Week in pictures: June 22-28 ({{commentsTotal}})

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
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Photo: President Toomas Hendrik Ilves Author: (Ardi Hallismaa/Estonian Defense Forces)

Although most Estonians took a long break last week to enjoy the Victory Day and Midsummer festivities, politicians had no such luxury with refugee and Greek debt crises still looming large in Europe.

On Monday noon, the traditional Victory Day flame was lit at the Estonian Soldiers Memorial church in Tori, from where it was taken to Kärdla, the host of this year's Victory Day parade. Victory Day marks the victory of the Estonian Army over the German Landeswehr on June 23, 1919 in what was a crucial moment in the nation's war for independence. The celebration is hosted by a different city each year.

Later in the evening, thousands of bonfires lit up the skies across the country as people celebrated the Midsummer Eve. Midsummer Eve (Jaaniõhtu) and St John's Day (Jaanipäev) mark the lightest time of the year in Estonia, when the sun only disappears from the horizon for a couple of hours.

Joining Estonia for the celebrations was US secretary of defense Ashton Carter. Carter met with the president, prime minister and defense minister, and announced that the US would pre-position combat vehicles and heavy weapons in the region.

NATO defense ministers, meanwhile, agreed to triple the alliance's Response Force from 13,000 to 40,000 soldiers. Estonia will participate with a land unit and possibly a navy unit. Estonians are unlikely to shed any tears for their increased involvement.

EU prime ministers were at the same time busy trying to find solutions to the Mediterranean refugee crisis and the Greek debt crisis. After ten hours of discussions, it was decided not to follow through with the migrant quota plan, proposed by the Jean-Claude Juncker-led European Commission a month ago. Estonia is now free to negotiate how many displaced persons it is ready to resettle. Suggestions so far range between 84 and 156 people.

A more bleak outcome for Estonia, however, was Greece's decision to reject a compromise proposal by international creditors and hold a referendum on bailout extension terms instead, which Rõivas called irresponsible. Greece currently owes 323 billion euros, or around 30,000 euros per citizen, to different funds and private creditors. Both Rõivas and Finance Minister Sven Sester said the financially troubled country has been given ample opportunities to reach a deal.

In the sports world, the first ever European games came to an end in Baku, Azerbaijan. Estonia was represented by 59 athletes in 11 disciplines, taking three medals in total: a silver and a bronze in fencing, and another bronze in wrestling.

Editor: M. Oll

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