31 July 2000, Volume
MOSCOW DOCTRINE FORESEES 'GOOD PROSPECTS' FOR BALTIC TIES.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov presented Russia's new foreign policy doctrine (replacing a 1993 document) at a press conference in Moscow on 10 July, news agencies reported. Ivanov described the approach as "pragmatism," adding that Russian foreign policy "should effectively help solve domestic problems." Ivanov also said that although Russia's foreign policy resources are limited, "we will concentrate them first and foremost in areas of vital importance," naming security, creating favorable conditions for Russia's economic growth, and protection of Russians abroad, AP reported. The foreign policy doctrine itself mentions the need "to form a belt of good neighborly relations along the perimeter of Russian borders," and under the discussion of "Regional Priorities" says, "The development of the relations of the Russian Federation with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia holds good prospects. Russia stands for turning these relations into the course of good neighborly relations and mutually advantageous cooperation. An indispensable condition for this is that these states show respect for Russian interests, including in such a key issue as the observance of the rights of the Russian-speaking population."
NARVA PRIVATIZATION CONTROVERSY CONTINUES.
Opposition parties on 14 July called for an extraordinary session of the Estonian parliament to discuss the government's contract with U.S.-based NRG Energy for the purchase of 49 percent of shares in the country's major power plants, BNS reported. Villu Reiljan, chairman of the Peoples Union opposition faction, said the session could lead to a vote of no confidence in the government. Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar announced that the opposition parties also have decided to collect signatures against the privatization plan on 14 July. The shale-oil burning electricity plants belong to the state-owned Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy). The contract calls for NRG to invest $360 million to modernize the two power plants and $80 million in the oil shale mining operation, as well as contribute $5 million to a social welfare fund for Narva residents. Board members of Eesti Energia are refusing to sign the negotiated contract and have mounted a campaign to scuttle the government's deal, while the trade unions representing the workers at the plants and mines support the sale. Finance Minister Siim Kallas said earlier that the deal should be concluded by 28 July and reminded the board members of power utility Eesti Energia that they work for the state. Three influential business associations--including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry--are all urging the government to back away from the deal.ESTONIANS COMPETE IN RAILWAY PRIVATIZATION.
Thirty prominent Estonian businessmen have formed a consortium called People for Railway Privatization to compete in the upcoming privatization of the country's railways, Eesti Raudtee. Among the members of the group are media mogul Hans Luik, investment banker Rain Lohmus, oil transit executives Aadu Luukas and Endel Siff, as well as industry leaders in construction, furniture production, hotels, security, food processing and others. Cresco investment bank, which is advising the group on its offer, estimates that the companies of the group of 30 provide 15-20 percent of Estonia's GDP, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 11 July. The group in a day has assembled a 25 million kroon ($1.5 million) fund, enough to take part in the tender process expected later this year.ESTONIA TO PUBLISH ALL CIVIL SERVANTS WAGES.
Finance Minister Siim Kallas issued a 13 July decree specifying procedures for reporting on the salaries of civil servants, BNS and ETA reported. The decree implements an amendment to the Act on Wages passed recently by the parliament to make public the salaries, any bonus and additional payments made to the roughly 100,000 public servants and directors of state-owned companies. The salary disclosure regulations also apply to members of supervisory and executive boards of enterprises fully or partially owned by the state, municipalities or bodies making decisions in matters of the transfer of state, municipal, or other public property. The report must be published every year on 1 April and will also be posted to each ministry's website.
* Opposition leaders told ETA and BNS on 13 July that they will sign an inquiry to Estonia's acting justice chancellor questioning the constitutionality of President Lennart Meri's actions in discharging Defense Forces Commander Lieutenant-General Johannes Kert on 30 June. The group includes the People's Union's Villu Reiljan, Mai Treial and Tiit Tammasaar, according to the daily "Postimees."
