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Eesti in brief - 2006-12-20

Dec 20, 2006

The Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan will visit Estonia for a two-day official visit on May 24 as part of their European tour, which will include stops in Latvia and Lithuania. "The visit of the emperor of Japan to any country, and particularly to Estonia, a small Baltic State, is a noteworthy event," said President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. "A visit of the Emperor of Japan is one of the greatest marks of respect that the Japanese nation pays to other countries."

President Ilves entertained Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on his farmstead on Dec. 16. Echoing the favored entertainment style of the U.S. President George W. Bush, who often hosts foreign heads of state at his Texan ranch, Ilves welcomed Vike-Freiberga and her husband to his farm property in Arma, near the Latvian border. The two presidents spoke about the role of small nations within the EU, as well as the EU's neighborhood policy, and support for democratic change in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Ilves gave a tour of his farm, which was just finished being restored. The two presidents then paid a visit to the nearby farmstead of artist Anu Raud. As a Christmas present, Ilves gave his Latvian colleague a Mulgi shawl, while Vike-Freiberga gave Ilves two books: "A Hundred Great Latvians" and her biography.

Due to the ever-retreating prospects of joining the euro currency zone, the central Bank of Estonia has announced it will print a new round of bank notes. The currency supply was expected to be phased out and replaced by the euro. But the bank said the nation would need a new injection of notes prior to Estonia's entering the eurozone. The first to be replenished will be the two and 10 kroon banknotes 's which may come as a surprise to many Estonians, who find their wallets overflowing with the near-worthless paper money.

Center Party parliamentarian Koit Pikaro sparked outrage by suggesting that the Ministry of Social Affairs was repainting its office building to match the gay rainbow flag. Pikaro said the ministry had a homosexual agenda because it had chosen to paint each of its six office floors in shades similar to the six colors of the rainbow. He went a step further, saying that homosexuality was a "mental or health problem." A ministry spokesperson called Pikaro's comments "absurd and ridiculous."

A London court sentenced an Estonian citizen to five years in prison for his role in an Internet scam that netted tens of millions of British pounds. Aleksei Kostap faced the Harrow Crown Court on Dec. 13 and was convicted for assuming a false identity and instigating fraud. He was sentenced alongside two accomplices, Anton Gelonkin of Russia and Romanos Vasilauskas of Lithuania, who were ordered to serve prison terms of six years and 18 months respectively. Kostap, 31, was found with a false passport carrying his photograph. He pleaded not guilty, claiming he was set up by his co-accused. Police are still hunting a second Estonian, Vaino Kaljusaar, who is suspected of being the mastermind of the fraud operation.
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