18 November 2002, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 26 October to 8 November 2002.
BALTIC PARLIAMENTS AGRICULTURE COMMITTEES ADOPT JOINT DECLARATION ON EU QUOTAS.
Deputies from the agriculture committees of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian parliaments met in Vilnius on 6 and 7 November for the conference "Agriculture and the European Union," ELTA reported. They adopted a joint declaration expressing their dissatisfaction with the EU proposals on direct payments to farmers and quotas for agricultural products. It stated that the transition period of lower payments to EU candidate country should be shifted to 2006 from 2013 and that the quotas for agricultural produce, particularly for crops, milk, and sugar.
RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER MAKES DEMANDS.
During her two-day visit to Estonia on 4-5 November, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said her country expects EU support in pressuring Estonia to address seven points connected with minorities, languages, and communist-era crimes, ETA reported on 8 November. Matvienko reiterated those demands in separate meetings with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, President Arnold Ruutel, and Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland. They are: granting citizenship to more ethnic Russians, improving the position of the Russian language in Estonia, continuing Russian-language education in schools, ending the prosecution of former NKVD/KGB agents and officers accused of crimes against the people of Estonia, abolishing restrictions made by the Estonian parliament in ratifying the convention on the protection of ethnic minorities, granting residence and work permits to former Soviet KGB officials, and allowing the Russian Embassy to expand its staff.NO PROGRESS ON TRADE, BORDER AGREEMENTS WITH RUSSIA.
Accompanied by Labor and Social Development Minister Aleksandr Pochinok and deputy ministers of culture, education, finance, and economic development and trade, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Matvienko arrived in Tallinn on 4 November for a two-day visit, BNS reported. She and Estonian Prime Minister Kallas co-chair the Russian-Estonian intergovernmental commission, which had not met for more than a year and a half. Talks with parliament Chairman Toomas Savi were successful in that the parliaments agreed to send delegations to each other early next year. In addition to two expected agreements -- on avoiding double taxation and on pension insurance -- government representatives signed a bilateral agreement on the repatriation of prisoners the next day, ETA reported. No decisions were made on the pressing issue of a trade and economic-cooperation agreement, which would abolish higher taxes on Estonian exports to Russia, and a border agreement. She unexpectedly announced that Russia will restore the Estonian president's badge of office which had been taken to Moscow at the beginning of the Soviet occupation in 1940 and kept in a Kremlin museum. Matvienko added that Estonia and Russia would only have to agree via diplomatic channels when and where the insignia would be returned.COURT FINDS FORMER SOVIET AGENT GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.
A Tallinn city court on 31 October convicted former KGB agent Yurii Karpov of crimes against humanity for rounding up dozens of people deemed enemies of the communist regime in 1949, BNS reported. The court opted for a light fine and an eight-year sentence that was suspended in light of Karpov's advanced age, 81. Karpov was indicted in March on charges of deporting 41 residents of the Harjumaa region to Siberia in March 1949, where at least some of them died under harsh conditions. He was accused of drawing up reports for apprehending the individuals -- including children -- detaining them, and handing them over for deportation. Karpov denied the charges, saying he was not involved in the deportations and his work was simply to identify "illegals" (people with no Soviet identification papers) and spies. Karpov is the fifth former KGB official convicted of involvement in the 1949 deportations, during which an estimated 20,000 people were deported from Estonian territory. He has vowed to appeal the verdict.MAYOR OF TALLINN RE-ELECTED.
By a vote of 43 to 13, the Tallinn City Council re-elected Center Party Chairman and incumbent Mayor Edgar Savisaar on 1 November, BNS reported. The results were widely expected, since the ruling coalition of the Center and Reform parties won 43 of the 63 seats on the council. Indrek Raudne from Res Publica said that his right-wing party did not support Savisaar because it believes he will devote excessive attention to the parliamentary elections in March. "Tallinn needs a full-time mayor," Raudne said. Savisaar avoided the question of whether he intends to run for parliament. The council also endorsed, with 37 votes, the election of six deputy mayors, three each from the coalition parties. The only change from the previous government is that Aivar Parna replaced Jaan Moks as one of the Center Party deputy mayors. Moks, who also participated in the local elections in Saue, may be elected that town's mayor in coalition with Res Publica.PARLIAMENT DEPUTY RESIGNS OVER SON'S SHOPLIFTING.
The Reform Party's parliamentary-group leader, Jurgen Ligi, announced on 5 November that he is resigning from parliament because his son was arrested for shoplifting in a Tallinn store, BNS reported. The tabloid "SL Ohtuleht" on 4 and 5 November reported the arrest, without giving the minor's or the deputy's name, for the alleged theft of clothes worth 3,263 kroons ($206). "As a father, I want to protect my son, but it is clear there is no justification for his conduct," Ligi said. "I find that it is my duty to take time off and devote more time to my family." He did not say whether he plans to run again in the March parliamentary elections. The Reform Party parliamentary faction met on 7 November and elected former Minister of Culture and Education Paul-Eerik Rummo as its new chairman, BNS reported.CHAIRMAN OF PRO PATRIA UNION RESIGNS.
