The Estonian Social Democratic Party (SDP) elected Sven Mikser as their new chairman on Saturday. 36-year-old Mikser joined SDP from the Centre Party in 2005. In 2002-2003 he was the defense minister and currently is an MP. He beat previous chairman Juri Pihl, who was elected the chairman of the party in March 2009 and former European Parliament member Marianne Mikko. Mikser received 309 votes, Pihl 124 and Mikko 39. Surprisingly, Pihl announced that he intends to resign from the post as deputy mayor of Tallinn, but will not resign from the party altogether, National Broadcasting reports. “The coalition in Tallinn is one of the few power alliances where the Social Democratic Party belongs and thus the deputy mayor’s post should belong to a politician who participates in leadership of the party,” said Pihl. He stated that he will continue working in Tallinn city council’s SDP faction and has not yet decided whether to compete at the spring Riigikogu elections but he will certainly not resign from the party.
A comedy directed by Estonian Veiko Ounpuu “The Temptation of St. Tony” has been put forward as one of 65 films being considered for the American Motion Picture Academy’s Oscar as the Best Foreign Language Film. The film focuses on the life of a middle-aged, mid-level manager whose life is spinning out of control, and is seen as a parody of the new, morally-bankrupt capitalism found in Eastern Europe. It was also included in the official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The final list of Best Foreign Language Film nominees will be announced on January 25, 2011, and the winner will be named at the 83rd Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles on February 27. Ounpuu’s previous feature film, Autumn Ball, received 15 awards at international festivals.
A new Estonian traffic law which comes into effect on January 1, 2011 will make it mandatory for all pedestrians to wear a reflector when it is dark or visibility is poor, National Broadcasting reports. All pedestrians, both in towns or on the highways must be wearing a visible reflector. Currently the requirement is valid only for pedestrians walking outside towns or villages, i.e. in places where there are no street lights. During the past 12 months (October 2009 - September 2010), over 360 pedestrians have been involved in traffic accidents. 236 of these accidents have taken place in broad daylight and 128 when it was dark. 15 pedestrians have been killed during that period.
Finnish customs officials believe that more than 100 people with a criminal history travel from Tallinn to Helsinki each day. Customs are constantly confiscating contraband, such as illegal drugs, tobacco and alcohol intended for resale, as well as tasers and other illegal weapons. The authorities have captured about 200 people who are wanted by police. In the same time period, Finnish maritime customs have seized 230,000 euro worth of goods from passengers leaving for Estonia suspected as having been stolen in Finland. Routine inspections on transport to and from Estonia came to an end in 2007 when Estonia entered the Schengen zone, but customs authorities have the right to search suspicious passengers at random.