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Baltic Report: June 13, 2000

13 June 2000, Volume 1, Number 21
The U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission held its annual meeting in Tallinn on 7 June to discuss the progress of relations between the United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since the signing of the U.S.-Baltic charter in 1998. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that "the NATO enlargement process will continue, it does not endanger anyone and no democratic European country should be left out of it for geographical or historical reasons, especially not reasons connected to the Cold War," ETA reported. And he noted that the Baltic countries could be invited to join in 2002. Officials signed a joint communique, which included a statement that the United States welcomes "bringing to justice accused war criminals, regardless of ideology."

A political commentator in Moscow's "Izvestiya" on 9 June described the latest meeting of the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission as a diplomatic victory for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The commentary noted that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott reaffirmed that since the U.S. had never regarded the Baltic countries as part of the Soviet Union, the three could not now be described as former Soviet republics. Talbott also said Russia had no grounds to accuse the Baltic states of neo-Nazism and invited Russia to begin a constructive dialogue with the Baltic states, BNS reported. "Flinging groundless accusations at each other will benefit none," Talbott said. "Izvestiya" said that Talbott's remarks were a reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin's tough line at the recent summit in Moscow. "Failing to win from the Kremlin concessions in key disarmament issues, the Americans gave free reign to their vexation. The Baltic topic was brought to the fore and what's more, it turned out to be topical...Leaders of the three Baltic states that this year marked a sad occasion--the 60th anniversary of the Stalinist occupation--are celebrating a diplomatic victory. In the years-long dispute between Moscow, Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius, the United States is unequivocally on the side of the Balts."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder led a large delegation to all three Baltic states last week, BNS and ETA reported 5 June. This was the first bilateral visit of a chancellor since Germany recognized the restoration of Baltic independence in 1991. For his part, Schroeder expressed support for Baltic membership in the EU and NATO, but some Estonian media outlets dismissed Schroeder's visit as "symbolic" rather than substantive.

Articles in the German press criticized Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for what they said was the lack of a German policy toward the three Baltic countries, BNS reported 8 June. The "Berliner Morgenpost" suggested that "every word the chancellor is speaking to the hosts concerning EU and NATO affairs is meant for Russian President Vladimir Putin." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine" pointed out that "Ten years passed before any German chancellor dared to arrive here, 10 years after restoration of Latvia's independence during which Germany gladly called itself an 'advocate of the Baltics,' but lacked the courage to act like an advocate." The "Frankfurter Rundschau" complained that Schroeder had acknowledged the "historic debt" placed on Germany a special responsibility for reintegration of the Baltic states in European structures, but it noted that he did not touch on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which allowed Stalin to occupy the Baltic countries. Munich's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" sounded a more positive note saying that the clear message of the chancellor's visit about the Baltic states belonging in Europe had also been "a signal to the Russians who are still keen on delaying Baltic integration into the West."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder struck a tougher line of support for the Baltics in Vilnius than he had in Tallinn. In the Lithuanian capital, the chancellor said that Germany's duty to back the EU candidacy of the three Baltic countries comes from the fact that Germany and the rest of Europe had "abandoned Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia after World War II," Reuters, ELTA, and BNS reported on 7 June. Schroeder also said, "We understand Lithuania's need for security, therefore, we believe that the alliance should be open to Lithuania." Schroeder added, "We share a common history, which was not always smooth, and Germany is partly responsible for that."

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen met with his Nordic and Baltic counterparts in Vilnius to discuss regional security issues, Reuters, UPI and BNS reported 10 June. Pentagon spokesperson Ken Bacon said that all nine ministers present had agreed that keeping Russia engaged with the alliance as well as with the Baltic and Nordic states must remain a top priority. Cohen argued that combined exercises with Russia in the region would help to "build a sense of mutual confidence." A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting noted the progress made by the Baltic defense forces in meeting NATO standards and participating in joint missions for the alliance. After meeting with Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus, Cohen said that "Russia does not have a veto over NATO decisions."

* At a separate meeting during a session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Brussels 8 June, officials from the nine NATO candidates decided to meet in Sofia, Bulgaria in October. Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia signed the Vilnius declaration in May calling on NATO to admit all of them at once in 2002. The defense ministers of these candidates will discuss the progress made in restructuring their armed forces, NATO's defense concept, and the NATO Integration Program.

