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  • The Baltic perspective on the crisis in Ukraine
    two issues the escalation of hostile actions by Russia and NATO s preparedness to grant the Baltic republics support within the alliance Although a direct military attack from Russia is still considered unlikely the possible hybrid war remains an important challenge for the Baltic states In a hybrid war the aggressor achieves its goal by using means which do not activate NATO s collective defence measures For Russia one such goal is to weaken the position and the credibility of the Baltic states ruling elite both domestically and internationally One of the tools in this policy involves influencing the election results by fuelling social tensions mainly within the Russian minority and compromising the current elites in the public sphere Another goal which Russia has is to disturb investments which threaten the interests of Russian companies and business by influencing the economic and energy policy using economic and energy blockades or even by destroying energy port and transit infrastructure In the security sphere Russia s goal is to counteract the attempts at strengthening NATO s military presence in the three Baltic states to sustain the fear that a confrontation between the forces of NATO and Russia could take place in their territory and to weaken the trust which the states of NATO have in the Baltic states political elites and services Preparations for a possible hybrid war The United States the Baltic states strategic ally in the area of security has repeatedly criticised the low level of defence spending in Lithuania and Latvia Estonia joined in the criticism as the only country whose defence budget corresponds to the NATO standard of 2 of GDP US 479 million in 2013 2 it claims the right to accuse its Baltic partners of impeding the defence cooperation with NATO Meanwhile in Latvia with its defence budget amounting to 0 9 of GDP US 291 million and Lithuania 0 8 of GDP US 354 million the defence investments have been reduced due to spending cuts introduced as a result of the economic crisis The lack of consensus within political elites over the issue was also evident It was eventually reached in both countries only when the threat posed by Russia grew stronger It seems that by 2020 Lithuania and Latvia will also increase their defence budgets to 2 of GDP which will help maintain a high level of NATO s military involvement in the Baltic region and guarantee the continuity of NATO exercises in the Baltic states territory already underway for several months now 3 The changes have already been evident in the level of defence spending planned in the 2015 state budgets Lithuania s spending is expected to reach US 518 million 1 11 of GDP Estonia s should reach US 512 million 2 05 and Latvia s US 315 million 1 The authorities of Estonia have assessed the FSB s abduction of the Estonian officer as an act of aggression an element of a hybrid war NATO consultations pursuant to Article 4 were considered In the context of other cases of illegal crossing of the border on the Narva River including by two Russian former KGB officers Estonia took measures to unilaterally demarcate the border so that it would be clearly visible and could be properly monitored making it more difficult for Russia to repeat similar provocative actions in the future Latvia has also been forced to unilaterally demarcate its border as Russia has refused to cooperate on this issue Estonia prepared a new draft national defence law with its focus on new challenges in the security sphere both in peacetime and during war 4 It provides for the role of the prime minister and the government to be strengthened in managing the state s defence and is intended to facilitate the decision making process concerning emergency situations It is scheduled to come into force on 1 January 2016 Lithuania has also joined in the preparations for a possible hybrid war The law on the use of arms in peacetime has been drafted as a new legal solution 5 Should foreign military troops appear on Lithuanian territory the country s president would be entitled to sign a decree introducing martial law In connection with the opinion shared by the Lithuanian government that the potential aggressor can be deterred by the country s preparedness for defence alone Lithuania managed to create its own rapid response forces within several months As part of these plans Lithuania decided to maintain the combat readiness of approximately one third of its permanent ground military personnel as from 1 November 2014 6 The task of these troops is to react to all types of provocative acts including nationalist motivated conflicts attacks of groups of armed individuals wearing unmarked uniforms foreign soldiers infiltrating Lithuania via the border the violation of military transport procedures as well as certain threats emerging in neighbouring countries The decision to create this formation was motivated not only by fears that the process of building the NATO spearhead 7 might be prolonged but also by the willingness to demonstrate to NATO that Lithuania is ready to take greater responsibility for its own security and that of the region In the debate on the creation of rapid response forces the importance of territorial defence units has been emphasised including voluntary units operating locally these are considered more effective in estimating the level of threat in its initial phase The problem however involves the fact that the regions where the proportion of national minorities is the largest are the Polish minority Vilnius region and the Russian