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Baltic Report: October 8, 2002

8 October 2002, Volume 3, Number 33

This issue covers events in the Baltic states from 21 to 27 September 2002.
Mikhail Kasyanov, on a visit to Finland, said on 27 September that Russia cannot accept the latest European Union proposals regarding access to the Kaliningrad exclave after Poland and Lithuania join the union, RIA-Novosti reported. EU Commission Chairman Romano Prodi sent the proposals, which envisage issuing free EU transit documents to all residents of Kaliningrad Oblast and to Russian citizens who travel frequently between the exclave and the rest of Russia, to President Vladimir Putin on 18 September. According to the proposals, the travel documents would be issued to all citizens appearing on a list compiled by the Russian government. However, Kasyanov said, "This offer, in fact, solves nothing and is just a well-packaged multiple-entry visa." Putin telephoned Prodi on 26 September and called on him to join "a joint search for a solution to the Kaliningrad problem despite existing differences," Russian news agencies reported.

The chief negotiators of 10 EU candidate countries met for the first time in Warsaw on 25 September to declare their determination to complete the preaccession talks by the end of this year, BNS reported. The meeting focused on the problems of each candidate state and their future plans. The leading countries are Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovenia, which have finished 28 of the 31 chapters and still have to complete the chapters of agriculture, financial-budgetary issues, and other issues. Estonia's chief negotiator, Alar Streimann, said that it is difficult to predict when progress will be made on these chapters since the EU itself does not yet have a common position on them. The candidates hold great expectations for the EU summit scheduled at the end of October, where the EU should reach a common position on agricultural subsidies.

NATO leaders "politely rejected" Russian concerns (see "RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 2 October 2002) about allowing the Baltic states to join the NATO alliance before they accede to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) during their meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Warsaw, LETA and Reuters reported on 25 September. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that he saw no linkage between NATO enlargement and the CFE treaty and that he does not know of a single alliance member who agrees with the Russian interpretation. According to Rumsfeld, "The obvious conclusion is that there is no linkage between the two."

By a vote of 56 to 20, the Estonian parliament on 25 September approved a second supplementary budget of 788 million kroons ($49.5 million), ETA reported. Disregarding the advice of the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Estonia, the cabinet in August submitted the supplementary budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002), which in effect raised the 2002 budget to 34.3 billion kroons. Twenty-four amendments to the bill were debated on 25 September, but only five, all suggested by the ruling coalition, were approved. The proposed additional 145 million kroons for the Foreign Ministry was reduced by 17 million kroons, and reallocated to schools, cultural establishments, and hospitals.

In presenting the draft 2003 budget to the parliament on 26 September, Siim Kallas said that its priorities are state defense, science, and education, ETA and BNS reported. Unlike previous budgets, it foresees a deficit of 384 million kroons ($24 million) with expenditures amounting to 38.7 billion kroons and income of 38.4 billion kroons. Kallas explained that there is no need for excessive spending and the state won't spend more than the growth of the economy will allow. Opposition Pro Patria Union Chairman Mart Laar noted that some of the budget's articles are wasteful and that "the areas that don't directly bring votes to politicians in the elections have been shoved to the back burner."

The Estonian Railways Department on 26 September annulled the safety license of railway company Edelaraudtee Infrastruktuuri AS, ETA reported. The license is the basis for the operating permit of the company to manage the railway infrastructure. Oleg Epner, the director-general of the Railways Department, said that inadequacies affecting long-distance passenger trains identified in the spring had not yet been repaired. Edelaraudtee Infrastruktuuri AS was issued a new order to make the repairs no later than 29 November. In a related case, the Railways Board decided on 23 September to extend to 1 November Estonian Railways' deadline for registering its recently acquired U.S.-made locomotives, ETA reported. Earlier in the month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001), the board canceled the railroad's safety license and threatened to withdraw its operating license, which would result in the stoppage of all rail cargo traffic, if those locomotives were not registered as having equipment installed ensuring they could not be operated in the event that alarm, emergency, and braking equipment was turned off. The board inspected the railroad last week and did not find any trains that posed a hazard. It accepted the schedule the railroad proposed to register all of its locomotives and other rolling stock by 1 November.

