17 June 2002, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 31 May to 6 June 2002.
MINSK CONDEMNS NEIGHBORS' PLANS TO INTRODUCE VISA REQUIREMENTS.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has urged Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to refrain from taking steps "reminiscent of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain," Belapan reported on 1 June, quoting the ministry's statement. The statement followed Poland's recent denunciation of a 1985 agreement with the Soviet Union on a simplified border-crossing procedure for border-area residents. "Such actions by Poland and equally, plans by Lithuania and Latvia to impose a full-scale visa regime vis-a-vis Belarus are not reconcilable with the principles of good-neighborliness," read the official translation of the statement posted on the ministry's website. "[Such actions] also contradict the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe, as well as other fundamental OSCE documents," the ministry added.RUSSIA STANDS FIRM ON KALININGRAD CORRIDORS.
Moscow does not intend to back down in its dispute with the European Union over the Kaliningrad exclave, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov said, "Moscow's position is that it is necessary to preserve unhindered the movement of people between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia." Razov rejected EU proposals to issue simplified Schengen visas to Kaliningrad residents, noting that only 230,000 of the region's 1 million inhabitants have foreign-travel passports and EU statistics show only 3-5 percent of visa applicants are rejected. Razov said Russia cannot permit a situation in which the right of Russian citizens to travel between areas of Russia would depend on "the good or bad will of an EU bureaucrat." He favors the establishment of visa-free corridors for Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast after Poland and Lithuania join the European Union.
GOVERNMENT NOT READY TO GIVE IN ON EU FARM-PRODUCTION QUOTAS.
Following a meeting of the parliament's European Affairs and Rural Affairs committees on 3 June, the latter committee's Chairman Ants Kaarma said that Estonia is not prepared to agree to the low agricultural-production quotas and subsidies suggested by the European Commission (EC) upon the country's accession to the European Union, ETA reported. Kaarma said the proposed quota of 560,000 tons of milk is unacceptable, as it is even lower than domestic requirements, and that Estonia is asking for a quota of at least 900,000 tons. Similarly, the EC's recommendation that farmers of new EU member countries receive just 25 percent of the subsidies granted to current EU members' farmers would not allow equal competition. Kaarma noted that the EU is scheduled to decide on whether to accept the EC's proposals on 11 June.PARLIAMENT ADOPTS SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET.
By a vote of 58 to 25, the parliament on 5 June approved additional spending of 410 million kroons ($24.6 million) over the initial 2002 state budget of 33.13 billion kroons, ETA reported. The proposal by opposition parties to increase child-benefit payments for families' firstborn children to 300 kroons was rejected, as were all but two of 44 suggested amendments received by the parliament's Finance Committee. Additional funds were allocated to aid local municipalities (120 million kroons), increase pensions (100 million kroons), boost the government's reserve funds (68 million kroons), and finance free school lunches in all elementary schools (65 million kroons). Prime Minister Siim Kallas said a second supplementary budget could be passed in August if revenues continue to exceed projections.COOPERATION PROTOCOL WITH JAPAN SIGNED.
In Tokyo on 4 June, Foreign Ministers Kristiina Ojuland and Yoriko Kawaguchi signed a cooperation protocol between their countries' foreign ministries, laying the groundwork for regular political consultations, ETA reported. Ojuland called for increasing economic relations and trade. Trade between the countries last year totaled 3.91 billion kroons ($236 million), of which only 570 million kroons were Estonian exports. Ojuland also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Shigeo Uetake, who recently visited Estonia, and Japanese House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Koichi Yoshida. The talks focused on European Union and NATO enlargement and the Kyoto Protocol, which the Estonian government sent to its parliament for ratification the same day.VALIDITY OF LANGUAGE CERTIFICATES EXTENDED.
By a vote of 35 to 23, the parliament extended the validity of existing language-proficiency certificates issued to noncitizens until 1 January 2004, BNS reported on 6 June. Their validity was to have ended on 1 July of this year. The mostly Russian-speaking Estonian United People's Party submitted alternative bills that would have made the certificates permanent or automatically replaced them with certificates of a new type. Arguing that many certificates had been forged or issued unlawfully, the Pro Patria Union actively opposed these bills. The conservatives pointed out that the certificates can easily be falsified and that it is not possible to identify the holder by the certificate, as there is no register of the certificates issued. Noting that the National Examination Center would be unable to test by 1 July all the people who needed to renew their certificates, the ruling coalition of the Center and Reform parties suggested the 18-month extension.TALLINN, MOSCOW SIGN COOPERATION MEMORANDUM.
Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar and Aleksandr Muzykantsky, the head of the Moscow government's Information and Sociopolitical Relations Department, signed a memorandum of cooperation between the capitals in Tallinn on 31 May, BNS reported. The city governments will set up a working group to prepare a framework protocol of cooperation. The two officials later that day attended the unveiling of a monument to Russian novelist Fedor Dostoevsky, who lived periodically in Tallinn in the 1840s. The bronze bust of the writer was a gift from the Moscow city government. The Moscow delegation also attended a session of the Tallinn City Council and held talks on possible contacts with Moscow in different spheres of city life.
* Some 180 delegates from 43 countries attended the regional conference of Interpol in Tallinn on 5-7 June, ETA reported. The main topics at the conference included combating terrorism, illegal arms trade, trafficking in drugs and humans, and corruption as well as setting strategic priorities for the general development of Interpol in the 21st century. Interpol President Jesus Espigares Mira stressed the need for improved exchanges of information to prevent and deal with cross-border crime.
* During a recent visit to Estonia, former Russian Ambassador to Latvia and now Foreign Ministry second European department Director Aleksandr Udaltsov sharply criticized the Baltic states' plans to join NATO, BNS reported on 3 June. He declared, "NATO is a war machine that does not have an alternative in the world at the moment." Udaltsov said Russia was most interested in the pace of naturalization in Estonia.
* Education Minister Mailis Rand and German Ambassador Gerhard Enver Schroembgens signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation between the two countries in schooling on 3 June, BNS reported. The agreement sets out a favorable framework for Estonian students to acquire proficiency in German and continue their studies in universities in Germany. It would allow pupils who have passed an extended course of German to take an exam attesting to the holder's proficiency at the level required for study at German universities.
* An Estonian-Russian intergovernmental fishing commission reached an agreement on fishing in the border Lake Peipus, BNS reported on 6 June. They exchanged information about the state of fish stocks and catches in Lake Peipus and agreed on the permissible mesh size of nets. Russia had proposed a mesh size of 65 millimeters for nets, but accepted Estonia's proposal of 55 millimeters.
* Due to concern over fish resources the European Commission has proposed a resolution which would call for reduction of fishing quotas and the destruction of some fishing vessels, ETA reported on 3 June. This would likely result in a reduction of about 25 percent in the Estonian fish quota and a loss of up to 60 ships.
* The Business Promotion Foundation opened new representations in St. Petersburg on 5 June and in Moscow on 6 June to help Estonian businesses enter the Russian market, ETA reported. The St. Petersburg office will devote more attention to boosting tourism while the Moscow office will try to develop the export of more Estonian products.
* The government on 4 June approved a draft bill, submitted by 74 parliament deputies on 16 May, which adds provisions to the constitution in connection with Estonia's accession to the European Union, BNS reported. The bill consists of three articles, the first of which declares that Estonia may accede to the EU. The second states that when Estonia is a member of the EU its constitution will be applied with consideration of the rights and obligations arising from the accession agreement. The third article declares that the act can be amended only in a referendum. The bill received support from all parties except the People's Union.
* The Transportation and Communications Ministry asked the court on 4 June to invalidate the profit-distribution decision of the general meeting of shareholders in Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway) on 15 May, BNS reported. Government representatives at the meeting voted against the decision to pay out dividends of 250 million kroons ($14.7 million) to stockholders because the railroad's profits in 2001 and 2000 were only 144 million and 38 million kroons, respectively.
* Officials of the Labor Inspectorate visited the Vasknarva, Alajoe, and Smolnitsa border-guard stations and stated that they should be closed down if the Interior Ministry does not begin repairing them by 30 June, ETA reported on 31 May. Interior Minister Ain Seppik has described the building of the three border-guard stations as a priority.
* Legal Chancellor Allar Joks has turned to the Supreme Court to have provisions of the local election law banning electoral alliances revoked, BNS reported on 31 May. He considers the law unconstitutional and wants lawmakers to change it so that people who do not wish to run as independents or join a party list could register as candidates in local elections.
* President Arnold Ruutel appointed Toomas Lukk as the new Estonian ambassador to Latvia on 3 June replacing Juhan Haravee, BNS reported. The 40 -year-old Lukk graduated from Tartu University in 1985 and has worked in the Foreign Ministry's political department since 1993.
