6 March 2000, Volume 1, Number 7
REGIONALEstonia, Latvia To Use WTO Framework In Pork Tariff Talks
Estonia will begin consultations with Latvia on 29 February to determine whether Latvia's moves to protect its pork market violate World Trade Organization norms, according to BNS. In December 1999, Latvia introduced a minimal customs value for imported pork to protect domestic pork producers for the following two years. According to Estonia, that move violates the Baltic free-trade agreement.
* The heads of the three Baltic air forces met in Tallinn to discuss the implementation of the joint airspace surveillance system BALTNET.
ESTONIANew List Of KGB Collaborators In Estonia
Estonian security officials have published a list of 23 KGB collaborators, ETA reported on 29 February. Among the names is Vladimir Iljachevich, the publisher of the Russian-language weekly "Russkii Telegraf," who worked as an agent for the KGB from 1983-1989. Iljachevich is a member of the board of the Russian Writers' Association and was an adviser to the Russian faction in the previous Estonian parliament. The new list was published under the terms of a law requiring the Estonian security agency to reveal the names of all KGB collaborators who failed to voluntarily register with the Estonian authorities by 1 April 1996. The first list was published in January 1997.
U.S. Says Estonia Has Serious Drugs Problem
The U.S. State Department's narcotics control strategic report says that Estonia has a serious problem with drugs, BNS reported on 2 March. The report points to the increasing number of serious crimes committed by those under the influence of drugs and the substantial increase in demand locally for hard drugs. The report also notes that Estonia's geographic location makes it attractive for the drugs transit trade and large-scale trafficking. But the report adds that the U.S. government is not aware of any official corruption related to drugs. This contradicts comments made by Finnish Interior Minister Kari Hakamies, that Estonia's EU bid was threatened due to such corruption (see "RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 7 February 2000). Finally, the report said that in 1999 there was a 16 percent increase in drugs-related crimes and the estimated number of drug abusers is about 12,000.
Estonians Confident In President
A poll by ES Market Research shows that 74 percent of Estonians are "confident" in the president, which tops the table, ETA reported on 1 March. Fifty-seven percent expressed confidence in the church, while 56 percent stated the same for border guards and 50 percent for the Defense Forces. The lowest result came for both the national guard Kaitseliit and the courts, which earned the confidence of only 34 percent of respondents. Among citizens, the president earned the highest confidence rating of 78 percent, while for non-citizens the church held the top spot with 67 percent.
* A new poll shows that 67 percent of Estonians say they are prepared to defend their country. Some 80 percent of males said they would defend the country during an attack, but only 43 percent of non-citizens said the same.
* The IMF approved the memorandum with Estonia (which was signed a few weeks ago in Tallinn) and endorsed a $39 million standby credit. Estonia has not used a credit in the past three years and does not intend to use this either.
* A total of 8,786 individuals were convicted in Estonian courts in 1999. Among the total, nearly half of them were guilty of robberies or thefts. Juveniles accounted for 1,532 of the total.
* There are 49,574 students of higher education in Estonia, about 23 percent of all residents between 18 and 25.
LATVIADrive To Publish Latvian KGB Files Fails Major Test
Draft legislation to facilitate the publication of Latvia's KGB files suffered a major setback when a parliamentary committee on 1 March rejected it. The Defense and Interior Affairs Committee turned down the legislation proposed by the People's Party of Prime Minister Andris Skele, with opposition from both critics of the plan and those who feel it does not go far enough, BNS and LETA reported. Related to the case, the director of the Totalitarian Legacy Documentation Center, Indulis Zalite, said that 23 of the 134 Supreme Soviet deputies who had voted for the restoration of Latvia's independence were in fact KGB collaborators.
Slovenian President In Latvia
Slovenian President Milan Kucan visited Riga from 1-3 March to promote bilateral ties between the two NATO and EU hopefuls. Speaking to Latvian lawmakers on 2 March, Kucan voiced concern at possible delays in EU enlargement: "The delay in enlargement, even in respect of the candidate countries that have met all requirements, can be interpreted as fear to let strangers into the house that so far has been safely protected by a fence," BNS reported. Kucan also emphasized while speaking to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga that "we are not competitors."
