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Baltic Report: April 7, 2003

7 April 2003, Volume 4, Number 12

This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 22 to 28 March 2003.
Representatives of the 19 NATO member states on 26 March signed accession protocols for the seven states that received invitations for NATO membership at the alliance's Prague summit in November, according to NATO's official website ( The Protocols of Accession are amendments to the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO's founding document. The protocols, once ratified by the 19 member states, will permit Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia to become parties to the treaty and members of the alliance. In his speech, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson reminded the countries to vigorously pursue reform programs to ensure that they can make a meaningful contribution to the alliance. "In a time when we are constantly reminded not to take our security for granted, today's ceremony is a significant and inspiring example that if we stand firm in defense of our values, we can genuinely change history -- for our countries, and for the Euro-Atlantic community that we are building together," he concluded.

Foreign Ministers Kristiina Ojuland (Estonia), Sandra Kalniete (Latvia), and Antanas Valionis (Lithuania) attended the signing of NATO's Protocols of Accession in Brussels on 26 March, BNS reported. In her address after the signing, Ojuland called the expected accession of seven newcomers "a historic step for a Europe free, whole, and at peace" and affirmed that Estonia will stand by all its commitments to the alliance. Kalniete stressed that NATO membership will mean that Latvia "will never again have to stand alone" in threatening situations. Calling for the swift ratification of the accession protocols, she said Latvia is ready to be a trustworthy ally and to contribute to peace and stability. Valionis said Lithuania is prepared to contribute to Euro-Atlantic safety through political and military measures.
* At the 59th session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on 25 March, Russian delegation representative Roman Romanov charged that Latvia and Estonia were using legislation to put artificial barriers hindering the integration of Russian-speaking residents in the countries, LETA reported. He said a majority of noncitizens were banned from the right to undergo naturalization because of political motives. Latvia responded by pointing out that Romanov had not listened to the speech at the commission on 17 March by Social Integration Affairs Minister Nils Muiznieks, who mentioned that 95 percent of the people who take the Latvian language examination succeed in passing it on the first attempt, including foreign diplomats who had been in Latvia for just one year.
* A recent UN population survey predicts that the population of the Baltic states will decrease sharply in the coming 50 years, ELTA reported on 24 March. It foresees that the populations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania will decrease from 1.36 million, 2.3 million, and 3.5 million, respectively, in 2000 to 657,000, 1.3 million, and 2.5 million in 2050.

Res Publica, the Reform Party, and the People's Union initialed a coalition agreement in Tallinn on 27 March that foresees Res Publica Chairman Juhan Parts as Estonia's next prime minister, BNS reported. The parties were expected to sign the 43-page agreement on 2 April. It provides for the division of major posts in both the government and in parliament. As the largest party, Res Publica would also name the parliament's chairperson and the ministers of education and science, justice, finance, and social affairs. The Reform Party would obtain the first deputy chairman's post in parliament and five ministerial posts -- defense, culture, economy and communications, population, and foreign affairs. The People's Union would choose four ministers -- agriculture, environment, interior, and regional affairs. The names of the likely ministers were not revealed, since the policymaking councils of the Reform Party and Res Publica, which are to meet on 29 and 30 March, respectively, still must approve the coalition agreement and make the final decisions on the party's nominees for ministers. The coalition agreement also stated clear opposition to the federalization of the EU, affirming that the EU must "be based on sovereign and equal member states and for its decision-making to be governed by equal treatment of all member states, transparency of decision-making, democratic responsibility and the sovereignty of member states." It also supported the continuation of the rotation of EU presiding countries, and opposed establishing the institution of a president of the European Council. The agreement also expressed support for extending the president's term of office from five to six years without the right to a second term. It calls for holding on the day of the election of the European Parliament in 2004 a referendum on constitutional amendments that would establish the direct election of the president from 2006.

