Parliament took another step toward becoming an online-friendly nation by allowing business owners to register new companies within two hours via the Internet. The new registration system will remove the need to submit paperwork to public notaries and government offices. The process, which becomes active on Jan. 1, will check information against the national ID card system. While the current paper registration takes 15 days, the Justice Ministry promised online registration would take a maximum of two days, but could be as short as two hours.
Afghani President Hamid Karzai thanked Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip for the nation's contribution to bolstering security in Afghanistan. On Dec. 10, Ansip undertook an official visit to Afghanistan, where Estonian troops are serving as part of NATO's operations. Karzai told Ansip that Estonia's help was very welcome. "We are very thankful for the contribution of your soldiers who are risking their lives to bring a better life to our people," said Karzai, adding that Estonian soldiers were brave and deserved high praise. He voiced hope that there will come a time when Afghanistan can do something for Estonia. Ansip said Estonia was ready to contribute 700,000 kroons (44,700 euros) to the civilian reconstruction fund and funds to equip the Afghan armed forces, the PM said.
Former Environment Minister Villu Reiljan prompted outrage over a speech in which he suggested that firebombing attacks against an Estonian media proprietor were justified. Reiljan, the head of the People's Union party, said the attacks were justified because of the harm Hans H Luik - owner of the weekly news-magazine Eesti Ekspress - had caused through stories in his newspaper. Luik was the target of several attacks in which vandals threw molotov cocktails at the houses of his mother-in-law and a close advisor on Nov. 28. The firebombs caused some damage to the properties and left one man hospitalized with burns.
Heating costs will rise by 13 percent next winter due to an increase in VAT rates to match EU taxation levels. On Jul. 1, 2007, VAT costs on central heating, coal, fuel briquettes and firewood will increase 5 - 18 percent, while gas costs are also due to rise, the Economy Ministry said. Some Social Democrat politicians called for the government to pay the difference in VAT costs to help ease the transition for customers. Such a subsidy was provided for some low-income households when an increase in shale oil costs saw power bills rise.