speaking minorities Visaginas Narva Riga and Daugavpils and that these would be the most vulnerable to the outbreak of a hybrid war In this case the territorial defence units would have to be composed of representatives of exactly those minorities which the authorities do not trust The debate has also focused on the reform of the army itself Only Estonia has retained compulsory military service and regular military training Lithuania has been attempting to replace conscription with the training of volunteers whose numbers have risen considerably in recent months in all three Baltic states The level of advancement of the volunteers training is not comparable with that of the regular reserves Regardless of the level of training and equipment of the Baltic armies the number of soldiers in active military service 11 800 in Lithuania 5 300 in Latvia 5 700 in Estonia and the reserves 6 700 in Lithuania 7 800 in Latvia 30 000 in Estonia 8 is still too small which is why the issue of a possible return to conscription in Lithuania and Latvia has been the subject of recent debates Estonia s specialisation in cyberspace defence has inspired other states to try to identify their own specialisations which could serve as their contribution to the cooperation with NATO but also a response to the needs of the region In 2013 Lithuania opened its NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence and in 2014 Latvia established the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence to focus also on Russia s soft power in the communications space Lithuania and Estonia have made their air force bases available for the purposes of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in Šiauliai and Ämari In the context of NATO s increased operational presence in the Baltic Sea Latvia has offered to adapt the post Soviet military port in Liepāja along with the nearby airport to serve as NATO s sea base for the purpose of actions it carries out in the region The port itself a Latvian navy base has already been used by NATO troops The decision concerning this base however will prove more difficult than the previous ones because account must be taken of certain threat factors such as the possible resistance on the part of local groups supporting Russia s policy Today ca 40 000 Russian speaking people live in Liepāja one quarter of whom hold Russian citizenship They receive financial support from local Russian business circles and the embassy Allies of the Kremlin and Russian propaganda To revive Russian propaganda Moscow has re activated its lobby in the Baltic states This action is aimed at challenging the policy of these states and to weaken their citizens level of trust The Baltic states are unable to fully neutralise these influences therefore certain groups and individuals supporting the Kremlin s policy and interests operate officially in the public sphere Their activity was evident right from the first stage of the Ukrainian Russian conflict The mayor of Tallinn and leader of the Centre Party Edgar Savisaar warned against the results of sanctions and joined Riga s Russian mayor Nil Ushakov in attempting to persuade society of the economic benefits resulting from the cooperation with Vladimir Putin s administration The mayor of the Latvian town of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs joined in the criticism of NATO s military presence seen as the presence of an occupying army in the territory of the Baltic states He attempted to spread terror among the town s residents claiming that Latvia might become a battlefield in the confrontation between the USA and Russia Criticism has also been voiced in relation to the dubious position taken by Latvia s president Andris Bērziņš who refrained from condemning Russia s actions in Ukraine and even reiterated his invitation for president Putin to visit Latvia In the opinion of the governments of the Baltic states Russia has been waging an information war against them for many years now and has also exerted economic pressure On 7 October 2014 the Lithuanian Seimas rejected the amendments to the act on the media submitted by President Grybauskaitė The amendments involved a restriction of the retransmission of Russian broadcasts and introduced a requirement for at least 90 of the broadcasts retransmitted in Lithuania to be aired in the official EU language versions The Baltic media are not only unable to fight Russian propaganda they in fact support it indirectly by neglecting certain other information areas The problems of the region have not been covered by the local media which if anything prefer to inform the public of the particularly shocking scandals which occur in neighbouring countries This prevents the building of common interests and mutual trust among the three states Similarly the Baltic states have failed to reach an agreement on the establishment of a common TV station to broadcast in Russian in order to combat Russian propaganda Consequently the operation of Russian television has been temporarily limited in Lithuania and Latvia In Estonia it has been decided that such limitations are ineffective because Russian propaganda spreads via satellite TV and the Internet Nonetheless in early January 2015 Estonia joined the initiative proposed by the foreign ministers of Lithuania the United Kingdom and Denmark calling for the European Commission to adopt a common EU action plan to counteract Russian propaganda The Baltic states have devoted a lot of energy to monitoring the mood within the Russian speaking minority in Estonia and Latvia and within both the Polish and Russian minority in Lithuania The popularity of the