Estonia. After a government crisis that was resolved at
the end of 1996, Toomas H. Ilves became the new Estonian
Foreign Minister. In early 1997, he launched an intensive
campaign for Estonian membership in the EU, prioritizing the
unenviable issue of NATO membership. The EU came to be the
dominant issue in Estonian politics during the year and what
really everything else revolved around.
Countryaah, a preliminary response to Estonia's campaign came in July
when the EU Commission proposed negotiations on membership
with Estonia and five other countries (expanded in December
with additional countries). As far as NATO is concerned, the
Baltic countries were mentioned in the final declaration of
the summit in July, but all possible negotiations were
Prime Minister Tiit Vähi was forced to resign in February
after it was revealed that he had acquired several
apartments in central Tallinn on questionable grounds. He
was replaced by Mart Siimann from the Collection Party
On May 1, the visa requirement between Estonia and Sweden
and Finland was abolished. The largest privatization deal to
date was carried out when the large shipping company Eesti
Merelaevandus was sold to a group of Estonian financiers
with partners in Norway and the United States.
In September, a serious accident occurred during a
military exercise, when 14 soldiers drowned.
The economy showed strong growth - GDP improved 12% in
the first half of the year compared to the previous year.
However, the stock market crisis hit hard. The prices fell
by 55% from the highest to the lowest level. However, the
bottom record was still around 40% higher than the rates at
the beginning of the year due to the hysterical "stock
market rally" during the summer. No major difficulties are
predicted to follow on the stock market race, apart from
lower prices for primarily bank shares.