What the papers say: Reform's stalling tactics and workers' rights

Estonian newspapers (picture is illustrative).
Estonian newspapers (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

The Reform Party looking ahead to the 2021 local elections, the future for Narva, workers' rights in Estonia, and free car wreck removal were among the topics vying for attention in Estonia's dailies, weeklies and news portals on Monday, Nov. 18. All links in Estonian.

Narva Mayor: Narva would be boosted by better relations with Russia

Mayor of Narva Alexei Jevgrafov says that the normalization of relations with Estonia's eastern neighbor, the Russian Federation, will give a huge boost to the development of Narva and Ida-Virumaa, according to daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL).

Jevgrafov, who visits Russia once or twice a month, including on joint projects with Ivangorod, just across the Narva River, said that he would support a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin, if it helped with relations between the two countries, noting that while for some the Russian leader may be an aggressor, for others he is simply a strong men.

Jevgrafov also noted the importance of President Kaljulaid's working visits to his city last year, as well as the need for attracting investors, in spite of the city losing out (to Tartu) on a 2024 European Capital of Culture spot – a campaign which cost the city €300,000 but which would have brought in millions from outside had it won.

When asked if smart questions were asked at city council meetings, which are open to the public and which members of the public attend, Jevgrafov replied: "Usually not, and also said he read local daily Narva Linnaleht to get an overview of what was really going on in the town, in addition to providing his own column for the paper – a previous news paper, Gorod, which had been a supporter when his office bought column inches with it, turned against them when they concluded their agreement, Jevgrafov, said.

On the issue of language in education, Jevgrafov said that the there would be an 80:20 split (in favor of Estonian-ed.) in accordance with an agreement with the education ministry, if he remembered correctly, at a soon-to-be opened state upper secondary school, dismissing fears expressed by Riigikogu MP Mihhail Stalnuhhin, who said the move would make things worse, not better, pointing to over 20 students who left the Kohtla-Järve school when the same thing happened then.

Car wreck removal free for next fortnight

From Monday, Nov. 18 and for the next two weeks, scrapped cars can be shipped all over Estonia for free, according to news portal Geenius.

The joint initiative by the Ministry of the Environment, Kuusakoski recycling firm, and the Estonian Automobile Demolition Association (Eesti Autolammutuste Liit), aims to clear up unsightly scrap which can also be recycled.

"We've all seen car scrap lying around places where it should not be. With this admirable venture, we will be cleaning up both the image and the environment, for example, as we did the same time last year, with 250 items,"said Rene Kokk (EKRE), Minister of the Environment.

The project will also free up car spaces for drivers of running cars, as well as making snow removal possible where car wrecks had previously obstructed it, as well as issues with outstanding fines for former owners of scrapped cars who are still registered as current owners.

Further information on this and other car refuse disposal can be obtained from the Estonian Automobile Demolition Association on, 5188213 or Kuusakoski's toll-free short number: 13660.

Reform playing the long game

While this year's two elections are practically a memory now, the Reform Party is looking ahead to 2021 and the local government elections, according to an editorial in daily Postimees.

The latest ratings are telling, the paper says (referring to Kantar Emor surveys) which put Reform at a higher level of support (28 percent) than before, as well as the Social Democratic Party (SDE) outstripping coalition party Isamaa by some margin, on 16 percent compared with Isamaa's struggling around the 5 percent threshold for Riigikogu seats.

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) are ona steady 18 percent, the paper says, but most significant is Centre losing out to Reform in Tallinn itself.

Centre currently has both the national and city government under its belt, but this may not last forever; while Reform has no logical coalition majority to mount a national challenge on at the moment, it is playing a waiting game for 2021.

At the same time, the recent political turbulence regarding Mart Järvik can be overstated, according to Kantar Emor head Aivar Voog; what matters more is what has happened over the past week, rather than the past month, he argues.

Trade union culture still not strong in Estonia

Agricultural weekly Maaleht tackled the issue of workers' rights in Estonian, noting that the situation was a far cry from the militant Gilets jaunes in France, or powerful unions of the Nordic countries.

Citing a lengthy piece in EPL on Monday, the article concluded that a protest culture is not very apparent in Estonia, with those suffering injustice tending to do so in silence.

At the same time, while petitions seem to happen every day, the piece also noted a lack of clarity as to who should actually fight for the specific rights of Estonian workers, prompting it to hold an online questionnaire of its own.

At the time of writing, the most popular of the five responses was: "Don't complain, just let it go," on 44 percent, and 20 percentage points ahead of the next-most chosen option: "I am financially secure and satisfied with my job." The less resigned or self-satisfied two responses, in third and fourth place on 12 percent apiece, were "Workers battles and trade unions are a must-have," and "Who said I don't fight? Right now I'm making banners", rounded off with "Work is for fools and money is a base thing, I deal with higher, spiritual things," on 8 percent.

Tartu to get new eco-friendly football pitch

A new eco-friendly football pitch will open next June in Tartu, regional daily Tartu Postimees reports, and will be the new home of Tartu JK Welco, as well as other teams which will use the facility.

The plan has been on the drawing board for around six years, and it was the freeing-up of waste ground opposite the Estonian National Museum (ERM) at Raadi on the outskirts of Tartu which made it possible.

A hundred and fifty trees are to be planted to offset CO2 emissions inherent in the construction of the 40-meter pitch, and the 400-seat grandstand will be made of locally-produced timber, the paper says.

Energy is to be generated from two 50 Kw solar panel complexes, and stored in batteries, a method used in much larger sports grounds, such as the 53,000-capacity Amsterdam Stadium, and the crowning glory will be a root vegetable garden next to the ground, used both to supply local restaurants and produce compost.

Construction, which starts soon, will cost €600,000, half of it coming from a loan secured by the Estonian FA (Eesti Jalgpalli Liit), as well as another 100,000 from the union itself, and 75,000 from Tartu City Government, plus an operating grant from the city to the tune of €15,000 over five years, and another €75,000 hoped from funding raised from supporters, and a €130,000 car park for 100 cars is also being constructed.

Rescue board carrying out fire safety checks on apartment buildings this week

This week, the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) is carrying out fire safety assessments in the communal areas of apartment buildings in Estonia, local daily Virumaa Teataja reports.

As reported on ERR News, the inspections are voluntary, and aimed at getting apartment residents' associations – which apartment houses large and small generally have – acquainted with fire safety requirements with a view to checking their own apartment building, including stairways, corridors and basements, for compliance.

In similar checks early on this year, only arround 20 percent of buildings had no fire safety issues a tall, which can include obstructions and fire hazards such as furniture, baby carriages, bicycles and plant pots

Forty-five people died in house fires in 2018, the paper reports, about half of them in apartment houses; from this month, fire safety assessments can be ordered for free by calling 1524.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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