Russian media helps sustain a positive opinion of Putin s policy among the Russian speaking population 9 The Latvian Security Police has observed an increase in the number of Internet users whose task is to create the impression that large groups within Latvian society including in particular the Russian speaking population support Russia s policy and oppose the presence of US and NATO troops in the region The tensions between the minorities and the governments have continued to exist relating to issues such as the naturalisation policy in Latvia and Estonia the right to speak the minority language and to receive tuition in the case of the Polish and Russian minority in all three states The situation in Ukraine can be considered as a warning for the minorities Today the potential for organising protests in the form of mass demonstrations and riots similar to those staged in the past in Latvia concerning the restriction of education opportunities for minority groups and in Estonia the relocation of the Bronze Soldier is much smaller although the demands have remained the same The awareness of the difference in the standards of living in the EU and Russia contributes to limiting the radicalism within the minorities and weakens separatist tendencies which is also confirmed by representatives of local communities Despite the sense of marginalisation within society the majority of the Russian speaking residents of Estonia and Latvia have already been granted citizenship of their states and enjoy civil rights including the right to vote also in Lithuania Poles have actively participated in the country s political life The governments of the Baltic states however prefer to monitor the activities of the minorities including using the special services and are even considering further limitations for instance in the field of education rather than engage in an active dialogue concerning their rights Currently the nationalist tendencies within Baltic societies fuelled by the increased threat from Russia and the persistent conviction that the minorities have no loyalty towards the state have been impeding the chances to overcome the tensions and the ethnic division within Baltic societies The difficult economic ties with Russia The governments of the Baltic states have been reluctant to comment on the results of Russia s embargo on foodstuffs imported from the EU announced in August 2014 in response to EU sanctions which the Baltic states support Attempts have been made to expand the list of Russian citizens banned from entering the EU and no support has been granted to demands voiced by the influential farmers lobby in these states to be granted compensation by the EU For the Baltic states the embargo has been equivalent to the loss of an important export market agricultural produce dairy products processed meat vegetables and revenues from the transfer of goods For Lithuania and Estonia Russia is the main export destination with 16 of total exports whereas for Latvia it is the second largest export market with 11 The greatest losses will be suffered by Lithuania in 2013 the value of goods subject to the export embargo to Russia amounted to EUR 910 million which equates to 2 6 of Lithuania s GDP and 3 7 of total exports In the case of Estonia and Latvia the losses amounted to respectively EUR 72 and 67 million 0 4 and 0 3 of GDP i e 0 6 of either of the countries exports volume 10 No quick reorientation of the directions of exports or change in the production profile is possible although the authorities have been making such attempts 11 The Baltic transport companies handling the export of goods to Russia as well as sea ports have also suffered certain losses the Lithuanian port of Klaipėda which mostly handles the transit of goods to Belarus has been relatively least affected In spite of the necessary correction of GDP growth forecasts the rate of economic growth in the Baltic states has continued to be one of the highest in the EU currently the EU s leader in this respect is Lithuania with 2 8 whereas for Latvia the figure is 2 4 and for Estonia 1 7 12 The exports losses have been offset by increased level of domestic consumption and investments which has resulted from the inflow of remittances by expatriate workers When introducing the embargo Russia did not use the full spectrum of possibilities of targeting the economic interests of the Baltic states For example the export of canned sprats has not been blocked this would have particularly affected Latvian exporters It is likely that Latvia may also become the target of other actions the Russian processed oil exporting companies have announced that in January a decision will be taken to continue or terminate their cooperation with the ports in Riga and Ventspils excluding the export of Russian coal however Were Russia to stop the transit of goods via this country cargo from Russia accounts for as much as 80 of foreign goods transit via Latvia this would contribute to a sharp drop in the revenues generated by the Latvian ports and railways Russia would also have to exert influence on Belarus and other countries of the Eurasian Economic Union to discontinue their cooperation with the Baltic ports Klaipėda in particular In the context of the events in Ukraine energy security has again become a key issue and the argument quoting the high costs of limiting energy dependence on Russia has lost some ground For many years energy independence for the Baltic states has been a very distant prospect Energy has been one of the most significant areas of the Baltic regional cooperation shared use of the local infrastructure and the development