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Baltic Report: October 28, 2002


28 October 2002, Volume 3, Number 36

NOTE TO READERS:
This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 12 to 18 October 2002.
REGIONAL
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER AGAIN CALLS FOR BALTIC STATES TO JOIN CFE TREATY.
Sergei Ivanov on 18 October reiterated Russia's position that the only real objection Moscow has to NATO membership for Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia is that the three countries have not signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), RIA-Novosti reported on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2001, 9 and 29 July, and 19 September 2002).

ESTONIA
PRESIDENT VISITS UKRAINE.
Accompanied by a 21-member official delegation and 15 businessmen, Arnold Ruutel began a five-day state visit to Ukraine by saying in Kyiv on 14 October that Estonia supports Ukraine's efforts to integrate with Europe and NATO, BNS reported. Following a meeting with President Leonid Kuchma, Ruutel pledged to develop closer ties with Ukraine after Estonia, as widely expected, becomes a NATO member in November and an EU member in 2004. UNIAN quoted Kuchma as saying that all that is taking place in Ukraine today "confirms the opinion of the European Union that it is still too early for us to [join the EU]." Environment Minister Heiki Kranich and his Ukrainian counterpart, Serhiy Kurykin, signed a framework agreement on cooperation in environmental protection. The next morning, 15 October, Ruutel met first with the Ukrainian parliament Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn and leaders of parliamentary factions and then with Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh. Afterwards, he made a speech at the Ukrainian Agricultural University about the role of agricultural science in the development of the Estonian economy and was awarded an honorary doctorate. The president then flew to Odesa where he met with regional and city leaders. On 16 October, after a visit to a sparkling-wine factory and consultations with local businessmen, Ruutel flew to Crimea. There, in addition to meeting with local leaders, he became the first Estonian head of state to visit the villages of Aleksandrovka and Krasnodarka in north Crimea, where ethnic Estonians settled 140 year ago. The next day Ruutel toured historical and business sites on the south coast of Crimea and met with the head of government and Supreme Council chairman of the Crimean Autonomous Republic. He returned to Tallinn on the morning of 18 October.

WILL RUSSIA FINALLY SIGN THE BORDER TREATY?
During a lecture at Concordia University in Viimsi on 17 October, Russian Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov promised that Russia will sign the proposed border agreement with Estonia, abolish double tariffs on Estonian goods, and sign a most-favored-nation trade agreement in the first half of 2003, ETA reported the next day. He said these agreements will not be affected by Estonia's likely membership in the European Union and NATO. Provalov noted that Estonia has passed various measures to improve the situation of its Russian-speaking population but that some important issues, such as ending state-financed high-school education in the Russian language beginning in 2007, continue to be a matter of concern. However, Provalov added, "If you live in Estonia, you must be able to speak Estonian," BNS reported on 17 October.

NORWAY SUPPORTS ESTONIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen told parliament Chairman Toomas Savi in Tallinn on 15 October that Norway is pleased with the progress Estonia is making in its efforts to gain membership in NATO and the European Union, BNS reported. Petersen added that Norway wants to promote bilateral cooperation with Estonia in the framework of NATO. During talks with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, Petersen said that the small countries in NATO can make a significant contribution in guaranteeing international security. He assured his Estonian counterpart Kristiina Ojuland that although Norway is not a member of the EU, it supports Estonia joining the union. Petersen said he views Estonia as a possible mediator between the EU and Norway and a defender of Norway's interests. They agreed that economic relations between their countries should be further developed.

PARLIAMENT DELAYS DEBATE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS.
The parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee decided on 14 October to remove from the week's agenda proposed amendments to the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2002) that would provide for the direct election of the president, but with diminished powers, BNS reported. The committee's chairman, Indrek Meelak, said President Ruutel has invited the committee to meet with him on 22 October to present his position on the matter. National Defense Committee Chairman Tiit Tammsaar expressed the committee's opposition to the amendments, claiming they violate the principle of checks and balances by reducing the president's role as regards the armed forces.

