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TRADING PALS?: Estonia may get most-favored nation status from Russia even before Russia becomes member of the World Trade Organization. Tiit Matsulevits, Estonian ambassador to Russia, said that economic interest groups connected with acting President Vladimir Putin are inducing Russia to move ahead. Estonia is one of the few countries in Europe with which Russia has not chosen to have most favored nation status. Estonian diplomats have earlier expressed the hope that the situation will be solved by Estonia's membership in the WTO, because Russia is also aspiring to become a member of the organization. It is unlikely, however, that Russia will become a member of the WTO before 2003.
SEEING STARS: A classification commission found on March 16 Tallinn's Grand Hotel Mercure and Park Hotel to be up to the four star standard. Tourism Office deputy general director Anne Hermlin said that the commission also discussed an application by Hotel St. Petersburg, but found that it will comply with four star requirements after certain upgrades on services to disabled clients. In the near future, the commission will decide on the assignment of two stars to the Kuressaare Sanatoorium Hotel.
TWICE AS MANY ESTONIANS ON INTERNET: Up to the end of the year, the three Baltic states will have about 850,000 Internet users in total, Einars Bindemanis, president of ISP Delfi said. Currently about 280,000 Internet users are located in the Baltic countries, of which Estonia has 150,000, Latvia, 70,000 and Lithuania, 60,000. A major boost on the Internet market can be expected in Latvia and Lithuania, because of comparatively small figures at this time, Bindemanis said.
BAD NEWS ON ST PADDY'S: MeritaNordbanken Latvia concluded business last year with losses at 1,268,000 lats ($2.15 million), the bank's president, Esa Toumi, said on March 17. He attributed the losses to continued allocation of resources for the bank's development and creation of accruals.
PREATONI SELLS INVESTORS ON VEF:A new commercial center of 46,000 m2 from Italian entrepreneur Ernesto Preatoni's company on the property of the former VEF factory will be opened in the spring of 2002. All in all, $60 million- $65 million will be invested in the center, and 1,000 people will be employed daily, Preatoni announced March 16. Plans envisage a supermarket, several specialty stores, a mall of 70-100 small and medium-sized stores, cafes and restaurants, as well as 10 cinemas and recreation areas. A tender for construction will be announced this summer.
COMMERCIAL REGISTER GOES TECH: Faster client service and better transparency are the this year's key objectives for Estonia's commercial register which has been criticised for red tape and slow handling of requests, business daily Aripaev reported March 17. According to Viljar Peep, head of the register service, the register plans to invest in information technology so that with the help of computers, the register will be able to speed up handling of inquiries on company backgrounds. When the data is computerized, it should be possible to publicly follow processing of commercial registry documents via Internet.
PENSIONS SORTED OUT: The Lithuanian and Belarussian Ministries of Social Security and Labor signed an agreement on the procedure of calculating, transferring and payment of pensions and allowances in Vilnius on March 17. The agreement had to be signed in compliance with the provisions in the Lithuanian-Belarussian agreement on social security, the ministry's press center reported. The agreement stipulates that pensions and allowances are calculated by respective institutions in both countries in compliance with the existing laws and regulations. When a pensioner moves to another country, his pension is transferred to the country of his residence. In cases when a person spent part of his working life one country paying towards his pension and then moved to another country, the old age pension is calculated jointly by both countries according to the respective laws of each country.