YELTSIN UPBEAT ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER.
Following his meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Baden-Baden, President Boris Yeltsin told journalists yesterday that Russia will sign a charter with NATO leaders in Paris on 27 May. The announcement came as a surprise since only a few
hours earlier, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii
had said it was premature to suggest the charter would be
signed next month. Kohl said Russia and NATO have agreed
on 90% of the first four articles of the charter. However, he
noted that the two sides still have considerable differences
over the last article, which deals with the military facilities of
new NATO members. Russia insists that NATO promise not to
build military infrastructure in new member states, but
Western officials say new members will not be offered "second-
class status" in the alliance.
YELTSIN MAKES GESTURE ON TROPHY ART ISSUE.
At his meeting with Kohl yesterday, Yeltsin handed over some
archival materials taken from Germany during World War II.
The Russian leader gave back microfilmed archives of the
Central Committee of the former East German ruling party, as
well as 11 files from the archive of former German Foreign
Minister Walther Rathenau, who signed the treaty establishing
diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1922. According to
ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin also gave Kohl an inventory of art works
and other materials taken to the USSR at the end of the war as
well as a list of property the Russian Orthodox Church wants
Germany to return.
RUSSIA UNHAPPY ABOUT EU WARNING TO BELARUS.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says it regrets the tone of a recent
EU statement calling on Belarus to undertake genuine political
and economic reforms, Reuters reported. A statement issued
by the ministry yesterday said the EU warning amounted to
political interference in Belarus's internal affairs. Last week,
the European Parliament accused Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka of a dictatorial style of government
and said it would not recognize a union treaty between Belarus
and Russia until the Belarusian parliament was consulted on
the issue. It also said that unless reforms were implemented in
Belarus, the EU would block a planned trade and aid
agreement with Minsk.
FEDERATION COUNCIL FAVORS INTERNATIONAL STATUS
The Federation Council has asked Yeltsin to consider whether the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, where the Black Sea Fleet is based, might be governed jointly by
Russia and Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. It also asked the president to insist that Ukraine
recognize there are problems surrounding the legal status of
Sevastopol. Last December, the upper house passed a
resolution claiming Sevastopol as Russian territory, prompting
protests from Kyiv. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the
resolution, saying Moscow recognized that "Sevastopol and all
of Crimea belong to Ukraine." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov,
who has frequently declared that Sevastopol "is and will
remain Russian," was absent from yesterday's Federation
Council session. He flew to the U.S. for several days of
meetings with politicians and business leaders.
CHUBAIS SAYS REGIONS WILL HAVE SAY IN DRAFTING
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says the government will seek input from regional governors and
deputies when drafting the 1998 budget, ITAR-TASS reported
yesterday. Chubais told reporters that the Finance Ministry is
already working on next year's budget and that a government
delegation will discuss budgetary issues with leaders of several
Siberian regions in May. Federation Council Speaker Yegor
Stroev said that consulting regional leaders about the budget
would prevent "stupidities such as passing a budget in order
to cut it two months later." Yesterday, Chubais told Federation
Council deputies that the 1997 budget would have to be
substantially revised because of low revenues in the first
DUMA SPEAKER ADVOCATES MONETARY EMISSION.
Gennadii Seleznev says the government should issue an
additional 20-30 trillion rubles ($3.5-5.2 billion) to pay wage
and pension arrears, Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. He said printing the extra money would not
significantly affect the inflation rate. Economics Minister
Yakov Urinson sharply criticized Seleznev's proposal, saying
any unplanned monetary emission would spark inflation and
would hurt "the most vulnerable layers of the population."
SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS LEGITIMACY OF ELECTORAL
The Supreme Court has ruled that electing half of the State Duma using a proportional representation system does
not violate voters' constitutional rights, ITAR-TASS reported.
Under the law on parliamentary elections, half of the 450
Duma deputies are chosen from party lists. Only electoral
blocs that gain at least 5% of the vote can receive any party-
list Duma seats. In the December 1995 Duma elections, the
four parties that crossed the 5% threshold won only some 50%
of the total party-list votes cast. Mikhail Martynyuk, who voted
for an unsuccessful bloc in 1995, lodged the appeal, claiming
that he had been denied his right to representation in
parliament. In an apparent attempt to call the Duma's
legitimacy into question, the presidential administration
publicized Martynyuk's case and sent a legal representative to
support him at the court hearings.
KHLYSTUN ON CRISIS IN AGRICULTURE FUNDING.
Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun has told the Federation
Council that state funding for the agrarian sector in the first
quarter of 1997 was only 11% of budgeted levels, or 300 billion
rubles ($52 million), ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Some
deputies in the upper house argued that regional funds should
be created to support agriculture, as has been done in the
republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.
IZVESTIYA SAYS MEDIA FACE CENSORSHIP ON SEVERAL
Izvestiya says the Duma's recent attempt to limit TV coverage of parliamentary activities is part of a larger trend of diminishing press freedom in Russia. Journalist Stepan
Kiselev argues in today's edition that deputies are taking their
cue from officials in the government and presidential
administration who, he said, have recently sought to punish
newspapers for publishing criticism of leading politicians. Also
in today's edition, several intellectuals and cultural figures
published an appeal denouncing attempts to turn the paper
"into an obedient mouthpiece for its new masters." This follows
an Izvestiya commentary yesterday saying the oil company
LUKoil is seeking to replace the paper's top journalists in
violation of an earlier commitment not to interfere in the
paper's editorial policy. LUKoil owns a 41% stake in Izvestiya.
CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW ON COMBATING DRUG TRADE.
At the end of a two-day conference in Moscow on combating the growing narcotics trade in the CIS, Russia has received small financial commitments from the world community, ITAR-
TASS reported yesterday. While various international
organizations and law enforcement agencies recognized that
drug trafficking is a problem in Russia and other CIS states,
the UN said it would not allow Russia to take part in its
international drug-combating program, pointing to Russia's
insufficient means and technology to tackle the problem. But
both the UN and the U.S. pledged financial support to Russian
drug-combating programs, while Germany has offered funds
for police training.
NAKHODKA MEDICS END HUNGER STRIKE.
Seven medics working for an ambulance service in Nakhodka, Primorskii
Krai, have ended an 11-day hunger strike after receiving their
February wages, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The medics
are still owed several months of back pay, which the
authorities have promised to pay soon. Meanwhile in
Volgograd Oblast, more than 100 teachers blocked traffic on a
major highway yesterday. The teachers have not received their
salaries for five months and have not been paid other benefits
for a year.
GEORGIAN WARLORD SAYS SHEVARDNADZE WITNESSED
Dzhaba Ioseliani, former head of the
disbanded Mkhedrioni paramilitary force, says he was arrested
in November 1995 because he had informed the Georgian
parliament that he was present when Interior Minister Shota
Kviraya executed five men in Georgian leader Eduard
Shevardnadze's presence. Ioseliani said the executions were
carried out in western Georgia in October 1993. The date and
place suggests that the executed men were supporters of late
President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who launched an
unsuccessful insurrection in fall 1993. Ioseliani has been
charged with treason in connection with the failed car bomb
attack on Shevardnadze in August 1995. He protests that his
arrest was illegal because, as a deputy, he had parliamentary
immunity. He added that there is no hard evidence to
substantiate the charges against him. Ioseliani made the
claims in a letter to Supreme Court chairman Mindia
Ugrekhelidze, published in the Georgian press on 16 April.
ABKHAZ PRESIDENT RULES OUT FURTHER TALKS WITH
Vladislav Ardzinba says the re-routing of all
telephone communications from Russia to Abkhazia via
Georgia was "a political act" that showed Russia is trying to
force Abkhazia to agree to enter a federation with Georgia, AFP
reported yesterday, quoting Interfax. Ardzinba ruled out
further talks with Georgia on a political solution to the conflict,
while Georgian presidential adviser Shalva Pichkhadze told
Interfax that Georgia has exhausted almost "all areas of
compromise" with Abkhazia. He hinted that Georgia could be
forced to seek alternative mediators if the resolution adopted
at the March CIS summit on broadening the mandate of the
CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia is not implemented.
WORLD BANK LENDS KYRGYZSTAN $44 MILLION.
World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) has
approved a $44 million loan for Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported
yesterday. The funds will be used to help reduce the budget
deficit and will cover the cost of privatizing or closing down
non-productive state enterprises. The loan is also intended to
help maintain essential public services slated for privatization.
It is repayable over 30 years with a10-year grace period.
TAJIK TALKS OFF AGAIN.
Talks between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition have been called
off again, RFE/RL's Tajik service reported yesterday.
Discussions resumed on 16 April after breaking down the
previous week but have now been postponed until 16 May.
Both sides said they needed to consult with their leaderships
before continuing the discussions.
OSCE DELEGATION IN BELARUS FACES PROBLEMS BUT
MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS.