* The daily "Postimees" reported on 14 July that Canadian officials have complained to the Estonian embassy in Ottawa about President Lennart Meri's appearance at the ESTO Estonian World Festival held in Toronto earlier in the week. Numerous Estonian performers for the festival were either denied visas for travel to Canada and those with visas were held up by border officials for questioning.
* The People's Union, a coalition of opposition parties, is collecting signatures against the privatization of the railway company, Eesti Raudtee, ETA reported on 13 July. The People's Union is aiming to collect at least 100,000 signatures. The People's Union has called for an extraordinary session of the parliament to be held on 7 August to discuss two bills--one to obligate the government to retain at least 51 percent of the shares of Eesti Raudtee, and to send the state controller to audit the Bank of Estonia.
* The law granting many disabled residents Estonian citizenship under a simplified procedure came into effect on 10 July, ETA and BNS reported. Certain categories of disabled persons no longer have to take a language test or an exam on the Constitution and Citizenship Act.
* At least 3,000 Estonian World War II slave labor victims from the Nazi-occupation will receive compensation from the recently created German Fund for Memory, Responsibility, and Future established after multinational negotiations. Compensation of Estonian victims will be mediated by the Belarus-based Fund for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation, whose representatives will arrive in Estonia at the end of July. The compensation will range from 5,000 to 15,000 German marks.
* The Estonian Foreign Ministry on 14 July signed an agreement with a local construction firm, Eesti Ehitus, to renovate Estonia's historic embassy in Berlin. The firm won an open tender and will start the renovation in early August. The government has budgeted 23 million kroons ($1.4 million) for the project. The renovated embassy will include the ambassador's residence, diplomatic and consular offices, as well as reception rooms. The project is scheduled for completion in 2001.
* The Russian arms exporter Rosvooruzheniye is offering weapons for sale to Estonia, the daily "Postimees" reported on 12 July. Major-General Ants Laaneots recently visited the company's headquarters in Moscow, but the Defense Ministry denies reports that it is negotiating to purchase weapons from Russia. The paper reports that the Russians were offering portable anti-aircraft weapons, anti-tank weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles. Laaneots said that several of the Russian-produced weapons systems are priced below those of their Western competitors.
* Russian activist Oleg Morozov , who illegally resides in Estonia, told BNS on 10 July that he has no plans to leave Estonia, even though Estonian authorities have ordered him to do so several times. Morozov is refusing to file an application for a residence permit which 320,000 non-citizens have already been granted since 1995.
* On 8 July nearly 3,000 men, 100 of them from abroad, took part in a world reunion of Estonian soldiers in Tori, Parnu County, BNS reported on 10 July. The Estonian defense forces were represented by one company of the Parnu battalion and several officers including the defense forces inspector general, Major Einar Laigna. The veterans honored participants in the 1918-20 War of Independence.
* The International Monetary Fund on 11 July urged Estonia to use its tax policy to create a more favorable climate for growth and prevent the emergence of a large current account deficit, Reuters reported. In a statement summarizing a 30 June review of the economy, the IMF welcomed the government's reduction of its fiscal deficit in early 2000, but urged further restraint before adopting any tax cuts planned for 2001.
* Labor Market Board General Director Mati Ilisson told BNS on 12 July that the government must become more active in combating unemployment. Ilisson said that the actual unemployment figure for June is closer to 104,000, rather than the 43,000 reported by state employment offices. Ilisson's concern is that with a new law taking effect on 1 October will extend the period during which unemployment benefits are paid by no longer requiring a 60-day waiting period to qualify.
* During the first six months of 2000 , the number of crimes in Estonia rose by 1,861 cases compared to the same period last year, for a total of 25,656, BNS reported on 12 July. But the police are also solving more cases--8,140 crimes were solved in the first six months, up by 1,638 from the same period in 1999. The number of registered crimes actually declined in Tallinn, while increasing in other police districts throughout the country.