* The Statistical Office reported on 4 June that in the first quarter of 2002 the economy grew by 3.6 percent compared to the same period in 2001, ETA reported. This was lower than the forecasts which had ranged from 4.0 to 4.9 percent. The poorer results were due to the slowdown in the world economy resulting in lower exports.
PRESIDENT MAKES OFFICIAL VISIT TO IRELAND.
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, accompanied by Agriculture Minister Atis Slakteris, Minister for State Reform Affairs Janis Krumins, Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars, and a delegation of more than 30 businessmen and farmers, began the first-ever official visit by a Latvian president to Ireland on 4 June, LETA reported. It began with a welcoming ceremony hosted by Irish President Mary McAleese. Vike-Freiberga also held talks with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and the heads of the Irish Senate and House of Representatives, and delivered a speech at the European Affairs Institute. On 5 June, Vike-Freiberga met with Dublin Mayor Michael Mulcahy. At the summit on global achievements organized by the Academy of Achievement on 6 June she presented the organization's Gold Medal to former U.S. President Bill Clinton.PRIME MINISTER VISITS ICELAND.
Andris Berzins began a four-day official visit to Iceland on 6 June with a meeting with his Icelandic counterpart David Oddsson, LETA reported the next day. The premiers discussed Latvia's efforts to join NATO and the European Union. Oddsson spoke about Iceland's relations with the EU, of which it is not a member, and noted that if he were a Latvian citizen he would support Latvia's inclusion in EU because it would provide greater opportunities for development. Berzins also held talks with Reykjavik Mayor Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, and parliament Vice President Arni Stefansson. He was scheduled to meet with Icelandic businessmen and investors, and visit the Arnamagnean Institute and Iceland's National Park on 7-8 June before flying to St. Petersburg for a meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.LATVIA'S WAY APPROVES PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES.
In Riga on 1 June, the 13th Congress of Latvia's Way approved the list of the party's 57 candidates to the fall parliamentary elections that was proposed by the party's board, BNS reported. Of the some 330 delegates in attendance, only two voted against the list and three abstained. The candidates include all of the party's current parliamentary deputies and ministers with the exception of Tadeuss Ketlers, as well as well-known people such as Naturalization Board Chairwoman Eizenija Aldermane, Latvian Shipping Council Chairman Druvis Skulte, Latvian Academy of Sciences Vice President Andrejs Silins, biathlete Olegs Maluhins, and several heads of local councils. The congress named party Chairman Andris Berzins as its candidate for prime minister. It also approved the party's platform for the fall elections, which calls for continuing economic development by attracting European investment, creating new jobs, developing Latvia's regional areas, and raising salaries -- particularly for people working in the spheres of education and medicine.DRAFT RESOLUTION ON 'DISCRIMINATORY' LATVIAN POLICIES PROPOSED IN DUMA.
A group of deputies from the Russian Duma's International Affairs Committee has introduced a resolution "on the discriminatory policies of Latvian official institutions regarding Latvia's Russian residents," BNS reported on 3 June. The resolution states that the already complicated situation of Russian-speaking residents in Latvia worsened considerably after the Latvian parliament passed amendments to the constitution in April that bolstered the status of Latvian as the state language and effectively banned the use of Russian in legislative and executive bodies and local governments. The Duma resolution claims the amendments were aimed at the "forced assimilation of Russians and Russian speakers in Latvia."GOVERNMENT APPROVES HOLDING EUROVISION CONTEST.
Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Vladimirs Makarovs told reporters on 5 June that the cabinet made the decision the previous day to organize the 48th Eurovision contest in Latvia next year, LETA reported. He said Latvia will sign a letter of confirmation with the European Broadcasting Union guaranteeing that Latvian State Television will be allocated sufficient funds to organize the event. Makarovs said that six proposals have been received for holding the event, but the final decision will be made by a task force composed of high-ranking officials from the Finance, Welfare, Culture, Interior, and Foreign Affairs ministries as well as the National Radio and Television Council. The mostly likely cities to win the bid are Riga or Ventspils.
* A delegation from the Czech Senate National Defense, Security, and Foreign Affairs Committee, headed by its Chairman Michael Zantovsky held talks on military cooperation with Defense Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics in Riga on 4 June, LETA reported. The Czechs expressed support for Latvia's membership in NATO and will probably remain as Latvia's biggest military cooperation partner in Central and Eastern Europe after the expected admission.