Former Prime Minister Mart Laar resigned as chairman of the Pro Patria Union during an extended meeting of the party's governing board in Tallinn on 26 October, citing poor results in the 5 October local elections, ETA reported. Laar said he will remain in politics and seek a seat in the March parliamentary elections. Parliament Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam will serve as acting chairman until a party general assembly in November or December elects a new leader.SIXTH EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK PROGRAM JOINED.
Education Minister Mailis Rand signed a memorandum in Brussels on 29 October confirming Estonia's accession to the Sixth Framework Program for Research and Technological Development of the European Community, BNS reported. With European Commission President Roman Prodi in attendance, Commissioner Philippe Busquin and the education or science ministers from nine other EU candidate states signed similar memorandums. Rand said the program will distribute more than 17 billion euros in 2003-06 for various science projects. Estonia successfully participated in the fifth framework program, with its scientists involved in more than 100 projects.TAIWAN TO OPEN TRADE REPRESENTATION.
After hearing a report by Foreign Minister Ojuland, the cabinet decided on 29 October to approve Taiwanese plans to open a trade representation in Tallinn, ETA reported the next day. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tiina Maiberg said the Chinese Embassy has been informed of Taiwan's wish and expressed a neutral position, as China does not object to relations of a nongovernmental nature between Taiwan and other countries. The head of a pro-Taiwanese group in parliament, Pro Patria Union faction Deputy Chairman Andres Herkel, said the representation will be useful for the state. Estonia's exports to Taiwan totaled 26.6 million kroons ($1.7 million) and imports 316.4 million kroons in the first half of 2002.
* Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii declared on 28 October that Russia no longer objects to the aspirations of the Baltic states to join NATO, ETA reported the next day. He said that NATO membership of these states could be useful for Russia because "this will provide Estonia with a chance to settle the Estonian-Russian relations in a more peaceful way." Yastrzhembskii thanked the Estonian Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Kallas for their statements condemning terrorism during the Moscow hostage crisis.
* Denmark's armed forces commander General Jesper Helso discussed the future of Estonia's defense forces after the Prague summit with his Estonian counterpart Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts in Tallinn on 30 October, ETA reported. He said that the Baltic states would remain Denmark's closest partners after joining NATO. In a meeting with Defense Minister Sven Mikser, Helso praised the professionalism of Estonian peacekeepers and pledged Danish support to help Estonia establish its own peacekeeping brigade. He also visited the airspace-surveillance center at Amari and the naval base, whose flagship, the "Admiral Pitka," was a gift from Denmark.
* Protests were held in front of the Estonian Embassy in Kyiv and the consulate in St. Petersburg on 26 October, BNS reported. In Kyiv about a dozen youths from the Russian extremist National Bolshevik Party rallied in front of the embassy carrying placards such as "Death to the Estonian Police" and "Freedom to Soviet veterans!" They then burned an Estonian flag. In St. Petersburg about 25 youths with protest signs listened to a speech about the difficult life of Russians in Estonia, the trials of Soviet KGB veterans, and how the Soviet Union had helped raise Estonia to its feet. The authorities in Moscow had given permission for a similar protest up to 50 people in front of embassy, but no demonstrators showed up.
* During a one-day visit to Estonia, British European Affairs Minister Denis MacShane discussed EU enlargement issues with Prime Minister Kallas, Foreign Minister Ojuland, and Tallinn Mayor Savisaar in Tallinn on 7 November, BNS reported. He also delivered a lecture on EU issues in the Foreign Ministry and opened a British Council-sponsored exhibition of British book and media design.
* While formally presenting his credentials on 31 October, the new Canadian ambassador to Tallinn, Robert Andrigo, told President Ruutel that Canada supports Estonia's accession to NATO, BNS reported. He said that Estonia's peaceful and persistent work in restoring and safeguarding its independence was an example to the whole world and that Estonian Canadians had contributed to the development of their new country.
* Even though Estonia reduced its shrimp-fishing quota by nearly 70 percent in the North Atlantic fishing area 3L in September (see "RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 19 September 2002), Canada has not lifted the ban of its fishing ships entering Canadian ports, which was begun in April, BNS reported on 29 October. Iceland's Fisheries Minister Arni Mathiesen told Agriculture Minister Jaanus Marrandi and officials from the Environment Ministry in Tallinn the same day that Iceland was ready to help solve the shrimp dispute between Estonia and Canada.