* Illegal logging has increased by one-third in Estonia during the first six months of this year, BNS reported on 11 July. The Environmental Inspectorate said 917 cases of illegal logging occurred affecting an estimated 86,270 cubic meters of timber. Henn Alton, general director of the inspectorate, said that 311 persons have been fined 229,375 kroons ($14,330) for illegal logging. Although most of the violations are detected by the Environmental Inspectorate, Alton said that about 10 percent of the cases are uncovered by the police, local governments, and border guards.
* Estonian Air ended regular three-times-a-week flights to Minsk on 12 July, ETA and BNS reported, because demand has fallen steadily over the last four years. As of 28 August, the company will add an additional flight to Stockholm--where demand has increased--making a total of five round trips to Stockholm weekly.
* Pakterminal, the Estonian fuel transit company, has been unable to offload Russian oil onto tankers and the echelons are now blocking traffic on the country's railways, BNS reported on 13 July. The backlog consists of 1,640 rail cars, 340 of which are carrying gasoline.
* The Estonian Competition Board announced on 14 July that all four Estonian TV stations, one state-owned, the rest commercial, operated at a loss in 1999, ETA reported. Owing to a lack of advertising, the stations only aired commercials in 30 percent of the available time, which is five minutes per hour for state-owned ETV and 15 minutes an hour for the three commercial stations.
KALEJS CASE ADVANCES WITH LATVIAN-AUSTRALIAN EXTRADITION TREATY.
The Latvian and Australian governments signed an extradition treaty on 14 July, an accord their respective parliaments are expected to ratify this fall, thereby eliminating a barrier to the prosecution of a Latvian-born war crimes suspect, BNS reported. Neither country has charged Konrad Kalejs, 86, with war crimes, but the U.S. Justice Department and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have called for his prosecution. Kalejs would be the first alleged Nazi war criminal to be prosecuted on genocide charges in independent Latvia. On 11 July, the Latvian Prosecutor General's office approved a week-long extension for Chief Prosecutor Rudite Abolina to remain in Moscow searching Russian archives for evidence against Kalejs. Russia has not allowed the Latvian prosecutor to examine the whole archives; instead, the Russians are providing selected files which they have determined would be helpful in the investigation, BNS reported on 11 July.LATVIAN HUMAN RIGHTS JURIST CRITICIZES PACE OF JUDICIAL REFORM.
Latvia's representative to the European Court of Human Rights, Egils Levits, sharply criticized the slow pace of reform in Latvia's judicial sphere. Speaking to Latvian Radio, Levits said that the right to a fair trial is being compromised by "the proceedings inherited from the Soviet system," LETA reported on 10 July. Levits added that there are three major deficiencies in the legal system, the first being the "very high percentage of legal errors in Latvia," followed by poor administration, and lack of direction. Levits suggested these problems could damage Latvia's European integration efforts. In the same interview, Levits reported that the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg has received a total of 120 legal petitions from Latvia, 50 of which have been taken up by the Court. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, in a separate radio interview, agreed that there have been minimal improvements in judicial reform during the past year.LATVIAN PROSECUTORS CHIDE JOURNALISTS FOR FALSE REPORT.
The Prosecutor-general's Office on 12 July publicly reproached Russian-language daily "Chas" for publishing false claims of massive sexual abuse of adopted Latvian children in Sweden, BNS reported. Prosecutors said that the article in question in "Chas" falsely attributed the accusation of sexual abuse in Sweden to the Children's Rights Protection Center of Riga, Janis Gulbis. Gulbis said he would not file a suit against "Chas" since the paper has printed a retraction of the story. The story quoted Gulbis as saying that 60 percent of children adopted from Latvia by Swedes are sexually abused. The story set off a storm of inquiries to Swedish authorities before the paper retracted it.
