7 June 2002, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 24-30 May 2002.
NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY URGES ALLIANCE TO INVITE SEVEN COUNTRIES.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly passed a declaration at its session in Sofia on 28 May, urging the alliance to take in seven new members this year, BNS reported. Although the seven states were not specifically named in the draft declaration, the list of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia was added at the proposal of the German delegation. The document urged the seven nations to proceed with preparations for membership and called on the NATO member states to ensure smooth ratification of accession treaties of these countries. The declaration was passed with only one deputy voting against it.PUTIN LASHES OUT AT EU LEADERS OVER KALININGRAD...
At the 29 May opening of the ninth Russia-EU summit in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized the EU's rejection of all of Russia's proposals regarding visa-free travel for Russians traveling to and from Kaliningrad Oblast after the exclave is surrounded by future EU member states, Lithuania, and Poland, Russian news agencies reported. "I will put it even more sharply: They are trying to impose upon us an absolutely unacceptable solution," Putin told the EU delegation, which includes European Commission President Romano Prodi, EU Foreign and Security Policy Commissioner Javier Solana, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Putin noted that residents of Kaliningrad would have to ask foreign countries for permission to visit their relatives living in other parts of Russia....AS EU HAS ITS REASONS TO RESTRICT TRAVEL.
Prodi, though, told dpa before the summit opened that the EU will be as flexible as possible on the Kaliningrad issue, but that there will be no unrestricted travel for Russians through Poland and Lithuania after those countries accede to the EU. The BBC's Russian service reported on 28 May that the EU is primarily concerned about the threat of organized crime and drug traffickers from Kaliningrad. Last year, about 10 million Russian and Belarusian citizens visited Poland under the current visa-free regime, the BBC said. Meanwhile, RTR reported on 29 May that hard-liners are urging Putin to combine the noncontiguous Kaliningrad Oblast and Leningrad Oblast into a single administrative unit, in hopes of creating a "virtual enclave" of the EU candidates on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea.ESTONIA HOSTS, LATVIA WINS EUROVISION SONG CONTEST.
The 47th annual Eurovision Song Contest took place in Tallinn on 25 May, ETA reported, marking the event's debut in Eastern Europe. The contest was watched by hundreds of millions of television viewers in Europe and the United States and was broadcast live over the Internet for the first time ever. The winner was Marie N. (Marija Naumova), a singer of Russian descent from Latvia, for the song "I Wanna." Latvia was an unexpected participant in the contest this year after finishing 18th last year (only the first 15 countries receive automatic invitations for the following year). The Eurovision contest is traditionally held in the winner's home country, and both Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins and Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars confirmed that Riga will prepare to host the 48th Eurovision Song Contest next May.
AUSTRIAN ARMY CHIEF LAUDS DECISION TO INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING.
The commander of the Austrian armed forces, General Horst Pleiner, told members of the parliament's National Defense Committee in Tallinn on 28 May that Estonia's commitment to devote 2 percent of GDP for defense is important because it will allow better national defense, BNS reported. Pleiner and the lawmakers also discussed NATO enlargement, European integration, and cooperation combating international terrorism. Earlier that day, Pleiner traveled to the Peace Operations Center in Paldiski and the air-space monitoring center in Amari. The previous day, he met with his Estonian counterpart, Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts, and senior officers of Estonia's army and navy in Tallinn. He also visited Estonia's Integrated War College and the Baltic Defense College in Tartu.DUMA DEPUTY SPEAKER PRAISES ESTONIA'S RULING COALITION.
In a meeting with Center Party Chairman and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar on 30 May, Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Irina Khakamada (Union of Rightist Forces) said that Estonian-Russian relations improved after the current coalition came to power, BNS reported. She noted the registration of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the continued funding of secondary education in Russian after 2007 as factors that could encourage the Duma to abolish the higher duties placed on Estonian imports and to ratify the Estonian-Russian border treaty. Res Publica party Chairman Rein Taagepera invited Khakamada to attend the party's congress in August. The previous day, Khakamada spoke about the current political situation and future prospects of Moscow's relations with the United States and NATO at a seminar organized by the Baltic Center of Russian Studies and held talks with Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland.ESTONIA DOES NOT SUPPORT IDEA OF COMMON EU BORDER FORCE.
