Estonia in the 2000’s
Northern European state. The population recorded by the 2000 census amounted to 1,370,052 residents, while a 2005 estimate had dropped to 1,330,000. The country’s political, economic and social changes have significantly influenced its demographic dynamics. The combined effect of the decrease in births and the increase in emigration led to a demographic impoverishment which, in the period 2002-2005, stood at 0.6 % per year.
In the aftermath of independence (1991), the country embarked on a vast program of liberal economic reforms and began a process of rapprochement with Western Europe, while trying to establish itself as an intermediary between the Nordic countries and Russia. On May 1, 2004, to crown the transition from a planned to a market economy,the. joined the European Union. In this process, however, the inequalities between the capital, Tallinn, and the rest of the country have deepened, and the standard of living of the older age groups has significantly worsened. The North-East, an ancient industrial region, has gone through a profound crisis linked to the closure of industries, which has led to an unemployment rate of over 10 %. Privatizations, which started late (late 1993), in the early years of the 21st° sec. they have been almost completely completed and the State remains minority interests only in telecommunications, transport and the energy sector. As for the primary sector, timber production and livestock keep a considerable weight. The most developed industrial activities concern the food, mechanical and chemical sectors; the production of components for telephony and telematics is on the rise. According to the data provided by Eurostat (2004), Estonia among the ten countries admitted to the European Union in the same year, it was the one with the highest percentage (50 %) of the population using the Internet (European average 47 %).
Becoming independent in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, the country continued into the early 21st century. to be characterized by a marked political instability, with changes in the composition of the government and periodic crises, without this however entailing significant changes in the basic choices, aimed at maintaining Estonia firmly anchored in the European bloc. The center-right government led by M. Laar – formed after the 1999 general elections and made up of the National Party of the Fatherland, the Moderates and the Reform Party – went into crisis at the end of 2001 on the controversial issue of nationalization of the railways. At Laar’s resignation in January 2002, followed the formation of an interim coalition cabinet, consisting of the Reform Party and the main opposition party, the Estonian Center Party. The new executive, led by the moderate S. Kallas of the Reform Party, took on the task of giving stability to the country until the new legislative elections, so as not to compromise the efforts aimed at guaranteeing entry into the European Union. Held in March 2003,the political consultations marked the unexpected success of the new right-wing party Union for the Republic Res Publica, whose leader, J. Parts, formed a tripartite government to which the Reform Party and the Estonian People’s Union joined. The new executive placed among its priorities the fight against corruption, the modernization of infrastructures, the reduction of taxes and the continuation of the liberalization of the internal market. After ensuring the entry of Estonia in the EU (May 2004), the majority coalition however began to show new signs of crisis, dividing itself on the issues of justice and taxation. In March 2005 the Reform Party and the Estonian People’s Union decided to leave the coalition and together with the Estonian centrist party formed a new executive headed by A. Ansip, exponent of the Reform Party. The new government continued the privatizations, but also made the strengthening of the welfare state one of its priorities.
In foreign policy, Estonia in recent years it maintained its policy aimed at integration into Western economic and military structures, and in March 2004 the country officially sanctioned its entry into NATO. Relations with Russia, on the other hand, remained somewhat controversial despite the continuation of negotiations for the establishment of borders. The agreement reached in the spring of 2005 was offset by the new frictions that arose following the refusal of the highest Estonian authorities to participate in the celebrations held in Moscow on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazism (May 2005).