TALLINN -- Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has described the country'sentry into the Schengen visa-free zone on Dec. 21 as the "event of the year".
Enlargement of the Schengen area will enable citizens of Estoniato travel freely throughout most of the European Union, without having to waitin queues on the border or get a visa, Ansip said on a broadcast of theRussian-language Radio 4 program.
The prime minister also described as positive the rapideconomic growth of the past year as well as the beginning of an economic 'softlanding'.
"The cooling can be seen as a positive phenomenon too,since that's what we wanted," Ansip said. "You can't go on at a [GDPgrowth] rate of 11 percent for a long time, but 6.4 percent is alreadygood," he added.
The most negative phenomenon in the outgoing year,according to Ansip, was the high inflation recorded in Estonia and elsewhere in the world.
As regards the events of late April when riots broke out inTallinn over the government's moves to startthe relocation of the Soviet soldier monument from Tonismagi, the primeminister said that the impact of those events will continue to be felt infuture.
"It is not right to start dividing the country'spopulation into Estonians and Russians, to put them against one another-- Estonia needs all the people who live here," he said.
Ansip said that the events of late April proved to thepeople living in Estonia that Estonia is a sovereign country whose laws are passed in the Riigikogu, notin the Kremlin.
"Nor is it correct to claim that we are governed bythe European Union -- Estonia itself is the EU, we ourselves assumeobligations and we ourselves fulfill them, so that our people could be free, sothat it would be easier for businesspeople to work," said the primeminister.