After returning from a three-day visit to Vienna, Interior Minister Ain Seppik said on 29 May that Estonia does not support the European Commission's proposal to form a common EU border force, BNS reported. He said Estonia is "capable of patrolling the border on its own" and will only seek assistance in "the standards of training, principles of operation, and logistics." Seppik delegated Estonian Border Guard Chief of Staff Colonel Aare Evisalu to present these views at an upcoming conference in Rome where the results of a feasibility study of the European Corps of Border Guards are to be presented. Seppik mentioned that his Austrian counterpart Ernst Strasser, who visited Estonia last June, recently told him that the Estonian border meets the requirements of the Schengen agreement.NEW ESTONIA PARTY VOTES TO MERGE WITH PEOPLE'S UNION.
A congress of the New Estonia Party (formerly the Estonian Democratic Party) held at the Sagadi Manor in northern Laane-Virumaa county on 25 May, voted unanimously to merge with the People's Union in the fall, BNS reported on 27 May. Party Chairman Ulo Nugis said the merger was an acknowledgment that it makes no sense to have two parties with similar aims and programs. The parties on 8 May signed an agreement to run a joint list of candidates to the local council elections in the fall under the name the People's Union. The formal merger of the parties is expected to be completed after these elections.
* Accompanied by Border Guard Board Chief of Staff Aare Evisalu, Central Criminal Police Director Andres Anvelt, and other officials, Interior Minister Ain Seppik visited Austria on 26-28 May, BNS reported. He held talks with his Austrian counterpart, Ernst Strasser, about EU law enforcement bodies, Austria's experience in joining the EU, as well as ways to improve, modernize, and implement the cooperation agreement the two countries' interior ministries signed in 1998. Seppik also visited the crossing points of Klingenbach and Moerbisch and a police unit in Vienna.
* A delegation from the German state of Lower Saxony, headed by Minister for Economy, Technology, and Transport Susanne Knorre, visited Estonia on 26-28 May, ETA reported. It held talks on ways of boosting economic cooperation between Lower Saxony and Estonia with the prime minister's economic affairs adviser Andres Klaa, Economy Ministry Deputy Chancellor Raul Malmste, and Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board Chairman Toomas Luman.
* Finance Ministry Deputy Chancellor Renaldo Mandmets said on 24 May that Estonia should close the chapter on regional policy in EU membership talks in June by accepting the European Commission offer of an annual 3.6 billion kroons ($210 million) in regional aid in 2004-2006, ETA reported. This would amount to some 2,200 kroons per resident. He said that Estonia may not be able to use all the offered aid since local communities will find it difficult to cover necessary cofinancing for the projects.
* Agriculture Minister Jaanus Marrandi flew to Nicosia, Cyprus on 27 May to attend the 23rd FAO European conference on 29-31 May, ETA reported. The conference focused on the World Food Forum, sustainable use of land and water resources, safety and quality, and FAO activities in the European region.
* Because of the scheduled visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin on 12-13 June, the parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee decided on 24 May to postpone the date of the vote on a statement condemning the crimes committed by the Soviet communist regime in Estonia, BNS reported. The vote will be postponed from 4 June to 18 June. Opposition Moderates Deputy Liia Hanni said that the vote should have been approved before 14 June, the anniversary of the 1941 Soviet mass deportations.
* The European Patent Office said on 29 May that Estonia will become a member of the European Patent Organization on 1 July along with the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, BNS reported. All the EU member states, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Switzerland, and Turkey are currently members of the organization. Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Hungary are expected to join later this year or in 2003.
* Prime Minister Siim Kallas declared on 24 May that his Reform Party's campaign slogan for next spring's parliamentary elections will center on the reduction of the personal income tax rate from 26 percent to 20 percent, BNS reported.
* The first 10 of 74 used General Electric locomotives purchased by Estonian Railway arrived in Tallinn on 29 May, ETA reported. The locomotives will raise the capacity of the railroad because they are more powerful than the currently used Russian locomotives. The new engines can pull trains with up to 90 wagons instead of the current 60 wagons. The trains will undergo tests, but are expected to go into service in July.