* Moscow's "Kommersant" suggested on 9 June that Germany is not keen on the Baltic states entry into NATO despite Chancellor Schroeder's statements to the contrary during his recent Baltic tour. The daily said that his "reluctance to speak about the alliance is generally taken as confirmation of whispers that major members of NATO have taken a course that passes the Baltic states by." "Kommersant" also observed that "sources at the British Foreign Office had told the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS that good relations with Moscow were more important for Brussels than the admission of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into NATO."

* Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar on 9 June that Turkey will do everything it can for NATO's enlargement to continue in the near future, BNS reported. Cem was concluding a visit to all three Baltic countries where he also said that Turkey strongly supports membership for Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as soon as possible.

Tallinn City Council member Sergei Ivanov told BNS and "Eesti Paeveleht" on 6 June that Baltic Russian politicians from several parties will found a new centrist party on 18 June called the Russian Baltic Party in Estonia. Ivanov said the party will remain free of foreign influences either from Russia or the West. While addressing the problems of non-Estonians' citizenship, language skills, and integration, the party wants to help solve the problems facing Estonia's economic and social life. Ivanov said, "in Estonia there needs to be a normal, Estonia-centered democratic party that also deals with solving problems of non-Estonians."

Gerhard Schroeder stopped in Tallinn on 5-6 June to start his Baltic tour. Affirming that Estonia has made "good progress" en route to EU membership and saying that Estonia was a good place to invest, Schroeder said, "after what I saw here I firmly hope that Estonia will stick to its former reform speed and will be one of the first countries to join the European Union," ETA reported. Schroeder also said that he "followed with great respect Estonia's achievements in integrating" its Russia-speaking population, calling it a "big humanitarian achievement for a country whose culture and language have been in jeopardy for centuries." Schroeder met with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Laar, and a host of other government and parliamentary officials.

Ending months of confusion, President Lennart Meri on 7 June accepted the Bank of Estonia's supervisory council and reappointed former Central Bank Governor Vahur Kraft to the post, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Kraft, whose original term expired in April, was chosen by the central bank's governing board to head the bank in a third election in early June. Kraft lost the first election to statistics professor Vello Vensel, who later refused to take the post citing poor health. A second nominee, Mart Opmann was rejected by Meri.

Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 8 June told the parliament that he welcomed its efforts to move toward harmonizing Estonian legislation with EU demands. "I have the pleasure of pointing out that we have been able to improve our position a little in the four months," Ilves aid, noting that Estonia will be ready for membership by 2003, BNS reported. Ilves also said that Estonia must take part in the proposed European rapid-reaction force: "Estonia wants to have a say in the shaping of the European security and defense policy principles right from the start." On the eve of a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Ilves also said that Estonia "cannot postpone further" the opening of an embassy in Ankara.

* The parliament's finance committee approved a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on heating rather than the 18 percent recommended by the government. If the parliament adopts the lower VAT, the Finance Ministry estimates there will be a 100 million kroon ($6.1 million) shortfall in the government's budget that will have to be addressed either by spending cutbacks or increases in other taxes, ETA reported. A vote is expected 13 June.

* The Estonian parliament on 6 June extended the stay of Estonian peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina under NATO auspices for one additional year, BNS reported. Estonia began contributing to the NATO effort in 1996 and the present contingent of 75 Estonian peacekeepers arrived in Bosnia in March, serving under a joint Danish-Polish battalion.

* Foreign ministers of the fast-track EU candidates--the so-called Luxembourg group which includes Estonia--met in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 5 June to discuss cooperative efforts on enlargement.

* More than $40 million of $64 million have vanished from the bank account of North Estonian Bank in Vneshekonombank in Russia, ETA reported 8 June. The funds were frozen by the Russian government in 1992. The Riigikogu founded a state-owned VEB Foundation in 1992 to administer the frozen assets. The Central Bank's council will discuss the alleged withdrawals from the frozen VEB accounts next week.

* Estonian Internet firm Delfi opened the first WAP (wireless application protocol) portal in Lithuania that enables mobile phones to access and search information on the Internet, ETA reported 8 June. A Delfi WAP portal will be available in Latvia in the near future and in Estonia in the fall.