* The Latvian Consulate General in St. Petersburg was again vandalized the night of 13 July, LETA reported on 14 July. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins told LETA that Latvia has not changed its position toward Russia, but the repeated assaults on Latvian diplomatic posts was "lessening the possibility" of maintaining sound and friendly relations. Berzins stressed that the repeated vandalism reflected the inability of Russian authorities to control the situation or curb such incidents. Russia has not yet reimbursed Latvia for the $2,000 in repairs to the facade of the Latvian embassy in Moscow, which was defaced by vandals in March.
* The Latvian government on 11 July adopted a long-term development plan for the National Armed Forces (NAF) for the period 2001 to 2012, BNS and LETA reported. The document will be updated every four years coinciding with the parliamentary elections in Latvia. The plan sets goals for defense capability, cooperation with NATO, and NAF needs to ensure integration with NATO, as well as providing the framework for a peacetime armed force and a wartime framework.
* A 21-year old man was killed and his 15-year old companion badly injured when an artillery shell they found at an abandoned Soviet military base exploded, AP reported on 13 July. The men entered the fenced-off base in Cekule, 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Riga, without permission, possibly to find scrap metal to sell later, police chief Janis Zascerinskis told BNS. Virtually all former Soviet troops withdrew from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by 1994, but they left behind thousands of discarded shells and other potentially deadly materials.
* Representatives of the government-appointed liquidators of Banka Baltija (BB) and Latvenergo, the Latvian state-owned utility, on 13 July asked a Riga court to order the collection of 34.5 million lats ($57.5 million) from the defendants, BNS reported. Other claims are to follow. Latvenergo, meanwhile, is trying to collect 8 million lats for the loan it guaranteed for BB to purchase heating oil which was never delivered. All the defendants in the BB case are charged with embezzlement, forgery of documents and undermining Latvia's monetary system. When the bank collapsed in 1995 its claimed assets accounted for 10 percent of Latvia's GDP and affected 1.8 million people.
* Several ethnic Russian NGOs in Latvia staged demonstrations on 10-13 July to protest proposed regulations of the state language law, BNS and ETA reported. The first demonstration was staged in front of the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers office building featuring a mock bomb displayed on a map of Latvia with slogans written in Russian and English calling for the liberalization of the language regulations which have not yet been adopted. On 13 July some 500 people rallied in Riga's Esplanade Park to protest the state language law. Latvian National Human Rights Office Director Olafs Bruvers told BNS on 12 July that the language law in Latvia was adopted in compliance with Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) recommendations and there is no reason to believe that the regulations would not meet international standards.
* BNS reported that the left of center organization Human Rights in a United Latvia gave the head of the OSCE mission in Latvia, Orsten Thorn, on 11 July an appeal to grant Latvian non-citizens the right to vote in local elections. The appeal has been signed by more than 56,000 Latvian residents. The appeal asks Western organizations to "influence the Latvian government" to allow Latvian non-citizens who have lived in Latvia no less than five years the right to vote in local elections. The same appeal with signatures was given to the head of the United Nations Development Program mission to Latvia, Jan Sand Soerensen, on 13 July.
* The daily newspaper "Diena" reported on 14 July that the financial police have opened an investigation into the non-profit organization "Ventspils City Development Fund Ltd." Officers from the strategic operations department of the financial police visited the organization's office on 4 and 5 July and seized financial records which have been turned over to the State Revenue Service for an audit. According to data at the Registry of Enterprises, the Ventspils City Development Fund Ltd. was founded in 1992 and its operations include providing heating and water supplies to the city, housing repairs and maintenance, construction, transportation, telephone, energy, and gas supply services, as well as maintaining the city's green zone. According to "Diena" city council members who serve on the board of the fund have not been able to explain the fund's sources of income.
* Janis Naglis, director general of the Latvian Privatization Agency, held a press conference 12 July LETA reported to announce that the state-owned Latvenergo will only be restructured, rather than privatized at this stage. An international consultant for the restructuring is to be chosen within the next week, Naglis said. The narrowing of the consultant's mission is being done, "respecting the will of the people and the government's stance," Naglis said.