EDUCATION MINISTRY NAME-CHANGE BILL APPROVED.
With 53 votes in favor, the parliament passed a bill on 16 October that would change the name of the Health Ministry to the Education and Science Ministry on 1 January 2003, ETA reported. Education Minister Mailis Rand said the name change would demonstrate to the public and foreign partners that the state considers science and research to be national priorities. As part of the plan, the ministry will establish a new science-policy department.
* Russian Ambassador Provalov said on 18 October that Russia had canceled the trade and economic consultations with Estonia scheduled for the previous day in Tallinn in order to comply with the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), BNS reported. He explained, "The WTO, whose member Estonia is and whose requirements it knows, asked Russia to make some changes in the text of the Estonian-Russian economic cooperation agreement." Provalov, however, stated that the plenary session of the Estonian-Russian intergovernmental commission would take place as scheduled on 4-6 November in Tallinn.
* Metropolitan Cornelius, the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, said on 17 October that Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II had postponed his planned visit to Estonia from November to next year because the issue of church property had not yet been resolved, BNS reported. Aleksii II, whose secular name is Aleksei Mikhailovich Ridiger, was born in Tallinn, but has not visited his hometown for nine years.
* During an official visit to Estonia on 15-17 October, Norwegian armed forces commander General Sigurd Frisvold said that defense cooperation between the two countries will become even closer after Estonia is invited to join NATO, BNS reported. He had meetings with his Estonian counterpart Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts, Prime Minister Kallas, Foreign Minister Ojuland, and parliament National Defense Committee head Tammsaar and also visited the Tallinn-based Guards Battalion and the Amari air base and air-surveillance center.
* Speaking at a conference of the majors of 10 cities on the Baltic Sea in Copenhagen on 13 October, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar said that the capitals of EU candidate countries need EU financial support, ETA reported. He called for the creation of "an EU financial instrument to develop the problem regions in cities up for EU membership" because the EU Urban program is only open to EU member cities.
* Margus Rahuoja, charge d'affaires with the Estonian representation at the EU, reached an agreement with the EU in Brussels on 18 October that Estonia can have a transition period until 2016 to bring the air-pollution levels of its electric-power plants in line with EU norms, BNS reported. The period was requested because the plants use oil shale as a fuel and it will be very costly to introduce new technology in the plants to reduce the high ash content of the oil shale.
* Civil Aviation Administration officials held talks in Zagreb on an Estonian-Croatian aviation agreement on 17 and 18 October, BNS reported. The proposed accord will create the necessary prerequisites for regular air traffic between the two countries, allowing commercial cooperation of aviation companies and free choice of the starting points and destinations of flights. Estonia has previously signed 26 intergovernmental aviation agreements with other countries.
* The U.S. charitable organization Gift of Hope has sent 5 tons of medicines and medical equipment worth more than $1 million to the Children's Hospital and the Pelgulinna maternity hospital in Tallinn, BNS reported on 14 October. Inna Kramer, chief of the Children's Hospital support foundation, said that this is the largest gift of humanitarian aid ever received by Estonia.
* With the approval of 76 deputies, the parliament adopted a law on 15 October giving it the right to call a referendum on matters of state other than changes to the constitution, BNS reported. The law also allows the current parliament to set the date for a referendum on EU membership even after its term of office expires. The law does not allow referendums to be called during a state of emergency or martial law, or within 90 days of parliamentary elections.
* The opposition Pro Patria Union submitted an alternative draft 2003 budget to the parliament on 17 October, ETA reported. Party chairman and former Prime Minister Mart Laar criticized the budget offered by the ruling Center/Reform Party coalition for having a deficit and being hostile to children, education, and culture. The alternative proposal sets children and families as a priority, doubles the state benefits given for the first child, restores investments in educational institutions to 2002 levels, and boosts the funding allocated to libraries and the National Library.
* As many as 106,980 people or 10.5 percent of eligible voters cast their vote on the first three days of preliminary voting in Estonia's local elections on 14-16 October, ETA reported. This is more than the 9.3 percent that participated in preliminary voting in 1999, but less than the 14.5 percent that participated in 1996. It is predicted that only about 50 percent of the electorate will vote. Unlike in the parliament elections, all permanent residents can cast ballots in local elections, not just citizens.
* The Central Organization of Estonian Trade Unions, Estonian Employees' Unions' Confederation, and the Estonian Employers' Confederation signed an agreement on 18 October, raising the minimum monthly wage from the current 1,850 kroons ($148) to 2,160 kroons on 1 January 2003, BNS reported. The minimum hourly wage will be raised to 12.90 kroons. The two sides agreed in August 2001 to raise the minimum wage to 41 percent of average gross wages by 2008.
* Tallinn airport signed an agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a 7.5 million-euro loan on 15 October, ETA reported. The loan, which is to be repaid by 2012, will be used to refinance an earlier dollar loan at a more favorable rate of interest. Unlike the earlier loan, the new loan did not require a state guarantee.


