Eesti in brief - 2005-02-02

  • 2005-02-02
A major arms shipment failed to leave Tallinn on time as agreed with NATO headquarters, reportedly due to Estonian officials' incompetence, the Postimees daily reported. Estonia sent 2,400 Chinese AK assault rifles and 1.1 million cartridges to Iraq to help the Middle Eastern country build up its security forces, just days after the contribution was agreed on with NATO.

The disaster victim identification team returned to Tallinn after a four-week mission to Phuket, Thailand. The three-strong team, along with other international experts, helped identify tsunami victim bodies by taking fingerprints of the corpses. Three Estonian tourists are still missing in Phuket.

About 5,100 people, or 1.5 percent of eligible voters, took part in the much-discussed poll on where to place the Freedom Monument. The survey, held among registered Tallinn residents, showed that voters supported placing the monument in the capital's Vabaduse Square. Some 700 people used the opportunity to cast their vote through an online system tied to their ID card. National Electoral Committee experts said the new system passed the test and could be implemented at the local elections in autumn.

Prison maintenance costs per capita exceed that of state-run retirement houses almost by a factor of two, the Justice Ministry said. One prisoner costs the state about 380 euros per month, and the majority of money goes to penitentiary system personnel. Last year the nation had about 4,500 prisoners.

The Estonian Chamber of Environmentalist Organizations gave the Bad Turn 2004 title to the government, citing its inability to build up the country's oil-leak cleaning capability. The Green Deed 2004 award went to the State Audit Office, which brought public attention to shortages in Estonia's oil-leak cleaning abilities.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kristiina Ojuland recommended the ministry's chancellor and one of the most prominent diplomats, Priit Kolbre, for the office of ambassador to Finland. It is the second time Ojuland has wanted to replace the ministry's chancellor. In 2002 Indrek Tarand was relieved of his duties at Ojuland's request.

The Estonian Health Insurance Fund approved the budget for 2005, which has become the organization's first negative budget ever. The planned revenues, coming from taxes paid by employers, make 6.7 billion kroons (428 million euros) while expenses stand at 6.9 billion kroons. The fund plans to use the previously left surplus and its reserve to keep the state's promise of raising salaries, agreed on with medical workers earlier last year.