* U.S. Ambassador to Latvia James Holmes opened a five-day workshop for prosecutors, judges, and police officials from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in Riga on 12 July, LETA reported. The workshop is organized by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to improve the region's ability to fight corruption. Holmes stressed in his opening remarks that corruption hampers the flow of investment into countries and weakens their economies.
* Bank of Latvia statistics show that wood and wood products were Latvia's main export during the first quarter of 2000, accounting for 40 percent of the total volume of export, LETA reported on 10 July. Textiles and garments made up 14.3 percent of the total export volume, metals and ironware 11.8 percent, chemicals and related products 7.6 percent, and various manufactured goods 5.7 percent. Latvian foreign trade volume amounted to 690.1 million lats ($1.104 billion), with imports making up 51.4 percent of trade volume, representing a small decline (1.4 percent) over the final quarter of 1999. Latvian exports to EU countries amount to 68 percent of total export volume. Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands increased the most, while exports to the CIS states continued to fall from 10.5 percent in the first quarter of 1999 to only 7.8 percent in the first quarter of 2000.
* Latvenergo Vice President Aigars Melko told reporters on 13 July that 40 million lats ($64 million) is needed for the reconstruction of Riga's main heating power plant, LETA reported. Latvenergo will announce the public tender by the end of this year and hope to sign an agreement with the winning contractor in the first quarter of 2001. The state-owned utility has been renovating its distribution networks to minimize energy loss. Reconstruction will soon be started at the Jekabpils substation and Latvenergo is cooperating with the Riga City Council in the reconstruction of the city's heating power plant number two.
* Latvian police are assisting Lithuanian police in the search for the missing former director of the Mazeikiu Nafta oil refinery, Gediminas Kiesus, his 21-year old son, and their driver, LETA reported on 12 July. The three men have been missing, and presumed abducted, since they left Vilnius airport on 6 July bound for their hometown, Maziekiai. The Lithuanian daily, "Lietuvos Zinios" reported on 10 July that $25,000 had been withdrawn from ATM machines without security cameras in Latvia using Kiesus' bankcards.
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VETOES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW.
President Valdas Adamkus on 12 July vetoed controversial changes to the election law, saying that the law should have been adopted at least two years before the elections, BNS reported. "The law means an overhaul of the election system just before parliamentary polls," Adamkus said, "without wider discussions with the public or political organizations," ELTA reported. The changes, passed by the Conservative-controlled parliament on 4 July, would have simplified the election for the 71 single-mandate constituencies by eliminating the need for a second round; instead allowing the largest vote-getter to win even if he or she does not receive over 50 percent of the votes cast. On 13 July, the ruling Conservative Party announced that it will rally the needed 71 votes in parliament to override the president's veto, BNS reported.LITHUANIAN NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AGAIN DENIED REGISTRATION.
The Justice Ministry on 12 July denied registration to the Lithuanian National Socialist Party. The party, led by Mindaugas Murza, is an outgrowth of the Union of Lithuanian National Social Unity--which itself was denied registration nine times as a public organization. The Justice Ministry said that the party's bylaws violated constitutional norms in areas such as equality and democracy, citing for instance the assertion of the superiority of the Lithuanian nation, BNS reported. This was the first time Murza had attempted to register the neo-Nazi party.SOCCER EXCURSION USED FOR ILLEGAL MIGRATION.
The tabloid "Lietuvos Zinios" reported that more than half of the supporters of the Lithuanian soccer club Atlantas failed to return from an international match in England, BNS reported on 11 July. According to the report, about 30 of the 50 fans traveling with the Klaipeda side for the Intertoto Cup match (Bradford City won 4:1) decided to stay in Britain. The report quoted Atlantas club President Aidas Rudys as saying, "there is nothing we can we do about it," adding that "if British immigration allows them to enter the country, then, surely, the rest is their problem." So far this year 561 Lithuanian citizens have been deported from Britain for working illegally. Last year the British government warned Lithuania that it might suspend visa-free entry for Lithuanian passport holders if the flow of Lithuanian illegal immigrants did not subside.