Continuing his visits to the seven countries invited to join NATO, Robertson paid a short visit to Tallinn on 24 March, BNS reported. He held talks with President Arnold Ruutel, Prime Minister Siim Kallas, Foreign Minister Ojuland, and Defense Minister Sven Mikser. Speaking to the Estonian NATO Association, he said there was no reason why the ongoing military campaign in Iraq should delay the ratification of the accession of new members to NATO. Robertson explained at a press conference that it is the democratic right of NATO members to hold different views on the Iraq war. He said French and German opposition to the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq was made possible because NATO is not the Warsaw Pact, and differences are acceptable. He rejected suggestions that some NATO members, particularly France, might oppose the accession of candidate countries because of their support for Washington's policy on Iraq, noting that the only accession criteria are that the candidate countries meet NATO's military and democratic requirements.

President Ruutel signed on 24 March a resolution scheduling the first session of the newly elected parliament for 31 March, BNS reported. Of the 101 elected deputies, 57 will be newcomers to the parliament, but this number could increase as former parliament deputy Tartu Mayor Andrus Ansip has declared that he will not accept his mandate, and four other elected deputies, including Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, have not yet announced their acceptance. At the session, Prime Minister Kallas will announce the resignation of his cabinet, and Ruutel will have 14 days to nominate a candidate for prime minister.

Reform Party Chairman Kallas said on 26 March that, if asked, he would not accept a ministerial post in the coalition government headed by Res Publica Chairman Parts, BNS reported. He explained that the work of a new prime minister would be made more difficult by the presence in his cabinet of his immediate predecessor, as there would be constant comparisons between the new and the old leader, and their different styles of management. "I'll be making my contribution to the success of the new government by doing my job in the parliament," Kallas said. It appears likely that he will be elected chairman of the Reform Party's faction in parliament and will not seek the chairmanship of any standing committee.

The cabinet approved and sent to parliament on 25 March a bill to send up to 55 peacekeeping troops to Iraq after military operations there are completed, BNS reported. Government spokesman Daniel Vaarik said he believes parliament will approve the bill. It provides for a six-month term for the mission, but the Defense Ministry proposed approving participation for one year, because experience has shown that peacekeeping missions take longer than six months. The expenses for the mission are to be paid from the supplementary budget.
* French National Assembly deputy Andre Schneider visited Tallinn on 25 and 26 March to prepare an informational report to the assembly on the country's preparation for EU membership, BNS reported. He told a press conference that the war in Iraq and EU enlargement must be kept separate and positions on the war will not have any effect on France's ratification of candidates. Schneider had meetings with President Ruutel, Foreign Minister Ojuland, Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Alar Streimann, and head of the governmental European integration office Henrik Hololei.
* A delegation from the Defense Ministry signed a plan of defense cooperation with the Czech Republic on 28 March in Prague, BNS reported. The signing took place as part of the political-defense negotiations that dealt with bilateral cooperation, Estonia's membership in NATO, the international security situation, and defense policy.
* In an interview with the daily "Postimees" of 27 March, Ambassador to Moscow Karin Jaani said the promised changes in the country's policy toward Russia by Foreign Minister Ojuland did not yield any favorable results, BNS reported. The various attempts to make progress on key issues were without effect. Russia retained the list of seven demands made by former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov for improving relations. She noted that while Russia no longer supports Russian political parties in Estonia, it apparently wants the Center Party to remain in power.
* The government approved on 25 March a program of support for Estonian communities abroad for the 2004-08 period, BNS reported. The program's objective is to determine which communities abroad are viable and give them steady support. Population Minister Eldar Efendijev noted that emigre Estonians in the East are more in need of direct material aid than those in the West, but both can help the country to achieve its economic, political, and cultural goals. About 160,000 people or roughly 14 percent of Estonians live abroad with the largest community being in the territories of the former Soviet Union.
* The board of the Estonian Journalists Union (EAL) gave its support to Ago Tuuling, a nonparty candidate for the position of state conciliator, BNS reported on 25 March. He was nominated by the Central Confederation of Employees' Unions (TALO). The two other candidates nominated so far, Raivo Paavo and Heljo Pikhof, are members of the Moderates. The EAL stated that since the Moderates are already in charge of the Labor Market Board, the labor inspectorate, and the unemployment fund it would be better that the state conciliator not belong to any party. The state conciliator's post became vacant when Henn Parn was elected to the parliament.
* Turiba, a private graduate business school in Latvia, announced on 26 March that it was abandoning plans to buy Estonia's Concordia University because Concordia's debts were too large, BNS reported. Turiba, however, would continue talks with the newly established nongovernmental organization set up by Concordia's faculty, staff, and students which is trying to stop the closure of the school. Concordia owner Mart Susi said he is also conducting talks with Latvia's Parex Bank on a possible purchase of the university.
* Estonian Oil Shale signed an agreement with the Citizenship and Migration Board, the State Examination and Qualification Center, and the Integration Foundation on 28 March to assist its workers to naturalize, BNS reported. The company will release via its internal information channels information about the process of attaining citizenship and provide its premises for consultations and exams. It currently employs 2,317 stateless persons.
* Customs data released on 24 March indicated that in February total imports were 9.14 billion kroons ($618 million) and exports 6.11 billion kroons, resulting in a trade deficit of 3.03 billion kroons, BNS reported. The deficit was 1.11 billion kroons and 1.71 billion kroons greater than in January and in February 2002, respectively.
* President Ruutel appointed Ambassador to Hungary Toivo Tasa to be the Ambassador to Croatia, as well, on 24 March, BNS reported. The 50-year-old Tasa will continue to live in Budapest to which he was appointed in 2001.

