Estonia in brief

  • 2004-02-05
The Tax and Customs Board arrested the bank accounts of the Human Rights Information Center, a well-known NGO focused on noncitizen issues in Estonia, on Feb. 2. According to the Tax and Customs Board, the center owes approximately 17,000 euros to the state in unpaid taxes. Aleksei Semyonov, head of the NGO, called the freezing of the bank accounts a repressive political move made in response to frank reports on the human rights issues the center has filed to the EU, the U.N. and other international organizations.

The Tallinn City Court cancelled the fine imposed on former Finance Minister Tonis Palts by the Tax and Customs Board last year. Palts was fined 500 euros for alleged tax fraud and mismanagement of accounting papers of his Pambos Holding OU.

From the beginning of February calls to mobile phones, service numbers and other towns in Estonia can be dialed without the zero that preceeds each number. The transition period during which both old and new dialing options could be used will end on April 30 when the National Communications Board will finally abolish the necessity of dialing the number zero first.

The Tartu city center suffered a five-hour blackout on the morning of Jan. 30. A stray cat accidentally short-circuited one of the transformers, which did not belong to Eesti Energia and was a piece of private property. As a result of the accident, power was cut off to several buildings of the Tartu University complex, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Tartu office of the Postimees daily and a number of shops.

Estonian municipalities may have to fire up to 4,000 schoolteachers because of the country's low birth rate, according to the Reform Party's education expert Andres Taimla. Taimla claimed the number of students would drop from the current 170,000 to 135,000 in two years, which will be insufficient to keep all of Estonia's 18,000 teachers employed. The Ministry of Education and Science confirmed the number of students is declining but stated the planned measures such as increasing teachers' workloads and limiting class sizes to 24 students would help keep teachers employed.