Eesti in brief - 2008-03-12

  • 2008-03-12
The chief of the armed forces, Lt Gen Ants Laaneots, visited Estonian troops serving in Iraq this week. Laenots said the formers reservists were professional soldiers who were as good as allied troops. "The platoon acted professionally and cool-handedly out in the terrain," the general said. "The personnel of the Kuperjanov Battalion have made obvious progress in the three months of the mission, they have gained self-confidence and the experience one can only get in real operations," he said. Laenots also met up with leaders of the NATO training mission in Iraq who briefed him about the state of the Iraqi forces.

The prime minister held a meeting with Georgian opposition leaders this week and urged them to find common ground with the Georgian government.  "You need to carry on reforms," Andrus Ansip said.  "This will not be easy, but they are necessary," he said. Ansip also reiterated Estonia's support for Georgia's attempt to join the EU and NATO.  "Georgia can look to Estonia as a friend and Estonia is ready to share its experience of the recent past," he said. Ansip recommended that the Georgian opposition devise political programs looking into the future so that people could choose between programs rather than personalities.

Visa-free access to the United States next year could be on the cards for Estonian citizens, European Union, European Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said today. "Provided the talks move fast enough, there's political good will on both (U.S. and EU) sides, support at the highest level of the European Council in June and the opinion of the European Parliament, then extension of the visa waiver policy (to EU states that are not yet part of it) before the end of the year is possible,"  Frattini said.  U.S. Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Richard C. Barth opinioned in mid-February that  Estonia could join the visa waiver program within this year. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has expressed the same view. Estonia will sign a memorandum of understanding with the United States on Wednesday as a prerequisite for joining the visa waiver program.

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves' went down a storm in a speech he gave to the European Parliament in Strasboug this week. The MEP gave the President a standing ovation at the end of the address. One MEP  Christopher Beazley, a British Conservative told  reporters  that it was the best speech he had ever heard in the European Parliament as BNS reports
Rihard Piks from the EPP-ED group, a former foreign minister of Latvia, also  praised Ilves' speech. "The speech was excellent, perhaps because Ilves has very good knowledge of global and local politics as he was himself a member of the European parliament onece," Piks said.
Ilves spoke of the past but also spelt out a vision for the future of the European  Union. Ilves is also to meet with EU leaders, among them the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.