* The Lithuanian parliament passed a resolution on 10 July expressing the country's gratitude to the United States for refusing to recognize the occupation and illegal annexation of Lithuania by the former Soviet Union for over 50 years. The resolution passed 55 to 0 with 3 abstentions. Following the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in June 1940, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt froze the assets of the three countries held abroad on 15 July, and one week later the U.S. Department of State issued the first formal statement announcing that the U.S. would not recognize the Soviet annexation of the three countries.
* BNS and ELTA reported that the chairman of the Defense Committee of the British House of Commons, Bruce George, told visiting Lithuanian parliament speaker Vytautas Landsbergis on 13 July that before NATO enlargement could proceed, the newest NATO members would have to prove that their accession has been successful. George also said that it was easier to admit Poland because it had never been part of the Soviet Union. Landsbergis said in response that if that measure was applied, NATO would be punishing Lithuania for crimes committed by the USSR.
* President Valdas Adamkus visited Poland on 15 July to attend the celebration of the 590th anniversary of the historic victory of Lithuanian and Polish armies against the Germanic Knights of the Order of the Cross at the Battle of Gruenwald (Zalgirio Musis) in 1410, ELTA reported. Adamkus and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski watched a partial reenactment, and also visited with the members of the current day LITPOLBAT (Lithuanian-Polish Battalion), a specialized, regional peacekeeping battalion.
* Reuters reported on 11 July that Lithuania's ruling conservative party since November 1996, the Homeland Coalition, may not only lose power in the October elections, but may also be reduced to a marginal party according to a poll released that day. The poll, conducted in June by a private agency called Baltijos Tyrimai (Baltic Research) showed that the party would garner only 3.5 percent of the vote when a minimum of 5 percent is needed for a party to qualify for seats among the parliament's 70 multimandate slots. The poll showed the left of center New Union party at 10.4 percent, the Center Union with 9.5 percent, the Liberal Union with 8.9 percent, the Democratic Labor Party with 5.5 percent, and the Peasant's Party with 5.3 percent . No other parties crossed the 5 percent threshold.
* Lithuania's Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) electoral coalition launched a signature drive in support of preserving state influence in the country's strategic industries, ELTA and BNS reported 10 July. LDDP chairman Ceslovas Jursenas criticized U.S.-based Williams International for failing to ensure a steady oil supply to the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery, "forcing the company to stand idle" and "the government is paying taxpayers' money to cover the losses." The coalition is also collecting signatures to force a lowering of the value-added tax on residential heating, and raising the minimum for non-taxable income from the current 230 litas per month ($57.50).
* The Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party announced on 13 July that it opposes changing the constitution to allow foreigners to purchase farmland, BNS reported. A member of the Christian Democratic faction, MP Petras Grazulis, said that the decision was based on the fact that only 70 percent of the land had been restored to its rightful owners. Grazulis maintained that the majority of EU candidates also prohibit the sale of land to foreigners and have asked for transitional periods before complying with EU laws.
* On 14 July, the Ministry of Justice registered the Union of Moderate Conservatives, which is led by former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, as the 40th political party in Lithuania, ELTA and BNS reported. The party was founded on 2 July and is expected to participate in the October elections.
* The parliament voted to construct a chapel to the Virgin Mary in the Lithuanian parliament building to memorialize the events of 13 January 1991 when Soviet troops attempted a coup d'etat against the Lithuanian government, ELTA reported on 11 July. The author of the resolution, Christian Democrat deputy Jonas Simenas, said the memorial would serve not only as a symbol of the tragedy, but also as a place for praying.