During a visit to Estonia on 23-24 September, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel held meetings with parliament Chairman Toomas Savi, Prime Minister Kallas, and Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland, ETA reported. The talks focused on the two states' efforts to join NATO and the European Union as well as bilateral relations. The foreign ministers decided that the two countries will draft agreements on preventing double taxation and that conferences on economic cooperation will be organized in the capitals of Tallinn and Ljubljana. They also called for greater cooperation between the countries' universities and scientific establishments. Kallas mentioned the need not only to receive security from NATO, but also contribute to the common defense by deploying troops, such as the Estonian bomb experts to Afghanistan.

Francois Loos discussed trade relations with Prime Minister Kallas in Tallinn on 25 September, ETA reported. He expressed the wish that other French companies could match the success of Peugeot, which is the leading seller of new automobiles in Estonia this year. Kallas called for greater investments from France, which is currently the 14th-largest investor in Estonia. Foreign Minister Ojuland told Loos that higher milk quotas are an important issue for farmers in the ongoing EU membership negotiations. The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized a seminar on the Estonian economy and business environment for the delegation of businessmen and journalists who accompanied Loos.
* Chairman of the International Security Advisory Board Sir Garry Johnson held talks in Tallinn on 23 September with Foreign Minister Ojuland, Defense Minister Sven Mikser, and the commander of the defense forces, Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts, BNS reported. Johnson had served as an advisor to the Baltic states in 1995-2000 in the drafting of their national defense and security programs.
* French and Estonian defense representatives held talks in Tallinn on 24 and 25 September during which they analyzed their cooperation in the past year and prepared a plan for 2003, BNS reported. On 25 September the French delegation also visited the Amari air base, the Foreign Ministry, and the defense forces' General Staff.
* Ambassador to NATO Sulev Kannike presented Estonia's fourth annual national plan for NATO membership to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 23 September, ETA reported. The plan consists of five chapters, covering political and economic issues, armed forces development problems, resources, and information security. Estonia's priorities in 2003 will be the development of a rapid reaction force, improving airspace surveillance, and host-nation support capability.
* The government on 24 September decided to allocate 565,000 kroons ($35,000) to buy computers for a computer class at the Georgian Military Academy, BNS reported. The grant was made after receiving a request of such aid from Georgia's Defense Minister David Tevzadze. The Foreign Ministry supported the gift because the EU integration action plan adopted in January made the Southern Caucasus a priority area for Estonia's development assistance policy.
* The director-general of the Estonian Border Guard Board, Brigadier General Harry Hein, visited Hungary on 24 to 26 September to take part in a meeting of a work group of border-guard-service chiefs held under the framework of the International Border Police Conference, BNS reported. The talks focused on fighting illegal migration and drug smuggling, training, and other matters of mutual interest.
* Interior Minister Ain Seppik told BNS on 24 September that the cabinet meeting that day had approved the proposal to extend by three months the mission of five bomb experts and three detector dogs serving in Afghanistan. They have been participating in the Enduring Freedom operation at the invitation of the U.S. government since 26 July.
* The ruling coalition of the Center and Reform parties approved a provisional amendment to the constitution calling for the direct election of the country's president, ETA reported on 25 September. The term of the president would be increased to seven years and he/she could only serve one term. The powers of the president would, moreover, be reduced as he/she would lose the right to veto laws, but he/she would retain his/her functions in foreign relations.
* In an effort to reduce the possibilities of foreigners making speculative purchases of agricultural land, the government sent to the parliament on 24 September a bill which requires that persons wishing to purchase more than 2 hectares of farming land should have a vocational secondary or higher education in agriculture or have agricultural production as the main line of his business in the previous three years, BNS reported. If the prospective buyer does not meet these conditions, he can acquire farming land only by obtaining the permission of the county governor.
* According to preliminary customs information, exports in August totaled 7.09 billion kroons and imports 8.58 billion kroons, resulting in a trade deficit of 1.49 billion kroons, BNS reported on 24 August. The deficit is about 1 billion kroons lower than in July. Finland was the largest trade partner, accounting for 17.5 percent of exports and 22.5 percent of imports.
* Culture Minister Margus Allikmaa told Florencio Campomanes, the honorary president of the World Chess Federation, on 26 September that Estonia was interested in hosting the 2006 Chess Olympics in Tallinn, LETA reported. He said that the experience of hosting the successful Eurovision song contest in 2002 at the same venue, Saku Arena, could be used for the 17-day event.
* The Bank of Estonia announced on 23 September that the current account deficit in the second quarter of the year was 3.04 billion kroons or 10.6 percent of GDP, BNS reported. In the second quarter of 2001 it was only 1.6 percent of GDP. The deficit declined from 14.4 percent of GDP in the first quarter influenced by seasonal factors as higher income from export of services, mostly tourism. Its high level indicates that the trends of growth in the administrative sector, excessive lending, and lower savings which began last autumn continued to prevail unchanged.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Janis Jurkans, the chairman of the leftist political bloc For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL) and the head of the Latvian-Russian Parliamentary Cooperation Group, in Moscow on 21 September, LETA reported. Putin said that Latvian-Russian relations can be as good as Russia's relations with other European countries, and he is pleased that "there are political forces in Latvia that wish fully to restore cross-border relations." Jurkans told reporters after the meeting that Putin knows the situation in Latvia very well and knows what must be changed to improve relations. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins noted that "opening the Kremlin's door for Jurkans" is a signal indicating which party Moscow prefers in the upcoming parliamentary elections. PCTVL is one of the leading parties in pre-election polls. Jurkans was invited to Moscow by Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin.