* A total of 3.1 million tourists visited Estonia in 1999, accounting for 15 percent of GDP, ETA reported on 6 June. Daisy Jarva, president of the Travel Agencies Association, said that the government has been too passive in promoting tourism, and that it should take steps to promote conference tourism to attract wealthy businessmen to Estonia.

Sergei Karaganov, the influential head of the Russian Foreign and Defense Policy Council, told a 5 June conference in Jurmala titled "Latvia-Russia in a United Europe in the 21st Century" that bilateral issues must be discussed openly so a relationship can be built into a partnership, BNS reported. Karaganov emphasized the need for a change in the current situation where Latvia has moved away from Russia and Russia has displayed an "imperial attitude" towards Latvia. He added that Latvian membership in NATO could lead to a reduction in Russian transit traffic. But Russian Duma member Aleksei Arbatov condemned Latvia's NATO aspirations in stronger terms, saying that if Latvia joins NATO, Russia will help develop a 300,000-strong Belarusian army, LETA added.

Gerhard Schroeder arrived in Riga from Tallinn on 6 June. After meeting with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Schroeder reaffirmed that "there is no question" about Germany's support for Latvia's EU aspirations, BNS reported. Schroeder also emphasized the need to improve economic links and to increase German investments in Latvia. Germany ranks third in investments in Latvia and since 1998 is Latvia's largest trading partner. Germany will continue cooperating with Latvian police in combating organized crime and terrorism, the chancellor said. Schroeder called Vike-Freiberga, with whom he spoke in German, a far-sighted leader.

In the ongoing Banka Baltija trial in the Riga Regional Court on 7 June, a Bank of Latvia report was read on the negative impact of the bank's collapse during the country's 1996 banking crisis, LETA reported. The report concludes that closing the bank, Latvia's largest commercial bank damaged trust in the Latvian monetary system, created foreign capital flight, shrank the domestic banking sector, and negatively affected 1.8 million residents of Latvia. The report said that the now defunct bank had provided false information on its financial condition and investments in other banks. It also failed to provide the Bank of Latvia names of the bank's shareholders and loans issued to shareholders. The report also concludes that the Latvian government had no opportunity to take on the 204 million lats ($326.5 million) in liabilities that Baltija Bank was unable to fulfill.

* A general meeting of the Latvian Constitutional Court justices elected Aivars Endzins as Constitutional Court chairman on 8 June, BNS and LETA reported. Endzins had served as acting chairman. The Constitutional Court came into existence in 1997, but until 11 May 2000 lacked a seventh justice to allow it to fully function. On the day, the parliament elected university lecturer Juris Jelagins as the seventh justice.

* United States war crimes investigation experts met on 9 June with the Latvian Prosecutor General's office to discuss the criminal cases against Arajs kommando members Konrads Kalejs and Karlis Ozols, BNS reported. As of May 2000 the prosecutor's office has checked on the wartime activities of 250 people who could be related to the two cases and questioned 101 possible witnesses, but no evidence has been found to press war crimes charges against Kalejs and Ozols.

* The Latvian Prosecutor-General's office has received a request from the Gypsy Culture Society for a criminal investigation against the Latvian Television news program "Panorama" for presenting a story about an alleged fraud committed by a Romany woman, BNS and LETA reported 9 June. The Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee has also voiced its concern over the news story. Article 78, part II of the Latvian Criminal Code allows for punishment of violations of ethnic and racial equality, and restriction of human rights. National Human Rights Office Director Olafs Bruveris said he did not see any indications of instigating ethnic hatred in the news story, rather it should be taken as a warning to people to be more careful if they seek the services of clairvoyants.

* Riga Housing Privatization Commission Chairman Janis Rupkus resigned on 7 June, LETA reported. Riga City Council Chairman Andris Argalis had assigned the city's financial department's review office to conduct an internal review of the housing commission. According to Argalis, the office found the same results as the auditing firm BDO Invest-Riga, which documented numerous violations of financial discipline and accounting regulations.

* The Riga City Council has created a commission of experts to decide about the form and appropriate location for the nearly completed monument to repressed persons, BNS reported on 8 June. The council had received heaps of letters protesting the design of a monument by sculptor Pauls Jaunzems and architect Juris Poga.