LATVIA
LATVIA'S WAY EXPELS MEMBER FOR INVOLVEMENT IN SMEAR CAMPAIGN.
The board of Latvia's Way decided unanimously to expel parliament deputy Peteris Apinis from the party following a meeting with him on 14 October, BNS and LETA reported the next day. During the meeting, Apinis admitted that he authored the text mocking members of the People's Party that was later printed on leaflets and distributed. Apinis said that he had written the text for other purposes and that it was printed without his permission or even knowledge. He told reporters that the text to some extent expressed the truth, and therefore no charges should be brought against him, but he refused to provide more information because the police investigation is still under way. Party Chairman and Prime Minister Andris Berzins said Apinis was expelled for discrediting the party and violating its charter, as he had not informed the board about his involvement in the matter. The leaflet scandal, which prompted Berzins to dismiss Interior Minister Mareks Seglins (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002), probably played a role in the failure of Latvia's Way to gain representation in parliamentary elections on 5 October.

LEADERS OF LATVIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC WORKERS PARTY RESIGN.
At a press conference on 17 October, Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP) Chairman Juris Bojars, Deputy Chairmen Janis Adamsons and Valdis Lauskis, and Secretary-General Janis Dinevics submitted their resignations, LETA reported. Bojars said that the LSDSP board might also submit their resignations at the party's council meeting on 19 October that will set the exact date of the next party congress in late November. The leaders will remain at their posts until the congress. The resignations were apparently prompted by the LSDSP's poor showing in the parliamentary elections on 5 October, in which the party failed to overcome the 5 percent barrier (the LSDSP garnered 4.02 percent) needed for parliamentary representation. An important factor influencing the election result was the split in the party that led to the founding of the Union of Social Democrats (SDS) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 2002). SDS took 1.53 percent of the vote in the elections.

MEDICAL WORKERS POSTPONE PLANNED STRIKE.
The Latvian Health and Social Care Employees Union decided on 15 October to postpone their planned one-day strike in November until after the new government is formed and next year's budget is approved, BNS reported. The medical workers staged one-day strikes in June, July, and September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002) but they were only partially successful. Demands concerning wage increases and improvements to legislative acts governing the health-care sector seem to have been met, but standards for establishing the prices of health-care services have not been set and the Finance Ministry has yet to provide 1.7 million lats ($2.7 million) owed to the health-care budget. Union Chairwoman Ruta Viksna said it makes no sense to strike while the current government is still in office, noting that it is not at all clear whether the new government will recognize health care as a priority in practice by providing an additional 25.7 million lats for health care.

SOROS FAVORS BILINGUAL EDUCATION IN LATVIA.
Influential financier and philanthropist George Soros visited Latvia on 16-17 October to mark the 10th anniversary of Soros Foundation Latvia, LETA and BNS reported. Since its establishment, the foundation has contributed more than 30.5 million lats ($50 million) to projects for developing art and culture, reforming the education system, fighting corruption, and strengthening nongovernmental organizations and human rights. During a discussion at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga on 17 October, Soros said that, after 12 years of Latvian independence, the Latvian language is no longer threatened and the government should allow the large Russian-speaking population "to retain [its] national identity and become loyal citizens." Soros recommend that bilingual education should remain an option, and students themselves should be allowed to choose their language of instruction.

FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT WITH BULGARIA SIGNED.
Economy Ministry State Secretary Kaspars Gerhards and Bulgaria's Ambassador to Poland Lachezar Petkov signed a free-trade agreement in Riga on 16 October, BNS reported. The agreement provides for free trade in industrial goods and reduces or abolishes customs taxes on agricultural products. As part of the agreement, in the event that either country becomes a member of the European Union, the other will annul the agreement without making claims over resulting losses. In the first six months of this year, Latvia imported goods worth 2.78 million lats ($4.5 million) from Bulgaria and exported goods worth 141,000 lats.
* President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, speaking at the fourth annual Baltic Development Forum Summit in Copenhagen on 13 October, said that EU and NATO enlargement would greatly effect the Baltic Sea region, LETA reported. She said that both enlargements will make the Baltic Sea -- which for decades has divided the east and the west of Europe -- into a gateway of understanding and cooperation. The fifth forum will be held next year in Riga.
* The electric utility Latvenergo organized a conference about "Energy on the Path to an Expanded Europe" in Riga on 16-20 October, BNS reported. The heads of energy companies in Budapest, Milan, Prague, Warsaw, St. Petersburg, and Riga have held these annual conferences on timely issues of concern in the energy sphere since 1993. This year's conference dealt primarily with environmental safety, company development in urban areas, and the reduction of costs for thermal power produced at co-generation stations. Warsaw did not participate in this year's conference, while Lietuvos Energija of Vilnius attended for the first time.
* Speaking at the Latvian Agricultural Organizations' Cooperation Council meeting on 17 October, chief negotiator with the EU Andris Kesteris said that the EU had raised the country's sugar-production quota by 26.7 percent from 52,500 tons to 66,500 tons, BNS reported. Latvia had requested a quota of 110,000 tons. The EU has not yet made any changes in the more important milk quota.
* Although the New Era, Latvia's First Party (LPP), Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS), and For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK have agreed to form a coalition, negotiations on the distribution of minister posts are proceeding slowly. Each party has expressed its preferences for certain ministries and has offered more candidates than it can expect to have rewarded with a minister's portfolio. For example, both the LPP and ZZS offered six candidates each at a meeting on 17 October, BNS reported. New Era nominee for Foreign Minister Grigorijs Krupnikovs withdrew his candidacy on 16 October because he did not want provocations from "Moscow and the People's Party" to hinder Latvia's integration into NATO, but was reconsidering the matter the next day.
* The Prosecutor-General's Office filed criminal charges for spreading slanderous information about parliament candidates from the People's Party against Latvia's Way Executive Director Ervins Straupe and Igors Svans, the director of the publishing house Adverts, on 18 October, LETA reported. (see above).
* Leaders of the Political Union Centrs decided to liquidate the party after it gained only 5,865 votes or 0.59 percent in the parliament elections, BNS reported on 18 October. The union was made up of the Labor Party and Latvia's Democratic Party, which were later joined by two other small parties -- the Union of Latvian Farmers and For Latvia's Freedom party.
* About 300 people held a rally at the Victory Monument in Riga on 13 October to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the liberation of Riga from Nazi occupation by Soviet armed forces, LETA reported. The rally was organized by For Human Rights in a United Latvia. The leaders of two of the coalition's components -- Alfreds Rubiks of the Latvian Socialist Party and Tatjana Zdanoka of the National Harmony Party -- spoke to the assembled crowd, that consisted mostly of elderly people.
* The Central Statistics Bureau announced on 14 October that in the first eight months of the year exports reached 916 million lats ($1.48 billion) or 8.3 percent more than in the same period last year while imports grew by 11 percent to 1.57 billion lats, BNS reported. Trade with the EU accounted for 60.3 percent of total exports and 53.4 percent of imports. Similar figures for trade with CIS countries were 9.8 and 12.8 percent, respectively.
* The Naturalization Administration announced that in the period from 1 February 1995 -- when it began to accept applications from non-citizens -- until 30 September 2002, 56,347 people, including 7,679 underage children, had completed the naturalization process, LETA reported on 16 October. Latvia has a population of 2.34 million, of whom about 510,000 are non-citizens.


LITHUANIA
FOREIGN MINISTER REQUESTS SCHENGEN GUARANTEES...
Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis told Danish counterpart Per Stig Moeller and European Union Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen in Copenhagen on 16 October that Lithuania should be given specific dates, timetables, and action plans to follow that would ensure the country's full membership in the Schengen zone, BNS reported. Valionis stressed that Lithuania has worked to join the Schengen agreement throughout its membership negotiations with the EU. Valionis noted that Lithuania will evaluate Russia's suggestion of visa-free transit by high-speed trains to its Kaliningrad exclave only after it has joined the EU and has received assurances that implementing the proposal would not hinder its plans to join the Schengen treaty. He also mentioned the suggestion made by President Valdas Adamkus in Berlin on 10 October, that Lithuania should be admitted to the Schengen zone prior to gaining EU membership.