* At the annual meeting of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes on 24 May in Sweden, the director of the Estonian Center of Forensic and Criminal Science, Robert Antropov, was elected deputy chairman of the board, BNS reported on 27 May. According to the board's rules, upon the completion of his one-year term, Antropov will automatically become the organization's board chairman. Next year's annual meeting will be held in Estonia.
* A fire broke out early in the morning of 29 May in the spire of the medieval Holy Ghost Church in Tallinn's Old Town, resulting in severe damage to the tower and the destruction of the oldest church bell in the country, ETA reported. The greatest treasure of the church, a 15th-century wooden altarpiece by German master Bernt Notke, was not damaged in the fire. The top of the church spire was removed to the Open Air Museum for study and measurement in order to build a replacement.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN ADDRESSES LATVIAN PARLIAMENT.
In a speech to parliament on 28 May, Patrick Cox affirmed that EU accession will not endanger Latvia's national identity and culture, LETA reported. Cox rejected comparisons between the USSR and the EU, asserting that the EU is based on the "power of conviction and reason and not the strength of military power." He said that order within the EU is ensured through negotiations and not by political diktat. Cox said that the EU will give Latvia not only military security, but also security guaranteed by economic stability and progress. During a working brunch with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Cox discussed the operations of the Latvian government and the Latvia's Way party, which Berzins heads. In July 2001, Cox visited Latvia in his capacity as the head of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament.EU CANDIDATES' LEGISLATIVE LEADERS MEET IN RIGA.
Latvian parliamentary Chairman Janis Straume opened the 13th meeting of the European Parliament with the legislative heads of aspiring EU members in Riga on 27 May, BNS reported. He noted that the European Commission proposal for enlargement funding "contains a number of positive initiatives," but he stressed the need to guarantee a fair and equitable agricultural policy for both new and existing EU member states.JUDGES REJECT PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM OF LATVIAN JUDICIARY.
Latvian Judges Society President Ivars Bickovskis on 29 May rejected recent criticisms of Latvia's judicial system by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who complained on 21 May, according to the website Delfi, that "trials are becoming a circus, which turns the entire justice system into a joke." In her criticism, Vike-Freiberga cited the way in which defendants use claims of ill health as a means to delay justice; the meting out of mild sentences that she claimed result from the way cases are assigned to judges; as well as vague rules for determining guilt that allow corruption to seep into the system. BNS reported that Bickovskis told a special meeting of judges that, while judges did have much to do to improve the prestige of the legal profession, "the fundamental [problem] is the state's irresponsibility in bringing order to the judicial system." Referring specifically to Vike-Freiberga's allusions to judicial corruption, Riga District Court Chairman Janis Muiznieks told BNS that "[you] cannot find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it is not there."HONORARY CONSULS MEET IN RIGA.
Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins formally opened the first meeting of Latvia's honorary consuls in Riga on 30 May, LETA reported. Berzins told the consuls that they have the important task of convincing their host states of the need for Latvia's membership in NATO and the European Union. He pointed out that some honorary consuls specialize in cultural issues and others in economic matters; therefore, the consuls should make use of the joint meeting to exchange their experience and look for new ideas. Latvia has 85 honorary consuls throughout the world, of whom 17 are ethnic Latvians. Most of them work in Europe (55), but 15 are posted in Asia, nine in North and South America, four in Australia, and two in Africa. Fifty-six of the consuls attended the meeting. The consuls are scheduled to meet with government and Foreign Ministry officials as well as visit Ventspils and Liepaja.DEFENSE-COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH GEORGIA SIGNED.
The Latvian and Georgian defense ministers, Girts Valdis Kristovskis and David Tevzadze, respectively, signed an agreement in Riga on 29 May on cooperation in the defense sector, LETA reported. Under the agreement, officials of the two countries are expected to hold meetings, send experts on experience-exchange trips, attend various seminars and conferences on defense subjects, and bolster bilateral cooperation. Tevzadze said Latvia's experience in military education and in trying to gain NATO membership will be useful to Georgia. Kristovskis expressed his hope that the defense cooperation will have a positive influence on stability in the Caucasus region. Tevzadze also met with Latvian armed forces Commander Colonel Raimonds Graube and parliament Defense and Internal Affairs Committee Chairman Dzintars Kudums. Tevzadze is scheduled to visit the military information center in Riga on 30 May, as well as the naval base and training center in Liepaja.