While meeting to complete the agenda for Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's planned visit to Latvia on 27-29 September, Riga and Moscow representatives decided on 24 September to postpone the trip for one month in order to avoid the appearance that the visit was an attempt to influence Latvia's parliamentary elections on 5 October, BNS reported. Riga Mayor and Social Democrat Gundars Bojars expressed regret that the over-politicized atmosphere in Latvia ahead of the elections could affect his city's cooperation with Moscow, but said that Luzhkov's visit will take place in a businesslike atmosphere and contribute to further development of economic relations between the two cities. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins had each expressed their desire to meet with Luzhkov during his visit.

In Helsinki on 26 September, Finnish President Tarja Halonen told her visiting Latvian counterpart Vike-Freiberga that she is aware of and supports Latvia's efforts to achieve higher agricultural quotas in its negotiations with the European Union, LETA reported. She said that each country must have the right to produce at least enough farm products to meet the demand of the local market and that candidate countries are entitled to a fair offer from the EU. The primary aim of Vike-Freiberga's visit is to participate in the Helsinki Women Business Leaders Summit on 27 September, which was to be attended by businesswomen from the United States, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia.

Lieutenant General Hannu Ahonen, the chief of the Finnish border-control service, officially turned over the patrol vessel "Valpas" to Latvian State Border Guard Chief Gunars Dabolins in an official ceremony in Riga on 25 September, LETA reported. Finnish Ambassador to Latvia Kirsti Eskelinen-Liukkonen and Interior Minister Mareks Seglins participated in the event. The 48-meter "Valpas," built in 1971, is capable of functioning year round in all conditions in the Baltic Sea, being able to break through ice 50 centimeters thick.

The cabinet on 24 September endorsed Prime Minister Berzins' recommendation that Security Police Deputy Chief Guntis Rutkis be nominated to head the new Corruption Prevention Bureau, LETA reported. Prior to the meeting Berzins met with Rutkis and Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka, who was the head of a special commission evaluating applicants for the post. Earlier in the month, the parliament overwhelmingly rejected the nomination of lawyer Janis Jonass for the post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2002). It appears likely that the parliament will approve the appointment of Rutkis, as leaders of the parties in the ruling coalition have expressed support for his candidacy.

The parliament passed a law on state and municipal equity stakes in state-owned companies on 26 September, BNS reported. It envisages the elimination of the post of state trustee in these companies beginning on 1 January 2003. The supervision of companies under the management of ministries will be conducted by the state secretary of the respective ministry, while those controlled by local governments will be conducted by the chairmen of the local councils. Under the new law, these payments are expected to be about 220,000 lats ($360,000), or only a third of the 630,000 lats that was paid to the state trustees in 2000.