* The parliament's Constitutional Committee submitted an EU referendum bill on 5 November, BNS reported. Voters will be asked to answer the question: "May Estonia accede to the European Union?" The referendum will be held on the same day as another referendum on amending the constitution with a sentence permitting Estonia to belong to the European Union. This procedure is necessary because, under the constitution, ratification of international agreements cannot be put to a referendum. The date of the referendums will be decided by the parliament in the third reading of the constitutional amendment bill.
* Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate's Foreign Relations Department Father Nikolai told reporters in Moscow on 29 October that the best solution to the problem of the two Estonian Orthodox Churches would be for them to merge into an autonomous and autocephalous Orthodox Church that would not be subordinated either to Moscow or Constantinople, BNS reported. He said that while the Moscow Patriarchate welcomed the registration of the church under its subordination, it considered unjust the decision to grant only long-term leases to its property while the church subordinate to Constantinople was given title to its property.
* Three Russian deputies to the Estonian parliament, Victor Andreev, Yevgenii Tomberg, and Valentina Vysotskaya, sent a letter to Foreign Minister Ojuland on 30 October urging her to close the representation in Estonia of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, BNS reported. They assert that this should be done based on the UN Security Council resolution that bans support to terrorists. The letter points out that Azerbaijan had already closed the Chechen representation that had operated as a cultural representation.
* President Ruutel officially appointed Liina Tonisson economy and communications minister on 28 October four days before the two ministries which she headed, the Economy Ministry and the Transport and Communications Ministry were formally merged, ETA reported. The merger on 1 November resulted in the abolishment of 32 of 225 jobs in the new ministry, but in the dismissal of only 17 workers, including the chancellor and two deputy chancellors, because some positions were vacant, BNS reported.
* The board of the Moderates decided on 28 October to hold their congress on 30 November, BNS reported the next day. The congress will adopt a new program with the emphasis on social values as well as elect a new board and party chairman, replacing Toomas Hendrik Ilves who has declared that he will not be a candidate for chairman. He said that he would like to see former Agriculture Minister Ivari Padar as his successor. Padar told ETA on 30 October that he is not enthusiastic about the position, but would agree to become chairman from a sense of responsibility to the party.
* The nonprofit Estonian-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sponsored by the Estonian Consulate-General in New York and the Baltic Business Information Network, was opened in New York on 4 November, ETA reported the next day. The chamber aims to support mutual business contacts between Estonian and U.S. companies and promote Estonian companies and their products in the United States.
* The Finance Ministry announced on 31 October that in the first nine months of the year the government budget had a surplus of 2.48 billion kroons ($160 million) while local municipalities had a deficit of 282 million kroons, ETA reported. The joint surplus of 2.17 billion kroons corresponded to about 2.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
* The Statistics Office announced on 5 November that in September exports and imports amounted to 4.97 billion kroons ($320 million) and 7.0 billion kroons, respectively, BNS reported. Compared to September 2001, exports increased by 14 percent and imports by 27 percent.
* The Statistics Office announced on 7 November that the consumer price index in October was 0.5 percent higher than in September and 3.2 percent higher than in October 2001, ETA reported. The prices of goods increased by 0.4 percent in October with food products falling by 0.1 percent, but the cost of both services and manufactured goods increasing by 0.8 percent.
PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT.
By a vote of 55 to 43 with one abstention, parliament on 7 November approved the center-right coalition government headed by New Era Chairman Einars Repse, LETA reported. New Era-backed candidates will head six ministries -- Culture (Inguna Ribena), Education and Research (Karlis Sadurskis), Finance (Valdis Dombrovskis), Foreign Affairs (Sandra Kalniete), Interior (Maris Gulbis), Justice (Aivars Aksenoks) -- and two special-task portfolios that will later be transformed into ministries: Health Care (Aris Auders) and Regional Development (Ivars Gaters). Latvia's First Party will hold a deputy prime minister's post (Ainars Slesers) along with the Economy Ministry (Juris Lujans) and two special-task ministers: Children's and Family Affairs and Social Integration. (Ainars Bastiks will temporarily hold both the positions until a social integration minister is chosen.) Union of Greens and Farmers nominees will lead three ministries: Agriculture (Martins Roze), Environment (Raimonds Vejonis), and Welfare (not yet selected). For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK will control two ministries: Defense (Girts Valdis Kristovskis) and Transportation (Roberts Zile).OUTGOING DEPUTIES BOOST 2002 EXPENDITURES.