* After talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, First Deputy Chairwoman of the Russian Duma Lyubov Sliska told a press conference in Riga on 30 May that one of the greatest obstacles for better Russian-Latvian relations is the existence of nearly half a million non-citizens, BNS reported. She urged Latvia to simplify its naturalization procedures. Sliska also mentioned that Russia has reconciled itself to Latvia's possible admission to NATO although she noted that Russia does not pose any threat to Latvia's security.
* During a working visit to Latvia on 29 May, Bruce Jackson, the president of the nongovernmental U.S. Committee on NATO, held separate talks with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, and Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, LETA reported. The discussions focused on the latest developments in NATO enlargement and relations between the alliance and Russia.
* The commander of the Austrian armed forces, General Horst Pleiner, visited Latvia on 28-30 May, LETA reported. He held talks with Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, national armed forces commander Colonel Raimonds Graube, and parliament Defense and Internal Affairs Committee Chairman Dzintars Kudums. On 29 May he visited the BALTBAT headquarters in Adazi.
* Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins met with a group of advisers to U.S. senators on a working visit to Riga on 27 May, LETA reported. The talks focused on Latvia's preparations for NATO membership and growing Russian-NATO cooperation. The advisers also had meetings with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Naturalization Board Chairwoman Eizenija Aldermane, and New Era leader Einars Repse.
* The parliament passed an alternative military service law on 30 May to replace obligatory military service for people who would prefer not to serve in the army for personal or religious reasons, BNS reported. The alternate service law, which will go into effect on 1 July, sets a term of 24 months for the service with a reduction to 18 months for university graduates. The service can be completed in state or municipal institutions, set by the government as search and rescue operations, social care and medical institutions, or customs control. The participants will be paid the official monthly minimum wage of 60 lats ($96) and receive social insurance, but will not be allowed to continue full studies at universities, high schools, or vocational schools.
* On 28 May, the State Border Guard detained a group of passengers on the express train St. Petersburg-Vilnius who had no Latvian visas, LETA reported the next day. They were warned that they had violated the new rules in force since 25 May requiring passengers on the train to have a Latvian entry or transit visa. Border guard head Gunars Dabolins has issued a decree allowing express train passengers with incomplete documents to cross the border until 11 June but afterwards such persons will be deported.
* A delegation from the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia held talks in Riga on 24 May with members of the Latvian parliament committee for Economy, Agrarian, Environmental and Regional Development, LETA reported. They discussed ways of increasing economic growth and trade.
* Officials from Belgium's Flanders regional government signed agreements in Riga on 24 May granting Latvia 490,000 euros ($446,000) for four economic and regional development projects under the bilateral cooperation program for 2002-2003, BNS reported. The projects are for the reconstruction of the port of Liepaja, for strengthening regional planning in the northeastern region of Vidzeme and along the Baltic Sea coastline, and for increasing cooperation in library management.
* Ambassador to Washington Aivis Ronis presented his credentials as Latvia's ambassador to Mexico in Mexico City on 28 May, BNS reported. He will continue to reside in Washington. Mexico is the only Latin American country to which Latvia has accredited its ambassador.
* The founding congress of Latvia's First Party was held in Riga on 25 May, LETA reported. Some 1,000 people took part in the congress which had been dubbed as "the clergymen party" because its formation was conceived by three Protestant pastors. Lutheran Pastor Eriks Jekabsons was elected the party's chairman with Baptist Reverend Ainars Bastiks, public relations firm "Consensus" Director Oskars Kastens, and musician and conductor Aleksandrs Brandavs as deputy chairmen. The congress also elected a 10-member board and approved the party's statutes and basic platform.
* Some 200 people participated in the founding congress of the Freedom Party in Riga on 25 May, BNS and LETA reported. The congress approved a party charter which does not provide for the post of a party chairman as the party will be governed by a board which elects one of its members as board chairman for a term of three months. Gunars Prolis, the deputy board chairman of the Latvian Hospitals Union, was elected the first party chairman.
CONSULATES IN CIS COUNTRIES TO BE EXPANDED.
