Estonia embarrassed over UNESCO debts

  • 2001-10-18
  • TBT staff
TALLINN - Estonia paid its UNESCO member fee at the last minute to prevent being thrown out of the organization, losing its right to vote, and finding itself among outcast countries like Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, and Yugoslavia.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's 31st session of the general conference is from Oct. 15 to Nov. 3 this year. Every nation's member fee must be paid before the conference starts.

Estonia has owed UNESCO since 1992 due to confusion over the country's member toll. In 1996 Estonia admitted the debt and accepted the payback schedule.

But by 2000 the government stopped paying and as of mid-October was faced with a 4 million kroon ($235,300) debt.

Jaak Saks, coordinator and Web-master of the Estonian commission of UNESCO, told The Baltic Times that part of the money was transferred at the end of last week.

"But anyway, it was an embarrassing thing to happen," he said.

On Oct. 12, the Culture Ministry transferred $155,000 of Estonia's debt to UNESCO.

In 2002 the ministry plans to pay about 6 million kroons in membership fees to various international organizations - over a half of that going to UNESCO.

The decision to pay off the UNESCO debt has also put a damper on Culture Ministry plans for other projects next year. Jaak Kangilaski, chair of the Estonian commiss├łon of UNESCO, told the daily Postimees that the country has the right to forgo membership, like the U.S.A. did in 1984, but added such a move may well hamper efforts to join the European Union.