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by Euro Reporter
2013-01-17 11:38:12
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Leader’s Twitter feud to become opera

A Twitter feud in June between the Estonian president and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who questioned the impact of Estonia's austerity measures, is being turned into an opera, US composer Eugene Birman told AFP on Wednesday. "Our short opera will be first performed by Iris Oja and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Risto Joost during Tallinn Music Week on April 7," Birman, who moved from Riga to the US at age of six, told AFP. The piece, in two movements, uses two voices, those of Krugman and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, reflecting their exchanges on the Twitter social network. "'Nostra Culpa' (Our Fault) is a short 16 minutes operatic piece which takes up the age-old economic disagreement of austerity vs. stimulus," journalist Scott Diel, who wrote the opera's libretto, told AFP.

The bow-tie loving Ilves went on a tweet-rant after Krugman, the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics, argued in a short article entitled "Estonian Rhapsody" that while Estonia had been globally praised for its austerity measures, its recovery was in fact lukewarm. "Let's write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing...Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a 'wasteland,'" Ilves responded on his page on the on the micro-blogging site Twitter. "But yes, what do we know? We're just dumb and silly East Europeans," he added, before writing in his final tweet, "Let's sh*t on East Europeans." Estonia is an ex-Soviet Baltic state of 1.3 million people which regained independence in 1991 and joined the EU in 2004, and the eurozone in 2011. Its economy shrank by a 14.3 percent in 2009, on the heels of the global financial crisis. Its austerity-minded centre-right government imposed painful austerity cuts in order to keep the national debt at an EU record low.

Economic growth returned in 2010, with output expanding by 2.3 percent, and went on to post an increase of 7.6 percent in 2011. It was forecast to see 2.2 percent growth last year. "Better than no recovery at all, obviously? But this is what passes for economic triumph?" Krugman quipped in his piece. "The drama comes not simply from the subject matter which is inherently dramatic, but from the fact that this story, between Professor Krugman and President Ilves, is something that affects so many people in Europe, in the United States, around the world," Diel told AFP. "The financial crisis affected the lives of people rich and poor, but the story of how we came out of it is still being written. Music can be a really important part of thinking about it, that's the role music has played a lot in history," he noted.


Estonia sets immigration quota at 1,062 people

The Ministry of Interior has made a proposal to set the immigration quota at 1,062 people for 2013 which represents 0.075% of Estonia’s permanent population, writes Postimees daily.

According to the proposal, the quota would be divided into two parts, 531 immigrants in the first half and 531 in the second half. In 2012, the quota was 1,008 people and represented a similar proportion from the country’s permanent population.

As of January 1, there were 178,221 foreigners living in Estonia with a long-term residence permit.


Estonia's capital made public transit free to make people give up driving

The 400,000 residents of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and the largest city in the northern European country, can now use the city's public transportation system at no cost. As of January 1, anyone with a registered Tallinn address can purchase a personalized fare card called a "ühiskaart" that will allow them free use of the city's networks of buses, trams, and trolleys, Estonian Public Broadcasting reported.

The new policy, which could come at a loss of €12 million per year, is "motivated by environmental and social concerns." The city says it will encourage residents to stop driving and use public transportation: With this step, Tallinn will safeguard social cohesion of local community granting equal mobility opportunities to all social strata. To many car drivers, free public transport will be a major incentive to switch to public transport thus reducing pollution and noise, and, in the long run, will improve living standards of all citizens.

Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar said providing free transit to city-dwellers will make the Estonian capital "the flagship of [the] green movement in Europe," the BBC reported.

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Emanuel Paparella2013-01-17 12:05:36
It's good to turn the diatribe into an opera but then it would have to be dicided if it will be a Greek Tragedy or an Opera Buffa. In any case, I think Kruger haa it on target, not because he is a Nobel economy winner, or because he writes treatisies on Twitter or The Economist, but because we have other countries such as England, to mention one, where extreme austerity has only led to very tepid if any growth.

I suppose we all defend our pet theories and try winning the argument, but truth is like justice, it is blind and objective not warm and fuzzy. I think the ancient Greek taught us that much at least. Back to the future?

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-17 12:10:15
P.S. On the other hand, Tallinn's free transit is undoubtedly a great ecological idea that challenges assumption on what progress and modernity is and whose time has come. It ought to be imitated by other cities around the world, perhaps even by the Danes with their giant wind turbo engines that mindlessly kill birds.

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