The Sunday Leader

Allow International Investigations Estonia’s FM

  • Ahead Of UNHRC Sessions

Ms. Kristi Tiivas
Photos By Asoka Fernando and Urmas Paet

Estonia expects Sri Lanka to be open to international investigations on alleged human rights abuse, its Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told this reporter in Colombo on Thursday.
Estonia which was elected to the UN’s Human Rights (HR) Council (UNHRC) this year, carries a vote when it comes to next month’s HR sessions in Geneva where a US backed vote against Sri Lanka would again be taken up.
Last year the USA moved a successful resolution against Sri Lanka in Geneva. Estonia was then not a member of the UNHRC.
Paet said that Estonia has not yet decided whether they are to support the US resolution or not.
He however said that there is still time before the Geneva sessions for Sri Lanka to mend its ways.
Sri Lanka previously refused an EU appointed delegation to visit Sri Lanka to investigate on alleged HR abuse during the closing stages of its war against the LTTE, the end result of which was the loss of the GSP + duty free facility which allowed it to export several goods such as garments, porcelain and ceramic products and fish to the EU, its single biggest export market on a duty free basis.
Recently Sri Lanka also refused to grant permission for UN HR Commissioner Ms. Navanethem Pillay and a group of rapporteurs to visit Sri Lanka, saying that it will only permit the former to visit the island.
“Estonia, an EU member country, opened itself up for international investigations in 1991 after it gained independence from Russia (former Soviet Union), despite the fact how painful such investigations were,” said Paet. Paet who was due to have had left the island on Friday said that he had meetings with Sri Lanka’s Deputy External Affairs  Minister and “Acting Defence Minister.” He was also due to meet the Economic Development Minister. He however had had no meetings with the President.
“I couldn’t meet External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris as he was away in Bangladesh,” said Paet.
Paet who led a business delegation to the island, further said that Sri Lanka should join the International Criminal Court.
Estonia, located in Northern Europe, has a 1.3 million population. Comprising an area of 45,000 square kilometres, its GDP per capita is US$ 21,200. Two way trade between the two countries is estimated at euro five million. Sri Lanka’s main export to Estonia is tea, while that of the latter is timber.  Trade between the two countries is squared. Estonia has a 50% forest cover. This North European country is located close to St. Petersburg and Moscow (a 130 km. distance) and is 80 km. away from Helsinki, with the potential to meet 300 million consumers in 48 hours, said Ms. Kristi Tiivas, Director, Estonian Investment & Trade Agency, in a presentation made to a local audience at this occasion.
Belarus and Ukraine are also in the vicinity.
She further said that in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” rankings, Estonia was placed 21st, and in “Trading Across Borders” it was ranked 7th in the world, ahead of the UK.
On e-security,  that country came 7th in the world and in Transparency International’s Corruption Index, Estonia was ranked 32nd in the world.Broadband connectivity coverage among schools in Estonia was 100%, with 99% of high school students learning English. 70% of homes have broadband connection. Mobile penetration was 110%, while 98% of bank transactions were conducted electronically. Further, 92% of income tax declarations are also entered electronically.
1.2 million of its 1.3 million citizens have identity cards which may be used  as e-signatures.
In the 2011 elections 25% of the vote was cast electronically of whom ¼ of the voters were over 55 years of age.
Income tax rate is a fixed 21%. 60% of the economy comprises tourism, with nine million foreigners having had visited Estonia last year. The budget is balanced, with inflation recorded at 3.4% in the 3rd quarter (Q) of last year. Estonia’s public debt to GDP ratio is 10%. Its economy grew by 3.4% in 2012 3Q.  Skype was introduced to the world by Estonia.
It takes 15 minutes to start a company in this North European state and that may be done through the internet, said Tiivas. NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre is located in Estonia. Estonia has an A-rating from international rating agencies. The country has an open capital account.The event was organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka.

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