9 July 2002, Volume 3, Number 23
NOTE TO READERS:
This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 21 to 27 June 2002.
REGIONALBALTIC MINISTERS POSTPONE UNIFIED ENERGY MARKET.
Meeting on 26 June at a guest house near Visaginas belonging to the Ignalina nuclear-power plant, the Baltic Council of Ministers also visited the plant and had the opportunity to inspect its safety and security measures, ELTA reported. At the session, Prime Ministers Siim Kallas (Estonia), Andris Berzins (Latvia), and Algirdas Brazauskas (Lithuania) decided to postpone until 2003 the creation of a unified Baltic energy market. No agreement was reached on launching a common Baltic labor market either because Estonia has not yet decided if it will support it. Before concluding the meeting, the ministers signed a joint resolution and an agreement on cooperation in tourism. The resolution declared that the three states hope to complete European Union-accession negotiations this year and join the union in 2004, as well as to be invited to join NATO at the Prague summit in November. Noting that EU members have not yet been able to agree to the proposed agricultural policy following expansion, the premiers said a coordinated position of the three states would be more effective in getting more favorable conditions. They agreed to consider the possibility of holding their respective referenda for EU membership the same day.
EU HOLDS FIRM ON KALININGRAD.
Leaders at the European Union summit on immigration policy in Seville rejected Russian proposals to provide visa-free transit corridors between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 22 June. The summit's final documents instead offer residents of the Kaliningrad exclave the right to multiple-entry Schengen visas at the lowest-possible cost following the accession of Lithuania and Poland to the organization. The summit directed the European Commission to flesh out the details of this visa procedure before September. Several days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized that his position on Kaliningrad had not changed and believed that the EU's refusal to grant visa-free transit between the exclave and the rest of Russia would tear Kaliningrad away from Russia and "we will never agree to that." He reminded journalists that even during the Cold War, the Soviet Union provided unrestricted access between West Berlin and the West, and said he thinks that now an even better solution can be found to reflect the "new level of relations between Russian and the EU."
ESTONIAAGREEMENT INKED ON BORDER CHECKPOINTS WITH RUSSIA.
In Tallinn on 25 June, Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland and Russian Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov signed an agreement on border checkpoints between the two countries, BNS reported. Border crossings had been regulated by an agreement on customs checkpoints concluded by the Estonian and Russian governments in 1993. The Estonian government formed a committee in June 2000 for holding talks on a new checkpoint agreement, and discussions were held in December 2000 in Estonia and in July 2001 in Pskov, Russia. The final text of the treaty was agreed to at a meeting in Moscow in May. The new agreement, which went into effect from the moment of the signing, designates seven international, and five bilateral, checkpoints, all of which were already functioning. It provides for launching ferry services across Lake Peipus between Pskov and Tartu. Pskov Oblast Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov noted earlier in the month that Pskov shippers do not have a suitable vessel for regular passenger transport, so it will initially be conducted mostly by charter and tourist boats.
PRESIDENT STRESSES NEED TO INCLUDE ALL PEOPLE IN STATE DEFENSE.
In a speech at the Victory Day military parade in Polva on 23 June, President Arnold Ruutel stressed the importance of Estonia's gaining membership in NATO and the need to involve the entire population in building up the country's defense, ETA reported. He said that NATO membership is clearly the top priority for security policy and is the "unconditional focus" of Estonia's foreign policy. Ruutel said a decisive condition for military defense is the will to defend, which can be guaranteed only by the inclusion of the entire society. Recent public-opinion polls indicated that 80 percent of Estonian men are willing to participate in state-defense activities. Ruutel said that around 100,000 Estonians can be supplied with arms and personal supplies at present. He thanked the voluntary Defense League for its work for state defense.
DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TALLINN.
Preparing for Denmark's six-month European Union presidency in July, Per Stig Moller held talks with Foreign Minister Ojuland in Tallinn on 26 June, BNS reported. He said Denmark will do everything in its power to ensure that the accession talks with 10 EU candidate countries are completed this year. Moller also reaffirmed Denmark's support for Estonia's admittance to NATO. Ojuland expressed the hope that Estonia's Energy Chapter in the negotiations is completed quickly.
ESTONIA AND ARMENIA STRENGTHENING TIES.