The European Integration Commission approved a consular-service development program on 28 May that calls for the expansion of consulates in Kaliningrad, Minsk, Kyiv, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, as well as for the opening of new consulates in Sovetsk in Kaliningrad Oblast and Hrodno, Belarus, BNS reported. As part of its drive to harmonize its visa policy with that of the EU, Lithuania intends to cancel visa privileges on 1 January for Ukrainian and Belarusian citizens, as well as for train passengers and truck drivers traveling to Kaliningrad Oblast through Lithuania. Kaliningrad Oblast residents will also lose their privilege of visa-free entry into Lithuania on 1 July 2003. The Foreign Ministry estimates that the number of Lithuanian visas will quadruple from 190,000 in 2001 to 760,000 in 2003. The ministry is also suggesting that Russia and Belarus establish consulates in Taurage and Druskininkai.PARLIAMENT REFUSES STATE PENSIONS TO EX-COMMUNIST OFFICIALS.
Parliament on 30 May rejected an amendment to the law on state pensions that could have granted pensions intended for victims of Nazi or Soviet oppression to former officials of the Communist Party and technical staff of repressive structures during the Soviet era, BNS reported. The vote was 34 in favor to 40 against, with seven abstentions, and 60 not voting. Prior to the vote, several hundred people, including former political prisoners and deportees, staged a picket in front of parliament and issued a statement accusing the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Social Liberals of attempting to obliterate the boundary between collaborators and victims of Soviet repression. The Social Democrats argued that the pensions would only be given to those who suffered under the Nazis, while opponents said many of those same people participated in Soviet repression both before and after the Nazi occupation. The unexpected defeat of the amendment was primarily due to the nonparticipation in the vote or even contrary votes by Social Liberal deputies. They may have been influenced by the ouster earlier that day in a no-confidence vote in Kaunas Mayor Erikas Tamasauskas (a Social Liberal), a move that had the full support of Social Democrat council members.BALTIC ASSEMBLY, COUNCIL MEET IN VILNIUS.
The 20th session of the interparliamentary Baltic Assembly, held in Vilnius on 23-25 May, adopted documents calling for closer cooperation among the Baltic states, BNS reported. It also decided to extend the term of its presidency from six to 12 months to match the chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told the eighth session of the Baltic Council, the joint meeting of the Baltic Assembly, and the Baltic Council of Ministers, on 24 May that the main task of the Baltic states in the EU is to become a link between Northern and Central Europe. The council also heard reports by Lithuanian and Latvian Foreign Ministers Antanas Valionis and Indulis Berzins, and Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser. Baltic Assembly Presidium head Giedre Purvaneckiene said that during her six-month term she has worked to create closer ties with the Nordic Council by inviting its committee heads to Baltic Assembly meetings and holding joint conferences. The Conservative political group within the Baltic Assembly issued a call to Baltic youth sports organizations to decline attending the Youth Games organized by Moscow for CIS and Baltic countries scheduled to begin on 14 June -- a day of mourning in the Baltic countries marking the mass deportations of their citizens by Soviet forces in 1941.AGREEMENTS ON ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH KALININGRAD ENTREPRENEURS SIGNED.
Lithuanian Association of Trade, Industry, and Crafts Chambers President Eimutis Zvybas and Russian Chamber of Commerce head Yevgenii Primakov, a former Russian prime minister, signed economic-cooperation agreements in Svetlogorsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, on 29 May, ELTA reported. The agreements provide for an exchange of economic and legal information as well as cooperation in arranging trade fairs, exhibitions, and business meetings to facilitate direct contacts between small and medium-sized business in both countries. The signing took place during an international conference on Kaliningrad Oblast that was attended by the heads of chambers of commerce of seven Baltic-region countries.
* Deputy Economy Minister Nerijus Eidukevicius, Russian oil firm Yukos Vice President Mikhail Brudno, and Williams Lithuania head Randy Majors completed the initialing of agreements on the Russian company's investments into Mazeikiai Oil (Mazeikiu Nafta) in Vilnius on 30 May, BNS reported. Yukos agreed to pay $75 million, lend another $75 million, and supply 4.8 million tons of crude oil per year to the Mazeikiai refinery in exchange for a 26.85 percent share of Mazeikiai Oil. Williams will also hold the same 26.85 percent share. The oil refinery has the capacity to refine over 12 million tons of crude oil per year.
