Plan for Estonian, Finnish LNG gas terminals hits bump

Estonia and Finland have suffered a minor setback in their plans for proposed paired liquified gas terminals in both nations, linked by a pipeline.

Officials from both countries said that the European Commission raised some flags after companies involved in the project and its promoters presented their plan for the terminal project to a member of the European Commission in Tallinn on Wednesday. But neither country said they were ready to abandon the paired model.

“The plan is not sufficient yet,” Timo Tatar, director for energy projects at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, told ERR News.

“The companies involved in the project need to work further to create more synergies between them,” he said, referring to the structure of the ownership and the operation of the terminals.

“The companies are now negotiating between them to find those synergies, and then they will submit an amended proposal for the terminal project.”

A thumbs-up for the project is needed by the Commission for the plan, which would increase the energy diversification of the two nations, as it will rely heavily on EU subsidies. The estimates for the cost of the project is in the hundreds of millions of euros, perhaps around 1 billion after the cost of the pipeline is added in.

Read more from ERR News

President: We are in a Post- WWII environment

Due to steps taken by Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the world is back in the immediate post-Second World War years, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in an interview ahead of Estonian Victory Day.

Speaking on Vikerraadio, President Ilves said there were plenty of people who still look at Russia through rose-colored glasses and hope it is a bad dream that will pass.

“We are in around 1946. The understanding that used to hold true is no longer valid. We can no longer believe in these rules when one party has violated them all. The question now is what next? I say that if there is no significant withdrawal, if the situation persists, we will see a reaction from the West,” Ilves said.

According to him, a slow reaction is characteristic of democracies, as only authoritarian states can act without consulting the people.

The president said that the Ukrainian crisis has resulted in an increase in the willingness of Estonians to defend their country, alluding to a rise of volunteers for the Defense League.

Source: ERR News

Countries reached the agreement of Rail Baltic shareholders

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reached the agreement of shareholders of the Rail Baltic railway connection joint venture at the working group meeting held in Tallinn today.

The shareholder’s agreement will require also an approval by the national governments of these states. Signing the shareholder’s agreement is expected to take place in August after the establishment in Latvia and Estonia of holding enterprises which will be shareholders of the joint venture.

According to Indrek Sirp, the Rail Baltic project manager, the negotiations were long and thorough and the final result is satisfactory for all parties. „I am particularly glad that the obstacles from the creation of the joint venture have been removed and we can continue with the actual starting of the activities of the joint venture, including submission of the application for financing to the European Commission by the end of January next year,“ he said.

It was agreed to build the railway according to similar technical standards from Tallinn to Poland through Pärnu, Riga, Panevežys and Kaunas. As this connection is eligible to receive EU support, the work will proceed in this direction as the first priority and the application for funding will be submitted for the sections on this line. Consensus was also reached on the inclusion of the Vilnius-Kaunas branch line in the project, to be implemented as soon as it becomes eligible for EU support.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland signed the memorandum of understanding on the creation of the Rail Baltic Joint Venture in September last year. According to the earlier agreement, the main office of the joint venture will be in Riga, and the railway in each Baltic State will remain in state ownership.

Rail Baltic will be a 1435 mm gauge (European gauge) modern and fast electric railway connection between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As a broader corridor, Rail Baltic will connect both Scandinavia and Russia in the north with Western Europe on the other hand.

Source: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

Baltics agree on joint venture for high speed rail connections

An important milestone on the way to high speed rail connections from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s rail system to the rest of Europe was reached today as working groups from the Baltics agreed on a draft shareholders’ agreement to form a joint venture for Rail Baltic.

The working groups met today in Tallinn; it was the 10th meeting. The Lithuanians had had the most stipulations, demanding that Vilnius, the national capital, also be connected to the line. Earlier this year, Estonia and Lithuania had been close to a diplomatic row over comments made by Estonia’s then economy minister regarding the Lithuanians’ unbending stance.

“We reached a common understanding and there are articles in the shareholders’ agreement that are a very important part, that Vilniius is a part of the Rail Baltic project,” said Lithuanian economic affairs ministry department head Arenijus Jackus on ETV.

Rail Baltic Estonia project manager Indrek Sirp said the Vilnius connection can start to be developed when EU financing is in place. Currently it isn’t.

“It was also agreed that [the Vilnius connection] can’t slow down the wortk on the main line, which is via Kaunas toward Poland,” said Sirp on ETV.

The Baltics, along with Poland and Finland, signed the memorandum of intent for the joint venture last September.

The joint venture will be headquartered in Riga, while each national segment of the railway will remain property of the respective state.

Source: ERR News

Ambassador attracts Spanish unemployed youth to Estonia

For two years already, the Ambassador of Spain in Estonia, Alvaro de la Riva Guzman de Frutos, has been negotiating with enterprises, Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs and the job mediation network EURES aimed at attracting unemployed young Spaniards to come to Estonia for work.

Postimees writes that while at first the ambassador was negotiating with representatives of tourism and IT sectors, both of which require English language skills, the focus is now only on the IT sector, mainly because wages in Estonian hotel and restaurant business are too low to compete, for instance, with Norway.

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Immigration to Estonia increased last year

According to Statistics Estonia, 4,098 persons immigrated to Estonia and 6,740 persons emigrated from Estonia in 2013. There were 1,459 immigrants more than in 2012.

Net migration remained negative (i.e. emigration exceeded immigration). Net migration was –2,642 in 2013 and –3,682 in 2012. 95% of the emigrants and 60% of the immigrants were Estonian citizens.

