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Schengen is 'event of the year'

Dec 11, 2007
In cooperation with BNS

TALLINN -- Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has described the country's entry into the Schengen visa-free zone on Dec. 21 as the "event of the year".

Enlargement of the Schengen area will enable citizens of Estoniato travel freely throughout most of the European Union, without having to wait in queues on the border or get a visa, Ansip said on a broadcast of the Russian-language Radio 4 program.

The prime minister also described as positive the rapid economic growth of the past year as well as the beginning of an economic 'soft landing'.

"The cooling can be seen as a positive phenomenon too, since that's what we wanted," Ansip said. "You can't go on at a [GDP growth] rate of 11 percent for a long time, but 6.4 percent is already good," he added.

The most negative phenomenon in the outgoing year, according to Ansip, was the high inflation recorded in Estonia and elsewhere in the world.

As regards the events of late April when riots broke out inTallinn over the government's moves to start the relocation of the Soviet soldier monument from Tonismagi, the prime minister said that the impact of those events will continue to be felt in future.

"It is not right to start dividing the country's population into Estonians and Russians, to put them against one another -- Estonia needs all the people who live here," he said.

Ansip said that the events of late April proved to the people living in Estonia that Estonia is a sovereign country whose laws are passed in the Riigikogu, not in the Kremlin.

"Nor is it correct to claim that we are governed by the European Union -- Estonia itself is the EU, we ourselves assume obligations and we ourselves fulfill them, so that our people could be free, so that it would be easier for businesspeople to work," said the prime minister.

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