 2007.
Estonia president in consultations on new prime minister
President Ruutel has begun consultations with leaders of parties represented in
parliament on the candidacy of the prime minister. Ruutel met on March 29th with
Andrus Ansip, chairman of the Party of Reforms who gave his ideas about a
coalition that could form a cabinet of ministers. Ansip was the first to visit
the president's palace on March 29, and much of the speculation has focused on
his nomination. Ansip is deemed the likeliest candidate to succeed.
But Ruutel would meet leaders of other parties in the coming days. Sources close
to the presidential chancellery said a candidate for the prime minister could be
called within two days.
Many expect that the leader of reformists, Andrus Ansip, will be commissioned to
form a new government.
This, in turn, has given rise to two likely scenarios for the next coalition
government: a right-wing coalition of Res Publica, the Reform Party and Pro
Patria Union, or a mixed bloc of Res Publica, the Reformists and the Centre
Ansip was scheduled to meet with party leaders from both Res Publica and Pro
Patria on March 30th, intensifying speculation that a right-wing coalition with
54 seats in Parliament was likely to materialize. If it does, the new Cabinet
would be further to the right than the previous one, with Pro Patria replacing
the People's Union.
Parliamentary parties proceeded with meetings even before the government of
Juhan Parts resigned on March 24th. Generally, all parties said they were open
for cooperation with any partners, with the exception of Pro Patria Union, which
said it would never join a coalition with the Centrists.
Centre Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar said that a coalition based on a common
world-view would be easier to build and might last longer.
"It is understandable that Ansip has started with an attempt to compose a
coalition of the Reform Party, Res Publica and Pro Patria Union. If he succeeds
at that, he would have to be commended," said Savisaar.
"Of course the main dispute between us and the Reform Party is, on one
hand, the continuation of the tax reform the Squirrels [the Reformists' mascot -
ed.] promote, and on the other hand, introduction of a progressive income tax,
which is our long-term goal," said Savisaar. "However, in the tax
policy we also have common positions. Neither of the parties supports an
increase of the tax burden."
The Parthian shot of Parts
Parts said in a news conference on March 24th that no party in Parliament
should avoid the responsibility of forming a government, and that the Reform
Party and maybe the People's Union could be the principal driving force in
shaping the new coalition.
"It would be logical from our point of view that the parties who caused the
government crisis should take the responsibility of providing Estonia with an
operative government," Parts said of his coalition partners. "These
are the ABCs of democracy."
In Parts' opinion, differences in the programmes of local parties could never
block the way to forming a ruling coalition, because in practice a compromise is
Parts admitted his Cabinet was very diverse as it united the more left-leaning
People's Union, the right-wing Reform Party and the center-right Res Publica. He
said that a possible union of Estonia's three right-wing parties - Res Publica,
the Reformists and the Pro Patria Union - would be "one possible
scenario." Together the three would have 54 seats in the 101-strong
Whether Res Publica and the Reform Party, who last year signed a memorandum on a
possible merger, could mend fences was still a matter of conjecture. Parts said
Res Publica, a young party he helped create in 2001, would consider cooperating
with the Reformists, if Ansip admitted the no-confidence vote on Vaher and the
whole government crisis were in fact actions of manipulation.
The outgoing prime minister suggested the government crisis would trigger
changes in Estonia's political landscape. "I do not exclude that soon we
will hear about consolidation of left-wing forces, which would have been very
positive. I think today there is a great opportunity for that. I believe they
will use it," said Parts.
However, cooperation between leftist forces in Parliament seemed to have reached
a dead end after the March 29th meeting of the Center Party and the Social
Democrats. The latter's chairman, Ivari Padar, told the ETV public television
channel that an agreement with the Centrists did not look possible due to a
different understanding of democracy.
"We do not consider creation of a leftist government really probable, but
in politics everything is a matter of negotiations," said Padar. Parts
strongly rejected the idea that he should give up the position of Res Publica
chairman due to the government crisis.