The state-owned Latvian Railways (Latvijas Dzelzcels) announced on 23 September that in the first eight months of this year it carried 15.1 million passengers, or 10.6 percent more than during the same period last year, LETA reported. The number of passengers on domestic trains increased by 11.5 percent to 14.8 million, but their number on international routes decreased by 19.5 percent to 315,000.
* Foreign Ministry Deputy State Secretary Andris Teikmanis gave Russian Ambassador to Latvia Igor Studennikov on 27 September a draft intergovernmental agreement on streamlining the procedure for issuing visas to residents living near the Latvian-Russian border, LETA reported. The document, which was prepared taking into account Latvia's plans to join the European Union, is intended to make travel easier for those going to the neighboring country to visit their relatives, relatives' graves, or similar cases.
* Ambassador to NATO Imants Liegis handed in Latvia's NATO Membership Action Plan for 2003 to NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Military Issues Daniel Speckhard on 25 September, LETA reported. Speckhard said that if Latvia receives an invitation to join NATO in Prague in November, the membership negotiations could be launched in December.
* President Vike-Freiberga presented Michigan Governor John Engler the Order of the Three Stars, Second Class, on 21 September at her residence in Jurmala, according to a press release by the president's office. The award, Latvia's highest honor, was granted in recognition of the active cooperation of Latvia and the U.S. state in the areas of education, environmental protection, and defense. Among other cooperative efforts, the Michigan National Guard has, since 1993, been an active partner of the Latvian National Defense Forces.
* The board of the World Federation of Free Latvians decided during its meeting in Riga to allot $180,000 next year to promote Latvia's entry in NATO, LETA reported on 21 September. The money will be spent on hiring professional advisors in the U.S., on maintenance of the website, covering various traveling expenses, organizing conferences in conjunction with the Joint Baltic American National Committee, the Latvian Embassy in the U.S., and the Latvian Transatlantic Organization.
* Latvia and European Free Trade Association member states Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway signed an agreement on 26 September in Brussels on the recognition and conformity assessment of industrial products, BNS reported. The three states agreed to recognize quality certificates issued in Latvia and will no longer require additional testing in their countries, thus giving Latvian producers greater export opportunities.
* Opening the conference "Energy Supply Safety in the Baltic Sea Region in the Context of European Union Enlargement" in Ventspils on 27 September, Prime Minister Berzins said that the Baltic states should play an important role in the transmission of oil from Russia and Kazakhstan to Northwestern Europe, BNS reported. The conference, whose main theme was the safe transportation by railway, pipelines, highways, and through ports on the Baltic Sea, was attended by government officials from Denmark, Russia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Germany, and Sweden.
* Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis met in Riga on 25 September with a visiting delegation from the German federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, headed by its Economy Minister Walter Doring, LETA reported. At the meeting Latvian Development Agency Director-General Maris Elerts and specialists from the Economy Ministry discussed further cooperation between Latvia and Baden-Wuerttemberg whose trade volume has increased threefold in the last five years.
* Andrew Rasbash, the head of the European Commission delegation in Latvia, in an interview in the daily "Neatkariga Rita Avize" of 25 September said, "The EU hopes that Russia's oil transit amounts will in the future increase through Latvia," BNS reported. He noted that transit is and must remain an important part of Latvia's economy as the state should use its close and strong ties with Russia.
* After receiving a request for state financial support from the ferry company Rigas juras linija (RJL) to purchase the ferry "Baltic Kristina" for about $5.5 million, Prime Minister Berzins demanded more information about the company's future plans from its largest stockholder, the Riga City Council and its Chairman Gundars Bojars, LETA reported on 25 September. Berzins asked why RJL had paid a nonrefundable $350,000 security deposit for the purchase without officially notifying its shareholders, which include the Transport Ministry. He also questioned whether the purchase of this 27-year-old ferry was economically sound.
* Prime Minister Berzins accepted the credentials of the new Canadian ambassador to Latvia, Robert Andrigo, on 5 September, LETA reported. He requested that Canada change its practice and allow its embassy in Riga to issue visas. Latvia's residents now have to apply for them in the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw.
* The Riga Regional Court turned down on 25 September the petition by Latvian Socialist Party Chairman and former Latvian Communist Party leader Alfreds Rubiks to expunge his criminal record, LETA reported. It ruled that the record of Rubiks, who had been sentenced for attempting a coup against the Latvian government in August 1991, could not be erased since he had not fulfilled the requirement to express remorse and pledge never to attempt another armed rebellion.

