10 July 2000, Volume 1, Number 24
REGIONALBALTIC ASSEMBLY TO DISCUSS COMPENSATION CLAIMS.
Estonian MP Trivimi Velliste, head of Estonia's Baltic Assembly delegation, told BNS on June 29 that the Baltic countries were fully justified in filing claims against Moscow for damages during the Soviet occupation. He suggested that the Baltic Assembly would be the most appropriate vehicle for making such claims and said that the issue should be on the agenda of the next Baltic Assembly meeting in December. Two weeks ago, the three Baltic prime ministers said that such claims against Russia were justified and welcomed the Lithuanian parliament's recent law to open talks with Russia over such claims.
* Georgia wants to send its military officers for training at the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, BNS reported on 30 June. The Estonian Defense Ministry said that Georgia is also seeking information about BALTBAT as a possible model for military cooperation with its neighbors.
* The cost of borrowing money has fallen -- from April 1999 to April 2000 -- in all three Baltic countries, LETA reported on 30 June. In Latvia, the long-term rate currently is 11.1 percent and the short-term rate 10.6 percent; last year, the comparable figures were 14.6 percent and 15.8 percent. In Estonia, the long-term loan rate now is 10.6 percent, while the short-term rate is 7.4 percent, as compared to 11.2 percent and 12.9 percent last year. Rates remain highest in Lithuania, where both the long-term loan rate and short-term rate is 12.8 percent, as compared to 13.3 percent and 12.4 percent a year earlier.
ESTONIATALLINN, NRG AGREE TO PRIVATIZATION DEAL.
After four years of talks, the Estonian government on 27 June agreed to sell 49 percent of the country's major power plants, Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Stations), to U.S.-based NRG Energy for $54.5 million, AP and ETA reported. The state-owned utility, Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy), retains majority control of the plants, but the government insisted that NRG assume a greater degree of the market risk. NRG will invest an additional $361 million in the power plants and the oil shale mines which are also part of the privatization deal. The agreement also sets restrictions on the number of jobs which can be cut. Moreover, NRG will also contribute $5 million to the social fund in Ida-Virumaa county over the next five years.
ESTONIAN-LATVIAN ENERGY MONOPOLIES' MERGER PLANS.
A joint working group analyzing proposals for the merger of Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) and Latvenergo (Latvian Energy) presented a "cooperation plan" on 30 June, ETA reported. The plan calls for a new competitive regional company to be created using Estonia's oil shale generated electricity and Latvia's hydroelectric power. The plan claimed the synergy of the merger would reduce investment needs by 20 percent. Estonian Economics Minister Mikhel Parnoja said the sale of 49 percent of Estonia's largest power stations to the U.S. company NRG will not affect plans for the merger of the two national energy utilities, nor will it affect the possible division of shares in the new regional company. But Ojars Kehris, council chairman of Latvenergo, told LETA on 29 June that the privatization of the Estonian power stations could reduce the value of the Eesti Energia.
MERI ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF ARMY CHIEF.
Estonian President Lennart Meri accepted the resignation of Lieutenant-General Johannes Kert the day before he was to resume his position as commander of the Estonian defense forces, Reuters and ETA reported on 30 June. Kert recently returned from a year of military studies in the United States and was on a two week vacation when Meri asked him to return to Tallinn. A statement from the President's office late Friday said that the chief of the general staff, Lt. Col. Aarne Ermus, has been appointed acting commander. Kert's resignation ended weeks-long speculation in the Estonian press that President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Laar and Defense Minister Juri Luik wanted Kert to become chief of staff of the army and keep Col. Mart Tiru as commander of the defense forces, a post he has filled since January 2000. BNS reported on 30 June that Kert was released at his own request into the reserves and will work in a commission that deals with staff reorganization in the defense forces. Writing in "Postimees," former Justice Minister Paul Varul criticized Meri's dismissal of Kert, arguing that under the law on defense forces, the commander of forces is appointed and released by the parliament at the president's proposal, and a military officer can only be released into reserve by the commander of the defense forces. The parliament is in recess until fall.