The number of Estonian residents who have changed their place of residence to another country has been relatively stable in the last three years. The main destination countries are mostly the same – three quarters of the immigrants moved to Finland and 6% to the United Kingdom. Germany, Russia and Sweden are also among the popular destination countries.

In 2013 immigration to Estonia increased. The majority of immigrants come from Finland, but in 2013 only a quarter of all immigrants came from Finland, which is about a fifth of the persons who emigrated to Finland. A significant share of the immigrants came from Russia (23%) and Ukraine (8%). Compared to previous years, a bigger number of immigrants came from the United Kingdom and Ireland – this is probably related to the fact that there was a wave of emigration to those countries a few years ago. Most of the immigrants coming from European countries are returnees, which explains why immigration tends to increase a few years after an upturn in emigration.

Immigration from Ukraine also increased in 2013, but Ukraine and Russia are the source countries of new immigrants – thus, this increase cannot be explained by previous emigration. As a rule, net migration in Estonia is negative. But net migration with Russia, Ukraine and many non-European countries has been positive for most of the time since the restoration of independence (meaning that immigrants have outnumbered emigrants).

A comparison by county shows differences in the main destination and source countries. For example, in case of Ida-Viru county, only a half of the emigrants go to Finland and a greater share of emigrants (compared to other counties) go to the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and other EU countries. The reason for this is probably that a large part of the population in Ida-Viru county is linguistically more distant from Finnish and it is easy to find a Russian-speaking community in other European countries as well. The distribution of source countries is also different in Ida-Viru county: a half of the immigrants came from Russia and only 10% came from Finland. Harju and Tartu counties are also different from other counties. Immigrants who come from countries outside Europe mostly settle in Tallinn or Tartu, the two biggest cities in Estonia. In the remaining counties, Finland holds a much larger share in immigration and especially in emigration.

Based on the age-sex distribution of emigrants, there was an increase in both male and female immigrants in 2013, compared to 2012. There are still more women among emigrants and the share of women among returnees is smaller than the share of men. The most active participants in emigration are persons aged 20–44. In the last two years, there has been an increase in the emigration of 0–9-year-olds. Since the immigration of 0–4-year-olds has been high over the last decade and remains high, there was a bigger decrease in the number of 5–9-year-olds in net migration in 2012 and 2013. This is probably related to the bigger number of emigrating families.

Statistics Estonia’s migration statistics are based on information about place of residence available in the Population Register. Net migration is the difference between immigration and emigration during a year. Positive net migration shows that immigration exceeds emigration; negative net migration indicates that emigration exceeds immigration.

Immigration from Finland as a share of total immigration by county, 2013

Map: Immigration from Finland as a share of total immigration by county, 2013

Emigration to Finland as a share of total emigration by county, 2013

Map: Emigration to Finland as a share of total emigration by county, 2013

Source: Statistics Estonia

Finland and Estonia continued their negotiations on gas projects

Representatives of the respective Ministries of Economic Affairs of Finland and Estonia and the project developers Gasum, Alexela and EG Võrgu-teenus (Estonian Gas network service) deliberated on the progress in the projects involved with the planned gas pipeline to connect both countries, in Helsinki on May 22.

It is the goal of the Estonian and Finnish governments and enterprises to build a regional gas terminal on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, and the Balticconnector which would connect the natural gas transmission networks between the Baltic States and Finland.

The participating parties took the view that Alexela and Gasum have made progress in their negotiations regarding the liquidised natural gas terminal, and that obviously terminals will be built on both sides of the Gulf of Finland. At the same time EG Võrguteenused and Gasum will continue with the development of the Balticconnector.

In June a proposal containing the solutions shall be submitted to the European Commission in order to obtain the approval for the suitability of the solutions, which is required for the participation in the qualifying round for the European Projects of Common Interest initiated for the improvement of a reliable energy supply in Europe. The solutions must be conforming for the participation in the first qualifying round which will be opened this summer.

Source: Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

Economic relations with Russia come with additional dangers

Deputy head of the Internal Security Service (ISS) Eerik Heldna said that in dealing with Russia, it is impossible to distinguish between state powers, secret services and organized crime.

“The biggest problem we, as a security service see with our eastern neighbor is that not one sector which is important to our transit sector, infrastructure and energy above all, have been built up according to free market rules,” said Heldna on Wednesday.

He said many people behind those Russian companies (trading with Estonia) are connected to security organizations and organized crime. “It is a symbiosis. They use each other for protecting their interests,” Heldna said.

The biggest danger is the uncertainty behind the business partner’s motivation, he said, adding that it is never clear if any deal is just economic or are there more sinister reasons that will come back to bite you.

Heldna said not all economic relations with Russia are bad or dangerous, and Estonia’s geographic location must be used to the nation’s advantage, but that uncertainty is an additional factor.

Source: ERR via Estonian Review

A secret committee blocking asylum-seekers from Estonia?

A new report published yesterday by the Estonian Human Rights Centre shows that the number of people who receive asylum in Estonia decreased last year.

While in 2012, Estonia approved 13 applications out of 77, last year the figures were 7 and 97.

Anni Säär from the Estonian Human Rights Centre said that one reason for it is the special committee that was set up at the Police and Borderguard Authority to assess asylum applications.

Read more from BBN

Baltic public broadcasters may set up joint Russian TV channel

Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian public broadcasters are considering a plan to set up a new Russian-language TV channel to offset the influence of Russian channels. Russians represent around a quarter of populations in Latvia and Estonia and 6% in Lithuania.


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