Products meant for Russian market can be sold in Estonia

Russian-bound food turned back at the border can be sold in Estonia if special permission has been granted by the Veterinary and Food Board and the sale outlet is furnished with Estonian-language information, the agency’s director said. To this point no company has pursued this option.

“It is allowed in exceptional cases to market food packaged for the Russian market in Estonia, if a company needs to do so,” said Ago Pärtel, the director general of the Veterinary and Food Board, on ERR radio.

Meanwhile, Pärtel said, the agency has been sending out letters to far-flung markets to inquire about import requirements for milk products. The countries included Indonesia, Taiwan, Kenya and Tanzania.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev announced on August 7 that Russia would slap a one-year ban on all EU, US, Australian, Canadian and Norwegian meat, dairy and produce. In particular, the Estonian dairy and fishery sector could be heavily impacted.

Source: ERR News

Governemnt pledges to seek new export markets

With the Agriculture Ministry saying the EU is unlikely to decide support for sectors hit by Russian sanctions before September, Estonian officials and producers focused today on what the national government can do. The focus will lie on finding new markets and working with banks to secure more favorable terms for dairy farm investors.

Agriculture Minister Ivari Padar and Foreign Trade Anne Sulling said after meetings with lobby groups today that the sanctions were a political conflict between the EU and Russia and a united front would have to be agreed on the EU ministerial level. A meeting is due to take place in Brussels on Wednesday.

But domestic efforts will also be at center stage for now, with ministries pledging to work with banks to institute grace periods for dary farm investors and possibly to roll out more export subsidies in the 2015 state budget, Padar and Sulling said.

Farmers and milk producers said going into the meeting that they expect decisive action, including more direct subsidies and government intervention on milk prices.

Read more from ERR News

Estonian President slams Swiss for being sanctions holdout

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves says Switzerland, which refrained from joining most of the rest of Europe in applying punitive sanctions against Russia, has placed its own interests and banking sector ahead of European values.

“Switzerland will have to live with criticism that they have foregone establishing their own sanctions in order to gain a more favored situation in the banking sector,” Ilves told the Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung, published Sunday.

In contrast, he said, Sweden and Ireland have affirmed neutrality yet supported sanctions.

“For me, the idea of neutrality is even more devoid of meaning than ever before,” Ilves said.

Ilves would not say whether the EU planned to pressure Switzerland, uudised.err.ee reported. The Swiss currently are president of the OSCE; critics have seen the country as a haven and business center for wealthy Russians.

Source: ERR News

PM: Exporters to Russia must have backup plan

Today, Russia released the detailed list of prohibited import goods, which establishes a blanket one-year ban on EU, US, Australian, Canadian and Norwegian meat, seafood, dairy products and produce. The Estonian head of government maintained that Russian consumers would suffer most, while Estonian agriculture as a whole would not be deeply impacted, but said Estonian export businesses should have have a plan B in place for the next year.

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said at today’s Cabinet press conference that Estonian agriculture would suffer less than the business sector.

“It’s too early to say what the impact on Estonia will be, but of larger categories of goods, 24 percent of dairy exports go to Russia. Export to Russia makes up 5.5 percent in the case of meat products and close to 9 percent for vegetables.”

According to Postimees, Estonia’s total export to Russia in 2013 across all types of goods starts with 127.7 million euros in drinks and beverages to Russia, followed by 50.2 million euros in milk and dairy products, 15.0 million euros in fish products, 12.1 million euros in grain, starch and milk-containing products, and 11.5 million euros in other foodstuffs. Other categories, including non-food items, were at 5 million euros or less.

Read more from ERR News

Russia bans agricultural imports from west

Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia in a tit-for-tat move that deepens the economic standoff between the Kremlin and the west.

Russian government officials have been told to draw up a list of western agricultural products and raw materials that will be banned or restricted for up to one year, according to the decree published on the Kremlin website.

In tacit recognition that Russian consumers will bear the cost of the import ban, the decree also instructs officials to come up with measures to stabilise commodity markets and prevent food price rises.

The import ban follows a threat of retaliation from Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, in response to the grounding of the budget airline subsidiary of Aeroflot as a result of EU sanctions. Russian officials are reported to be considering banning European airlines from flying to Asia over Siberia.

Read more from The Guardian

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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