In its final session on 31 October, the 1998-2002 parliament passed 40 bills, including amendments to the 2002 budget act, LETA reported. The budget amendments -- approved by a vote of 74 to zero, with eight abstentions -- provide an additional 19.7 million lats ($32 million) in spending, including state guarantees to drug makers Olainfarm (6.8 million lats) and Silvanols (350,000 lats), compensation to cattle breeders for drought damage (5.92 million lats), wage hikes in the medical sector (1.7 million lats), and the implementation of a Welfare Ministry-backed law on transition conditions for social assistance (1.3 million lats). Outgoing Finance Minister Gunars Berzins said that, even with the additional expenditures, the fiscal deficit for 2002 will not exceed 1.8 percent of GDP due to improved collection of taxes. But Valdis Dombrovskis, the likely nominee for finance minister in the new cabinet, foresees a deficit of 2.87 percent of GDP by the end of the year.PRESIDENT VISITS SWITZERLAND.
Accompanied by Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis, Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars, Bank of Latvia President Ilmars Rimsevics, and a delegation of 31 businesspeople, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga flew to Zurich on 30 October for a two-day state visit, LETA reported. She was welcomed at the airport by Swiss President Kaspar Villiger, with whom she held further talks in Berne on bilateral relations and global developments. In an address to the Swiss parliament, Vike-Freiberga said the common values of democracy, free markets, and human rights form a basis for friendly relations and mutual respect between their countries. She welcomed the Swiss decision to join the United Nations and expressed the hope that economic relations between the two countries will expand. On 31 October Vike-Freiberga placed flowers at the monument to Latvian poets Aspazija and Rainis in Castagnola, addressed students at the Universita della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, and met with Swiss bankers in Zurich. Swiss Federal Councilor for the economic affairs department Pascal Couchepin told Kalvitis that he considered economic relations with Latvia as a "gate to Russia" and expressed an interest in increasing Swiss investments in Latvia.MOSCOW MAYOR WANTS COOPERATION WITH MAJOR CITIES.
Yurii Luzhkov began a two-day visit to Latvia on 8 November with discussions with his Riga counterpart Gundars Bojars on greater cooperation between the two capitals, LETA reported. When asked at a press conference about his comments several years ago comparing the situation of Russian-speakers in Latvia with the situation in Cambodia, Luzhkov said the situation has improved, but he expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of naturalization and called for the continuation of Russian-language secondary education in Latvia. The mayors placed flowers at the Freedom Monument and visited the railcar manufacturer Rigas Vagonu Rupnica and the Lido recreation complex. On 9 November, Luzhkov played tennis with former President Guntis Ulmanis in Jurmala. At a meeting with an association of Latvia's major cities, Luzhkov stressed the usefulness of greater cooperation between Moscow and Latvian cities, whose representatives are scheduled to visit Moscow in January to continue discussions.AGREEMENT REACHED ON PARLIAMENT'S LEADERSHIP.
The would-be governing parties agreed on the composition of the parliament's presidium, LETA reported on 1 November. Union of Greens and Farmers Chairwoman Ingrida Udre will be the parliament's new speaker, with Latvia's First Party Chairman Eriks Jekabsons and Janis Straume of For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK as her deputies. New Era deputy Janis Reirs will be the parliament's secretary, with Aleksandrs Bartasevics of For Human Rights in a United Latvia deputy secretary. The parliament approved these selections in its first session on 5 November, BNS reported.SOON-TO-BE GOVERNMENT SIGNS DECLARATION.
After the first plenary session of the new Latvian parliament on 5 November, the leaders of four right-of-center parties signed a joint government declaration, LETA reported. At the legislative session, President Vike-Freiberga invited Einars Repse of New Era to be the country's next prime minister. The signatories included Repse for New Era, Ingrida Udre of the Union of Greens and Farmers Union, Eriks Jekabsons of Latvia's First Party, and Roberts Zile of For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. The parties declared that the goals of the government are responsible and efficient public administration, full NATO and EU membership for Latvia, a strong and independent court system, and combating corruption and crime. Other goals include a national economy based on an information society and knowledge, an integrated society with equitable development of Latvia's regions, and high employment. The four parties also agreed to support Vike-Freiberga for another four-year term as president.AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE, UNESCO TABBED FOR FOREIGN MINISTER'S POST.
New Era Chairman Einars Repse announced on 26 October that his party will nominate Ambassador to France and UNESCO Sandra Kalniete for the post of foreign minister, BNS reported. He said Kalniete, who does not belong to any political party, was chosen because the approaching conclusion of EU and NATO membership talks requires that an experienced diplomat be named to the post.SURVIVORS OF MOSCOW HOSTAGE CRISIS RETURN HOME.