...AS PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN REITERATES IMPORTANCE OF SCHENGEN MEMBERSHIP.
At a 17 October press conference, Arturas Paulauskas said that during a meeting in Brussels earlier this week of the heads of the European Parliament and the Lithuanian, Polish, and Russian parliaments, he stressed that although relations with Russia are "vitally important" to Lithuania, it is even more important that Lithuanian citizens be allowed the travel privileges of the Schengen zone, BNS reported. He said Lithuania must carry out the obligations agreed to in its membership negotiations with the EU requiring visas for transiting its territory beginning next year. Paulauskas reiterated that Russia's call for visa-free trains transiting Lithuania between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia can only be discussed after Lithuania joins the Schengen agreement. He dismissed as inaccurate Russian media reports that the three parliaments had formed a joint working group on the Kaliningrad issue at the meeting.

LITHUANIAN CONSERVATIVES AND BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT.
Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and Belarusian Popular Front Chairman Vinstuk Vyachorka signed an agreement in Vilnius on 12 October on strengthening democracy in Belarus and maintaining close cooperation between their parties, ELTA reported on 14 October. It provides for establishing direct contacts among the parties' local organizations, continuous exchange of information, and organizing joint conferences. The agreement was reached toward the end of a two-day conference organized by the two parties on "Belarus and Lithuania -- European Way." At a press conference on 14 October, Landsbergis said that the conference was united in the belief that only the restoration of democracy could guarantee the survival of Belarus. He also noted that the conference's resolution "On the Role of Belarus in Europe" called on Belarus to serve as a multilateral bridge connecting Russia and the EU.

PACT ON PROTECTING CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HOLOCAUST VICTIMS SIGNED WITH U.S.
In Vilnius on 15 October, Culture Minister Roma Dovydeniene and U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad Chairman Warren Miller signed a cooperation agreement on protecting the cultural heritage of Jews and other ethnic and religious groups persecuted during the Holocaust, BNS reported. The agreement covers the protection of gravesites, monuments, churches, and documents of Jews, Roma, and Old Believers. The agreement also provides for the establishment of a Joint Cultural Heritage Commission to supervise the work and resolve any issues that may arise. Miller held talks the previous day with President Adamkus and Director of the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes Ronaldas Racinskas.