In Riga on 25 March, Prime Minister Einars Repse, parliament speaker Ingrida Udre, National Armed Forces Commander Admiral Gaidis Zeibots, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, and other political leaders led a procession of hundreds from the Museum of Occupation to the Freedom Monument, LETA reported. They were commemorating "Victims of Communist Genocide Day," an unofficial holiday marking the beginning of the second mass deportation to Siberia. More than 42,000 people, including 10,000 children, were taken away by train in the 1949 deportation. Illness prevented President Vaira Vike-Freiberga from participating in the ceremonies, but her adviser, Antonijs Zunda, read her prepared speech. The president declared that the tragedy Latvia suffered from the totalitarian communist regime should be explained to other countries to help prevent its recurrence. She said it is tragic that no apologies have been made by those who are morally responsible for these crimes.

A government committee meeting on 24 March discussed a proposal prepared by the Justice Ministry that would increase the responsibility and expand the authority of ministers, LETA reported. The proposal would allow individual ministers to make some decisions concerning their fields that currently require cabinet approval. The issue arose when Agriculture Minister Martins Roze proposed that his ministry, and not the government, approve requirements on tractors. Lawyers from the State Chancellery objected to the proposal, arguing that the minister can only issue orders to institutions under his authority. Roze noted that requirements on tractors are technical specifications, and it would not be suitable for the government to approve them because the government would not be in the best position to determine what specifications are needed. The Transportation Ministry pointed out that regulations in the aviation and navigation sectors often include documents consisting of thousands of pages that are frequently upgraded. Prime Minister Einars Repse said it would be useful to expand the authority of ministers by giving them the authority to approve such specific documents.

In Riga on 26 March Riga City Council Social Issues Committee Chairman Leonids Kurdjumovs and Moscow Social Protection Department Chairman Igor Sirnikov signed a protocol on cooperation in the social-assistance sector, LETA reported. The protocol provides for the exchange of experience in the social protection of residents and the implementation of social-assistance programs for poor families with many children, single pensioners, and other needy people. It also envisages cooperation with nongovernmental organizations to establish nursing homes, children's homes, and summer camps for orphans, as well as holding seminars to instruct specialists and to exchange methodological literature. The two cities have previously signed agreements on cooperation in education, environmental protection, culture, tourism, and sports.