More than 100 people turned up at Riga International Airport to welcome the three Latvian citizens who were among the more than 800 people held captive by Chechen gunmen in a Moscow theater the previous week, BNS reported on 29 October. Margarita Dubina, 54, expressed gratitude to the Russian secret service for saving her life and those of her son, Aleksandrs, 28, and daughter, Kira, 21. She also thanked the Latvian Embassy in Moscow for aiding their release from the hospital and their return home. Her son described the hostage situation as "sheer horror" but said he met people from Bulgaria, Armenia, and Ukraine with whom he will try to remain in contact. On 1 November the Russian government announced that all surviving hostage victims would receive 50,000 rubles ($1,580) compensation plus 10,000 rubles for lost personal belongings. The Latvian family will be able to get the money through the Latvian Embassy in Moscow.FOR THE FATHERLAND AND FREEDOM/LNNK TO UNDERGO REORGANIZATION.
The For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) executive council decided on 2 November that the party should be reorganized through amendment of its charter at a party congress on 14 December, LETA reported. The proposed changes include the election by the party congress of a new chairman to a four-year term. The current council would be abolished and replaced by a 10-member board proposed by the new chairman and approved by the congress. The party would no longer have any deputy chairmen, as board members collectively would serve that function. The party council also elected parliamentary deputies Roberts Zile, Guntars Krasts, and Janis Straume as party co-chairmen until the congress.
* Outgoing Prime Minister Andris Berzins attended the meeting of EU member- and candidate-country premiers in Copenhagen on 28 October, LETA reported. European Commission President Romano Prodi and EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen informed them on the decisions made by the EU Council in Brussels on 24-25 October. Berzins arrived from Rome where he had a meeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.
* Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis participated in the two-day international conference "Changes in the Interface Between the Military and Other Security Organizations and Professions" on 28 and 29 October in Kingston, Ontario, LETA reported. He also visited the Canadian Peacekeeping Center where a representative from Latvia is currently in training. On 30 October he held talks with his Canadian counterpart John McCallum which primarily focused on the movement of the Baltic states to NATO membership. The next day Kristovskis traveled to Michigan where he visited several bases of the state's National Guard to get familiar with living conditions of soldiers, training process, and staff-administration issues.
* Concluding their mission in Latvia, representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised improvements in the national macroeconomic situation and achievements in implementation of the 2002 national budget, LETA reported on 29 October. They admitted to Prime Minister Berzins that all preconditions have been created so that Latvia's fiscal budget deficit this year meets criteria set by the IMF. They praised the greater economic stability, which resulted in a growth in direct foreign investments.
* National Armed Forces commander Colonel Raimonds Graube visited Latvian troops deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the international peacekeeping mission on 30-31 October, BNS reported. In August 1999 soldiers and officers from the Latvian 1st Infantry Battalion first arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina for a six-month term.
* The government decided on 4 November to submit an additional request in its EU membership negotiations, namely to be allowed not to impose value-added taxes (VAT) on heating and hot-water supply until the end of 2004, BNS reported the next day. The request is needed because the parliament in early October decided not to apply VAT on them until that time, changing an earlier law that had envisioned aligning Latvia's legislation to the EU requirements on these VAT payments from the beginning of 2003.
* The Russian Community in Latvia and the leftist For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL) organized a protest rally at the Riga City Council on 5 November calling for the return of the name Kosmonautikas Street which had been changed to Johar Dudayev Street in 1996 after the death of the Chechen president, LETA reported. The Riga City Council turned down a motion by PCTVL deputies that the issue be put on the council�s agenda.
* The Latvian parliament adopted on 31 October amendments to the law on privatization vouchers, extending by yet another year the validity term of vouchers until the end of 2003, BNS reported. The original deadline for the vouchers was the end of 1999 and this is the fourth time it has been extended. Economist Raita Karnite said that she doubted that all the privatization vouchers would be redeemed by the new date and suggested that the validity of privatization vouchers be extended by 10 years, or at least by five years.
* On 7 November, his last day in office, Finance Minister Gundars Berzins completed the issuing of all state guarantees foreseen in the 2001 budget by signing three guarantees worth 10.15 million lats ($16.5 million), BNS reported. They were 5.6 million lats to the pharmaceuticals maker Kalceks for the introduction of Good Manufacturing Practice, which the company needs to export its output to the EU, 4 million lats for the construction of the mail carriage and sorting complex of the Latvijas Pasts postal company, and 550,000 lats for the reconstruction and modernization of the Roja port.
* The Stockholm Court issued a decision on 29 October upholding the ruling made by the International Court of Arbitration almost two years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000) ordering Latvia to pay $2.5 million compensation to the Swedish company SwemBalt for dismantling the ship "Feederchif" in Riga in 1996, LETA reported. Latvia has appealed to the Copenhagen Naval and Commercial Court requesting that the International Court verdict be declared null and void.