Armenian President Robert Kocharian met with President Ruutel on a recent visit to Tallinn, ETA reported on 27 June. Ruutel told Kocharian that the two countries are primarily connected by cultural ties, but should share their experience in the information-technology sphere in which both are regional leaders. Ruutel also spoke about Estonia's efforts to join NATO, with Kocharian noting that Armenia participates in the Partnership for Peace Program, but is not seeking NATO membership. Kocharian also held talks with Prime Minister Kallas, Foreign Minister Ojuland, and parliamentary Chairman Toomas Savi. Economy Minister Liina Tonisson and Armenian Trade and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian signed a trade and economic-cooperation agreement as part of the visit. The agreement establishes a most-favored-nation regime that should boost the modest trade levels between the countries (Armenia ranked 105th among Estonia's trading partners in 2001).
DEFENSE MINISTERS OF ESTONIA, BOSNIAN FEDERATION MEET.
At the first-ever meeting between the defense ministers of Estonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia's Sven Mikser discussed the possible development of bilateral defense cooperation with Mijo Anic in Tartu on 21 June, ETA reported. The meeting took place within the framework of a graduation ceremony at the Baltic Defense College that included three students from the federation. Anic proposed that the two countries begin preparing a defense-cooperation framework agreement. He said his country is interested in learning more about Estonia's experience reforming its defense forces and preparing for NATO membership.
* At a press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on 24 June, President Putin stated: "It would be absolutely wrong, from the tactical, as well as strategic, point of view, to hinder Estonia in the process of joining NATO. If they want to accede to NATO, let them do so, if they think that this is a better way. I cannot see any tragedy in it," ETA reported. He, however, also said that in his opinion, human rights were not fully observed in Estonia and the Russian Army was reinforcing the troops stationed on the western coast of lakes Peipsi and Pskov.
* A delegation from the European Parliament's Liberal, Democratic, and Reform parties faction, led by its head Graham Watson, held talks with Prime Minister Kallas and Foreign Minister Ojuland in Tallinn on 27 June, BNS reported. The next day, the delegation discussed the role of national parliaments in the EU with parliamentary Chairman Savi.
* Estonian Chamber of Trade and Industry Board Chairman Toomas Luman and President of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry Michel Franck signed a cooperation agreement in Paris on 26 June, ETA reported. Its aim is to promote the exchange of information and business delegations and the organization of contact meetings.
* At a reception in Warsaw on 23 June marking Estonian Victory Day, Estonian Ambassador to Poland Aivo Orav presented a Class One Order of the Terra Mariana Cross to former Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, BNS reported. President Ruutel had awarded the decoration to Geremek on Independence Day in February for his support of the country's efforts to join NATO.
* The Justice Ministry is completing a package of documents required for the return of Estonians currently kept in a Thai prison, BNS reported on 21 June. An agreement on the exchange of prisoners has been signed and ratified by the two parliaments and the governments exchanged ratification letters this spring. Estonia is asking that four of its citizens sentenced in 1995 for drug trafficking be allowed to complete their terms in prisons in Estonia.
* Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) signed loan agreements on 27 June with the Nordic Investment Bank and the German Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau to borrow 60 million and 90 million euros, respectively, for 15 years, BNS reported. Most of the money will go toward the renovation of its Narva Power Plants.
* Prime Minister Kallas told a press conference in Tallinn on 25 June that Estonia would soon close the Taxation Chapter in its EU membership talks without having to give up its exemption of tax on companies' reinvested profit, BNS reported. He also said that Estonia would also obtain longer transition periods for raising the tobacco excise tax to EU levels and retaining a value-added-tax exemption on heating.
* The supervisory council of Eesti Polevkivi (Estonian Oil Shale) endorsed on 21 June the board's proposal to combine the Estonia and Viru mines and the Narva and Aidu quarries into one company, BNS reported. The merger will not result in the closing of these subsidiaries, but should streamline oil-shale production, sale, and logistics arrangements.
* The government approved on 25 June regulations for teaching non-Estonian pupils attending Estonian-language schools their mother tongue and national culture from 1 September 2003, ETA reported. The language courses are to be offered in Russian, Ukrainian, Roma, Latvian, Spanish, and Finnish.
* Chairman of the Center Party chapter in Kohtla-Jarve Valerii Korb and Estonian Democratic Party Chairman Jaan Laas signed a cooperation agreement on 21 June concerning joint work in the elections of local councils this fall, BNS reported.
