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ERR News - Estonian Parliament confirmed the final version of the 2011 national budget with a 55- 32 vote, increasing revenue by 2 percent to 5.7 billion euros.
A priority of the budget is education, for which expenditure rose by 8 percent. Costs for defense grew to 1.9 percent of GDP.
A government mandate to reestablish pension fund payments, made optional during the recession to relieve financial burden, as well as a growing population of old-age pensioners, also increased the costs.

ERR News - Estonia's first and only food bank-type NGO to feed those in need, founded in March of this year, expanded throughout the country on December 9, when the towns of Narva, Pärnu, Rakvere, Tartu and Jõhvi signed contracts.
The Food Bank, run by volunteers, was established by the Sunflower Foundation, a cooperative Estonian and Dutch effort to coordinate donations from stores, suppliers and private individuals, reported ETV.
The group's organizers creatively made use of the euro transition with a widely advertised call for citizens to give their remaining kroon coins to dropoff buckets in stores, instead of exchanging the otherwise small sums at banks.

ERR News - In coming months, a project of the Central Union of Farmers will introduce organic milk vending machines in shopping centers so that Estonians can fill reusable bottles with unpasteurized milk for a 20 percent price increase.
Lithuania is already using similar machines, which originated from Italy and have proved a success, reported ETV.
"We have mapped out all of the country's organic milk producers that are interested in selling their product through vending machines," said the farmers' association representative, Indrek Rohtma.
The first vending machines will be installed in January or February. Organizers hope to install around 10 to 20 machines in bigger towns by July.

Dec 2, 2010 - While visiting the US Cyber Comand on December 1, Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo stated that Estonia can contribute a lot more to the security of NATO and its allies in the field of cyber security than its size suggests.
In Ft. George Meade Aaviksoo met with the Commander of US Cyber Command General Keith Alexander and was given an overview of the cyber defence organization in the US.

ERR News - Estonian go-vernment has approved the Estonain renewable energy activity plan up to 2020, increasing the percentage of renewables by one-quarter of total energy consumption.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts pledges that the country wlll fulfill its obligations to the European Union. The interim target for next year is 19.4 per cent, ETV reported.
Head of the renewable energy business Unit  of Eesti Energia Ando Leppiman said the plan will increase the interest in renewable energy from energy companies while the planned cuts in subsidies will temper the interest.
The Reform Party continues to oppose decreasing subsidies for renewable energy projects already in progress. 
According to the ministry's latest draft legal act on subsidies, the state will guarantee about 0.06 euro per kilowatt hour generated from renewable sources, paying the difference between that level and a company's actual profit.

19 November (BNS) - Audiovisual heritage held in the archives of the Estonian Public Broadcasting Company, ERR, can be accessed over the internet since Friday, 19 November.
The materials can be accessed via the web page, spokespeople for ERR said. Web-based access to the audio and video archives has been created on the initiative of ERR in order to make digital audiovisual cultural heritage accessible to everyone free of charge. Right now the material that can be accessed consists of television and radio broadcasts.

ERR News - The Central Union of Estonian Farmers is protesting reforms in a new traffic law that would prohibit children from driving their parents tractors on farms.
Specifically, the measure requires driver's licenses even when operating a tractor on private property.
"This reform would take away the legal right for children of farmers to learn to drive machines and to help their parents with farm work," said the union in a statement.

ERR News - According to research by Pricewater-houseCoopers and the World Bank published November 19, Estonia has risen from 38th to 30th overall in the rankings for the ease of paying taxes.
The comprehensive international study Paying Taxes 2011 allows the taxation system to be assessed from a number of aspects. On one hand, Estonia's system is simple, innovative and business-friendly, but on the other hand, the rate for businesses is higher than in many other countries.
Estonia ranked ninth in the overall number of taxes, 14th in the time spent on paying taxes but 134th of 183 countries in total tax burden.
The average tax burden for companies in the EU is 44.2 percent; in Estonia it is 49.6 percent. The percentage is the highest in Italy (68.6), followed by France  (65.8) and Belgium (57.0). Spain, Austria, Sweden and Hungary also outstrip Estonia.


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