* In an effort to be competitive with buses, minibuses, and other means of travel, the state-owned railroad company Latvijas Dzelzcels began offering lower fares for passenger travel on most railroad routes from Riga on 1 November, LETA reported. Fares were reduced on the average by 11.5 percent on diesel trains and by 11.9 percent on electric trains. Due to financial considerations, ticket prices were not cut on the Riga-Tukums and Riga-Skulte routes, which use reconstructed and modernized trains.
* Latvia's Way press secretary Evija Ansonska announced on 29 October that the extraordinary 14th congress of the party will be held in Riga on 9 November, LETA reported. The congress will elect a new chairman and board because they had resigned after the poor results in the 5 October parliament elections in which the party did not win any seats. The party's charter will be amended at the congress.
* In the first 10 months of the year, the volume of cargo handled in the port of Ventspils was 25.17 million tons, 7.44 million tons less than in the same period last year and 3.16 million tons less than planned, LETA reported on 4 November. The year-to-year decrease was particularly clear in the export of crude oil and oil products which fell by 5.25 million tons to 7.15 million tons and by 1.52 million tons to 10.6 million tons, respectively.
* The Central Statistics Bureau announced on 8 November that the consumer price index in October was 0.8 percent higher than in September and 1.6 percent higher than in October 2001, BNS reported. In October, the price of goods increased by 0.9 percent and the costs of services by 0.2 percent.
PRESIDENT VOWS TO BE UKRAINE'S ADVOCATE FOR EU PLANS.
After talks with visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, President Valdas Adamkus told a press conference on 29 October, "Today we can tell our dear friends in Ukraine that we are poised to be their best advocate in their bid for EU membership," ELTA reported. He said Lithuania will follow the example of the assistance that Poland has been giving Vilnius in its efforts to join NATO. The presidents signed a document establishing a joint presidential council to ensure regular top-level political dialogue on bilateral and regional cooperation. Kuchma then attended a business lunch hosted by Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and held talks with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. Kuchma told a press conference that he will not attend the NATO summit in Prague next month unless suggestions that his country has breached UN sanctions by selling radar equipment to Iraq are retracted, Reuters reported. "If there remain any doubts, then I don't think it would make sense to hold the Ukraine-NATO summit [during the NATO meeting in Prague]," he asserted. The next day Kuchma met with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, and with Adamkus visited the Akropolis shopping and entertainment center. Kuchma was so pleased with the center that he invited its owners to build a similar one in Ukraine. The presidents then participated in the official opening of the Ukrainian Institute, founded by the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University, the Taras Shevchenko Foundation, and the European Integration Studies Center. At a subsequent forum in the presidential office businessmen from both countries established the Lithuanian-Ukrainian Business Council which is expected to deal effectively with problems arising between each countries' markets.MORE PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES JOIN PRO-CHECHEN GROUP.
Apparently reacting to recent events in Moscow, eight deputies joined a parliamentary group for interparliamentary relations with the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria on 31 October, BNS reported. They include Conservatives Arvydas Vidziunas and Rasa Jukneviciene, former Foreign Minister and Christian Democrat Algirdas Saudargas, Social Democrat Kestutis Krisciunas, and deputies from the Social Liberals and Modern Christian Democrats. This increased the number of deputies in the group to 19, after Social Democrat Juozas Raistenskis left the group two days earlier. Several members of the group announced at a press conference that they were handing a letter to the Danish Embassy expressing regret that Denmark "was unable to resist Russia's pressure" when it detained Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev and calling for his release. Conservatives Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis spoke at the World Chechen Congress in Copenhagen on 28 October calling on the participants to seek a peaceful solution of the war. He had attended the congress as a private person for the board of the Lithuanian parliament.RUSSIA DEMANDS CLOSURE OF CHECHEN MISSION.
Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Yurii Zubakov told Foreign Minister Valionis on 5 November that the Chechen Information and Culture Center in Vilnius should be closed, BNS reported. The previous day, Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas said he received inquiries from the Russian government about the Chechen mission working in Vilnius but heard no demands for its closure. After the end of the hostage taking at the theater in Moscow, Zubakov said in interviews to Lithuanian television stations that he could not understand the presence in Vilnius of representatives of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whose leadership is no longer acknowledged by Moscow. Valionis replied that the center was a public institution, founded in accordance with Lithuanian laws, and headed by a Lithuanian citizen engaged in "mainly humanitarian" activities.LITHUANIA PLEDGES COMMITMENT TO SCHENGEN RIGHTS.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement on 8 November stating that further negotiations on transit through Lithuanian territory to and from Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast will be guided by respect for Lithuanian sovereignty, effective border control, and parity for the travel of Lithuanian nationals to Russia and Kaliningrad, ELTA reported. The statement was made in reaction to reports that EU and Russian officials have agreed to transit rules that are unfavorable to Lithuania. According to the reports, Russians would not have to visit Lithuanian consulates to obtain transit visas, as booking offices in Russian railway stations would mediate in issuing simplified Lithuanian transit documents to passengers. Information regarding the passengers would be sent to Lithuania to either accept or reject an application within an established period of time. Lithuania is primarily concerned that such rules might hinder its efforts for full integration within the Schengen zone.RUSSIA DELAYS HANDLING OF KALININGRAD TRANSIT ISSUE.