Prime Minister Repse said in an interview with Latvian State Radio on 27 March that the New Era party has decided to support the candidacy of his adviser, Janis Kazocins, as new director of the Constitutional Protection Bureau, LETA reported. By a vote of 66 to zero, with four abstentions, the parliament that day adopted a decision without debate to grant Kazocins Latvian citizenship. Kazocins, whose parents were Latvian citizens, was born in England in 1951 and retired from the British armed forces as a brigadier general in 2002. His duties as a British officer had prevented him from acquiring Latvian citizenship. The term of office of the current head of the bureau, Laimis Kamaldins, ends on 28 April, but the parliament was expected to decide on the new director on 2 April, BNS reported.
* Former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen told the 5th annual Baltic Development Forum in Riga on 25 March, "It is time for EU countries to learn from the candidate countries," LETA reported the next day. He said the Baltic states and Poland remember history all too well to hesitate when threats from terror or authoritarian regimes emerge. Some other EU countries have not realized that the new threats from terrorists are as horrifying and genuine as was the threat of the Soviet Union's Red Army, Ellemann-Jensen noted.
* In an interview with BNS of 28 March German Ambassador to Latvia Eckart Herold said that Latvia's support for the coalition's disarming of Iraq will not affect Germany's support for her membership in the European Union. He mentioned that during President Vike-Freiberga's recent visit to Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder clearly stated that countries can have different positions on some issues and this will not in any way affect bilateral relations between Latvia and Germany. Herold describes the relations between the countries as a "tree with strong and long roots," particularly stressing cooperation in the social sphere.
* About 70 people participated in a picket organized by the peace movement "Es Par Mieru" (I am for Peace) at the U.S. Embassy in Riga on 22 March, LETA reported. The protest included placing flowers and a wreath at the embassy's buildings in honor of fallen Iraqi and American soldiers. The wreath, decorated with the U.S. and Iraqi flags with a black ribbon between them saying "Death doesn't care," includes the message written in English: "In deepest regret and sorrow for lost lives and lives yet to be lost." The nongovernmental organization Movement for Neutrality organized another protest against the Iraq war in front of the U.S. Embassy in the evening of 27 March at which about 80 people gathered, BNS reported. They held posters with antiwar and peace slogans in English, Russian, and Latvian. The picket took place without incident.
* Interior Minister Maris Gulbis told a press conference in Riga on 27 March that he accepted the offer of his German counterpart Otto Schilli to give Latvia three helicopters and three patrol boats currently being used by German law-enforcement agencies during the recent visit to Germany by President Vike-Freiberga, BNS reported. He said he does not know when the gifts would arrive in Latvia, but they will be handed over to the National Border Guard.
* After a visit to Riga by the delegation heads of Eurovision participating countries, Latvia's state television LTV Director General Uldis Grava said on 25 March that there are no longer grounds for doubting Latvia's ability to host the international finals of the Eurovision song contest in May, BNS reported. He noted that he signed the mandatory agreement on cooperation with Sweden's television on 21 March and it was also approved in Sweden.
* In an interview for the newspaper "Chas" of 24 March, parliament speaker Ingrida Udre said that half of the parliament's deputies should be elected from constituencies and not just from party lists, LETA reported. She explained that deputies now do not follow not the specific wishes of voters, but only follow decisions made by party leaders.
* Chairman of the Riga City Council City Development Committee Andris Ameriks said in an interview on Latvian State Radio on 24 March that no new construction will be allowed in Riga's historic center until next spring, when a strategy for preserving Riga's historic center is completed, LETA reported. He noted that unfortunately this will also affect the Riga Bus Terminal, built in the mid-1970s, which needs major reconstruction but is within the UNESCO-designated Riga historic center.
* Relying on the results of a probe, the Riga City Council held an emergency session on 27 March and voted 40 to zero with one abstention to dismiss Raimonds Krumins as head of its financial department, BNS reported the next day. He was accused of violating the laws on state and municipal commissions and on preventing conflict of interest on the part of state officials.
* The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has decided to hear a complaint by Tatyana Zhdanoka alleging violations of her rights to free election, her own opinion, and freedom of association on 25 May, BNS reported on 25 March. The leader of the leftist Equal Rights group filed the petition in 2000 after the Central Election Commission did not allow her to be a candidate in parliamentary elections and the Riga City Council took away her council mandate in 1999 because she had been a member of the Latvian Communist Party after 13 January 1991.
* Ambassador to the UN Gints Jegermanis and his counterpart from Saudi Arabia Fawzi bin Abdul Majeed Shobokshi signed a protocol in New York establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries, LETA reported on 24 March. After the signing, they said more specific steps should be taken to enhance relations between their countries.