An OSCE official was
barred yesterday from attending a Minsk court appearance of
Belarusian opposition leader Vasily Novikov, AFP reported.
Novikov, who was deputy speaker of the recently disbanded
parliament, was fined 5 million Belarusian rubles ($200) for
helping organize an opposition march in Minsk last month.
The previous day, OSCE delegation members met with, among
others, independent labor leader Hennady Bykov and former
parliament chairman Semyon Shartesky, who asked the OSCE
to urge Moscow to try to steer Lukashenka away from his
authoritarian policies. Sharetsky is scheduled to stand trial
today for refusing to comply with Lukashenka's demand that
he resign from his post as parliament chairman.
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH
Ivan Antanovich has asked the U.S. to avoid drawing
what he called "hasty conclusions" about his country.
Antonovich told journalists in Minsk yesterday that Belarus is
"very interested in eliminating misunderstandings" with the
U.S., which he called the "great power of the modern world."
Antonovich said U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Kenneth
Yalowitz, who was recalled recently to Washington, will return
shortly with a letter for the Belarusian president. Yalowitz left
Belarus last month following the expulsion of Serge
Alexandrov, first secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, who
was detained by police during an anti-government march last
month. Belarus accused Alexandrov of being a CIA agent who
had helped organize the rally. The State Department, however,
said he was observing the protest as part of his "routine
UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONVENES FOR
Constitutional Court spokesman Yevhen
Dmitrenko told journalists in Kyiv yesterday that Ukraine has
gained "one more attribute of a democratic country" because it
can now guarantee "all constitutional rights of [its] citizens
and organizations." Dmitrenko was speaking on the first day
the country's newly formed Constitutional Court convened.
The court's 16 judges began considering an appeal from anti-
reform lawmakers who want a constitutional provision barring
legislators from holding other posts. Under the new Ukrainian
Constitution, which was adopted last June after years of
debate, legislators are barred from working in the government
or in the private sector. Many reformist lawmakers hold top
government posts in addition to serving in the parliament.
UZBEK PRIME MINISTER IN KYIV.
Ukrainian Prime Minister
Pavel Lazarenko says he wants to expand Kyiv's ties with the
Transcaucasus and Central Asia, especially Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Lazarenko met in
Kyiv yesterday with his Uzbek counterpart, Utkir Sultanov.
Lazarenko said Ukraine wants to develop transit links through
the regions and pursue agreements on energy supplies.
Sultanov's visit also marked the first session of the
Ukrainian-Uzbek Commission for Comprehensive Cooperation.
EXPERTS TO START STABILIZATION WORK AT
An international team of experts is to start
work next week on stabilizing the sarcophagus surrounding
the reactor destroyed in the 1986 explosion, the plant's deputy
director told Interfax yesterday. Following the explosion, which
triggered the world's worst-ever civilian nuclear accident,
emergency teams quickly erected a cement sarcophagus to
prevent further leaking of radioactivity into the environment.
The official said that the reactor still contains some 200 tons
of highly radioactive material and that cracks in the
sarcophagus are causing concern whether the structure would
withstand a strong earthquake. An official at the Ukrainian
Emergencies Ministry told AFP today that a nuclear waste
treatment facility will be built to handle radioactive waste from
an exclusion zone around the plant and from within the
ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO-RUSSIAN
Toomas Hendrik Ilves says that Estonia strongly supports NATO's efforts to work out a special relationship with Russia. In an article published yesterday in The Washington
Post, he remarked that Russia remains a "great European
power and must be constructively involved in the creation of a
new Euro-Atlantic security architecture." Ilves noted that while
Russian perceptions should not be ignored, nor should the
views of "100 million East and Central Europeans." Estonia
and the other 10 applicant countries want to join NATO not
because of a sense of "impending threat" but because of the
recognition that NATO continues to perform a "valuable
function" after the end of the Cold War, he said.
GERMANY SUPPORTS LATVIAN EU MEMBERSHIP.
German President Roman Herzog says he believes Latvia will meet the criteria for admission to the EU, BNS reported. Herzog was speaking at a meeting with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis
in Berlin yesterday. The two presidents discussed German-
Latvian relations and future German investment in the Baltic
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN PRAGUE.
Vytautas Landsbergis says the union agreement between
Russia and Belarus means democracy is deteriorating in both
countries, which could heighten tension in Europe.
