On Friday, December 27, in addition to several other major topics, the papers and online news portals in Estonia also wrote about five events that shaped 2019 in Estonia and abroad, Estonia's prettiest Christmas tree, electric vehicles, and strange stickers found on some cars.
EPL opinion team's top five events of the year
Jüri Ratas' second coalition government, into which he invited the populist Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) this spring, has been a parade of incompetence — from Marti Kuusik and Kert Kingo to Mart Järvik and the Helme family — and while Ratas is surely tired of constantly apologizing and putting out fires started by members of the junior coalition party, bridges burned means he has nowhere to go, daily Eesti Päevaleht writes (link in Estonian), and Estonia's development and international reputation continue to suffer.
Meanwhile, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja, driving for Toyota Gazoo Racing, earned their first WRC champion titles this year, keeping rally fans in suspense all season long before clinching the title in Catalunya.
Estonia fell a long way in the skiing world due to a doping scandal that began to unfold with the arrest of Andreas Veerpalu and Karel Tammjärve by Austrian police in February, culminated with Harju County Court finding trainer Mati Alaver guilty of facilitating doping activities in November, and included four-year bans by the International Ski Federation (FIS) for a total of three skiers and two coaches.
On the global level, "How dare you!" was the shot heard round the world as 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg scolded world leaders at a UN climate summit in September for not taking decisive action in the face of climate change.
2019 was a big year in film for Estonia, with "Truth and Justice," based on the eponymous pentalogy written by A. H. Tammsaare nearly a century ago, setting a new box office record for post-reindependence Estonia, earning a Satellite Award and being shortlisted for the best international feature Oscar, and legendary director Christopher Nolan filming key scenes for his latest action thriller "Tenet" in several locations in Tallinn, most significantly — and disruptively — on Laagna tee in the city's Lasnamäe District.
Estonia's prettiest Christmas tree
For the third year in a row, readers of daily Postimees (link in Estonian) voted for the prettiest public Christmas tree in Estonia, and this year, it was Tartu's tree that took the crown.
According to the city, Tartu's Christmas tree, located in Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square) in the middle of its holiday Village of Light, was a gift from the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ) which paid homage to both 100 years since the dawn of higher education in the forestry field in Estonia as well as the centennial of the Estonian-language University of Tartu.
In second place following Tartu's 1,600 votes was Rakvere's tree with 1,100 votes and Võru's tree with 1,000 votes. A total of 23 Christmas trees from across the country participated in the vote.
Last year, Kärdla's tree, on the island of Hiiumaa, was voted prettiest tree in Estonia; in 2017, it was Haapsalu's tree that earned the first annual title.
Number of electric vehicles doubles in five years
Over the past five years, the number of electric vehicles has nearly doubled, while the number of hybrid vehicles has more than quadrupled, weekly Maaleht writes (link in Estonian).
As of the beginning of 2019, nearly 746,500 vehicles were registered in Estonia, 7,598 of which were electric or hybrid vehicles, with a 5 percent increase registered in the number of electric vehicles and a 35 percent increase seen in the number of hybrid vehicles.
The first electric vehicles began appearing on Estonian roads in 2011, after which a nationwide charging network began to be developed, and in 2014, over 500 new electric vehicles were purchased with the help of a special subsidy program.
The Environmental Investments Centre (KIK) also recently announced the first round of applications in an electric vehicle purchase subsidy program worth €1.2 million in total. Applications for the €5,000 subsidy will begin to be processed on January 17, 2020, and continue until the €600,000 earmarked for the first round is exhausted.
Ш stickers on cars
During the winter months in particular, drivers in Estonia may come across vehicles with a sticker with the Russian letter Ш in their rear windshield or on the lid of the trunk.
Online portal geenius.ee (link in Estonian) explained that since 2016, vehicles outfitted with studded tires must bear the Ш sticker as well, which is short for the Russian word шипы, or "spikes" — a reference to studded tires. This serves as a warning to other drivers that the vehicle in question has a shorter braking distance and they should maintain a greater distance between them.
While the sticker is not required in Estonia, Finnish public broadcaster wrote in 2017 already that the sticker was popular among drivers along Finland's eastern border, for example, as it is required on foreign vehicles driving with studded tires in Russia as well, and those caught driving without one may face a fine.
Estonia shares a land border with Russia in both the northeast and the southeast.
Editor: Aili Vahtla