By a vote of 59 to 13 with two abstentions, parliament passed a resolution on 25 March authorizing the deployment of up to 10 logistic specialists and six military doctors to facilitate the U.S.-led operations in the Persian Gulf, "Kauno diena" reported the next day. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said the personnel are ready to leave immediately but added, "We will do this only when we are invited. This will most likely occur this week or next week." He said they will most probably first work in Kuwait or on U.S. ships in the gulf, but could later be transferred to Iraq. The resolution states that the servicemen are to serve in "a humanitarian mission" and are not to take part in any military actions. The estimated expenses of 600,000 litas ($186,000) for the six-month mission will be paid out of the Defense Ministry's budget.

In Kaunas on 22 March, a congress of the Liberal Union approved by a vote of 363 to zero with 14 abstentions the party's merger with the Center Union and the Modern Christian Democratic Union, "Kauno diena" reported on 24 March. The three parties formed a joint 25-member faction in parliament earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2003) and will hold a congress of the new party on 31 May. By a vote of 300 to 79 with eight invalid ballots, the congress chose Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas over parliament deputy Rimvydas Vastakas as its candidate to head the new party. Former President Valdas Adamkus told the congress that so far only leftist parties have succeeded in strengthening their power by uniting and that Lithuania needs a strong, new, right-of-center political party that he hopes this merger will provide.

Representatives of the Small Projects Program of the Global Environment Fund under the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Baltic-American Partnership Program under the Open Lithuania Fund, and the Small-Scale Projects Program of the World Bank signed a cooperation agreement on 24 March that will provide $573,000 for projects by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Lithuania, ELTA reported. This is the first official agreement among donor programs, and is meant to boost cooperation when financing joint projects of NGOs and communities. In the past, the World Bank financed up to 30 percent and the UNDP up to 80 percent of a project's cost but, with the addition of the Baltic-American Partnership Program, NGOs now have the possibility of receiving full financing for projects dealing with social, environmental, and community problems.

Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite accepted the resignation of Valerijonas Valickas as head of the Lithuanian Customs Department on 26 March, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. Valickas had served in the post since early 2000 and also had led the department from 1990-92 following the restoration of Lithuania's independence. After meeting with Grybauskaite on 24 March, Valickas offered his resignation as of 31 March. Grybauskaite said they parted in a friendly manner but had quite different opinions on the role of the Customs Department. A month earlier, Grybauskaite had made far more critical comments about the department, saying its reorganization process was irrational and criticizing its failure to correct deficiencies that had been pointed out by the Finance Ministry and EU's PHARE experts.