* The Tallinn chapter of the Russian Baltic Party in Estonia filed on 21 June an application to the Tallinn Administrative Court, asking that the results of the party's congress on 15 June, which ousted party Chairman Sergei Ivanov, be declared null and void, BNS reported. Ivanov claims that the congress was illegal since several people lacking credentials were accepted as delegates and helped to form the majority that dismissed him.
LATVIALATVIAN SHIPPING-COMPANY SHARES AUCTIONED OFF.
The entire package of 102 million shares of Latvijas kugnieciba (Latvian Shipping Co.) were sold at 0.35 lats ($0.57) per share at an auction on the Riga Stock Exchange on 25 June, LETA reported. Latvian investors purchased 61.43 percent of the shares and the sole international investor, Hansapank Estonia, purchased 38.57 percent. The shares comprise 51 percent of the company. On 8 April, an additional 32 percent of the shares were exchanged for privatization vouchers. The demand for the shares on the local market was 5.8 times greater than the 25 June offer. On learning that the joint-stock company Ventspils nafta (VN), in which the state still holds a 43.62 percent stake, purchased more than 60 percent of the offered shares, former Economy Minister Ainars Slesers questioned whether the sale was beneficial, as part of the VN shares will later be exchanged for privatization vouchers. He called on Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis to resign.
2006 WORLD ICE HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP IN LATVIA IN DOUBT.
Latvian Ice Hockey Federation President Kirovs Lipmans told LETA on 24 June that the uncertainty over the construction of a new ice-hockey arena in Riga is hampering the organization of the 2006 World Ice Hockey Championship in Latvia. He said Latvia will have to report on preparatory work for the championship to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in September, and that if no progress is made by then it will be difficult to demonstrate Latvia's ability to organize the event. The agreement Latvia signed with the IIHF on 15 October 2001 to host the 2006 championship specifically stipulated that a new ice arena be built. The initial selection of a company to construct the arena was canceled in May (and no new investors have come forward). Lipmans said that an essential problem was the failure of the Riga City Council to offer a site for the construction of the arena.
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT HOLDS TALKS IN RIGA.
Armenian President Kocharian began an official two-day visit to Latvia on 26 June with a meeting with his Latvian counterpart Vaira Vike-Freiberga, LETA reported. The presidents discussed various issues, with Kocharian expressing interest in Latvia's experience in seeking EU membership, as his country would also like to join the union in the future. They expressed the hope that bilateral trade would increase once Armenia joins the World Trade Organization. The two presidents were present at the signing by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins and Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian of an agreement on readmission of persons and an agreement on travel between the two countries. Kocharian also held talks with parliamentary Chairman Janis Straume and members of the Latvian-Armenian parliamentary cooperation group. At a dinner in the Armenian president's honor, Vike-Freiberga stressed the benefits of greater cooperation between the countries, noting with satisfaction that while it headed the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in 2001, Latvia succeeded in achieving Armenia's admission to the organization. On 27 June, Kocharian met with Prime Minister Berzins before flying to Tallinn.
GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LATVIA.
Irakli Menagharishvili began a three-day visit to Latvia on 27 June, meeting with President Vike-Freiberga, BNS reported. They expressed satisfaction with the growing activity in bilateral relations, especially defense cooperation, and called for greater trade. Menagharishvili congratulated Latvia on its progress in seeking NATO and European Union membership and said that his country would like to take advantage of Latvia's experience since membership in these organizations are Georgia's strategic goals. In talks with Prime Minister Berzins, Menagharishvili gave a brief account of the complex situation in the Caucasus, but said that a Transcaucasus transport corridor and pipelines linking Asia with Turkey and Europe could still be built. The two countries are already drafting agreements on cooperation in science, education, and cultural exchange, and Berzins suggested strengthening economic cooperation by signing the usual intergovernmental agreements on taxes, investment protection, air traffic, and travel.
TWO CONVICTED NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS EXTRADITED TO RUSSIA.
Convicted National Bolshevik Party members Maksim Zhurkin and Sergei Solovei were extradited to Russia on 21 June, LETA reported. They participated in the seizure of the steeple of Riga's historic St. Peter's Church on 17 November 2000, and the Riga Regional Court sentenced them to 15 years in prison for terrorism on 30 April 2001. In October, the Latvian Supreme Court reduced the charges from terrorism to delinquency and thus, their sentences were reduced to six and five years, respectively. Zhurkin and Solovei are citizens of Russia and, in compliance with a Russian-Latvian agreement, will complete their prison sentences in Russia.
* Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller met with Latvian counterpart Berzins in Riga on 27 June, LETA reported. The ministers expressed the conviction that Latvia would close its EU membership negotiations this year while Denmark holds the presidency of the EU.
* Prime Minister Berzins traveled to Seville for the European Union summit on 21-22 June and participated in the luncheon of EU member and candidate-country leaders, BNS reported. He also was one of the speakers at the meeting of European Liberal Democratic Party leaders, which was attended by European Commission President Romano Prodi, European Parliament Chairman Patrick Cox, and Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen.
* A Cypriot delegation, headed by Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Minister Nicos A. Rolandis, held talks with Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis and representatives from the Latvian Development Agency and Transport Ministry in Riga on 26 June, LETA reported. They discussed cooperation in tourism with the Cypriot side suggesting the establishment of direct flights between the countries. Both sides called for greater economic cooperation, which will increase after they join the European Union.
* The London Court of Appeal rejected an appeal on 21 June submitted by Latreefers Inc., a subsidiary of Latvijas kugnieciba (Latvian Shipping Co.), and upheld an earlier court ruling ordering the company to pay large compensations to the Polish shipyard, Stocznija Gdanska S.A., for breach of agreement in 1992 for the construction of six refrigerator ships, BNS reported on 26 June. Only two ships were built and then sold to a third party for a smaller amount than set in the construction contracts. The shipyard is seeking between $37 million and $48 million in damages, default interest, and legal expenses.
* The Road Transportation Directorate announced on 21 June that its representatives at a joint Latvian-Belarus meeting failed to gain any additional free trucking permits from Belarus, BNS reported. Belarus has granted Latvia 8,500 international trucking permits, including two-way, transit, and free-of-charge permits. In May, Belarus began giving one free-of-charge permit to Latvia with every paid permit, and almost all the free permits have been used up. Both countries agreed to exchange 30 irregular passenger permits used for buses to enter a country empty of passengers in order to replace a bus that had broken down.
* Jurmala City Council Deputy Ilmars Anzans filed a case with the Latvian Constitutional Court, asking for it to rule whether the election-law regulation requiring a party to obtain a minimum 5 percent of the vote to enter parliament is constitutional, BNS reported on 21 June. As the next parliament elections will be held in October, the decision by the court is expected by 1 August.
* Latvian State Television (LTV) refused to broadcast on 21 June a commercial of the Freedom Party that LTV General Director Uldis Grava claimed would kindle ethnic hatred, LETA reported the next day. The commercial shows a black man wearing a Latvian military uniform standing at the Freedom Monument with a caption that reads: "Today, Latvia's Defender, Tomorrow, Your Son-In-Law?"
* The Statistics Office announced on 25 June that in April Latvia's imports were valued at 210.5 million lats ($300 million), or 19.8 percent higher than in April 2001, and exports at 118.4 million lats, or 13.2 percent higher, BNS reported. In April, 59 percent of exports and 53.7 percent of imports were with EU countries, while similar figures for CIS countries were 9.9 percent and 13.3 percent.
* President Vike-Freiberga presented a letter of accreditation to the new Latvian Ambassador to Poland Uldis Vitolins on 26 June, LETA reported. He had worked at the Foreign Ministry since 1995 as an adviser at the Latvian embassy in Russia and from 1999 headed the Economic Policy Department of the Economy Ministry. He replaces Aivars Vovers, who became ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in May.
LITHUANIAGOVERNMENT WANTS TO UPGRADE COOPERATION WITH WORLD BANK.
Lithuanian Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite discussed the drafting of a three-year Country Assistance Strategy agreement with World Bank Polish and Baltic States Regional Director Michael Carter in Vilnius on 21 June, ELTA reported. She noted that during talks in Washington in April with officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, she stressed the need to establish a new phase of relations. Lithuania has changed from a closely supervised aid recipient into a country that participates in World Bank policy-making activities and accepts the functions of a donor country, she noted. Grybauskaite said the new strategy will not determine Lithuanian obligations to the World Bank; rather, it will be an equal partnership based on political cooperation. The World Bank's approval the previous day of 29 million euros ($27.6 million) for Lithuania's Education Improvement Project indicated Lithuania's willingness to accept the bank's assistance when needed. Carter also held talks with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.
