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French railway operator SNCF, the engineering and consultancy firm Systra, and the energy and transport company Alstom have expressed interest in investing into Rail Baltic, a planned railway that would link the Baltic states with Western Europe, the Lithuanian Minister of Trans-port, Eligijus Masiulis, said in a statement on May 23. At the meeting with the minister, a representative of SNCFL, Le Roux said that, as Rail Baltic will combine a number of international transport corridors, participation in the project is a historic opportunity and must not be missed. A well-organized rail network is necessary in order to ensure attractiveness of this form of transportation, said Le Roux. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have so far signed an agreement to establish a joint company that will be responsible for carrying out the project. A working group of the three nations will meet this week in Tallinn to clarify conditions.        VES/ERR  


ERR News – Homeowners are reaping some rewards from the EU's efforts to staunch the debt crisis as interest rates have dropped to a ten-year low. The Bank of Estonia said the average interest rate on home loans was 3.1 percent in April, due mainly to a drop in the Euribor reference rate at which banks in the Eurozone offer each other term deposits. A month ago, the six-month Euribor reached the 1 percent mark for the first time in nearly two years, and it has continued to drop since then. The decrease is attributed primarily to the European Central Bank's (ECB) decision to flood the market with 1 trillion euros in three-year loans. The ECB has also cut interest rates, which have stayed at a record-low 1 percent since November.                        


ERR News - Tartu Science Park opened the doors of a new demo center for mobile application software. The idea is to give mobile application developers a place to share and market their ideas, as well as to receive assistance from experts. The demo center will provide technical support, but initially developers must bring their own programming skills. "We will hold open houses and events where very competent and knowledgeable people share their knowledge with others,” said the project's manager, Vaido Mikheim. "We do not yet offer in-house training.” “This technology base is created on the principle that it be as flexible and diverse as possible to use smartphones and tablet PCs with all the different operating systems and, to create a wide selection of possibilities for available ideas,” Mikheim said.


ERR News - The Estonian Central Crime Investigation Department searched the ruling Reform Party's offices on May 24, as an allegedly illegitimate funding scheme continues to unravel. Reform Party Secretary General Martin Kukk said the authorities confiscated several computers. “The Central Crime Investigation Department is conducting a search in connection with the criminal investigation that was launched a few days ago relating to information revealed to the public by [Reform Party member] Silver Meikar,” Kaarel Kuusk, a spokesman for the Police and Border Guard Board, told a reporter.


ERR News - Estonia's marathon hopeful at the London Olympics, Evelin Talts, compares her pleasure from running with addiction. ETV recently talked to Evelin Talts, who will represent Estonia in the women's marathon at the London Olympics. In about 80 days, Talts will be tackling the standard marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers in London with the aim of improving on her current personal best of 2 hours and 37 minutes. "When I started training again three years ago, I just wanted to keep fit and to participate in running events in Estonia. Since the overall level was weak, I made it to the top three and that motivated me. The idea to try for the Olympics came to me in the fall," Talts told ETV. "It is a little bit like a drug addiction. It is tough when you are making the effort, but once you have finished, the satisfaction and the feeling of pleasure can last for weeks, or even months. That feeling of pleasure helps me to continue training and running marathons again and again," explained Talts when asked about her motivation for hitting the running track.


ERR News - The Synod of Constantinople has canonized 11 clerics and lay persons who perished during the first two years of the Soviet occupation of Estonia. A decree of canonization was read on May 17, in the Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord in Tallinn that added 9 men and 2 women to the Orthodox Church's list of saints.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate canonized five priests, two deacons and four lay persons who were executed by the Soviet authorities or died in prison or in forced labor camps in 1940 to 1941. The Orthodox Church of Estonia will hold a memorial service to the martyrs on the anniversary of the June 14, 1941 deportations.                                                               


ERR News - The Estonian Chess Federation signed an agreement on May, 14, in Tallinn with former chess world champion Garry Kasparov, now president of the Kasparov Chess Foundation, to initiate a chess program in Estonian grade schools. Twelve schools have so far confirmed participation in the chess program starting next fall. The president of the Chess Federation, Andrei Korobeinik, said bringing chess to schools has been a major goal of his organization. “The popularity of chess cannot grow if there are no opportunities to learn and play the game as a child,” said Korobeinik.


This was the theme for the 2012 Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies Conference held last weekend of April in Chicago. An interesting thought to ponder, when you consider the past twenty years. The conference had over 200 participants attending from as far as Japan and Australia. Sonoko Shima of the Showa Women’s University in Japan, discussed the state of Baltic Studies in Japan and their upcoming tour of the Baltic States.


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