In order to comply with commitments made to the European Union for accession to the Schengen Treaty, the government on 25 September decided to cancel the temporary agreements it concluded with Belarus in February 1994 and with Russia in February 1995 concerning visa privileges, ELTA reported. Beginning on 1 January 2003, Lithuania will end visa-free travel for passengers traveling between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia, as well as visa-free entry into Lithuania for Belarusian pensioners, residents of border areas, and truckers. Beginning on 1 July 2003, residents of Kaliningrad Oblast will be required to have visas to enter Lithuania. The government also decided to open a consulate in Hrodna, Belarus, as soon as it obtains permission to rent premises.

Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov began his official two-day visit to Lithuania on 23 September, meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported. The presidents signed an agreement on strengthening interstate relations, friendship, and cooperation. Defense Ministers Linas Linkevicius and Kadyr Gulamov signed an agreement on military cooperation. Foreign Ministers Antanas Valionis and Abdulaziz Komilov endorsed a cooperation protocol between their ministries. Customs Chief Valerijonas Valickas and Uzbek State Customs Committee Chairman Rovshan Khaidarov signed an agreement on cooperation in preventing illegal trade in weapons, ammunition, explosives, psychotropic substances, and illegal drugs. Representatives of Vilnius University and the National University of Uzbekistan also signed a cooperation agreement. Karimov's talks with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas focused mainly on economic matters, with both leaders expressing their desire for greater bilateral trade, but Karimov noted that the higher port tariffs in Klaipeda have convinced Uzbek businesses to use Riga for shipping their exports. Karimov met with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas and a delegation of Lithuanian businessmen on 25 September before departing for Tashkent.

In Vilnius on 26 September, Justice Minister Vytautas Markevicius and his Azerbaijani counterpart Fikrat Mamedov signed a cooperation program that envisages the regular exchange of information regarding adopted legislation and law enforcement structures, BNS reported. Azerbaijan expressed interest in Lithuania's program under which its citizens are provided state-guaranteed legal assistance, and will send a delegation to Lithuania next summer to study its implementation. Lithuania intends to send a delegation to Baku next year to become acquainted with the work of Azerbaijan's courts. The two countries previously signed agreements on legal assistance and the handover of convicted persons to complete their sentences in their native countries.