* Zemgale District Court began proceedings against Social Democrat parliament deputy Janis Adamsons over his alleged KGB ties during his tenure as a Soviet border guard officer. If the court finds Adamsons to be linked, he would lose his parliamentary mandate.
* The government decided to disband the Latvian Privatization Agency on 1 January 2001.
* Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis made a visit to France to meet with officials, including his counterpart Alain Richard.
* A parliamentary committee has supported the proposal to allow those who remained members of the Communist Party after 13 January 1991 to run for offices in local elections. Currently there is a ban on such individuals for all elected offices, local and national.
* Following Russian demands for the OSCE to become involved in the case of convicted war criminal Vasili Kononov, the OSCE Mission in Latvia said Russia has no such mandate, BNS reported on 1 March. The Russian government reacted angrily to the conviction of former Soviet partisan Kononov, calling the conviction "unfair."
* The Kurzeme District Court began the proceedings against Yevgeni Savenko for genocide. Savenko is accused of being a KGB operative who acted against innocent people during the Soviet occupation, repressing more than 60 individuals in 1940. Savenko claimed he was only following orders and plead not guilty.
* Two residents of the eastern city of Daugavpils, Dmitri Korsakov and Edvart Kizla, have been charged with the desecration of the local Jewish cemetery. If convicted of the November 1999 desecration, they each face an eight-year jail term or a fine.
* The U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report criticized Latvia in several areas, including its prisons and in the administration of justice.
LITHUANIADenmark Reaffirms Support For Lithuania
Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen made a visit to Lithuania and reaffirmed Denmark's support for Lithuania's aspirations to join NATO and the EU. He announced that the Danish government plans to allocate 100 million Danish kroner ($12.93 million) for the shutdown of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, ELTA reported on 25 February. Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius thanked Rasmussen for his support, saying, "Denmark has always been and remained among the strongest political partners of Lithuania, and we appreciate greatly this fact."
President Defends Controversial Award
Valdas Adamkus told the press on 29 February that he did not find the awarding of state honors to former KGB officer and ex-Interior Minister Marijonas Misiukonis a mistake, ELTA reported. Adamkus stressed the principle of reconciliation behind his gesture, adding that "the interior minister swore an oath to the independent Lithuania and defended it fairly" and that "he was together with freedom defenders helping to avert more painful victims of our struggle."
Lithuania Presents NATO Membership Action Plan
Deputy Defense Minister Romas Kilikauskas presented Vilnius' NATO membership action plan to alliance officials in Brussels at the end of February and in advance of a North Atlantic Council review of such applications, BNS reported.
Lithuanian State Debt Continues To Rise
The Lithuanian Finance Ministry reported that Lithuania's state debt totaled 12.27 billion litas ($3.07 billion) at the end of January, an increase of 201 million litas in only one month, BNS reported on 2 March. Over 10 billion litas of the debt are long-term. Some 20 percent of the total debt is domestic, but Lithuania's foreign debt fell slightly by 102 million litas to a total of 9.613 billion litas.
* Twenty-seven of Lithuania's 56 local governments have failed to pass their 2000 budget as of the end of February.
* BNS reports that Israel is refusing to assist Lithuania in gathering evidence against Nachman Dushansky, accused of crimes against humanity, because it says the case is discriminatory. The Israeli Embassy in Riga said that higher-ranking KGB officers of Lithuanian ethnicity are escaping prosecution.
* A Defense Technology Institute has been founded within the Kaunas Technological University.
* Mindaugas Murza, the head of the now-disbanded Union of National Socialist Unity, has announced the creation of the Lithuanian National Social Party. The radical right-wing politician drew heavy scrutiny when he was listed on the top of a local election roll, even though the party itself was never registered.
* The Finance Ministry transferred $21.5 million to Mazeikiai Oil in the third part of the promised loan package of $126.5 million for the company's operating funds.