Deputies from the Liberal Union, Modern Christian Democratic Union, Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania), Union of Lithuanian Prisoners and Political Deportees, and Polish Election Action signed an agreement on 27 March on forming a coalition in the Vilnius City Council, ELTA reported. In the December elections, the parties took 30 seats in the 51-member council, two more than they had in the previous council. It is clear that current Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas will retain his post. The council is scheduled to hold its first meeting on 9 April.
* Deputy Secretary of State at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry Boros Jeno held talks in Vilnius with Foreign Ministry State Secretary Evaldas Ignatavicius and Undersecretaries Giedrius Cekuolis and Neris Germanas on 24 March, BNS reported. They focused on the further development of bilateral relations, the work of the consular services, Lithuania's membership in NATO, and both countries' efforts to join the EU.
* In a letter to President Rolandas Paksas received on 25 March, U.S. President George W. Bush said Lithuania and its people can be proud to participate in the current effort to disarm Iraq and to liberate the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator, BNS reported. "The United States values your contribution and your enduring friendship and support," he wrote. Bush also stated that the two countries enjoy a close and warm relationship and he looks forward to working with Paksas and strengthening the cooperation.
* The cabinet approved on 26 March the agreement between Lithuania and the U.S., signed in October 2002, on the protection of the cultural heritage of national, religious and ethnic groups residing in both countries, BNS reported. The agreement was a follow-up to an investigation of cultural objects significant to communities of Jews, Roma, and Old Believers in Lithuania which was carried out a few years ago by the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. The agreement defines the notion "cultural heritage"; as places of religious worship, objects of historical value, monuments, cemeteries and places destined to pay tribute to the deceased, as well as related archival and other authentic material.
* Presidential foreign policy adviser Alvydas Medalinskas traveled to Moscow on 27 March in an effort to clear up disagreements with Russia over the signing of a readmission treaty and the ratification by the Russian Duma of the Lithuanian-Russian border treaty signed in 1997, BNS reported. He held talks the next day with Russian presidential adviser Sergei Prikhodko, presidential representative for Kaliningrad Dmitrii Rogozin, Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov, and Foreign Ministry diplomats. Medalinskas expressed the hope that the border treaty would be ratified in May.
* Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis told a press conference on 28 March that the government should require visas from Russian citizens traveling between Russia proper and the Kaliningrad Oblast via Lithuania after 1 July if Russia has not signed a treaty on readmission and ratified the state border treaty signed in 1997, BNS reported. Presidential special envoy for transport issues with Kaliningrad, parliamentarian Gediminas Kirkilas, had made similar remarks in Kaliningrad the previous day.
* At an extraordinary meeting of the EU Convention on the future of Europe in Brussels on 27 March, parliament Deputy Chairman Vytenis Andriukaitis expressed opposition to the proposal that Article 1 of the draft European Constitution state that the EU be organized by principles of federation in the future, BNS reported. He also suggested that the list of EU values be supplemented by the principle of equality and state that the EU respects not only the national identity but also the sovereignty of its member-states.
* An Mi-8 helicopter of the Lithuanian Navy fell into the Baltic Sea during training on the evening of 26 March, ELTA reported the next day. Four of the six crewmembers were rescued, but the pilot and an air-mechanic drowned. The copter sank in waters about 20 meters deep about 3 nautical miles from the coast. The cause of the accident is not clear, but the helicopter was lifted from the sea on the morning of 28 March.
* The parliament on 25 March ratified the convention on antipersonnel land mines that was concluded in Oslo in 1997, BNS reported. The document bans the manufacture, sale, use, and stockpiling of antipersonnel land mines. Lithuania signed the convention in 1999. So far it has been signed by 145 countries, 129 of which have also ratified it.
* The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has decided to investigate further the complaint by three people convicted of plotting the overthrow of the Lithuanian government in January 1991, BNS reported on 28 March. Two of them, Mykolas Burokevicius and Juozas Kuolelis, are still serving prison terms in Lithuania, while the third, Stanislav Mickevic, is in hiding in Russia. The court has sent a list of questions to the Lithuanian government and the answers will determine whether the court will continue the case.
* Mazeikiai Nafta, the oil complex primarily owned and operated by Russia's oil giant Yukos, reported on 28 March an audited loss of 158 million litas ($50 million) for 2002 using Lithuanian auditing standards, BNS reported. This was a 41 percent decline from 2001. Using U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the deficit was 114 million litas, representing a decline of 57.8 percent from 2001.