Landsbergis, who is on a three-day visit to Prague, spoke to
journalists yesterday after meeting with his Czech counterpart,
Milos Zeman. Landsbergis today meets with Senate speaker
Petr Pithart and Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec to discuss the
Czech's Republic support for Lithuania's bid to join NATO and
other European structures. He is also scheduled to give a
speech at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters. Meanwhile,
Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, on a state
visit to Denmark, said yesterday Baltic membership in the EU
is not a substitute for full admission to NATO.
Sejm speaker Jozef Zych says
parliamentary elections will likely take place in Poland in mid-
September, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported
yesterday. Under Polish law, the speaker must choose a non-
work day four weeks before the end of the parliamentary term.
Meanwhile, Romanian Senate speaker Petre Roman told Polish
senators in Warsaw yesterday that Romania and Poland must
improve political and economic relations as they have the
same strategic aims, above all, joining NATO. Roman said that
for Romania, membership in the alliance would mean the "first
step toward integration into the community of democratic and
SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS.
Pavol Hamzik has asked NATO not to overlook his country's bid for
membership in the alliance, TASR reported. Hamzik was
speaking yesterday in Brussels, where he met with NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana and other officials. Hamzik
said the process of change in Slovakia was "absolutely
comparable to the one taking place in Poland, the Czech
Republic, and Hungary." He asked for "understanding and
support" from NATO over the issue of Slovak gold that
Bratislava says Prague is unlawfully holding.
SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL
Michal Kovac says the country's chief
attorney has shown "professional and moral incompetence" in
failing to pursue key criminal cases. Speaking to journalists in
Bratislava yesterday, Kovac urged the parliament to dismiss
Michal Valo and listed 26 unsolved cases, including the
kidnapping of his own son, and what he called illegal deals in
the privatization of state property. Valo later rejected the
allegations at a press conference, saying he would not bow to
pressure from the president to resign. Valo was appointed by
Kovac in 1994 but can be dismissed only by the parliament.
He added that Kovac's allegations have undermined the
population's confidence in the police, the judiciary, and the
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES APPLYING FOR
Laszlo Kovacs has denied reports that
Hungary has officially applied for admission to NATO (see
RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). He told Hungarian state TV
yesterday that in his 16 April talks at NATO headquarters in
Brussels, he confirmed Hungary's desire to join the alliance
and described the country's preparations for achieving that
goal, which, he said, were "received positively." He added that
the government considers it important to hold a referendum
on joining NATO, although it is not obliged to do so under the
HUNGARIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICE SCANDAL.
Gabor Kiss, a Socialist Party deputy, has denied informing on party
members, Nepszabadsag reported yesterday. Last month, two
members of the Intelligence Office were dismissed for having
collected information on Socialist deputies without informing
either the Minister for Secret Services Istvan Nikolitis or the
legislature's National Security Committee. Magyar Hirlap
reveals today that it received a warning from Nikolitis on 16
April that it would be violating state secrets if it published
Kiss's denial. Meanwhile, the board of the Health Insurance
Authority has voted to ask the cabinet to dismiss Agnes Cser
as director-general of the Health Insurance Fund, thereby
rejecting the recommendation of Welfare Minister Mihaly
Kokeny (see RFE/RL Newsline, 14 and 15 April 1997).
CONFUSION OVER ALBANIAN ELECTION DATE.
Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, said in Tirana
yesterday that party leaders have agreed on 29 June as the
date for early parliamentary elections but have not yet reached
consensus on conditions for the poll. But later, Prime Minister
Bashkim Fino told the ATA news agency that "the elections will
be held by the end of June but a fixed date has not been
agreed to." Tritan Shehu, a leader of President Sali Berisha's
Democratic Party, told AFP that no date was even been
discussed. Other issues to be resolved before the elections
include dealing with the rebels in the south, drafting a new
election law, granting all parties freer access to TV and radio,
and clarifying why the pyramid investment schemes collapsed.