of electrical energy and gas exchange markets could guarantee the region s independence and integrate the Baltic markets with other EU energy markets For this to be possible the Baltic states would have to unify their energy policies and shape their relations with Russia in a convergent manner Meanwhile only Lithuania has managed to launch multilevel measures to reduce its energy dependence on Russia in spite of resistance from pro Russian groups slowing down this process The key element of Vilnius s strategy has been the implementation of the Lithuanian LNG terminal project 13 completed in December 2014 The prospect of a diversification of gas supplies will considerably change energy cooperation in the Baltic region where so far Gazprom has not only been shaping the prices but also using its gas monopoly as an instrument of economic and political pressure Estonia too seems to be determined to increase its independence However its key projects the LNG terminal and the pipeline crossing the Gulf of Finland depend to a large extent on its cooperation with Finland which so far has been rather difficult The authorities of Latvia where Gazprom s position has been the strongest have focused on negotiating favourable terms for long term cooperation with

    Original URL path: http://www.baltictimes.com/the_baltic_perspective_on_the_crisis_in_ukraine/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Lithuania Finance Minister urges World Bank to make Baltics donor countries
    growing economy and welfare in just a few decades As this year Lithuania joined the eurozone making the unity of the Baltic States more than symbolic it would be a logical step to complete yet another process of transformation the minister said Jim Yong Kim assessed the reforms Lithuania has implemented and promised to take into consideration the arguments made by the Baltic countries regarding the reclassification of their status Latvian Finance Minister Janis Reirs who also met with Jim Yong Kim said as a result of focused work the Baltic countries have been developing fast proving themselves as professional and competent partners to international organizations and as countries whose opinions are increasingly respected This is a historic moment when the attitude toward the Baltic countries begins to change and they are given the chance to act as advisors This opens up new opportunities for the Baltic countries to use their knowledge in order to influence international developments We are no longer among the countries that are recipients of aid we provide aid to other less developed countries of the world This is a matter of not only reputation but also broader cooperation opportunities explained Reirs Reirs also commented on Latvia s priorities during the Presidency of the Council of the European Union noting that these priorities were largely in line with the World Bank s activities including work on the Investment Plan for Europe Comments Related Articles Linkevicius to replace Grybauskaite at London conference Ukrainian NSDC Secretary Russia waging hybrid warfare on EU Lithuanian Health Minister to resign over corruption scandal Subscribe Advertise Log In Please enter your username and password Forgot your password Login Related Articles NATO to bolster presence in Eastern Europe Lithuanian Foreign Minister slams Ukraine over insufficient anti corruption measures Refugee family relocated to Latvia

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  • Test
    A WEEK e TBT FROM ONLY 0 99 EUR A WEEK PRINT FROM 1 76 EUR A WEEK Test 2015 02 12 sdfs sdfsdfsdf Comments Related Articles Subscribe Advertise Log In Please enter your username and password Forgot your password Login Related Articles Subscribe A subscription to The Baltic Times is a cost effective way of staying in touch with the latest Baltic news and views enabling you full access from anywhere with an Internet connection Subscribe Now About The Baltic Times The Baltic Times is an independent monthly newspaper that covers latest political economic business and cultural events in Estonia Latvia and Lithuania Born of a merger between The Baltic Independent and The Baltic Observer in 1996 The Baltic Times continues to bring objective comprehensive and timely information to those with an interest in this rapidly developing area of the Baltic Sea region Read more Our news analysis and commentaries provide readers with insight essential to understanding the three Baltic countries and their neighbors With offices in Tallinn and Vilnius and its headquarters in Riga The Baltic Times remains the only pan Baltic English language newspaper offering complete coverage of regional events Publisher Gene Zolotarev Editor in chief Richard

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  • News search
    Snow Meeting began on 15 January in Trakai near Vilnius which as it does every year brings together politicians officials a Read More Finnish ambassador to Estonia summoned over foreign minister s Russia comments The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Ambassador of Finland on Thursday in connection with the Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tu Read More Ten Estonian political parties 876 candidates submitted for parliamentary elections Ten Estonian political parties and thirteen independent candidates an overall total of 876 candidates had been submitted to the National Elect Read More We have adopted the euro successfully Lithuanian President As the fifteen day transition period for the adoption of the euro in Lithuania ends President Dalia Grybauskaite spoke positively about the pro Read More Most Latvians living