* A poll released by SKDS on 6 June indicates that nearly one-half of respondents believe Latvia's economic well-being is mainly dependent on Russia, LETA reported. Some 14.4 percent of respondents fully agreed with that notion, while 35.3 percent agreed somewhat. A majority of Riga residents (54.4 percent) agreed with the question, while over three-quarters (75.9 percent) of non-citizens also agreed with the query.

* The Riga City Council on 9 June rejected an application by the National Bolsheviks from the organization Uzvara (Victory) to march from the Freedom Monument to the Red Riflemen Monument in Riga on 16 June in protest against Lattelekom (Latvian Telephone) raising its rates. The march route was denied because it would have gone through residential neighborhoods. The council has offered the organization an alternative route.

* Stricter laws on alcohol sales have been approved by the Saeima State Administration and Local Government Commission and are awaiting action by the full Saeima, LETA reported 7 June. Riga City Council chairman Andris Argalis has been calling for more regulation of retail alcohol sales both in Riga and throughout Latvia. Argalis told Latvian State Radio on 8 June, "Alcohol must be available, but not as readily as it is now." The mayor believes that the sale and use of alcohol by the people is "out of hand," LETA reported.

The Regional Air Surveillance Coordination Center (RASCC) of the joint Baltic air space surveillance system BALTNET was opened at the Karmelava airport outside of Kaunas on 6 June, ELTA and BNS reported. The regional air space initiative was launched in Eastern and Central Europe in 1995 to improve and coordinate air space surveillance for both commercial and military aircraft. The U.S. government agreed to include the Baltic countries in 1997 and provided $10.5 million for a regional radar center in Lithuania and supplementary radar stations in Estonia and Latvia. Lithuania allocated 5.2 million litas ($1.3 million) for equipment at the center and additional funding and personnel training was provided by Norway and Denmark.

The Lithuanian parliament on 6 June passed a resolution calling for restitution from Moscow of funds seized from private individuals during the Soviet occupation, BNS reported. The resolution, which passed by a 55-2 margin, called on the government to "approach the Russian Federation, as the inheritor of the rights and obligations of the former USSR, and demand repayment of the funds confiscated by the Soviet occupation regime and as well as the Lithuanian citizens' deposits left in the USSR Central Savings Bank." Another restitution resolution on damages from the Soviet occupation, drafted by Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, is pending in the parliament as well.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder finished his Baltic tour in Vilnius on the afternoon of 7 June, ELTA and BNS reported. Schroeder reaffirmed Germany's support of EU and NATO enlargement, and called for improving bilateral ties, noting that "we share a common history, which was not always smooth, and Germany is partly responsible for that." Lithuanian Parliamentary Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis told Schroeder that it was unacceptable for Russia to mediate the issue of German compensation payments for Lithuanians who suffered under Nazi rule, which German law now specifies. Landsbergis equated the current German mechanism using Moscow as an intermediary as validating the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of World War II. The Lithuanian parliament on 8 June unanimously adopted two resolutions, one commending the German government for its willingness to undo the harm done to people by providing compensation payments, and another one stipulating that only corresponding Lithuanian and German institutions should deal with the compensations.

A medical commission on 7 June approved restarting the trial against accused Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, Reuters reported. The trial against the 92-year old defendant, charged with committing war-time atrocities against Jews and other Nazi prisoners, is now set to begin on 21 June, according to the presiding judge. The trial process began again in April following the passage of a law on trials without the presence of the defendant (who is allowed to monitor via closed-circuit monitor), though it was immediately halted pending defense motions for medical competency tests. The case against another accused Nazi war criminal, Kazys Gimzauskas, remains suspended because the defendant is hospitalized.

* Lithuania and Russia have agreed to a more open exchange of military information, BNS reported on 7 June. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry officials confirmed that they received confirmation from Russia that the Russian government accepts Lithuania's earlier proposal for Vilnius to send a military inspection team to the Kaliningrad region this year and for a Russian team to be sent to Lithuania. According to the note, Russia agrees to exchange information about armed forces in the Kaliningrad region and Lithuanian territory within the framework of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), but irrespective of the quotas stipulated in the convention. Lithuania is not a signatory of the CFE treaty.

