What the papers say: What do we do with the children and the politicians?

Selection of Estonian newspapers and periodicals (picture is illustrative).
Selection of Estonian newspapers and periodicals (picture is illustrative). Source: Andrew Whyte/ERR News

The future of the Estonian populace, arbitrary and unnecessary clashes between ministries and the civil service, and continued shortages of medicines were among the topics gracing Estonia's daily and weekly newspapers and news portals on Tuesday, Dec. 10. All links in Estonian.

Commandeering children for the Republic?

The ever-present question of Estonia's birth rate, the role of parenting, and the relevance of gender issues was the subject of an opinion piece by Indrek Lepik in daily Postimees.

Whereas the motto used to be "one child for the mother, one for the father, and one for the republic,", Lepik says, this became impractical due to economic realities and the number of children has now become a matter of choice – or at least should have, whereas in fact it seems to have become the business of various noisy people including one party which scorned women over the age of 27 who had not had a child, and another party which said children are a person's pension fund (EKRE and Isamaa respectively-ed.).

The fact is, the days of children joining the labor force straight from school are long gone, the piece argues, with study, training etc. prolonging this till about mid-20s, but at the same time parents or potential parents will want to realize their own ambitions, something often causing men to choose not to have children till their middle 30s and women to choose to have children when they want.

In short, the republic needs a new attitude, the piece argues, and both parents should be involved in raising children, so as to avoid a situation where it is seen as just the mother's role to stay at home.

A child is not simply a resource for the state, Lepik argues, hoping that no child has been born this century for such a reason; there are no real objective reasons to have children at all now, and this should simply be a matter of choice, he continues.

In a state following rule of law, politicians and officials should be on the same side

The current battle lines which seem to have been drawn between ministers and civil servants in Estonia was the subject of an opinion piece by Vilja Kiisler in daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL), with Kiisler arguing that the situation is not as cut and dried as it seems, and is only proving a victory for those who shout loudest.

Kiisler drew on three or four recent cases to make the point: The release of former rural affairs ministry secretary general Illar Lemetti on the same day as the minister himself, Mart Järvik, was also released from office, following Lemetti's whistleblowing on alleged conflict of interest; the effective closure of fish processing plant M.V.Wool, also at the behest of a body under the rural affairs ministry's remit – the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA); and the regular use of a handyman by finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) without the worker paying taxes – which according to the tax authority is in fact Mr. Helme's responsibility, as well as Helme's rallying to the cause of two businessmen brothers involved in disputes about constructing a wind farm.

Kiisler argues that the tactics are classic Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) ones, which have not gone away since they ascended to office earlier in the year, but at the same time, some assumptions have been made by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) – for instance was it really necessary to remove Lemetti, who in Kiisler's view did the right thing approaching the prosecutor's office and then the media about his concerns regarding one of Järvik's advisers – and while such clashes are not without precedent, it seems strange that a prime minister is having to referee in a clash between offices (i.e. ministers and civil servants) which should be on the same side.

In the case of M.V.Wool – a long-established company which has now had to lay off over 100 staff - is it equally possible that the VTA overstepped the mark, Kiisler opines, and, equally, has the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) acted correctly in approaching the prosecutor's office in a dispute with the Sõnajalg brothers, developers of the Aidu wind farm who have long been in dispute with the defense ministry and who have now enlisted Martin Helme's help, despite the fact that the case is not within his ministry's remit.

On the issue of the irregular hiring of a handyman, Kiisler notes that the requirements were news to many, even as a minister should perhaps know better, but ultimately the us-and-them situation of pitching ministry against ministry staff, and other divisions, just leads to a cacophony which is helping noone.

Medicines shortage puts over 100 babies in Narva hospital at risk

The ongoing shortages of pharmaceutical products – at a time where the sector is in turmoil as the coalition government does a u-turn on reforms which would have put it more in the hands of individual, qualified pharmacists, has endangered the lives of over 100 infants at Narva hospital, daily Õhtuleht reports, quoting EPL.

The hospital was running out of vitamin K – needed for babies born with a deficiency – and while nothing serious has happened yet, the consequences of the deficiency, cerebral hemorrhage, are very serious.

Other drugs which were in shortage this year include Creon, vital for children suffering with cystic fibrosis, the allergy drug opatanol, and injectable penicillin.

"We write out prescriptions, but we cannot be sure that the patient will be able to get the medicine at the pharmacy," said Ülle Einberg, president of the Estonian Society of Pediatricians, who noted doctors were mystified by the lack of medication, which they said was unprecedented.

According to Katrin Kiisa, Deputy Director General of the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet), there are currently supply problems with about 40 medicines, adding that the problem is global at a time of rising demand for medicines.

Jõgeva village traffic calming measures causing a stir

Drivers have expressed concern about traffic calming measures at a Jõgeva County village, saying that instead of providing safety, they are in fact dangerous.

According to an article on regional daily Tartu Postimees' website, the installation, which consists of rubber curbing with reflector signs and bollards, along with gate-like structures at the roadside approaching the village of Kaarepere, will also be difficult to keep clear of snow the near-chicane setup during winter time.

At least one of the bollards has already been knocked over b a passing vehicle, which Erik Vahmäe of the Road Administration (Maanteeamet) says would not cause damage and can be mended; the rationale behind the "gates" is to show that a driver is approaching a residential area.

The Road Administration, after finding average speeds were over the limit, between 65-75 kilometers per hour in 85 percent of cases, intends to study what effect the measures have had since they were introduced, with more measures being taken next year.

Andres Piir of Trev-2, the company tasked with reparing the damage, said that the Road Administration had been told the measures were unreasonable, but still went ahead; the administration says the bollards may temporarily be taken away during winter, adding the plan is to roll them out in other locations, such as Väike-Maarja in Lääne-Viru County, where the eye-catching white gates have already been installed.

The first Lufthansa HON circle VIP frequent flyer in Estonia?

While airlines have been operating frequent flier programs for decades, one of the more little-known schemes is the HON Circle, operated by Lufthansa, the highest degree of its Miles & More program perhaps enjoyed by only a couple of thousand people (out of around 600,000 frequent flyers with the airline in total).

What does a HON member get? Raul Rohtla of investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress was able to find out just that, which is to say a lot of discreet activity, so far as fellow passengers go, though check-in and flight crews are kept abreast, and at some airports, a black Porsche with an umbrella-wielding valet replacing the more usual passenger bus transporting disgorged travelers to the terminal.

The first Estonian, so far as is known, to experience HON membership, Rohtla reels of a litany of fast-tracked security and passport control, baggage-carrying assistants, a la carte menus, hundreds of whiskies and wines to choose from, relaxation facilities during connections including a hot tub replete with champagne, VIP lounges which you get almost to yourself, and personal introductions and chats with not only flight crews, but also plane captains.

More on Mr. Rohtla's idyllic airport experience (in Estonian) replete with photos is here.

Postimees and Tartu Postimees, Saarte Hääl are all part of Postimees Grupp, one of the two major commercial media companies in Estonia. EPL and Eesti Ekspress are part of Ekspress Meedia, the other major media company, which also publishes weekly Maaleht. Both media groups also operate radio and TV channels, lifestyle and other portals and more.

Õhtuleht is co-owned by Ekspress Meedia and holding company Alexela. Business daily Äripäev (not quoted here) is owned by Swedish media firm Bonnier.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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