abroad plan to return within five years new study Most Latvians living abroad are mostly planning to move back during the next five years according to a survey carried out by researchers from t Read More Estonia Lithuania UK Denmark call for EU action on Russian information warfare Latvia refuses to join The Estonian Lithuanian Danish and British Foreign Ministers will submit a joint letter to the European Union High Representative for Foreign Read More Kremlin supporting Italian journalist sues Estonia over ban on entry The Italian journalist and former member of the European Parliament Giulietto Chiesa who was subject to a prohibition on entry to Estonia has Read More Previous 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 Next Subscribe Advertise Log In Please enter your username and password Forgot your password Login Subscribe A subscription to The Baltic Times is a cost effective way of staying in touch with the latest Baltic news and views enabling you full access from anywhere with an Internet connection Subscribe Now About The

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  • Another defeat for Putin: very few Russians in Estonia want to leave
    dying Ivanov says Today 1 315 000 people live in Estonia About 70 percent of them are ethnic Estonians approximately 26 percent ethnic Russians and the rest are representatives of other nationalities In 1940 non ethnic Estonians constituted less than 10 percent of the population and their number included Old Believers who had been living there since the 17th century Urmas Ott an Estonian television host once told him Ivanov continues that At the beginning of the 1990s especially after the withdrawal of Russian forces from Estonia Estonians very much hoped that if not all ethnic Russians then their absolute majority would also leave Now it is different although Ott said Estonians remain a patient and tolerant people Perhaps Ivanov suggests precisely these qualities of the titular residents of Estonia are in a well known sense a guarantee of the preservation of the balance between the two language communities Not the main and not the only but one of the key factors Another factor is that ethnic Russians living in Estonia have been profoundly affected by Estonian values They are very different from their compatriots elsewhere by their greater restraint and greater moderation in their views Although he adds from the point of view of Estonians it wouldn t be a bad thing if they were even more so A major social political problem in Estonia the Russian journalist continues is the existence of a large number of residents who are without citizenship and the large number who are citizens of a foreign country in this case Russia Many in Estonia and Europe consider what Tallinn has done in this area far from far sighted but not everything is as it appears There are approximately 330 000 ethnic Russians in Estonia About 120 000 of them have Estonian citizenship about 100 000 are citizens of the Russian Federation and about 100 000 are non citizens who have many but not all the rights of those who are citizens of Estonia But at the same time Ivanov continues these non citizens who carry what are known as gray passports have in a certain respect more rights than do the citizens of either of the other countries They can go to Russia without a visa something Estonians cannot and they can go to the European Union without a visa something Russian citizens cannot That is a considerable advantage as is the fact that even in Soviet times Estonia was distinguished by a relatively high standard of living That still makes the country attractive but other non material qualities are almost certainly more important These include an independent judiciary which protects people even when they act in ways that some Estonians don t like Many in Russia followed the 2007 case of the Bronze soldier monument whose removal from the center of Tallinn to a military cemetery sparked protests But far fewer are aware that some of those arrested at the time later won their cases in Estonian courts or that such vindications

    Original URL path: http://www.baltictimes.com/another_defeat_for_putin_s__russian_world___very_few_russians_in_estonia_want_to_leave/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Former Kremlin advisor: Ukraine situation "impossible" in Baltics
    is no precedent for Latvia s Latgale Although there is a not small percent of nationalists and people who love the USSR especially among military retirees and their descendants their numbers aren t so large as to be in a position to destabilize the situation Moscow s complaints about the status of non citizens in Latvia and Estonia are also misplaced Sytin argues It is true that those two countries did not give automatic citizenship to people who had been moved in during the Soviet occupation but with time and especially after the two joined the EU they adopted state naturalization programs intended to end this status These programs have had the result of a continuing decline in the number of people without citizenship because now anyone can become a citizen who speaks the national language expresses a desire to obtain citizenship and passes an examination on the history and constitution of the respective countries At present there are 282 876 non citizens in Latvia 13 percent of the population and 87 833 non citizens in Estonia 6 5 percent Those numbers may not fall in the future as fast as in the past Sytin says because today many non citizens see that status as an advantage rather than a disadvantage Unlike the citizens of these two countries non citizens from them can