* Lithuania's parliamentary ombudsman, Leonarda Kuodiene, called for wider powers to investigate complaints about the actions of Interior Ministry officials. Kuodiene told a news conference on 7 June that the ombudsman's office had investigated 1,840 complaints between February 1999 and February 2000 and found 54 percent of the complaints to be valid. The largest number of complaints were filed against officials responsible for the restoration of ownership rights and officials of the Interior Ministry. About one-third of the complaints are against judges, which her office has no authority to investigate. Kuodiene said that the residents of the cities of Kaunas, Siauliai, Silute, and Vilnius file the most complaints about the violence of police officers.

* Teachers of the Rokiskis school district ended their strike on 5 June after an agreement was reached with local government officials to pay the full amount of overdue salaries to the teachers, ELTA reported. Classes had been canceled for over 4,000 children for almost two weeks. The municipality will receive an interest-free loan from the Finance Ministry to cover the back salaries.

* A two-week joint training session of the 7th Dragoon Defense Battalion based in Klaipeda and 20 U.S. Navy seals and their instructors began in Klaipeda on 6 June, BNS reported. The Lithuanian units will drill with diving equipment that meets NATO standards, as well as two high-speed cutters adapted for the needs of special assault operations.

* The Lithuanian army has launched a campaign against suicide committed by servicemen drafted for compulsory military service, ITAR-TASS reported 5 June. In 1999, two suicides and 20 failed attempts were registered in the Lithuanian defense forces. This year the Kaunas School for Non-Commissioned Officers initiated a new subject on a soldier's psychology which teaches sargeants and officers the symptoms of depression. More psychologists have also been put on the staff of the Lithuanian army's medical corps.

* Deputy Minister of Agriculture Albinas Raudonius told BNS on 8 June that the process of restoring land ownership is picking up speed in Lithuania. By October, maps of surveyed land in each region of Lithuania will be completed. He said that 2.76 million hectares of land had been returned to its rightful owners. A proposal to allow foreigners to buy agricultural land is pending in the Lithuanian Parliament.

* Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas was reappointed to oversee the fall parliamentary elections by the Lithuanian Parliament on 8 June, BNS reported. Based on the results of that election, the composition of the Central Electoral Commission will change in line with the party results of the October elections.

* The annual Lithuanian Biker's Convention was held in Kaunas on 10 June, ELTA reported. Some 1,000 participants paraded on their motorcycles down the city's streets, led by the Azuolynas marching band, to Vaiku Globos Namai, an orphanage. The children competed in a drawing contest and were treated to rides on the motorcycles. The bikers presented the orphanage with a donation of equipment. Later in the day, the bikers proceeded to the Pazaislio park for an all-night rock concert by some of Lithuania's leading rock bands.

U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission Communique

Today in Tallinn, on June 7, 2000, we reaffirm our common vision of a Europe whole and free and our goal jointly to create conditions to complete the integration of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into European and transatlantic political, economic, security, and defense institutions, as well as to enhance democracy, prosperity, and security for all states in the Baltic Sea region.

* We welcome the progress made by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in integrating into European, transatlantic and international structures, and especially the decision of the EU summit in Helsinki to invite Latvia and Lithuania to begin accession negotiations with the European Union.

* We applaud the successful accession of Estonia to the World Trade Organization, Latvia's active role in it, and we reaffirm our strong support for Lithuania's accession to that body.

* The United States welcomes the progress made by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in preparing their candidacies for NATO membership, including the first cycle of MAP. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania reiterate their determination to use MAP to the fullest in the development and implementation of their Annual National Programs in preparation for NATO's review of further enlargement at its next summit, to be held not later than 2002.

* The Partners underscore the significance of the inclusive spirit of cooperation, solidarity, and commitment to the creation of a Europe whole and free as expressed by NATO aspirant countries in Vilnius on May 19, 2000. The United States believes this visionary declaration demonstrates the understanding of aspirants that NATO is a community of shared values, and underscores their commitment to work with all European democracies to advance security for the entire trans-Atlantic community.

* The United States welcomes the progress made by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in approaching the goal of raising their defense budgets to 2 percent of their GDP.

