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Estonia's population decline slows - official statistics

TALLINN, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - Estonia's statistics department said Tuesday that the country's population fell by 2,500 to 1.34 million during 2006, indicating that the ex-Soviet nation's demographic crisis continues, albeit at a slower rate.

During the first decade of Estonia's independence from the Soviet Union, the small Baltic nation lost 200,000 people due to the low birth rate and mass emigration of people employed in Soviet companies. The steady decline has continued since the country joined the European Union in 2004.

However, the statistics service said the population reduction was less than in recent years, due to a slightly higher birth rate.

During the 1990s, live births registered in Estonia dropped from 19,300 per year to 13,000. Estonian authorities and the United Nations expect the country's depopulation trend to continue for the foreseeable future, raising serious issues for both the economy and society.

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