Estonian Defense Minister Mart Laar met with four members from the United States Senate who were visiting Estonia last week to discuss regional security, cyber defense and participation in international operations, reports LETA. At the meeting, Minister of Defense Laar emphasized Estonia’s notable contribution to the international operation in Afghanistan and in developing the cyber security of NATO Member States. “Regardless of being a small country, Estonia is making considerable efforts in helping to ensure the safety of NATO member states. To achieve this, the Estonian government has set a clear goal of increasing defense expenditures to the NATO-approved two percent of gross domestic product by 2012,” commented Laar. The delegation from the United States consisted of Senators Jon L. Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Mike Crapo and Ron Johnson. The senators were also to visit NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and the International Center for Defense Studies.
The number of persons with undetermined citizenship who live in Estonia on the basis of a valid residence right or residence permit fell last week below 100,000, reports National Broadcasting. “Right after regaining independence, persons with undetermined citizenship formed over 30 percent of the Estonian population. In 20 years, the number has constantly fallen, forming now 8 percent of Estonia’s population,” said Interior Ministry internal security deputy chancellor Erkki Koort. The main claim against taking Estonian citizenship these people have is the visa free travel to Russia that they would lose. Parents with undetermined citizenship can apply for Estonian citizenship for their child in simplified order before the child is 15 years old. Around two-thirds of parents use that possibility.
An average Estonians family spends 18.8 percent of its budget on housing costs, which is more than 4 percent higher than in 2007-2008, shows a study by Swedbank’s Institute for Private Finances, reports Eesti Paevaleht Online. In 2007-08, housing costs formed 14.3 percent of the budget of an average household. Swedbank’s Institute for Private Finances manager Piret Suitsu said that an increase of heating VAT, from 5 to 20 percent, and a general increase of energy prices has affected the cost of heating: the result of which heating costs have surged by 56 percent in four years. She said that, for example, the heating bill for the heating season that just ended in a 71 square meter 3-room apartment in Tallinn was up to 720 euros, 64 percent more than four years ago.