LUKOIL WANTS TO PUMP OIL FROM BALTIC SEA.
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov announced at a 24 June press conference in Moscow that his company will begin oil production on the Baltic Sea shelf next year despite protests by local environmentalists, nns.ru reported on 26 June. Alekperov also said that the oil reserves in this area have been estimated at 24 million tons and that LUKoil has already begun construction of an offshore platform in the Baltic. Oil exploration in the Baltic Sea was interrupted in 1985 under pressure from Lithuanian ecologists, whose republic lies close to the production area. Now Lithuanian environmentalists have called on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to stop providing loans to LUKoil until the company halts the project.
NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen began a two-day visit to Lithuania on 25 June by meeting with President Adamkus, ELTA reported. They discussed bilateral relations, Lithuania's future membership in the European Union and NATO, regional cooperation, and ties with neighboring states. Petersen told Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis that Norway has a shortage of workers in the fishing industry and nurses, and would welcome such workers from Lithuania. These issues were also mentioned in his talks with Prime Minister Brazauskas, during which he also praised Lithuania's decision to close the nuclear-power plant at Ignalina. Petersen and Health Minister Konstantinas Dobrovolskis signed two agreements on cooperation in preventing tuberculosis in Lithuania and HIV/AIDS in Lithuanian prisons, for which Norway has earmarked 1.97 million litas ($450,000) and 150,000 litas, respectively.
DEFENSE-COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH ARMENIA SIGNED.
Armenian President Kocharian began his official two-day visit to Lithuania by meeting with President Adamkus on 24 June, ELTA reported. The presidents discussed various topics, including cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and tourism; the need to increase bilateral trade; and Lithuania's sharing with Armenia its experience in seeking European Union and NATO membership. They participated at the signing of a defense-cooperation agreement by Lithuanian Deputy Defense Minister Povilas Malakauskas and his Armenian counterpart Michael Grigorian. Adamkus said the agreement will lay the groundwork for future cooperation, after which "the countries would seek points of convergence to benefit common work." Kocharian also held talks with Prime Minister Brazauskas and toured the Old Town of Vilnius. On 25 June, Kocharian visited parliament and with its Chairman Arturas Paulauskas opened an exhibition of Armenian art and literature.
DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS VILNIUS.
Danish Foreign Minister Moller flew from Tallinn to Vilnius on 26 June for a brief visit to introduce the priorities of Denmark's upcoming six-month presidency of the EU, ELTA reported. The priorities are special attention to security and antiterrorism, balanced economic development, product safety, reform of the EU agricultural policy, assistance to developing countries, and migration issues. He told Foreign Minister Valionis that Lithuania's possible plans to ask for changes in the already completed chapter on the free movement of capital by establishing a transition period for the sale of land to foreigners should not upset its membership chances.
PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW PRISON CODE.
The parliament adopted on 27 June a new Code on the Execution of Penalties that is expected to make prison conditions more civilized, BNS reported. The code, which will go into effect from 1 January 2003 along with the new Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, will replace the Code of Correctional Work passed in 1971. The new code will divide convicts into three categories: ordinary, minimum-[security], and disciplinary. Prisoners will begin serving their terms in the ordinary category and may later be transferred to other categories depending on their conduct, work, and attitude toward education. The code is based on the principle that an inmate is allowed to do anything that is not banned by law, and no longer includes detailed regulation of prisoners' daily lives. In open penitentiaries and juvenile correctional institutions, persons in the minimum-security group will be entitled to a two-week unpaid holiday per year, including the possibility of going home during their vacation. The new code may demolish the caste system among prisoners that is a legacy of the Soviet era. It was prepared by a working group headed by Deputy Justice Minister Gintaras Svedas, taking into consideration EU, Council of Europe, and United Nations norms.
* President Adamkus told a meeting of leaders of EU member and candidate countries in Seville on 22 June that Lithuania plans to fulfill the requirements of the Schengen Treaty and cancel visa-free travel for Kaliningrad residents from July 2003, BNS reported. He also affirmed plans to close the second reactor of the nuclear-power plant at Ignalina in 2009 if the EU provides sufficient funding. Foreign Minister Valionis and chief EU negotiator Petras Austrevicius were also in Seville for the EU summit meeting.
