Estonia. The debate on the status of the Russian-speaking
minority in Estonia continued during the year. The
government decided on an integration program that will run
over seven years. Among other things, It is stated that from
2007, compulsory school pupils from Russian-speaking schools
will study in Estonian-language colleges.
In the summer of 2000, the government softened the new
language law which received criticism from, among other
things, The EU demands knowledge of Estonian for employees
in both the public and private sectors. For private
employees, Estonian is now required only when the work
concerns public interests, such as security, health care and
In the summer of 2000, President Lennart Meri dismissed
the country's military commander on unclear grounds. The
president received a lot of criticism for the decision,
which was, however, approved by Parliament with an
overweight vote after a member inadvertently pressed the yes
COUNTRYAAH, Estonia's relations with the Russian Federation continued
to be frosty. Despite the conclusion of an agreement on the
drawing of the common border the year before, the signing of
the Russian Federation was delayed. New Russian President
Vladimir Putin reiterated his representative's warnings
about NATO's plans for enlargement to the Baltics. During
the summer, two Russian diplomats from Estonia were accused
of spying on behalf of the Russian Federation. Two officials
at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow were expelled in response.
Estonia's economy was on the rise following the severe
consequences of the Russian ruble crisis in 1998, and the
forecast for 2000 was about 5% growth. During the year, the
companies were exempt from tax on profits reinvested. The
official unemployment rate was set at 5.5% in the autumn,
but in reality the figure was much higher.
Several years of negotiations ended during the year in an
agreement between the government and a US company that would
buy up to 49% in two large thermal power plants in Narva.
The deal was highly contentious in domestic politics, and
the agreement must be approved by Parliament to be valid.