* Defense Ministry State Secretary Rinkevics discussed with the head of Norway's Armament Control Commission, Leif Arne Ulland, in Riga on 3 June the development of Latvia's defense system and the readiness of its forces to participate in international antiterrorism campaigns, LETA reported. They also talked about NATO-Russian relations, implementation of Latvia's NATO Membership Action Plan, and other issues.
* The head of Sweden's training and management directorate, Bengt-Arne Johansson, held talks in Riga on 5 June with Defense Ministry State Secretary Rinkevics on military cooperation and common projects between the two countries as well as the aligning of Latvia's defense system to NATO standards, BNS reported. Johannson offered Sweden's help in training the battalion commanders of Latvia's armed forces.
* The nongovernmental organization Baltijas forums (Baltic Forum) held an international conference in Jurmala on 31 May-1 June on the new political and economic situation in the world after the 11 September terrorist attack in the United States, LETA reported. It was attended by scholars and politicians from Estonia, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, and Russia, including First Deputy Chairwoman of the Russian Duma Lyubov Sliska.
* Defense Ministry State Secretary Rinkevics announced on 5 June that the ministry now has a room for storage of classified documents in line with NATO standards as well as a secure room equipped with various equipment to safeguard conversations, BNS reported. The latter will be used for discussions on classified issues. The preparation of these rooms was part of Latvia's NATO Membership Action Plan.
* The second annual report on human trafficking in the world, prepared by the U.S. State Department, states that Latvia is a transit state and source for trafficking of women and children to the Nordic states and Western Europe, BNS reported on 6 June. The report notes that Latvia does not fully conform to the minimal standards for the elimination of trafficking in women and children, but the Latvian government has made meaningful efforts to improve the situation. Its police have taken part in training for the investigation of human-trafficking cases in Norway and Sweden as well as sponsored a seminar on fighting prostitution and trafficking of people.
* The parliament passed the Law on Structure of Public Administration in the final reading during an emergency session on 6 June, LETA reported. Parliament State Administration and Local Government Committee Chairman Janis Lagzdins said that the law was extremely important for the further development of the state. It describes the cooperation of government and municipal organizations, their economic operations, and regulatory functions as well as how public administration functions are delegated to nongovernmental organizations.
* The parliament on 6 June passed amendments to the law on public funding, which will result in significant changes in the procedures for donating money to political parties and reporting such donations, BNS reported. Parties will be required to publish all their donations in the Internet by 15 August. The maximum donation from a single donor within a calendar year has been cut down from 25,000 lats ($16,000) to 10,000 lats. Parties will also not be allowed to accept donations in the form of free services or to take any loans.
* The board of the For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK issued a statement on 31 May urging the prosecutor-general as well as the justice and interior ministers to take immediate steps to dissolve the fringe group called the Latvian National Democratic Party (LNDP), BNS reported. This was prompted by the recent election of radical Yevgenii Osipov as LNDP chairman and the admission as members of dozens of supporters of the Russian extremist movement called the Barkashovians. The statement noted that the party obviously violated the law on public organizations which bans any groups publicly propagating racial, religious, or ethnic hatred.
* The meeting of officials from the Latvian Health and Social Care Employees' Union and Welfare Ministry on 5 June failed to come to an agreement so that the scheduled strikes of doctors and nurses are likely to occur on five specific days this summer as planned, LETA reported. The union had been demanding that the average salary of professional medical employees be increased to 140 lats ($225) a month as well as greater health-care funding.
CHANGE IN LEGAL STATUS OF NUCLEAR PLANT PROPOSED.
The cabinet on 5 June approved draft amendments to the law on nuclear energy that would change the legal status of the Ignalina nuclear-power plant, ELTA reported. The amendments, which will be sent to parliament for approval, would restructure the state-run company into a closed joint-stock entity with the government as its sole owner. They are intended to help solve the current legal contradictions between the Civil Code and other laws and international commitments of Lithuania, as well as boost the country's ability to solve problems related to financing, administration, and nuclear safety. Noting that it is not the practice in Western Europe for a state company to be in charge of nuclear safety, the European Commission has urged Lithuania to change the status of the Ignalina plant. The amendments were prepared in accordance with legal practices in the European Union, the Convention on Nuclear Safety, and the requirements of the Energy Charter Treaty, as well as with recommendations by the Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association.PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW REFERENDUM LAW.