COURT RULES MEDICINE QUOTAS ILLEGAL.
The Chief Administrative Court issued a ruling on 15 October declaring that an order issued by Health Minister Romualdas Dobrovolskis on 14 February establishing quotas on the distribution of reimbursable medicines violates the constitution and laws on health insurance and patients' rights, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. An effort to balance the books of the Mandatory Health Care Insurance Fund, the order limited the funds that health-care institutions could use to prescribe medicines for patients, and threatened doctors that any excess money spent for prescriptions would be taken from their wages. Former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, supporting complaints by the Lithuanian Medical Doctors Union, asked the court on 23 April to rule on the legality of the order.
* Interior Minister Juozas Bernatonis told a meeting of justice and interior ministers of EU member and candidate countries in Luxembourg on 14 October that the Kaliningrad transit issue should not be treated as a problem specific to Lithuania, ELTA reported. He said that Russian demands on this issue should not have any effect on deciding the date of Lithuania's entry into the EU and the Schengen zone.
* At a meeting in Warsaw on 17 October, Interior Minister Bernatonis discussed with his Polish counterpart Krzysztof Janik the question of travel between Kaliningrad Oblast and mainland Russia, BNS reported the next day. The ministers wanted to make sure that the dispute would not affect their countries' plans to join the Schengen zone as soon as possible. The next day, Bernatonis participated in a conference on "European Union Enlargement -- New Borders, New Challenges" that was attended by officials from Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Russia.
* Foreign Minister Valionis returned to Vilnius on 14 October after a nine-day trip to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, ELTA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). During his stop in Jordan, Valionis handed King Abdulah II a letter from President Adamkus that called for closer ties and expressed satisfaction that the EU-Jordan Association Agreement had taken effect. Valionis discussed bilateral trade and conflict in the Middle East with his Jordanian counterpart Marwan Muasher, and signed a bilateral agreement on promotion and protection of investments with Minister for Industry and Trade Salah Bashee, whom he also invited to visit Lithuania. The businessmen who accompanied Valionis on the trip visited the Aqaba special economic zone.
* Foreign Ministry Secretary Giedrius Cekuolis participated at the opening of the ninth summit meeting of the International Francophone Organization (IFO) in Beirut on 18 October, BNS reported. The IFO includes 55 countries -- 49 full members, two associated countries, and four observers. Lithuania became an observer in 1999, and this year sent a representative to the IFO summit for the first time. During his stay in Beirut, Cekuolis is scheduled to discuss bilateral political, economic, and cultural ties with his Lebanese colleague, Mohammed Issa.
*Speaking live on Ekho Moskvy radio on 14 October, Alvydas Medalinskas, the co-chairman of the Lithuanian-Russian parliamentary forum on cooperation with Kaliningrad Oblast, suggested that the transit question could be solved by introducing a special supplementary insert to a Russian passport, BNS reported the next day. He also noted that the EU could also consider subsidizing flights between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia.
* The heads of Lithuanian and Polish customs Valerijonas Valickas and Tomasz Michalak signed a declaration at the Kalvarija-Budzisko border checkpoint on 15 October calling for the introduction of joint customs control on the border to reduce border-crossing time, BNS reported. Long queues of trucks form frequently at the checkpoint, which was designed to allow 400 trucks to pass through every day even though between 800 and 1,000 trucks actually leave Lithuania for Poland daily.
* During a visit to Vilnius on 14 October, Warsaw Mayor Wojciech Kozak held talks on joint projects with Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas, ELTA reported. The two cities have worked together in the fields of culture, education, health care, social welfare, sports, and tourism since 1998. Kozak also discussed cooperation between the two countries' capitals with President Adamkus, who noted that the newly established direct election of Poland's mayors by the people instead of by city councils as in Lithuania will reinforce democracy in the country.
* After Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski decided to cancel his planned attendance at the opening of the Polish exports fair Polexport 2002 in Kaunas on 15 October, President Adamkus also decided not to travel to Kaunas, ELTA reported. The four-day fair, which was organized for the ninth time by the Polish-Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce, was opened by Economy Ministers Jacek Piechota and Petras Cesna. More than 200 companies from Poland and Lithuania participated in the fair, which is the largest exposition of Polish goods and services organized outside of Poland.
* The Belarusian State Customs Committee announced on 15 October that it was canceling the mandatory police escort for reliable Lithuanian road carriers which had been imposed in April, BNS reported. The conditions that a reliable carrier have at least 10 vehicles and at least five years of operation within the TIR system greatly limited the number of eligible trucks, but the Lithuanian Customs Department delivered a list of such "reliable carriers" to its Belarusian counterpart on 18 October, BNS reported.
* The joint bilateral Danish-Lithuanian exercise Linden Passex II 2002 opened in the port of Klaipeda on 15 October and will continue until 22 October, BNS reported. The first part of the exercise was held in May in Denmark and was attended by the Lithuanian frigate "Aukstaitis." The main objectives of the exercise, which has both shore and sea phases, are to practice standardization of military procedures, increase understanding between the personnel of the Danish and Lithuanian navies, and improve cooperation and preparedness for joint activities involving naval personnel.
* The board of the Bank of Lithuania decided on 17 October to repay the remaining balance on loans issued by the International Monetary Fund that amounted to 193.8 million litas ($55.4 million), ELTA reported. The board felt it had sufficient foreign reserves to repay the loan, and could thus reduce its debt-servicing costs.
* The board of Yukos-controlled Mazeikiai Oil decided on 18 October to terminate its partnership with British BP Oil International on 1 November and to designate Yukos' partner, the Swiss-registered brokerage company Petroval, the distributor of the oil products refined and exported by sea by Mazeikiai Oil, ELTA reported. The Mazeikiai Oil observer council also met in Vilnius that day and replaced board member Frank Rieger, Yukos's vice president for planning and management, with the managing director of the Yukos-M trading house, Vladislavas Paulius.


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