CROATIAN PARTIES WIN IN MOST SLAVONIAN
Croatian government spokesmen in Zagreb and
ethnic Serb leaders in Vukovar said yesterday that early,
unofficial returns show Croatian parties winning 16 out of
eastern Slavonia's 27 districts. Croatian Deputy Prime
Minister Ivica Kostovic told journalists that the governing
Croatian Democratic Community has an absolute majority in
most of those 16 areas. The remaining 11 were won by the
Serbian Independent Democratic Party (SSDS). The SSDS, a
broad Serbian coalition, claims victory in Beli Manastir and
some other municipalities, while both the Croats and Serbs
agree that the vote in Vukovar was evenly split. The UN
administration in the area will begin to release official figures
BILDT CALLS FOR ISOLATION OF BOSNIAN SERB
Carl Bildt, the international community's High
Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, wrote UN Secretary-
General Kofi Annan yesterday that there should be only
"essential business contacts" with the Serbian member of the
joint Bosnian presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik. Bildt says that
Krajisnik is still close to former Bosnian Serb leader and
indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Bildt called
Karadzic's role "evil," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sarajevo
reported. Meanwhile, Bildt's spokesman told reporters that
there will be no international aid for Bosanski Samac and Foca
in the Republika Srpska and for Croat-controlled Vitez
because indicted war criminals openly take part in local
STEINER SLAMS BOSNIAN SERB TRIAL OF "ZVORNIK
Bildt's deputy, Michael Steiner, has blasted the Bosnian Serb authorities for not allowing seven Muslim males
to have their own lawyers in a trial that was slated to open this
week in Zvornik. He said in Sarajevo yesterday that the trial is
"a travesty of justice" and could lead to sanctions against the
Serbs. Mystery has surrounded the case of the seven, who
surrendered to U.S. peacekeepers near Zvornik last May. The
Muslims claimed to be survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica
massacre, but the Serbs charged them with murder and
unauthorized possession of weapons. The peacekeepers
handed the Muslims over to the Serbian police, which the
Muslims say tortured them.
OSCE LACKS MONEY FOR BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.
Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Peterson said in Vienna
yesterday that the OSCE is $32 million short of what it needs
to organize the Bosnian local elections in September. He
accused various unspecified countries of engaging the OSCE
in various political projects but failing to provide the money to
carry them out. Peterson said the time has come to abandon
the system of financing the OSCE on the basis of voluntary
contributions and to start assessing members dues instead.
ALL SLOVENIAN PARTIES BACK NATO MEMBERSHIP.
All parties signed a declaration in Ljubljana yesterday supporting
membership in the Atlantic alliance. The parties say that
Slovenia is ready to cover all expenses connected with joining.
The opposition Social Democrats launched the initiative.
Slovenia has been intensively lobbying NATO member states in
recent weeks in a bid to be admitted in the first wave of new
members. It is the only former Yugoslav republic that most
observers give a serious chance of admission in the foreseeable
future, although Croatian President Franjo Tudjman says that
his country is ready to join.
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET LAW.
A joint session of Romania's bi-cameral parliament has passed the
law on the 1997 state budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported yesterday. The leftist and nationalist opposition voted
against the law. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara told
RFE/RL's Romanian service that the budget will require "a few
months of sacrifice" from the population but will enable
Romania to shake off its current economic impasse. The
budget foresees a deficit amounting to 4.5% of GDP, an
inflation rate of 90%, and an 8% unemployment rate. The
same day, the government amended and approved the list of
10 state-owned loss-making companies slated for privatization
or liquidation. Together, those companies account for 7.5% of
the deficit in the state sector.
ROMANIA WANTS TO PURCHASE USED U.S. FIGHTER
A Defense Ministry spokesman says Romania plans
to buy used fighter and transport planes from the U.S. military
to bring the country closer to NATO standards. He told Reuters
yesterday that Defense Minister Victor Babiuc has sent a letter
of intent to the U.S. Defense Department for the purchase of
12 F-16 or F-18 fighter jets and nine Hercules C-130 transport
aircraft. The spokesman also said Bell Helicopter Textron of
the States was "at an advanced stage" in its bid to buy a
controlling stake in the Intreprinderea Aeronautica Romana
company to jointly produce Cobra attack helicopters.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin and his Italian
counterpart, Lamberto Dini, met in Rome yesterday and signed
a joint declaration on a "strategic partnership" between their
countries. An RFE/RL corespondent in the Italian capital
reported that the document provides for Italian support for
Romania's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.
RUSSIAN DUMA COMMISSION WRAPS UP MOLDOVAN
Adrian Puzanovsky, head of a State Duma commission for the Transdniester, says the Duma has not ratified the 1990 basic treaty with Moldova because the breakaway region's
problems have not yet been solved, BASA-press reported
yesterday. Speaking at the end of the commission's four-day
visit to Moldova, Puzanovsky said the Duma's stance is
"dictated by its responsibility" toward settling the conflict. He
added that the commission was "highly appreciative" of the
accords to resume negotiations signed by Chisinau and
Tiraspol as a result of Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's
mediation. The commission was received yesterday by
President Petru Lucinschi and other Moldovan officials.
