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What the papers say: State-run companies and Anett Kontaveit

Estonian newspapers (photo is illustrative).
Estonian newspapers (photo is illustrative). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

China, the new European Commissioners living arrangements in Brussels, the idiosyncrasies of Eesti Post, and the de facto end of a tennis star's season were in the papers on Friday, Oct. 11.

Ratas under the thumb?

The appointment of Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE) to the Estonian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee shows that Jüri Ratas pre-election statement that working with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) was not viable has done a complete about turn, according to Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas, writing in daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL).

Now, Centre has to stand by EKRE and assert that the party has changed, in order to remain in power, even if it means having to state that some of Reitelman's past statements, most notably that Estonia's Russian population were parasites, have some currency, Kallas said, in other words having to doff the cap to them.

This means that Ratas, in working with EKRE; has destroyed all political credibility in both word and deed, allowing a Riigikogu MP or a government minister to behave as they please, even when intentionally belittling various groups in society – since each time Ratas will cover for them, in so doing eroding the boundaries of norms in interaction and communication, Kallas said.

While Reitelmann himself dismissed PACE as a meaningless chat room shortly after being appointed, there are some Riigikogu members, including those in governmental parties, who will not play the game, Kallas said, naming Isamaa MP Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits.

These people now need to seriosuly consider whether to vote in favor of Reitelmann's appointment or not – in short, whether to endorse EKRE's hate speech or not, Kallas argued.

Kadri Simson still slumming it in Brussels hotels

According to investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress, unlike her predecessor Andrus Ansip, who lived in a 200-square-meter apartment in Brussels, incoming European Commissioner from Estonia Kadri Simson is still staying in a hotel, weeks after her appointment and days after passing the vote by the relevant MEPs.

Simson is probably due to move in to Ansip's old home in due course, however, Eesti Ekspress said; Ansip himself is downsizing after moving to the European Parliament after winning a seat in the May elections.

China's special interest in Estonia?

Also in Eesti Ekspress, there are some reported notable disparities in the setup at the Chinese Embassy in Tallinn, versus both that of Finland and the other two Baltic States.

While Estonia is several times smaller than its northern neighbor, the embassy staff from China is only a little bit smaller, and significantly larger than those of Latvia or Lithuania.

Eesti Ekspress said that only a small proportion of these staff actually deal with trade relations or the media – common embassy duties.

The Internal Security Service (ISS) says that this is because China's interests in Estonia may be more "diversified" than they are elsewhere, Eesti Ekspress reported.

Kontaveit's season over

Estonian tennis star Anett Kontaveit has disappeared from the draw on the Moscow Tennis Tournament's website, according to ERR's sports portal, meaning her season has ended.

In mid-Septemer Kontaveit, who had to abruptly drop out of the US Open at the beginning of the month, wrote on her social media account that she would be playing either in the Linz tournament or the Moscow tournament, noting that she could not wait to start playing again.

Kontaveit had received hospital treatment, but missed first Linz in early October and now Moscow.

Currently ranked 25th in the world, high points of the 23-year-old's season included overcoming Maria Sharapova (Russia) in Canada in August, and reaching round three of Wimbledon and the last 16 of the French Open, as well as a close loss to world number two Ashleigh Barty (Australia) in Cincinnati in August.

Eesti Post has to knock-off the self-funding, if essential regional services are to remain

The recent announcement that the state-owned Eesti Post/Omniva postal service was to hike its home delivery prices by over 10 percent, casting doubt on the future viability of newspaper deliveries outside major population centers, has met with a lot of reaction in the press this week.

Harry Tuul at Postimees noted that, while this is not enshrined in law, there are two business sectors in Estonia as elsewhere, private and public, with the latter not subject to the same commercial constraints as the former.

Those running public sector outfits like Eesti Post often face a conflict between running the concern as a business and maintaining the public expectation that the service remains the same, even when running at a loss.

Home delivery is unprofitable, Tuul says, with the service propped up by Eesti Post receiving a €1.8 millio subsidy from the government, but the bulk of that comes from Eesti Post's "dividend" it has to pay to the state (of €1.6 million) in the first place – in other words the postal service subsidizes its own loss-making rather than the taxpayer.

As early as 2017, this subsidy however was found to be too small, with a figure of €2.5 seen as sustainable, and would avoid punting newspaper prices up by over 30 percent.

Tuul sees the solution for propping up home delivery as lying with the taxpayer, though this must be done by the relevant minister (Kert Kingo at present) followed by a Riigikogu vote, rather than by 'bribing' Eesti Post, making the decision a purely political one and not a commercial one.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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