By a vote of 47 to four, with nine abstentions, the parliament passed a new referendum law on 4 June, BNS reported. It provides for two types of referendums, obligatory and consultative. Obligatory referendums will be held on amendments to articles of the constitution, the amendment of the constitutional act On Non-Accession of the Republic of Lithuania to Post-Soviet Eastern Unions, and on the participation of Lithuania in international organizations when it involves the partial transfer of duties of state bodies to institutions or jurisdictions of international organizations. Consultative referendums will be held on other matters. Referendums will be considered valid if more than half of all eligible voters participate in them. The law will go into effect beginning on 1 January 2003. The parliament also adopted a new Labor Code.DATE OF NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SET.
The parliament decided on 6 June that the next presidential elections will be held on 22 December, ELTA reported. The constitution stipulates that candidates be Lithuanian citizens who have resided in Lithuania for the past three years and are at least 40 years old. Nomination of candidates will officially start in October, when the Central Election Commission will distribute petition forms. Candidates have to gather the signatures of at least 20,000 citizens supporting their candidacy to be placed on the ballot. A number of parties have already decided that their chairman will be their presidential candidates: the Liberal Union, Eugenijus Gentvilas; Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Kazys Bobelis; Liberal Democratic Party, Rolandas Paksas; and the Union of the Peasants and New Democracy Parties, Kazimiera Prunskiene; while the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) will nominate its Deputy Chairman Andrius Kubilius. The top officials of the country -- President Valdas Adamkus, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas -- have been mentioned as possible candidates but have not announced their candidacies.TWO REFERENDUMS TO BE PROPOSED.
Speaking at a press conference at the parliament on 3 June, Union of the Peasants and New Democracy Parties Deputy Chairman Ramunas Karbauskis said his party is proposing two referendums, BNS reported. The first would ask voters to decide whether there should be a seven-year transition period for the sale of agricultural land to foreign entities after Lithuania's admission to the European Union. The second would ask whether the second reactor of the Ignalina nuclear-power plant should be closed by 2009 as the EU is demanding. According to Lithuanian laws, the support of either one-third of parliamentary deputies (47) or signatures from 300,000 citizens must be gathered to initiate a referendum. It seems unlikely that the union, which has seven parliamentary deputies, will garner the support of another 40 deputies, but Karbauskis said his union is capable of collecting the needed signatures. The date of the presidential elections, 22 December, has been mentioned as the most suitable for holding the referendums.LIBERAL DEMOCRATS NOMINATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The executive council of the Liberal Democratic Party met in the southern Lithuanian town of Liskiava on 1 June and unanimously nominated its party chairman, former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, as its candidate for the presidential elections in December, ELTA reported. Paksas pledged "to bring order to Lithuania and change the life of people" by overcoming social problems, disorder, and injustice, as well as restoring hope to people and encouraging the moral rebirth of the nation. Party officials said that the party, which was formed in early March, currently has 55 local branches and more than 1,800 members.
* Ministers from 22 Central and Eastern European countries as well as observers from the Council of Baltic Sea States participated in a regional seminar, held in Vilnius on 4-5 June, to speed the ratification of the UN Convention Against International Organized Crime, BNS reported. The seminar was organized by the Lithuanian Interior Ministry with the cooperation of the UN International Crime Prevention Center and support from the British government. Lithuania signed the convention in Palermo, Italy, in December 2000, while the parliament ratified it this March, and is to take effect on 8 June.
* Defense Ministry State Secretary Valdemaras Sarapinas and the head of the German Defense Ministry Munitions Department, Colonel Thomas Rosche, signed an agreement in Vilnius on 5 June by which Germany agreed to donate 57 M-113 armored personnel carriers by the end of the year, ELTA reported. They will be sent to the Grand Duke Algirdas motorized infantry battalion in Rukla. Germany had earlier donated 67 such carriers and plans to donate another 30 in the future.
* The British intellectual center Wilton Park and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry organized a conference entitled "The Changing Security Environment in the Baltic Region" in Vilnius on 4-6 June, BNS reported. President Valdas Adamkus and the head of Wilton Park, Colin Jennings, opened the conference, which, in addition to various high-ranking Lithuanian defense and foreign affairs officials, was also attended by Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Norwegian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Kim Traavik, Polish Foreign Ministry Secretary Andrzej Byrt, Russia's Strategic Studies Center head Sergei Bolshakov, Danish Foreign Policy Institute Director Per Carlsen, and other political figures.
