Local government leaders in Estonia announced that their personal income tax receipts must be restored to pre-recession levels, reports ERR. Managing director of the Association of Estonian Cities, Juri Voigemast, noted that the government reduced the local governments’ revenue base by one-fifth in the ‘crisis’ years. Last year’s ten percent drop has been amplified by the lowering of the tax rate. “It would be realistic to restore even 0.1 to 0.2 percent per year, or give some kind of a signal to local governments that attention is being devoted to resolving their problems,” said Voigemast. Estonian Minister for Regional Affairs Siim Kiisler said the Mnistry of Finance of Estonia is in negotiations with a number of municipalities in financial difficulty, but added that administrative reform of Estonia’s 226 municipalities would actually be the answer. “I think there could be ten times fewer municipalities than there are now,” Kiisler said.
Russian regional development Minister Viktor Basargin and Estonian regional minister Siim Kiisler signed on Feb. 18 in Tallinn a memorandum of reciprocal understanding on regional and cross-border cooperation between the Estonian interior ministry and Russian regional development ministry, reports LETA. The memorandum is proof of working cross-border cooperation, said Kiisler. “Today’s meeting with the Russian regional development minister was already the third, but it took place on Estonian soil for the first time. This is a big step for developing cross-border cooperation at the government level, giving impetus for initiating and implementing specific joint projects,” he said. In addition to signing the memorandum, the ministers discussed common implementation of four major Estonian-Russian investment projects in the framework of the Estonia-Latvia-Russia cross-border cooperation program of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument. 19 million euros has been decided to be allocated for these projects. The Estonian state contributes an additional 9 million euros for Estonian-Russian bilateral projects.
A tragic fire claimed ten lives in a fire in an orphanage for disabled children in Haapsalu, northwest Estonia, on Feb. 20, reports news agency LETA. The rescue center received a message about the fire at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday, West Estonian Rescue Center spokesman Viktor Saaremets reported. When fire-fighters reached the scene just 3 minutes later, the wooden building was in flames. Rescuers brought from the building ten bodies and evacuated the rest. The victims included three girls and five boys from the age of 7-16, and two male adult residents of the institution aged 20 and 21. There were a total of 37 children and 9 adults in the building at the time of the fire. Two people were taken to the hospital. All residents of the orphanage had serious disabilities, many in need of a wheelchair. Saaremets said that the building’s fire safety systems were checked just a month ago and everything was in order.