* The disappearance of the former director of the Mazeikiu Nafta oil refinery, Gediminas Kiesus, and his son Valdas, and their driver, Alfonsas Galminas, on 6 July (see story above) may be linked with the son's Latvian-born girlfriend residing in London, the daily "Lietuvos Rytas" reported on 14 July. The day of their disappearance while on their way home to Mazeikiai from Vilnius airport on 6 July, Valdas placed several phone calls to his girlfriend, Alaina. The daily also reported that Alaina's former boyfriend was unhappy about her new relationship. BNS reported 14 July that a source in Latvian law enforcement said that Alaina's former boyfriend had contacts with known criminals in Riga. The father, Gediminas, is regarded as one of the wealthiest men in Lithuania. Last August he resigned as director of the state-owned oil refinery after five years in office shortly before U.S.-based Williams International purchased shares in the company and became the managing partner of Mazeikiu Nafta.
* The Lithuanian central bank reviewed the results of a second quarter audit of credit unions, ELTA reported on 13 July. Of Lithuania's 35 credit unions, six were in full compliance with risk limitation standards.
* The state-owned Taupamasis Bankas (Savings Bank) posted losses of 53 million litas ($13.25 million) in the first half of 2000, ELTA reported on 12 July. Bad loans made up the bulk of the losses. Nonetheless the bank enjoys the trust of Lithuania's residents. In May, 34 percent of the respondents to a public opinion poll by Baltijos Tyrimai (Baltic Research) trusted Taupomasis--2.5 times the number of respondents for its nearest rival, ELTA reported on 14 July.
* Representatives of foreign business associations in Lithuania met on 15 July and established a confederation of foreign businesses in Lithuania, ELTA reported. The confederation unites the British Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Danish Business Association, the Finnish Guild of Commerce, the French Business Association, and the German Association of Economy, and seeks to improve the business environment in Lithuania.
* The government has recommended that the property of the State Social Insurance Fund (SoDra) that is not related to direct activities of the fund be given to the State Property Fund for privatization, ELTA reported on 10 July. At the beginning of 2000, SoDra had taken over shares and real estate valued at 82 million litas ($20.5 million) from indebted firms. The government is scrambling to find resources for the heavily indebted SoDra to pay pensions.
* The state-owned Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) incurred almost 82 million litas ($20.5 million) in losses while transporting passengers in 1999, ELTA reported 10 July. Kestutis Dirgela, the general-director of Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai, said that wages to workers and administrative staff had been delayed last month because of a shortage of working capital. However, cargo transport has increased one-third during the first five months of 2000, earning the company 11 million litas ($2.75 million) in profit. The total debt of the company stands at 498 million litas ($124 million), most of it invested in infrastructure improvements, and 34 million litas ($8.5 million) to be repaid this year.
* The board of state-owned Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) has temporarily resumed gas supplies to debt-ridden Kauno Energija (Kaunas Energy), ELTA reported 10 July. Gas supplies were renewed on the condition that payment be made in advance and that a debt repayment schedule for the current 55 million litas ($13.75 million) owed to Lietuvos Dujos be submitted by 1 August. Kaunas Energija also receives about one-third of its requirements for natural gas from Stella Vitae, a private supplier.
* After a 15-minute debate on 13 July, the parliament amended the law on public information to establish a new post of controller for public information, BNS and the daily "Lietuvos Rytas" reported. The controller's office will include four specialists: a psychologist, an educator, a family counselor, and a lawyer. The controller will have the authority to label publications, films and video material, radio, and TV programs as pornographic, erotic, or promoting violence. The office is also responsible for establishing the procedure for disseminating restricted information.
* The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission has revoked the license of Russkoye Radio, a private company which rebroadcasts the programs of a Moscow-based popular Russian commercial radio station, BNS reported on 11 July. A lawyer for the commission said the company had pledged at the time of its licensing to start partly producing its own programming by April, but had failed to do so.