Estonia. The spring victory after Estonia's win in the
Eurovision Song Contest brought with it a more positive
outlook on European cooperation. In a few weeks, Opinion
support for Estonian membership in the EU increased from 35
Countryaah, a group of Estonian sociologists in the spring warned of
a divided society. According to sociologists, two out of
three Estonian children live in poverty. Actual unemployment
was estimated at almost 15% during the summer.
On June 14, 60 years earlier, the deportation was
commemorated by just over 10,000 esters, most to Siberia. On
August 21, the 10th anniversary of Estonia's independence
from the Soviet Union was celebrated.
In the late summer came a series of bad news.
Drug-related crime was found to have tripled in three years,
and the spread of HIV increased dramatically among drug
addicts. Estonian police had to face harsh criticism for
poor discipline following a series of accidents caused by
ruthless police officers. In Paldiski on the Baltic Sea
coast, several soldiers were dismissed from training for
peacekeeping operations, since they mistreated
Russian-speaking local residents.
In September, Pärnu County was hit by a major tragedy.
About 60 people died after drinking homemade vodka mixed
with wood liquor. Over 40% of all alcohol in Estonia is
estimated to be illegally produced or smuggled into the
country. President Lennart Meri was criticized for stating
that those who bought home remedies were to blame
themselves. He also described extensive alcohol consumption
as a legacy of the Soviet era. Opposition leader Edgar
Savisaar instead accused the bourgeois government of
pursuing a market-liberal policy that heightens social
Parliament failed in August to elect Lennart Meri's
successor as president. None of the nominated candidates got
the necessary majority. A special electoral college took
over and in September elected former Communist leader Arnold
Rüütel, who led Estonia to independence from the Soviet
Union. Rüütel defeated the government's candidate,
Parliament Speaker Toomas Savi by 161 votes to 155. In
October, Rüütel was installed for his five-year term as head
of state. He stated that he will work for Estonia to become
a member of the EU and NATO.
The year ended in a government crisis, after the three
coalition parties had split in local politics in Tallinn.
There, the Fatherland and the Moderates were abandoned by
the Reform Party, which chose to support opposition leader
Edgar Savisaar as the new mayor of the capital. Prime
Minister Mart Laar, the Fatherland, therefore declared that
the government would resign after the New Year.