Nordic idea fix makes businessmen angry

  • 2000-11-23
  • TBT staff / BNS

TALLINN – "Estonia is a Nordic rather than Baltic country and develops faster than its neighbors [Latvia and Lithuania]," stated Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the Baltic Development Forum in Malmo, Sweden this September.

Those words completely exasperated Estonian entrepreneurs that have business in Latvia and Lithuania.

Four leaders of Estonian business organizations - Aadu Lukas, head of the Estonian Business Association; Juri Kao, president of the Central Association of Employers and Industry; Toomas Luman, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Riivo Sinijarv of the Small Enterprises' Association - addressed the prime minister Mart Laar in the mid October and asked him to curb the political verbosity of the Ilves. Laar, Ilves and the businessmen met in October. The Estonian weekly Eesti Ekspress wrote on Nov. 16 that the leaders proposed Ilves should think then speak. Major Baltic bank Hansapank could not sign an agreement on buying Lithuania's largest bank supposedly due to Ilves' statements in Malmo.

Ilves countered later that one-third of Estonian exports goes to Finland, 18 percent to Sweden, seven percent to Latvia and a little over two percent to Lithuania. This argument alone proves Estonia belongs to Scandinavia, said Ilves.

Kao is one of the owners Ganiger Ltd, a company participating in the privatization of Estonian Railway along with its American partner Baltic Rail Service.

According to Eesti Ekspress weekly, during the meetings this year, Laar and the businessmen also discussed issues related to privatization of Estonian railway.