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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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ethnic groups 
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Arnold Rüütel

Update No: 294 - (28/06/05)

Estonia eager to lead world in e-voting
Estonia is the most innovative of the Baltic states. First to establish its own currency, the krona, it is to be the first to abolish it by joining the euro in 2007.
It has revolutionised its tax system and is far more pro-market than the EU, which unkind Estonian critics now compare to COMECON, the Soviet Behemoth.
Its latest initiative is political. Parliament's constitutional committee has introduced amendments to a bill that would put Estonia in the forefront of online elections, making the Baltic state the first country in the world where voters would not have to leave home to cast their election ballots. The bill, which would implement e-voting for the October 2005 local elections and national Parliamentary elections in 2007, was being discussed on June 15th. If ratified, the legislation will be adopted in its third reading.
[Online elections] must follow the principle of uniformity and guarantee the reliability of personal identification," President Arnold Ruutel said after refusing to promulgate the local government election act that was adopted by Parliament last month.
In Ruutel's resolution, published on his official Web site, he said the act had to be deliberated further so that it conformed with Estonia's constitution. However, according to the president's press secretary, Ruutel could also see some positive aspects to online elections. The implementation of e-voting, he said, would offer an open opportunity to increase the electoral turn out, thus enhancing the legitimacy of state power. 
What is more, the president stressed the necessity of discussing how to avoid illegal online election propaganda, which could strategically influence the will of the voters "at the wrong time and in the wrong place." 
In response to the previous draft, which contained a provision giving citizens the right to electronically change their vote, Ruutel retorted that "this imperfection" violated the constitution. "Such a provision contradicts the principle that local government council elections must be uniform, as stipulated in Subsection 1, Article 156 of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia," the president wrote, adding that a person could vote only once, and each vote had to have the same weight. 
During the legislation's first reading, the constitutional committee turned down a proposal by the People's Union not to legislate e-voting at all. A suggestion by Janno Reiljan, a party member, to allow e-voting only at polling stations was also rejected, along with Centrist Evelyn Sepp's motion to postpone the bill until 2006. 
In its general description of e-voting, the National Election Committee ensured that personal identification security would be a priority. Using digital signatures and ID-cards, committee representatives said, the system should face no technical obstacles. 
As of June 14th, there were 779,057 Estonians - at home and abroad - with standard issue ID cards. By the October elections, this number should approach 800,000, meaning that most of Estonia's eligible voters would be covered. 
According to the election committee, Internet voting is as secure as a traditional polling, as it is based on a so-called "envelope method" where voters create an "inner envelope" with an encrypted number of candidates and an "outer envelope" that is signed digitally using the ID-card PIN-code. However, in order for this to work, a special ID-card reader must be connected to the voter's PC. 
As complicated as it may sound, an online voting trial was successfully conducted in Tallinn in January of this year. During the public poll, concerning the location of the War of Independence Victory Monument, nearly 14 percent of participants chose to vote online. 

E-mail Estonia
Ivor Tallo of the Estonian E-Governance Academy said that his country has achieved a great success in e-governance, digitaldivide reported recently.
Estonia's population is only 1.4m and around 52% of the population has internet access and 91% have mobile phones, he explained. Its neighbours Lithuania and Latvia have half of this penetration of the internet, Tallo said.
When the Soviet Union collapsed 15 years ago, Estonia faced an incredible situation of building a government from scratch. "A big part of the story from 1991 to 2004 was building e-government and an information society," said Tallo. "We never had a national strategy; when we started in 1991, we didn't know where to go. So we created principles of information policy that were passed by the parliament." This led to project-based development guided by these principles. The country had hardly any baggage from previous practices: as a new country, they could develop e-government with a clean slate. "One of the main things isn't the introduction of ICT but changing procedures and rules, and we were quite fortunate to do so because there wasn't much resistance," he said.

Economy performing well
Estonia's economic performance continues to be impressive in many respects. The updated convergence programme for the period 2004-2008 aims at achieving a budget in balance from 2005 onwards after an expected 1% surplus in 2004. 
The programme assumes an acceleration of output growth from 5.6% in 2004 to 5.9% in 2005 and close to 6% until 2008, a projection which appears plausible and even prudent. 
Overall, the risks to the budgetary projections in the programme appear broadly balanced. On the one hand, the cautious macroeconomic scenario suggests that revenues could be higher and expenditure somewhat lower than budgeted. Indeed, Estonia has established a track record of prudent government forecasting and repeated overshooting of fiscal targets over the past few years. On the other hand, unexpected revenue shortfalls from the ongoing tax cuts, or an adverse impact on growth from exogenous shocks cannot be excluded altogether. 
At 4.8% of GDP, Estonia's debt is the lowest in the EU and is set to decline further. This means that the country is well placed to meet the budgetary costs of an ageing population and to maintain a medium-term objective of a budget close-to-balance over the entire programme period.

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Bulgarian, Estonian presidents discuss EU accession, bilateral ties

"I am not empowered to do so, but I will say on behalf of our parliament that Estonia will support Bugaria's EU Accession Treaty." This is what Estonian President, Arnold Ruutel, said after meeting his Bulgarian counterpart, Georgi Purvanov, BGNES web site reported.
Ruutel also said that in 2018 Bulgaria and Estonia would have to share the presidency of the Council of Europe and they should start cooperating on this now. President Purvanov said he expected Estonia to fight to keep the rules for the EU candidates unchanged, because there were voices calling for change in the conditions with respect to Bulgaria and Romania. 
The Bulgarian head of state said that he expected expert assistance from Estonia on accession to the EU, especially in the field of environmental protection, where the Estonians had great experience, and the EU was being exacting on this issue. In Purvanov's view, Bulgaria may use Estonia's experience in the rapid development of modern information technologies. He noted that the annual increase in cooperation in the economic sphere was 30-40 per cent and Estonian tourists coming to Bulgaria were increasing by 50-60 per cent. The Estonian president said there was unanimity on the European policy of neighbourly relations, including those with Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, the Caucasus and Mediterranean regions, Iraq, the Balkans, and transatlantic cooperation. Ruutel was accompanied by an Estonian business delegation.

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Eesti Telekom arm acquires IT-provider MicroLink

Elion Enterprises Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of AS Eesti Telekom, will purchase 95% of the shares of MicroLink AS, the leading Baltic IT services company, the company announced in a statement recently, New Europe reported.
MicroLink Estonia AS will continue independently in the Elion group, MicroLink operations in Latvia will be sold to Lattelekom SIA and MicroLink operations in Lithuania to Lietuvos Telekomas AB.
Elion Enterprises intends to present a takeover bid to minority shareholders for acquiringthe rest of the shares with the same conditions.
The aim of the acquisition of MicroLink Estonia is to reinforce the market position of Elion and MicroLink in the Estonian IT market and to offer customers the broadest selection of IT services and integrated IT and communications solutions, according to the statement. Elion IT-services business area will be moved to MicroLink, while MicroLink internet and data communications business will be run by Elion.
MicroLink will be responsible for offering IT services, Elion's role is to sell IT solutions and integrated solutions to SME sector as well as to manage customer care of corporate clients, read the statement.
Transition of the shares will take place after approval by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian competition boards. According to Tallinn Stock Exchange regulations, this transaction is not considered as a significant acquisition and due to that parties have agreed not to disclose the exact price of the deal, the statement read.

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