Parliament voted down the legal chancellor's proposal to allow party unions - blocs of members of various political parties tailor-made for a concrete electoral district - to take part in local elections. Legal Chancellor Allar Joks earlier stated the party union ban contradicts the constitution and promised to take the case to the Supreme Court if Parliament fails to lift the ban. But the legislature's larger political parties such as the Center Party, the Reform Party and Res Publica are against legalizing party unions on the local level, while smaller parties support lifting the ban.
Finnish Public Health Minister Liisa Hyssala said that the Nordic countries needed a joint alcohol policy as a way of regulating the huge price discrepancies between countries. Estonian Social Affairs Minister Marko Pomerants responded by saying that although it was be good if the retail price of alcohol were the same throughout Scandinavia, but it was neither possible nor expedient to hurry such an idea. "Otherwise we will not be able to check what people start to drink. Changes can be made little by little," he said.
Tax and Customs Board officials discovered a concealed pipeline near Narva that has been used for pumping grain alcohol from Russia. The pipeline, over a kilometer in length, had the daily capacity of several tons of "liquid cargo." The garage on the Estonian territory where the pipeline ended used a rebuilt old car as a storage tank. Police believe the pipeline, a unique way of smuggling alcohol between the two neighboring countries (see Lietuva in brief on Page 5), has been used since November.
About 47,000 spectators visited the screenings of the Eighth Black Nights Film Festival held in Estonia from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12, 500 more than last year. This year the festival boasted 553 films on its program list, which were shown in 21 screening halls in four cities. Three of the most popular films were "The Downfall" and "The Dreamers" and "The City of God." The international jury gave the Eurasian Film Grand Prix to the Kazakhstan film "Skiso." The best director award and the public prize went to the South Korean director Kim Ki-duk for his movie "Bin-Jip."
Three people died last week in a fire reportedly caused by a moonshine machine explosion in Viljandi county. Police have not yet identified the bodies as the accident took place in an unowned and deserted house.
The Moscow District Military Court sentenced Igor Vyalkov, a former officer of Russia's national security service, last week to 10 years in jail on charges of espionage on behalf of Estonia. The court's decision was based on prosecution materials stating that Vyalkov had on several occasions passed a bulk of secret information to a representative of Estonia's Security Service. Vyalkov, who will serve the sentence in a maximum security prison, was also stripped of his rank of lieutenant colonel.