After a meeting with President Adamkus, Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas told a press conference in Vilnius on 4 November that Russia had given Lithuania permission neither to open a new consulate in Sovetsk in Kaliningrad Oblast nor to enlarge its consular facilities in Kaliningrad, ELTA reported. Those offices will become necessary next year when Lithuania abolishes visa-free travel for Kaliningrad residents and requires Russians transiting to and from that exclave to have visas. Those measures are part of Lithuanian pledges to the EU. Sidlauskas said Russia has taken a "peculiar" stance, delaying any decision until an agreement on the transit issue is reached between Russia and the EU.DANISH MILITARY COMMANDER VISITS VILNIUS...
The commander of Denmark's armed forces, General Jesper Helso, held talks in Vilnius on 28 October with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius and his Lithuanian counterpart Major General Jonas Kronkaitis, ELTA reported. Linkevicius said Denmark provided crucial support for the development of the Lithuanian armed forces by launching a joint project in 1994 in which Lithuanian peacekeepers participated in a mission in Croatia as part of a Danish battalion. They also discussed the planned reorganization of international peacekeeping forces in the Balkans, which would shift the Danish Battalion with servicemen from the three Baltic states from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Kosovo. Helso will also visit the Grand Duke Algirdas Motorized Infantry Battalion and the Lithuanian Defense Academy before returning to Denmark on 29 October...AS DOES BRAZILIAN FOREIGN MINISTER.
Celso Lafer arrived in Vilnius on 3 November for a four-day visit, BNS reported. The trip represents the highest-ranking Brazilian visit ever and was in part influenced by the fact that Lafer's ancestors were born near the town of Sirvintos in southeastern Lithuania. On 4 November, Lafer visited a Holocaust-victims museum in Paneriai and the Vilnius Synagogue before holding talks on bilateral economic and cultural cooperation with President Adamkus and Foreign Minister Valionis. The foreign ministers exchanged notes on establishing a visa-free regime between their countries. The regime will go into effect 20 days after the countries adopt the documents.LIBERALS, MODERN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS CONSIDER MERGER.
Liberal Union Chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas and Modern Christian Democrat Union (MKDS) Chairman Vytautas Bogusis signed a memorandum "On Common Activities in Concentrating Center-Right Parties" in Vilnius on 30 October, BNS reported. It calls for cooperation in parliament, the formation of joint lists in local council elections slated for 22 December, and a possible merger. In Vilnius, incumbent Mayor Arturas Zuokas will head the joint list with Bogusis in the second slot. However, the two parties support different candidates for president with the MKDS backing incumbent Valdas Adamkus and the Liberal Union endorsing its chairman, Gentvilas. The MKDS has three deputies in parliament and is part of the United faction with the Center Union and the Polish Electoral Action, while the Liberal Union has 23 deputies in the 141-seat chamber.LAW ON PERMANENT REPRESENTATION TO EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTED.
Parliament on 31 October approved by a vote of 67 to four with 11 abstentions a bill establishing a legal basis for the appointment of a permanent representative to the European Parliament, ELTA reported. It provides for the parliamentary chancellor to appoint a representative for a three-year term on the recommendation of the parliamentary board and the consent of the foreign minister. Deputy Alvydas Medalinskas said parliament still must allocate funds to maintain the representative's office, whose premises the European Parliament has already assigned. Parliamentary European Affairs Committee Chairman Vytenis Andriukaitis, who introduced the bill, said the most likely candidate for representative is Ruta Buneviciute, a senior adviser to his committee, BNS reported.
* Prime Minister Brazauskas attended the meeting of the 10 EU candidate-country premiers with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Copenhagen on 28 October, ELTA reported. Rasmussen told them that the recent EU Council meeting in Brussels stated that their countries should complete EU membership negotiations by the end of the year. He, however, noted that they should not expect to get additional funding for the remaining negotiation chapters. Brazauskas drew attention to the specific level of agriculture development in the Baltic states and called for higher agricultural quotas.
* During a visit to Washington on 28 and 29 October, Deputy Foreign Minister Justas Vincas Paleckis met with Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Robert Bradtke, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, National Security Council European Affairs Director Walter Andrusyszyn, advisers of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, and State Department officials, BNS reported on 30 October. He assured them that Lithuania would continue reforms of its armed forces after receiving an invitation to join NATO. Paleckis also held talks with the State Department's special envoy for Holocaust issues, Randolph Bell; B'nai B'rith Vice President Daniel Mariaschin; and the American Jewish Committee's European affairs director, Andrew Baker.
