Rail Baltic project continues to stir debate
There are ongoing discussions about where to build the track.
Following the news this summer that the European Commission (EC) approved funding for the Rail Baltic international railroad, connecting the Baltic states with central and western Europe, many were relieved that the project that has been discussed for over a decade and seen many heated discussions and arguments, is finally moving ahead.
But it seems that the arguments over where exactly to build the track have not stopped. For a long time, the dispute focused on whether the railroad would pass Pärnu or Tartu, as both local governments wanted the international railway to have stops in their towns.
Now, the finance minister Sven Sester has proposed an option that the track will be built through Nabala-Tuhala Nature Reserve. Sester said that there is nothing to suggest that the railroad would have a negative impact on the reserve and already sent the proposal for coordination to Ministry of Environment.
According to Sester, building the track in Nabala-Tuhala reserve would save tens of millions of euros in cost. “I don't think there is enough proof to indicate that the track through the reserve would damage nature or affect groundwater,” Sester told ERR.
However, Estonian Nature Fund already expressed its opposition. The chairwoman Silvia Lotman said that one cannot build a railroad through nature reserve just because it is cheaper. She added that there is no sufficient evidence to say whether it would have a negative impact on the reserve or not.
The preparation for the Rail Baltic construction has already begun. This summer, the biggest archeology project in Estonian history started in areas where the high-speed track will pass through. Digs have so far taken place in Harju, Rapla and Pärnu counties.
The building of the new railway is expected to begin in 2018. The whole project is estimated to cost 3.68 billion euros. The EC will co-fund 85 percent of this sum.
Rail Baltic is an international project that connects the three Baltic States, with Finland and Poland involved as partners.
Estonia looking for a new slogan
Enterprise Estonia (EAS), the government agency responsible for looking after the country's image abroad and promoting tourism, has initiated a search for a distinctive slogan by which Estonia could be known for around the world. The long-serving "Welcome to Estonia" will be dumped.
Prior to Estonia celebrating its 100th anniversary and hosting the EU presidency in 2018, EAS is looking to replace the current “Welcome to Estonia” logo and slogan with a more catchy one.
It comes in light of the opinions by various institutions and entrepreneurs that Estonia's image in the world is not strong enough.
In a study, conducted last year, EAS questioned almost 500 top managers and CEOs of Estonian companies and asked how many of them have used either “Made in Estonia” or “Welcome to Estonia” brand when selling their products or services in foreign markets. The results were not exactly cheerful, to put it mildly – only 4 percent have used these brands in the past and just 2 percent still do. At the same time, 50 percent of entrepreneurs say that using a common Estonian brand would be helpful.
Another international poll, organized by Lonely Planet in 2011, demonstrated that Estonia's slogan was one of the least popular – only UK's “You’re invited” fared worse. Latvia's “Best enjoyed slowly” was voted best.
EAS thus concluded that Estonia's official slogans and logos used until now clearly don't work very well and the search is on for something new.
“Welcome to Estonia”, the country's official logo, was created in 2002 and cost 850,000 euros. In 2008, another slogan, “Positively surprising”, was added.
EAS said that the first task in the process of finding a compelling international brand for Estonia is to evaluate the results from recent brand studies, followed by a wide-reaching discussion and agreement in the Estonian society on identifying the country's strenghts and selling points. The organisation is also organizing multiple working groups and panels that will comprise of experts from different fields, most crucially Estonians who have international experience either in business or the arts. Their task is to help shape a new captivating brand for Estonia.
The new slogan is expected to cost 200,000 euros.
Number of unfilled jobs up 11%
In the second quarter of 2015, there were 8,500 job vacancies in Estonia, up 16.5 percent compared to the previous quarter, and 11 percent more than during the same period a year ago, Statistics Estonia reported.
The highest number of unfilled posts was in manufacturing (20 percent of all unfilled jobs), followed by wholesale and retail (16 percent) and education (10 percent).
The number of unfilled jobs increased the most in finance and insurance, and in information and communication, where the number of available jobs close to doubled in a year.
Geographically, most of the available jobs were in Harju County, including Tallinn (56 percent of all unfilled jobs), followed by Tartu (11 percent) and Ida-Viru (8 percent) counties.
The vast majority (71 percent) of the vacant jobs were in the private sector. A year ago that figure was 78 percent.
Click here for a more detailed report.
Estonian economy grows 2.0%
According to the latest estimates by Statistics Estonia, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Estonia increased 2.0 percent in the second quarter of 2015 compared to the same time previous year.
The news comes as a positive sign during otherwise turbulent times when the food and beverages sector was hit by Russian sanctions and Greek crisis caused worries in eurozone.
Estonian GDP in the second quarter was 5.2 billion euros and the growth was mostly influenced by a rise in trade, real estate activities and agriculture, forestry and fishing. The receipts of value added tax also grew, a sign of increased consumption.
The hardest hit were transport, construction and manufacturing activities, especially the food and beverages industry. Export also decreased slightly, by 1.1 percent.
Business profits drop 15%
The Estonia business sector earned 724 million euros in profits in the second quarter of the year, 15 percent less than during the same period last year.
Decline in profits was registered in nearly all economic activities, with the manufacturing, information and communication, and agriculture driving the fall.
The combined worth of goods and services sold in the second quarter was 12.5 billion euros, 3 percent less than in the second quarter of last year. Total costs of companies decreased 2 percent while labor costs jumped 6 percent with the number of people employed, and the number of hours worked both increasing by 2 percent. Value added per employee was on average 5,500 euros per person per quarter, 3 percent lower than during the same period in 2014.
Click here for a more detailed report.