Speaking in Vilnius on 23 September on the first day of the three-day seminar "Prospects and Alternatives of a New Nuclear Power Plant at Ignalina," Valdas Adamkus said that the experience of European countries and the United States "has proved that nuclear-power plants are a reliable source of energy able to satisfy the demands of a rapidly growing economy." BNS reported. He affirmed that even though the reactors of the existing nuclear-power plant at Ignalina are scheduled to be closed in 2005 and 2009, Lithuania should consider building a new nuclear reactor at the site that meets modern technical and safety standards. This should be done after a realistic assessment of the present economic situation, financial capacity of the state, and possible involvement of foreign investors. The seminar, sponsored by NATO and the Lithuanian Energy Institute, was attended by nuclear-energy experts from the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, and other countries. On 25 September representatives of Japanese and Canadian construction companies estimated that the cost of a new 1,000-megawatt reactor would be about $1 billion-1.3 billion.
* During the official accreditation of new Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas on 26 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that he hoped that travel for Russians between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad Oblast would be solved in "a civilized way," BNS reported. He said that such travel is an issue of importance not only for Russia, but all of Europe. That day Sidlauskas also had meetings and discussions on bilateral relations with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and presidential advisor for foreign policy Sergei Prichodko.
* Army commander Major General Jonas Kronkaitis flew to Washington on 20 September for a nine-day visit, ELTA reported. The next day he attended the Lithuanian-American Community, Inc.'s ceremony during which it presented its Amber Award to Ambassador Dan Fried, senior director for European and Eurasian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council. In the subsequent days he met with U.S. senators and congressmen seeking support for Lithuania's admission to NATO at the Prague summit in November. On 27 September he went to the Pentagon for talks with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard Myers, on the fight against international terrorism. Myers promised to accelerate the delivery of Javelin antitank weapons to Lithuania.
* In an official ceremony in Klaipeda on 25 September, a delegation from the Danish ground forces, headed by General Jens Fransen, transferred artillery armaments and technical equipment worth 25 million litas ($7.1 million) to the Lithuanian armed forces, BNS reported. It will be used to fully equip the First Artillery Battalion in Rukla, which will operate within the Rapid Reaction Brigade of the Lithuanian Army. Denmark has also agreed to train the officers and noncommissioned officers serving in the battalion.
* Customs Department Chief Valickas and Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders signed a cooperation agreement on 27 September in Brussels, ELTA reported. It provides for the customs offices of the two countries to assist each other in efforts to prevent and investigate any violations of customs laws. Lithuanian customs have made similar agreements with Poland, Ukraine, Netherlands, and the Nordic countries, as well as a trilateral agreement with Estonia and Latvia.
* Interior Ministry Secretary Algirdas Astrauskas and the head of the European Commission's delegation to Vilnius Michael Graham signed agreements in Vilnius on 25 September which will give the regions of Klaipeda, Taurage, Marijampole, and Utena an assistance package of 18.6 million euros ($18.2 million) to promote economic development and create new jobs, ELTA reported. The assistance is granted as part of the European PHARE Program on Economic and Social Cohesion 2002.
* A delegation of the German Constitutional Court, headed by its Chairman Hans-Jurgen Papier, discussed possible cooperation with Lithuanian Constitutional Court Chairman Egidijus Kuris in Vilnius on 24 September, ELTA report. The delegation also met with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas that day and with President Adamkus on 25 September.
* The international conference "Holocaust in Lithuania: Aspects of Modern History, Education and Justice," organized by the Vilnius-based International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes, was held in Vilnius on 23-25 September, BNS reported. Reports about recent research about the Holocaust in Lithuania were presented by scholars from Israel, the United States, Poland, and Lithuania. Prime Minister Brazauskas officially greeted the conference on its second day.
* In marking Lithuanian Jewish Genocide Day on 23 September, President Adamkus awarded the Life Saving Cross for rescuing Lithuanian Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II to 45 persons, all but eight posthumously, BNS reported. Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairman Simonas Alperavicius told the participants at the ceremony that the number of Jews murdered during Nazi rule "could have been much higher, if it was not for the noble deed" of the people honored.
* Chief negotiator with the EU Petras Austrevicius told BNS on 27 September that during talks in Brussels the previous day Lithuania succeeded in raising its EU quota for sugar production by 8,000 tons to 103,000. He said that Lithuania will continue to seek a quota of 165,000 tons for sugar, as well as 2.25 million tons for milk, and 22 million tons for linen even though the EU had proposed quotas of 96,000 tons, 1.46 million tons, and 5 million tons, respectively.
* Representatives of the Liberal Union and the Modern Christian Democrat Union decided at a meeting in Vilnius on 23 September to join forces for the upcoming local elections, ELTA reported. The two right-of-center parties agreed that they would have only one list of candidates in the elections on 22 December.
* The government approved the state draft budget for 2003 on 25 September and submitted it to the parliament, ELTA reported. It foresees revenues of 10.95 billion litas ($3.13 billion) and expenditures of 12.25 billion litas. The resulting budget deficit of 1.3 billion litas is about 2.4 percent of the projected gross domestic product (53.76 billion litas), which is projected to increase by 4.9 percent.
* President Adamkus appointed Petras Zapolskas and Antanas Vinkus as the ambassadors to Sweden and Estonia, respectively, on 23 September, BNS reported. They will replace Vytautas Nodules and Rimantas Tonkunas, respectively, on 7 October. Zapolskas, 37, began working in the Foreign Ministry in 1991 and was heading its Information and Culture Department. Vinkus, 59, had been the health minister in 1989-90 and 1994-96 and was serving as the director-general of the Santariskes Clinic in Vilnius.