* In his first foreign visit after assuming office on 28 October, British European Affairs Minister Denis MacShane held talks in Vilnius on 6 and 7 November with Foreign Minister Valionis, Foreign Ministry Secretary Giedrius Cekuolis, chief negotiator with the EU Petras Austrevicius, parliament European Affairs Committee Chairman Vytenis Andriukaitis, and other officials, ELTA reported. The main aim of his visit was to meet with the officials in charge of EU integration in Lithuania.
* Justice Minister Vytautas Markevicius attended an international conference on organized crime in Algeria on 29 and 30 October, BNS reported. More than 50 justice ministers from mostly African countries participated in the conference which focused on the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, already signed by 143 countries. The Lithuanian parliament ratified the convention on 9 May.
* The parliament ratified on 31 October an extradition treaty with China, which stipulates conditions, based on which, a person charged with a crime could be extradited to the other country, BNS reported. The treaty has a clause which gives a country the option to default on the treaty if it runs counter to the country's international obligations, for instance, if the person to be extradited could be sentenced to death.
* Prime Minister Brazauskas, former Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, and Itera Latvia president Yuri Savicki participated in a ceremony in the resort town of Druskininkai marking the opening of a natural-gas pipeline from Belarus on 5 November, ELTA reported. The opening, however, was only symbolic because the main was closed at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border due to suspended gas supply by Russia's Gazprom to the importer Itera over outstanding payments. The gas pipeline of 25 kilometers in length was built in six months using funds borrowed from Itera Latvia.
* After two days of talks in Vilnius, Foreign Ministry Consular Department Director Gediminas Siaudvytis and Belarus Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Herasimenka initialed a new interim visa accord on 6 November, ELTA reported. It was needed to replace the existing visa agreement after Lithuania announced in September that it was renouncing it because of agreed obligations to the EU for joining the organization's Schengen agreement. The accord provides for eased issuance of visas to carriers (international and passenger haulage), persons older than 70 years, disabled people, residents of border areas, and persons going to the other state to visit graves of their relatives or for treatment in sanatoriums and as well as participants of cultural and sporting events.
* Representatives of the natural-gas utility Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas), Polish oil and gas company PGNiG, and the Danish company DONG decided at a meeting in Vilnius to file a project with the European Commission on the linkup of the Polish and Lithuanian gas-pipeline networks with the EU's gas network, BNS reported on 28 October. The linkup would end Lithuania's sole dependence on Russia's Gazprom for natural-gas supplies.
* The UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva adopted a recommendation on 28 October calling on Belarus to cancel the mandatory escorts and convoys for Lithuanian truckers travelling through Belarus, ELTA reported. The commission also indicated that Lithuania should not undertake retaliatory sanctions against Belarus.
* At a meeting with representatives of the European Commission's delegation to Lithuania and ambassadors of EU countries residing in Lithuania -- namely Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom -- on 29 October, Lithuania's chief EU negotiator Petras Austrevicius, said the country is not satisfied with the currently suggested EU agricultural quotas, especially for milk and sugar, BNS reported.
* A service center for ships of the joint Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian squadron BALTRON was opened in Klaipeda on 31 October, BNS reported. The center, for which Germany allocated 6 million euros ($5.95 million), received all necessary equipment and spare parts from Germany, while the Lithuanian Navy prepared the premises and appointed personnel, who received training from German specialists. The center is one of three BALTRON technical centers which will focus primarily on ship weaponry and deck equipment. The center in Latvia deals with the repairs of mine-searching equipment, and the one in Estonia with communications technical service.
* The board of the Liberal Union decided to expel parliament deputy Alvydas Medalinskas from its parliamentary faction on 30 October because he declared his support for Rolandas Paksas, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, as a presidential candidate rather than party Chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas, BNS reported. Medalinskas then announced that he was leaving the party and on 4 November joined the Liberal Democratic Party.
* The Statistics Department announced on 29 October that GDP in the third quarter of this year was 13.43 billion litas ($3.8 billion) or 6.6 percent greater than in the same period last year, ELTA reported. The economic growth rate was 4.4 percent in the first quarter, and 6.9 percent in the second quarter, resulting in the GDP for three quarters totaling 35.40 billion litas or 6.1 percent greater last year. GDP growth in the fourth quarter is expected to decline since the GDP growth in the last quarter of 2001 was 9.6 percent.
* The Ignalina nuclear-power plant produced 10.96 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the first 10 months of 2002 or 36 percent more than the 8.07 billion kWh produced in the same period last year, BNS reported on 4 November.