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS CLINTON ABOUT
EXCLUSION FROM NATO.
Petar Stoyanov has sent a letter
addressed to U.S. President Bill Clinton warning that leaving
Bulgaria out of NATO risks creating a "gray area" in the
Balkans, Reuters reported yesterday, citing a press release
from the presidential office. Bulgaria itself could turn from an
"island of stability" into an "island of uncertain security," he
said. Stoyanov told Reuters he expects tomorrow's
parliamentary elections to seal a new national consensus in
favor of the market reforms delayed since the end of
communist rule. He said Bulgaria was a latecomer to those
reforms but could learn from the mistakes of its more
advanced ex-communist neighbors. Meanwhile, the election
campaign ended yesterday.
The Internet In The Baltic States
by Julie Moffett
The Baltic States are making steady strides along
the information superhighway by co-financing projects
with Western nations and organizations that will help
develop network services to increase Internet
capability in the coming years. Overall, in terms of
Internet technology and connectivity, Estonia, Latvia,
and Lithuania appear well ahead of most former Soviet
republics. Part of the reason for their success is the
strong support they have received in this effort from
the governments of Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
In 1993, the Nordic Council of Ministers
initiated a program called BALTnet, which provided
funding for computer network development in the Baltic
States. One of the most important aspects of the
program was the immediate establishment of
international network links between those states and
their Scandinavian neighbors.
However, the Baltic States, like most countries
in the region, are hampered by a technologically
outdated telephone system. Most of the phone lines in
the Baltic countries are analog (designed to support
voice) and not digital (designed to quickly exchange
data). As a result, those people who do have Internet
access are often restricted in their on-line time
owing to frustrating delays and expensive telephone
Guntis Barzdins, a professor at the Institute of
Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of
Latvia and a regional expert on the Internet, says
that although most telephone lines in the Baltics are
analog, roughly 50% of the lines in Riga and Tallinn
are now digital. He says there are currently no
digital lines in Lithuania but that preparations are
being made for their installation in various locations
There are still several major obstacles in the
way of improved Internet connectivity in the Baltic
nations: the high cost of computer equipment, compared
with the average salaries of workers; poor
communication infrastructure and a lack of digital
lines; expensive telephone lines; and dependency on
international funding, making long-range planning
difficult. However, progress is being made in each of
the Baltic States.
Since establishing an Internet connection,
Estonia has concentrated on networking university,
government, and commercial users. The government has
played a large role in matching funds of private
Western donors and making the issue a national
priority. In 1995, the Open Society Regional Internet
Program (OSI-RIP) invested in mobile radio links to
extend connectivity to rural areas. According to OSI-
RIP, it is estimated that nearly 50% of all secondary
schools in the country now have some level of
Estonia also created the Estonian Educational and
Research Network, or EENET. Most of the nation's
schools and government and non-governmental
organizations are now connected to this network.
Future Internet projects include a coordinated effort
called "Tiger Leap" between OSI-RIP and the Estonian
government to connect all secondary schools to the
Internet by the year 2000.
Internet connectivity in Latvia is making rapid
progress but is concentrated mostly in Riga. Because
of a lack of funds, the Latvian government has been
hard-pressed to financially support technology
development and infrastructure building. Currently
there are two main networks operating in Latvia.: the
scientific and educational community largely use a
network called LATNET, while banks and other
commercial enterprises use a network called LATPAK.
Internet connectivity for schools does not seem
to have been vigorously pursued. Some estimates
indicate that less than a quarter of secondary schools
in Latvia have Internet access. OSI-RIP says its 1997
projects in Latvia will include an effort to provide
more regional connectivity outside Riga and increase
communication with libraries and cultural
Lithuania's efforts to improve Internet
connectivity have been hampered by a lack of
government funding, but progress is being made. Its
main operating network is called LITNet.
In 1995, OSI-RIP purchased 100 used computers for
secondary schools, which were used as servers to
connect to electronic mail. The following year, the
Lithuanian Ministry of Education installed thousands
of computers in secondary schools following a $7
million equipment donation from the U.S. company IBM.
Internet programs for 1997 include an OSI-RIP-
funded expansion of Internet services into rural
areas, additional Internet training and the testing of
new satellite technology.
More than 90,000 people are estimated to use the
Internet in the Baltic States: some 35,000 each in
Estonia and Latvia and 23,000 in Lithuania.