After passing an ownership act in June 1990, the government began a privatization program at the beginning of 1991. Most of the nearly 500 state-owned companies have since passed into new hands. The Estonian Privatization Agency (EPA) was established to oversee major privatization programs. In late 1995, EPA announced privatization plans for Estonian Railways, Estonian Energy, Estonian Oil Shale, Estonian Telekom, and Tallinn Ports. Estonian Gas, Estonian Tobacco, and Estonian Air were privatized in 1996. As of the 2002, only the port and the main power plants remained state-controlled.
Estonia has excellent intellectual property laws, has enacted modern bankruptcy legislation, and has seen the emergence of well-managed privately held banks. The constitution mandates a balanced budget, and the climate for foreign investment is positive. The country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999 and was invited to join the European Union (EU) in December 2002, with accession planned for 2004. In 2003, the economy was vulnerable, and the size of the current account deficit was a particular concern. The government was urged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pursue a fiscal surplus policy, to prepare for membership in the European Economic and Monetary Union.