* Four Lithuanian medical officers traveled to the Czech Republic on 3 June to take part in a three-month preparatory exercises, ELTA reported. The officers are scheduled to work in a Czech field hospital which will operate in the UN-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan in the fall.
* By a vote of 86 to 37, the parliament on 4 June overruled the veto on 23 May by President Adamkus of amendments to the pharmaceutical-activities law which banned information about prescription medicines on radio and television, ELTA reported. Adamkus had suggested a more limited ban.
* The parliament adopted by a vote of 50 to 26 with six abstentions on 4 June a new Labor Code with more than 300 articles governing the enforcement of labor legislation, implementation of labor rights, social partnership, collective contracts and disputes, ELTA reported. Social Issues Committee Chairman Algirdas Sysas said the new code, which was debated for several months, represents a more flexible document adapted to the current economic situation and promoting decisions on the basis of consensus among employers and trade unions. The code will come into effect on 1 January 2003.
* Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas signed an agreement on the construction of a new administrative complex for an estimated 70 million litas ($18.4 million) on 3 June, BNS reported the next day. The new complex, consisting of a main 20-story building and two smaller buildings with a total area of 14,900 square meters, will hold all the city's administrative offices which are currently spread out in more than a dozen buildings throughout the city. The city expects to get the needed construction funds by selling the buildings which it is now using.
* The government on 5 June allocated 33 million litas ($8.9 million) from the reserve fund for road network maintenance and development next year, ELTA reported. Almost half of the funds, 15.6 million litas, will be used in Vilnius for the construction of a new bridge over the Neris River and repair of the city streets. Funds will also be used for the reconstruction of the street adjacent to the railway station in Klaipeda (3.5 million litas), of the Karaliaucius road in Siauliai joining the Via Baltica highway (2 million litas), and of streets in Druskininkai, Trakai, Silute, and Kedainiai.
* The parliament on 6 June by a nearly unanimous vote adopted a Law on the State of Emergency, BNS reported. The constitution of 1992 provides for the adoption of such a law, but the parliament had failed to pass the law due to distrust between the ruling majority and the opposition and suspicions that such a law could be used for dealing with political opponents. According to the law, the parliament can declare a state of emergency for a maximum of six months in extreme conditions, when the constitutional system or peace is threatened and the threat cannot be eliminated without resorting to extreme measures. The law presents no details as to what could cause such an extreme situation.
* Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite accepted the resignation of Mindaugas Strumskis, the head of the State Tax Inspectorate (STI), on 31 May, ELTA reported. It had been prompted by a discussion the previous day at the ministry in which he was blamed for insufficient results of the STI operations and ineffective administration. Strumskis will become deputy head of the STI, responsible for the development of its information system.
* Justice Minister Vytautas Markevicius accepted on 4 June the resignation of Kestutis Sapalas, the director of Alytus penitentiary, presented on 24 May after tests revealed that more than 150 convicts were infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), ELTA reported. The previous day he accepted the resignation of the Director of Prison Department Jonas Blazevicius.
* Russia's Gazprom signed agreements in Moscow on 6 June with the managers of Dujotekana, the leading gas supplier to Lithuania, and the state gas utility Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) on the sale of gas to Lithuania in the second half of the year, ELTA reported. The price was the same as in the first half of the year, Dujotekana and Lietuvos Dujos will pay $76 and $80 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, respectively. Lithuanians had feared that Gazprom would ask for higher prices because world oil prices had increased.
* Casino Planet, a Polish-owned company registered in the Netherlands, opened the first legal casino in Vilnius on 1 June, BNS reported. The Lithuanian State Gaming Control Commission gave permission the previous day for opening a casino with four roulette and four card tables.
* The U.S. Justice Department initiated proceedings on 6 June to revoke the U.S. citizenship of Lithuanian national Vladas Zajanckauskas, who is accused of having participated as a non-commissioned officer in the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, during World War II, BNS reported. Rimvydas Valentukevicius, Lithuania's chief prosecutor in charge of special investigations, said that he had no official data about Zajanckauskas's activities.
* Lithuanian and Angolan permanent representatives at the United Nations, Gediminas Serksnys and Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins, signed a communique on 4 June establishing diplomatic relations between the countries, BNS reported the next day. Angola is the 132nd country with which Lithuania has established formal diplomatic relations.
* The Labor Office announced on 5 June that the number of registered unemployed in the country at the beginning of the month was 194,300, an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent or 0.7 percentage points lower than a month earlier, BNS reported. This was the fifth consecutive month that the unemployment rate had decreased.