After wrangling over leadership questions, Estonia's conservative parties Pro Patria and Res Publica have put aside their differences and finalized their merger. The new party, the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, submitted documents to the official party register as a merged center-right political party on Oct. 23. The two parties together hold 32 seats in the 101 seat Riigikogu (Estonia's parliament) and are the main voice of opposition. Their official merger was delayed when members came to an impasse over who would lead the new party in the upcoming general election, scheduled for March 2007.
The nation will pass another connectivity milestone when its 1,000th wireless internet zone becomes active at the end of this year. There are already 869 registered working WiFi areas across the country, and the WiMax.ee Web site said the number would pass 1,000 by December. At the start of the year, the nation was covered by 680 areas, with 132 new connections coming online in the first half of 2006.
Estonia has tied with Norway for sixth place in the annual Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index, published on Oct. 24. The report analyzes 168 countries, evaluating the restrictions placed on the press. Estonia ranked 11th on the table in 2005, and moved up to share sixth place with Norway in 2006. Latvia placed 10th, alongside Hungary, Slovenia and Portugal, while Lithuania and Britain tied at 27th place.
Trafigura, the Dutch company that chartered the controversial ship the Probo Koala, has issued a letter to the Estonian media rejecting claims that it was to blame for the environmental catastrophe on the Ivory Coast. The company hired an Estonia public relations company to battle negative publicity over its ship, which recently departed Estonian waters. Trafigura said it did not refine gasoline onboard, but increased its octane level using accepted practices. The company stated that it was upset by the deaths and illnesses on the Ivory Coast, but said it had undertaken all procedures correctly.