* British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon and the prime minister's Defense Adviser David Manning told visiting Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius in London on 25 June that they support Lithuania's candidacy to NATO and encouraged it to choose a field of specialization in anticipation of membership, ELTA reported. Linkevicius also participated in a roundtable discussion on security held by the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
* Defense Minister Linkevicius began a four-day visit to Georgia on 26 June with talks in Tbilisi with his counterpart Lieutenant General David Tevzadze and their signing of an agreement under which Lithuania will sponsor the studies of one Georgian officer in the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, BNS reported. Linkevicius offered the assistance of Lithuania's defense experts in restructuring the armed forces and consultations on international projects. On 27-28 June, he attended the Cooperative Best Effort 2002 war games, in which 12 Lithuanian soldiers participated.
* Economy Minister Petras Cesna opened the Lithuanian Export 2002 Exhibition in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on 25 June. ELTA reported. More than 60 companies from Lithuania are exhibiting clothing and textile products, furniture, paper and packaging, construction materials, foodstuffs, and household appliances at the exhibition.
* The German energy companies Ruhrgas and E.ON Energie completed the purchase of a 34 percent stake in the Lithuanian natural-gas company Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) by transferring 116 million litas ($ 32.5 million) to the Lithuanian Privatization Fund and 34 million litas to an escrow account with Vereins-und Westbank AG on 26 June, BNS reported. The next day a shareholders meeting of Lietuvos Dujos elected a new board, which appointed Ruhrgas Vice President Eike Benke as its chairman, ELTA reported.
* The U.S. embassy in Vilnius issued a press release on 21 June, announcing that the Peace Corps will end its program of technical assistance to Lithuania at the end of September, BNS reported. Since 1992, 216 volunteers have served in Lithuania in more than 65 towns primarily as English teachers, small-business advisers, and developers of nongovernmental organizations.
* Defense Minister Linkevicius and Education Minister Algirdas Monkevicius signed an agreement on 24 June committing the Defense Ministry to sponsor school computerization programs in some 70 Lithuanian schools this year with 1 million litas ($280,000), ELTA reported. The program's goals are to introduce information and communication technologies in the education system, encourage patriotism among students, and provide information about the Lithuanian Army.
* By a vote of 59 to one with seven abstentions, the parliament passed a law on the protection of juveniles from the negative impact of public information on 25 June, BNS reported. The law aims at reducing violence and pornography in the media by banning physical and psychological violence, scenes with corpses or mutilated human bodies, information causing fear or horror, erotica, scenes featuring sexual acts, as well as information encouraging suicide, committing crimes, idealizing criminals, using obscene words or gestures. Such programs can only be broadcast between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. locally.
* The parliament on 25 June passed a law on oil products and state oil reserves, requiring the government and private companies to accumulate a compulsory oil reserve on a 50-50 basis, ELTA reported. To meet EU requirements, Lithuania will have to accumulate a 90-day supply or 200,000 tons of gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene by late 2009.
* State Atomic Energy Safety Inspectorate head Saulius Kutas told President Adamkus on 25 June that the preparations for the closing of the first reactor at the nuclear-power plant at Ignalina were behind schedule, ELTA reported. He said that the shutdown plan for the reactor had to be ready in May, but it is expected to reach the cabinet only at the end of August. Moreover, it does not contain any economic or radiation calculations or a closure strategy: whether the unit will be dismantled shortly after the shutdown or much later. Lithuania has promised to close the reactor by 2005.
* The Statistics Department released more data on the census conducted in April 2001, BNS reported on 25 June. It indicated that the country's population had decreased by 5 percent since the 1989 census to 3.49 million people. The share of ethnic Lithuanians increased by 3.9 percent to 83.5 percent while that of Russians and Poles decreased by 2.7 and 0.3 percent to 6.3 and 6.7 percent, respectively.
* President Adamkus appointed former Ambassador to Canada Rimantas Sidlauskas as the new ambassador to Russia on 25 June, replacing Zenonas Namavicius who became a judge in the Constitutional Court in the spring, BNS reported. He also appointed Aurimas Taurantas, the head of the Foreign Ministry's Second Bilateral Relations Department, as the new ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, finally replacing current Deputy Foreign Minister Justas Vincas Paleckis.