travel to Russia without a visa and unlike Russian citizens they can travel to the European Union without restriction As a result many prefer to remain without citizenship for strictly pragmatic including business reasons It is thus not the problem many in Moscow believe it is Another non issue Sytin says is that of the status of the Russian language Officially Russian in the Baltic countries is a foreign language and the sphere of its use continues to decline But despite Moscow media reportage it is not banned and there is in Latvia no obligatory requirement to speak only Latvian Nonetheless Russian continues to be widely used There is a lively Russian language media Russian books published in the Baltic countries and in Russia are widely available Russian television is available everywhere and there are Russian theaters And because many businesses are linked to the Russian market there is a demand for Russian speakers That has led to the following interesting development he says Because there are fewer opportunities to learn Russian in state educational institutions there has been a growth in the number of private institutions offering Russian language instruction and the governments are in no way restricting this But what is more important is this many Russian speakers in the Baltic countries consider themselves patriots of those countries and the majority of Russian speakers there do not feel any nostalgia for the Soviet past Like Estonians and Latvians around them they can t imagine that they would have the opportunities they do had they remained inside the USSR An original version of this article was first published by The Interpreter Comments Related Articles Linkevicius to

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  • Latvia PM: I won't resign
    of Greens and Farmers which governs in coalition with Straujuma s party Unity have unofficially expressed the belief that Latvia will have a new prime minister within a year and that the party may put forward current Economy Minister Dana Reizniece Ozola for the post Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis has also been mentioned as a possible candidate but his chances are considerably smaller due to his spats with Aivars Lembergs the party s eminence grise and one of Latvia s so called oligarchs These representatives of the Union of Greens and Farmers claim that a new PM is being sought because they believe Straujuma does not want to head the government for four years Meanwhile politicians from Unity and All for Latvia For Fatherland and Freedom LNNK have told LETA off the record that they believe that the Union of Green and Farmers is deliberately attempting to weaken the positions of their coalition partners as well as Prime Minister Straujuma As reported Lembergs currently on trial for serious fraud and money laundering in Latvia was named one of the country s three so called oligarchs by former Latvian President Valdis Zatlers Comments Related Articles Linkevicius to replace Grybauskaite at London conference Ukrainian NSDC Secretary Russia waging hybrid warfare on EU Lithuanian Health Minister to resign over corruption scandal Subscribe Advertise Log In Please enter your username and password Forgot your password Login Related Articles NATO to bolster presence in Eastern Europe Lithuanian Foreign Minister slams Ukraine over insufficient anti corruption measures Refugee family relocated to Latvia left one child behind in Eritrea Report NATO would lose against Russia in invasion of Baltic states Subscribe A subscription to The Baltic Times is a cost effective way of staying in touch with the latest Baltic news and views enabling you full access

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  • Estonians now as happy with their lives as during boom years
    with their life of whom 97 are satisfied with their lives very or fairly satisfied The lowest life satisfaction ratings were recorded is in Greece and Bulgaria where a mere 41 and 46 respectively of citizens are satisfied with their lives Regarding the economic situation of the country Estonian citizens were more positive than they have been since 2007 the country s economic situation was considered very good or rather good by 51 of citizens A total of 43 of respondents assessed the economic situation in the country to be rather bad or very bad The EU averages were 34 and 63 respectively Evaluations of household economic situations also became more positive in 2014 as well in the autumn of 2014 71 of Estonian citizens believed that their household s economic situation was very good or rather good In Europe on average the figure was 65 As regards the economic situation of the country in the near future nearly half 47 of Estonian citizens believe that the situation will remain the same over the next year 29 believe it will improve 15 think that the situation will become worse When asked what the most important problems currently facing Estonia are 30 of citizens chose unemployment 29 health and social security and 28 the economic situation Comments Related Articles Concept of foreign policy has changed for Estonia Medieval ships uncovered beneath Tallinn building sites Go Rail ends Tallinn Moscow service for economic reasons Subscribe Advertise Log In Please enter your username and password Forgot your password Login Related Articles Japan follows Estonia s lead with electronic ID cards Right wing parties launch 24 hour anti migrant rally Right wing parties launch 24 hour anti migrant rally in Tallinn The battle for the Estonian coastline Subscribe A subscription to The Baltic Times

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