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2011 - Economy, politics and culture Not surprisingly Estonia's accession to the euro area dominated New Year's Eve all around the country.

- The accession to the euro area will bring stability and end incompetent, if not malicious, speculations of the devaluation of the Estonian kroon, said Prime Minister Andrus Ansip as he symbolically withdraw a euro bank note from an ATM machine at Tallinn's Teatri Väljak at midnight on New Year's Eve.

- Price increases and decreases are powered by the market, rather than the transition to the euro, continued Andrus Ansip addressing inflation as a threat to a sustainable economic growth in Estonia following the global financial crisis. Any kind of inappropriate pricing in connection with the transition to the euro is malicious and unacceptable. Price increases in general have nothing to do with the transition to the euro and neither is any price decrease the result of the euro.

Entering 2011 the internal demand and purchase power is still low in Estonia and it is the export companies who are the engines in the country's economy.

- The introduction of the euro will increase the confidence on Estonia's economy and political system among foreign investors and customers at foreign markets, commented Tarmo Kriis, Chairman at the Estonian Employers' Confederation.

– The euro will indeed eliminate some questions when doing export businesses, agrees Veiko Sepp, Managing Director at Ericsson Eesti, one of the most important Estonian based export companies.

- Doing businesses with the world's second largest reserve currency and the world's second most traded currency offer more advantages than risks, said Swedbank's Macro Economist Maris Lauri. Since a good part of Estonia's foreign commerce, trade and investments are done within the eurozone companies will see their transaction costs decrease. And so will many private individuals in Estonia as well since their loans are in euro.

- The crisis did not evolve into a catastrophe because when things became difficult – and even before the lean times began – we mostly took the right steps, said Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in his New Year's speech.

- However, many of us have yet to find work even under these improving economic conditions. The year, which we are about to welcome in, will not necessarily bring relief to everyone in this regard. But it is our shared responsibility to avoid making unemployment a career and isolation a lifestyle, concluded President Ilves.

On the international scene, Estonia's accession to the Eurozone is to a large extent regarded as a top political achievement. It remains to be seen whether this opinion is shared by the Estonian voters as the country has the election to the Parliament coming up on March 6th.

The major Estonian political parties will be offered a possibility to face representatives of the majority in terms of foreign direct investments and international commerce and trade on one spot at the same time before the election. The parties will get the opportunity to present their political standpoints and take part in a debate arranged in cooperation by the Swedish, German-Baltic and American Chambers of Commerce in Estonia, and the Foreign Investors' Council in Estonia. An invitation to the Chambers' members for this event will follow within a couple of weeks.

The New Year's Eve euro welcoming celebrations at Tallinn's Teatri Väljak was also shared with the opening ceremony of Tallinn as the European Capital of Culture 2011.

The ceremony was arranged by Tallinn 2011 Foundation, Estonia National Opera and Estonian Public Broadcasting in cooperation with Government Office, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, City of Tallinn, Bank of Estonia and Solaris.

Teatri Väljak housed culture kiosks for this one night and outdoor screens transmitted the New Year's Eve's programme on Estonian TV. Through special screens people on the Theatre Square were part of the Estonia Ball, the after party of the international theatre festival "A Winter Nights Dream" in the City Theatre, as well as events going on in the NO99 Straw Theatre, New World Community and CAME (Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia) by the seaside.

Upcoming events and information on Tallinn – the European Capital of Culture 2011 are available online at www.tallinn2011.ee.