Estonia moves a ministry

July 7, 2000

Estonia's ministry of education is to move from the capital, Tallinn, to the university city of Tartu during the next academic year.

The move, scheduled to be completed by 2001, will cost upwards of 40 million Estonian kroons (Pounds 1.6 million) and is seen as a means of promoting regional development.

Prime minister Maat Laar has also indicated that he would like a public debate about moving the ministry of culture to Tartu. Tartu is the country's second largest city and its status as the seat of one of Europe's oldest universities makes education and culture obvious choices for relocation.

Peeter Tulviste, a former rector of Tartu University and current chairman of the city council, was delighted by the prime minister's proposal. The very fact that the move is even being discussed, he said, was a matter of great significance for regional development.

Regional development is an important issue for Estonia, currently a front-runner for membership of the European Union. And Tartu has a shortage of jobs, particularly jobs that students can combine with studies. According to Karen Jaanson, deputy director of the department of development planning of Tartu county, the proximity of academics and students will "greatly benefit" the relocated civil servants.

The previous government established a working group to examine the possibility of making Tartu the capital, in place of Tallinn. Both cost and complexity make such a move unlikely.

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