* We welcome growing cooperation among the Baltic States in the area of defense, particularly the establishment of the National Air Surveillance Centers in Estonia and Latvia, the Regional Air Surveillance Center (RASC) in Lithuania, and the Whole Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET). The Baltic Partners expressed their appreciation for the active assistance of the United States in the launching of the BALTNET project.

* The United States welcomes the practical contribution by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to European stability, in particular through participation in NATO-led peace operations, SFOR and KFOR. It also welcomes the decision by Estonia to move voluntarily from UN Peacekeeping assessment Category C to Category B, which illustrates their increased willingness to take on additional responsibility to serve peace and stability worldwide. The United States appreciates intentions of Latvia and Lithuania to consider to increase their contributions.

* The Baltic Partners welcome the resumption of NATO-Russia cooperation and consultation in the framework of the Permanent Joint Council, including the NATO-Russia work plan.

* The United States welcomes important steps by the governments of Estonia and Latvia to advance the integration of minorities including the adoption of national integration programs.

* The partners welcome the increase in mutual trade and investments including the expanded Government-Business Dialogue and in particular the conclusion of strategic U.S. investment in the Lithuanian energy sector.

* The partners welcome the expansion of regional cooperative activities under the U.S. Northern Europe Initiative, including the Tuberculosis Center in Latvia, Lithuanian-Kaliningrad training programs, successful Latvian-U.S. scientific cooperation on the conversion of former military bases, environmental cooperation, the recent organized crime conference in Tallinn, and a regional HIV/AIDS strategy.

* The partners welcome progress on economic issues, including implementing avoidance of double taxation treaties, the positive outcome of the May 2000 EBRD meeting in Riga, and the closer cooperation between major regional energy companies aimed at developing a strong, consolidated Baltic energy sector.

We agree to pursue the following areas of cooperation for the coming year.

* The Baltic partners will intensify cooperation amongst themselves as well as with other NATO aspirant countries to become the strongest candidates possible for NATO membership.

* The partners commit themselves to strengthening the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and [NATO's] Partnership for Peace (PfP) to enhance cooperation, transparency, and confidence among all the members of the EAPC.

* The United States reaffirms its commitment that NATO's door remains open, no country will be excluded from consideration by reason of geography, and that it is determined to work with the Baltic states through bilateral support and practical assistance to create the conditions under which Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia can walk through that door.

* The United States looks forward to working closely with Baltic Partners to update their 1998 Defense Assessments.

* The partners agree to continue to promote cooperation in the fields of energy, biotechnology, laser technology and science, in particular in information technology and research and development.

* The partners agree to increase cooperation among export control authorities of the United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The United States will review its export control policies toward Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to ensure that access to technology is not unnecessarily restricted.

* The partners will continue their efforts to reduce trade barriers among their countries. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania reaffirm their strong support for increased direct investment from the United States and will continue working to create the best possible climate for increased trade and investment.

* The partners will further promote the newly re-energized Business-Government Dialogue conducted in conjunction with the Economic and Business Working Groups.

* The partners agree on the importance of the social integration of persons belonging to minorities and commit themselves to work together to implement legislation, integration policies, and programs to further that goal.

* The United States welcomes the progress in redressing the injustices of the historic past, including through the active work of the historians' commissions, education, restitution, and bringing to justice accused war criminals, regardless of ideology. The Baltic partners reaffirm that their countries will continue the work in this field, and the United States renews its willingness to help in dealing with these issues.

* The partners express their commitment to further advance regional cooperation, including with the Russian Federation, in the frameworks of the U.S. Northern European Initiative (NEI), the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS), and the European Union's Northern Dimension. The Baltic partners welcome the active role of the United States as an observer in the CBSS and especially its participation in the organization's work in the fields of education, nuclear safety, and the fight against organized crime. The partners express their support to Lithuania's efforts to involve the Kaliningrad region in active regional cooperation.

We express our appreciation to the government of Estonia for hosting this meeting. We will convene the next U.S. Baltic Partnership Commission in 2001 in Lithuania.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, minister of foreign affairs of Estonia

Maris Riekstins, state secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia

Vygaudas Usackas, vice minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania

Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state of the United States of America