Week in Pictures: May 25-31
Keywords this week: party congresses, refugees, sport.
It's been an election-heavy week in Estonian politics – only this time, the selection was not as plentiful as in March general elections. The Reform Party and the Social Democrats held their party congresses on May 24 and May 30 respectively to decide upon party leadership. Come voting time, both only had one candidate for the chairman position. Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas's re-election for Reform Party head went, as expected, uncontested. However, matters were much more interesting in the Social Democrats camp, where long-term leader Sven Mikser pulled out of the race at the last moment, in favor of young Jevgeni Ossinovski, who was voted in with an overwhelming majority. In his campaign, Ossinovski expressed strong discontent with the coalition agreement, but following the election promised will wait for the results of the IRL's internal leadership elections and debate the agreement within his own party first, before deciding on the course of action.
A fierce public debate has arisen from the European Commission's proposal that Estonia host over 1,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees. Whereas politicians agree that Estonia needs to show solidarity and help as much as it can, there is joint opposition to the proposed quota system. Politicians and experts alike agree that the country does not have in place systems that would allow it to successfully receive and assimilate so many people in just two years. The debate is now moving away from whether to accept asylum seekers, focusing rather on how to do it without repeating the mistakes of others.
Estonian daily Postimees reported a leaked document, which shows how the United States Embassy in Tallinn has for years been running a secret surveillance unit, which monitors people in the city center, gathers intelligence and stores the collected information in a global anti-terrorism data system. Both US and Estonian officers were quick to confirm that the monitoring program is a normal part of security measures and has been approved by the Estonian government. The revelation comes amid fierce debate in the US about surveillance, NSA and the Freedom Act.
To discuss wider security concerns, a group of US senators visited Estonia last week and met with PM Taavi Rõivas and Defense Minister Sven Mikser.
It was a busy week also in sports. FC Nõmme Kalju won the Estonian Cup, beating Paide Linnameeskond in Saturday's final 2-0.
Whereas the victory of two-stage Tour of Estonia stayed home, with Martin Laas taking stage one and securing an overall lead with fifth place in stage two sprint finish, that of Estonia's biggest cycling event, the 34rd Tartu Bicycle Race, went to Ukraine. Andri Kulik outraced 1,927 people taking on the challenge of a 142-kilometer ride in southern Estonia. Another 2,270 people chose a shorter, 63-kilometer course.
More on cycling. Giro d'Italia also concluded on Sunday, with Estonia's Tanel Kangert showing increasingly better form as the tour progressed. Kangert helped his Astana team-mates Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa to second and third positions respectively, and finished 13th overall.
And finally, Sunday evening also saw Estonia secure a place in the 2015 Men's European Volleyball Championship in Bulgaria and Italy from October 9-18, by beating Sweden in the play-offs (3-1 at home and 3-0 away). Estonia will face Italy, France and Croatia, in what is going to be it's third final tournament.
However, sporting successes were overshadowed by a tragic incident at Neste Oil Harju Rally on Saturday, when a rally car flipped in a flat corner and ploughed into spectators, leaving three dead.