* Danish Deputy Defense Minister Kristian Fisher held talks with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius in Vilnius on 28 May on the future of joint military units of the Baltic states after they join NATO, ELTA reported. They also discussed the role of Lithuania in the international antiterrorism operation in Kyrgyzstan after the Kyrgyz authorities announced that they would not accept forces from the Baltic states.
* Petras Austrevicius, Lithuania's chief negotiator with the EU, visited Copenhagen on 29 May to prepare for Denmark's taking over the presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, BNS reported. He held talks with the Danish parliament's European Affairs Committee chairman, Claus Larsen-Jensen, the prime minister's adviser for international issues, Per Poulsen Hansen, and other officials.
* Completing a three-day visit, Foreign Ministry Economy Department Director Romas Svedas initialed a free-trade agreement with Croatia in Zagreb on 24 May, BNS reported. The agreement should be signed within two months and go into effect on 1 January.
* The Council of Europe asked Lithuania on 29 May to delegate its parliament deputy, Vaclav Stankevic, of the ruling New Union (Social Liberals) faction, to present the council's position on the abolition of the death penalty to the Belarusian parliament in Minsk the next day, BNS reported. The council had suspended Belarus' status as a special guest in 1997 due to dictatorial actions by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
* In a joint statement with Michael F. Carter, the World Bank director for the Baltic countries and Poland, Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite announced on 27 May that Lithuania will not seek the withdrawal of the remaining 53.6 million euros ($48.8 million) of the World Bank's second structural adjustment loan, BNS reported. She said that the loan was not needed since Lithuania's budget position had improved sufficiently and it could borrow money on the open market at lower rates.
* Foreign Ministry State Secretary Evaldas Ignatavicius and Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Mikhnevich headed delegations which discussed bilateral and regional cooperation, trade and transport issues, and the planned abolition of visa privileges at a meeting in Druskininkai on 24 May, BNS reported.
* The government decided on 29 May to buy premises for its embassies in Paris and Berlin, BNS reported. The building in Paris will be purchased for 15.25 million litas ($3.75 million), most of which will be received from the French government as compensation for its pre-World War II embassy which Russia is unwilling to return. Earlier plans to build a new embassy in Berlin have been changed to purchasing a suitable building near the German Bundestag for some 20 million litas ($5 million).
* Representatives of government, trade unions, and employers associations signed an agreement on tripartite cooperation in 2002 in Vilnius on 29 May, ELTA reported. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas signed the agreement for the government while Aldona Balsiene, Kazimieras Kuzminskas, and Algirdas Sysas did for the trade unions, and Bronislavas Lubys and parliamentarian Viktor Uspaskich signed for employers associations. The parties agreed to prepare a draft Social Partnership Development Program which, after gaining the approval of the Tripartite Council by 1 October, will be presented to the government.
* The Food and Veterinary Service imposed a temporary ban on the import of all fodder and animal products from Germany on 29 May, ELTA reported. The decision was prompted by the discovery by Germany of the pesticide Nitrofen, which has been banned since 1981, in poultry.
* The relatively low number of people in Lithuania known to be infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) increased dramatically after tests were conducted on convicts and guards at the penitentiary in Alytus, BNS reported. Excluding these tests the number of known HIV patients in the country was 362. Tests of 1,727 blood samples of the prisoners indicated that 162 people were infected with HIV, ELTA reported on 29 May. The head of the Alytus penitentiary, Kestutis Sapalas, submitted his resignation on 24 May.
* The U.S. Department of Justice announced on 24 May that the Federal Immigration Court in Tampa had ordered the deportation of 81-year old Algimantas Dailide to Lithuania for participating in the persecution of Jews during World War II, BNS reported. It ruled that Dailide, while serving in the Security Police in 1941, had arrested Jews who were later executed.
* The congress of the Lithuanian National Motor Carriers Association (LINAVA) re-elected Algimantas Kondrusevicius as its president in Vilnius on 24 May, BNS reported on 27 May. Of 456 votes cast in the election, Kondrusevicius received 279 and his opponent Romas Adomavicius got 154. It is not yet clear whether carriers dissatisfied with the results will form another carrier association. ELTA reported on 28 May that the Russian government had added an additional 47 firms to the so-called blacklist. This means that 136 Lithuanian trucking firms will be subject to a compulsory convoy escort in Russian territory. Russian customs officials claim the Lithuanian firms have evaded paying duties on goods they transport.