Estonia. Center Party Interior Minister Ain Seppik resigned in February after he was accused of sentencing some young people to prison on political grounds during the Soviet era.
At the beginning of the year, the Nordic Council of Ministers’ campaign against trafficking in women presented data that showed that some 30 Estonian companies advertise well-paid jobs, which in reality are prostitution at home and abroad. It is estimated that around 500 Estonians, most of them young, are sent to the Nordic countries or other Western Europe each year.
As a future NATO member, Estonia joined a group of ten Eastern European countries, the so-called Vilnius Group, which in February expressed support for the US line against Iraq.
According to Countryaah.com, Estonia Independence Day is August 20. The campaign before the March parliamentary elections was largely about taxes. The left-wing Center Party wanted to reintroduce a progressive tax scale, with low taxes for low-income earners, instead of the prevailing tax rate of 26% for all. The Center Party received the most votes in the election, taking 28 of Parliament’s 101 seats. However, the new Conservative party Res Publica received almost as many votes and also took 28 seats. Both parties would have been able to form a majority government in the same way they govern Tallinn together. But Res Publica’s leader Juhan Parts, who went to elections with demands for law and order and pledged to fight corruption, said he could work with everyone except the center and its leader Edgar Savisaar.
Instead, Prime became prime minister for a coalition between Res Publica, the Liberal Reform Party and the Rural Party of the People’s Union. The three parties, which together had 60 seats in Parliament, agreed to reduce the tax rate for everyone to 20% in three years. At the end of the year, however, the League of Nations revolted against the government’s tax policy and managed to slow the rate of tax cuts.
Ahead of the September referendum on Estonia’s EU membership, the Center Party was the only party in parliament that stood on the sidelines. Jasidan won with 67% of the vote. “Estonia has returned to Europe,” declared leading politicians, who will thus see the country take its place in the EU in May 2004.
The Minister of Education resigns
20th of November
Minister of Education Mailis Reps from the Center Party submits her resignation application after it was revealed that she used the government’s cars for private purposes. Among other things, a driver at the Ministry of Education drove her children to and from school. Reps is replaced by Jaak Aab, who in turn is succeeded as Minister of Social Affairs Anneli Ott.
The Minister of the Interior is forced to leave his post
Interior Minister Mart Helme, leader of the right-wing populist party Ekre, is resigning after a storm of criticism from colleagues in the government. Helme had in a radio program spoken disparagingly about the future president of the United States Joe Biden and said that he won the presidential election through cheating. Defense Minister Juri Luik accuses Helme of undermining Estonia’s security by jeopardizing relations with the United States. Helme had already demanded to resign from the opposition since he said in October that he did not like homosexuals and urged them to leave for Sweden. Helme is replaced as Minister of the Interior by party comrade Alar Laneman.
Sanctions are imposed on more people in Belarus
20th of November
Estonia and the other Baltic countries impose a travel ban on two Belarusian ministers and 26 others. They thus end up on the Baltic countries’ sanctions list, which now includes over 150 people in addition to President Lukashenko. Sports Minister Sergei Kravchuk ends up on the list when he is accused of putting pressure on athletes who spoke out against Lukashenko. Information Minister Igor Lutsky is also blacklisted as being held responsible for shutting down the internet in order to stop protests. The Baltic countries are moving harder towards Belarus than the EU as a whole. The EU has so far imposed sanctions on 59 Belarusians.
The ambassador to Belarus is called home
In solidarity with Lithuania and Poland, Estonia is recalling the country’s ambassador from Belarus. Both Lithuania and Poland have previously recalled their ambassadors from Minsk after the countries were asked to scale down their respective representation in the capital. Estonia’s Foreign Minister calls Belarus’s actions inappropriate. Belarus accuses Lithuania and Poland of interfering in the country’s internal affairs by backing the forces questioning Alexander Lukashenko’s victory in the Belarusian presidential election in August.