"I do not think at all that the government's collapse is some sort of
failure for Res Publica. Res Publica is not a party that would hold onto power
at all costs, otherwise we could have acted differently," Parts insisted.
Parliamentary speaker Ene Ergma, a member of Res Publica, kept her seat after
MPs opted to re-elect her to the position on March 24th. Her new deputies will
be Andres Lipstok from the Reform Party and Toomas Varek of the Centre Party.
Peeter Kreitzberg from the Social Liberal parliament group failed to keep his
deputy speaker position.
Lipstok, who had earlier replaced Rein Lang as the deputy speaker when the
latter had become the new foreign affairs minister, was re-elected.
Refusal to celebrate Victory Day in Moscow
The Estonians are refusing to send a delegation to celebrate the 60th
anniversary of Victory Day, May 9th, in Moscow. For them, May 1945 merely saw
them exchange one totalitarian regime for another, as the Soviets clamped down
again on the Baltic states.
Relations with the Russians are still strained, with one in five of the
population of Russian ethnicity. The wounds are by no means all healed. The
younger generation of Russian Estonians are the best bet that eventually they
will. They are learning Estonian at school and mingling with Estonians proper.
Inter-ethnic marriages are still rare, but are rising in number. The far greater
opportunities for the Russian Estonians in Estonia then in Russia make an
increasing number of them identify with their adopted country.
Ministry wants Energia dividend
The dividend from the Estonian state-owned power utility Eesti Energia to the
state could reach 97m kroons (6.2m Euro), New Europe reported recently.
The state has received no dividends from Eesti Energia. The finance ministry's
proposal for the payment of dividends is that the company has been earning
considerable profits for several years in succession, making it possible to
invest and, considering the capacity of servicing of loans, also to pay
dividends. "Besides, we are guided by the principle that trade in
greenhouse gas emission quota will start in 2005, and could bring additional
revenues and money flows that could be used for investments without fear that
the payment of dividends would make it impossible to make the necessary
investments," the ministry said.
Teleglobe expands IP capacity links with Estonia's Elion
Canadian carrier Teleglobe International Holdings Ltd said it has doubled the
wholesale IP capacity furnished to Estonia's telecom/IT service provider, Elion
Group, which currently is seeing accelerated growth in its retail broadband
subscriber base, a recent company statement said. The deal covers international
carrier and internet access support for digital subscriber line (DSL) customers
and other high-speed connection customers at domestic incumbent Elion. Elion's
DSL subscriber base reportedly grew more than 50% in 2004 to about 77,000 lines,
to about one out of every four homes in Estonia, and accounted for approximately
63% of the internet access market in Estonia at the end of last year, according
to reports in Telecom Web and sister publication Tarifica Alert. Teleglobe has
provided international telecom services to Elion, a subsidiary of AS Eesti
Telekom, since 1990. The expanded deal provides access to Teleglobe's Tier 1
internet backbone which directly connects to over 90 countries at bandwidth
speeds from 64Kb/s to 10Gb/s.
Raffles Intl to make debut in Estonian hotel market
Raffles International, the hotel management arm of Raffles Holdings, boosted its
hotel management list recently by signing a contract to run a hotel in Estonia,
The Business Times reported.
Through Osauhing Evans Kinnisvara - its local subsidiary there - it sealed a
deal with Tornimae Hotel to manage the Swissotel Tallinn Estonia. This is the
second hotel contract that Raffles has secured in Eastern Europe after signing
one last year for the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy Moscow in Russia.
Scheduled to open in early 2007, the 28-storey Swissotel Tallinn Estonia will
have 239 rooms.
It is situated in a prime city location and will be part of a multi-complex
comprising apartments and shopping centres. The hotel will include facilities
like conference and meeting facilities, food and beverage outlets, three
executives floors and a health club.
Said Rein Tiik, chief executive officer of EKE Invest: "Since our initial
discussions with Raffles International, we have been impressed with the
company's expertise in hotel management and strength in brand marketing. We are
delighted to enter into this partnership with them to operate the first deluxe
hotel in Tallinn to tap into the growing business market in Estonia.