* The Estonian government adopted the regulations implementing the country's new pension system on 27 June, ETA and BNS reported. The new system makes the so-called second pillar voluntary for employees. The current state sponsored pension system requires the employer to pay 20 percent of the worker's wages to the system. To finance the second pillar of pension insurance, employers will pay only 16 percent of the social security tax to finance the first pillar and four percent to the second pillar. The employee will then pay an additional two percent of wages to the second pillar. This second pillar of pension reform will be launched from January 1, 2002.
* The Estonian Energy Market Inspectorate on 29 June approved a new pricing structure based on actual costs which ends the subsidization of small clients by large consumers. Eesti Energia spokeswoman Kai Saar told ETA on 30 June that the typical price increase for private users will be an average of 22 cents per kWh. Prices for large consumers will fall. At present there are two electricity distributors and four large industries which buy up to 13.4 percent of all the electricity sold in the domestic market who will benefit by this decrease. Prices for companies that use medium voltage will increase by 10 percent and those which use low voltage will pay five percent more.
* An Estonian county court found Karl-Leonhard Paulov, 76, a former agent of the Soviet NKVD secret police, guilty of crimes against humanity for a second time and sentenced him to eight years in prison, AP and Reuters reported on 29 June. In this trial, Paulov was charged with killing three forest brothers (partisans) in 1945-1946. An appeals court in October had upheld the conviction but suspended the eight year sentence "because so much time had passed" since the murders, BNS reported. The Supreme Court of Estonia had ordered a new trial for the former security agent who has cancer.
* A surprise court ruling on 26 June sent confusion in Estonia's banking sector as a Tallinn city court ruled that the 1998 merger of the then-two largest banks -- Hansapank and Hoiupank -- was not proper, ETA reported. The court ruled that the Hoiupank general shareholders' meeting that approved the incorporation into Hansapank was not valid because of a missing party. The decision is expected to be appealed.
* Head of the Liberal Democratic Reformist faction at PACE, Estonian parliament member Kristiina Ojuland, heavily criticized the Russian Duma for preventing its members' travels to Strasbourg for a PACE debate on Chechnya. Calling the act "unlawful," Ojuland said that the Duma's decision also impedes a "legal and lawful" solution to the situation in Chechnya, BNS reported. Two Duma deputies from the Yabloko faction -- Aleksandr Shishlov and Sergei Ivanenko � came to PACE using their own funds and also expressed their anger at the Duma withholding travel funds for the delegation.
* A power struggle among Russian-speaking politicians in Tallinn has flared into a scandal, BNS reported on 28 June. Igor Pisarev, a member of the People's Trust faction in the Tallinn City Council claimed that the faction would distance itself from its leader Sergei Ivanov, even recalling him and all appointees of the city government who had Ivanov's recommendation. Pisarev repeated the charges made by the business paper "Delovyie Vedomosti" against Sergei Chernov -- a former ethnic relations advisor for the City of Tallinn -- that Chernov was a heroine addict spending nearly 50,000 kroons ($3010) for drugs per month. The same day, Viktor Lanberg, spokesman for the People's Trust said that Pisarev had no right to speak for the faction and that Pisarev had voiced no objections to the appointments when they were made on December 18.
* The City of Tallinn opened a privatization bid for 50.4 percent of its water utility, Tallina Vesi (Tallinn Water) on 26 June, BNS and ETA reported. The city hopes to earn 850 million kroons ($34.9 million) from the sale of shares with a face value of 1,000 kroons.
* The Estonian News Agency, ETA, has been reorganized as ETA Interactive and its management hopes to break even by the fall, BNS reported 28 June. The news agency had posted losses of 10.1 million kroons ($610,000) on sales of 5.9 million kroons for 1999.
* A group of Estonian business associations has appealed to the parliament and the government for tougher punishments for those making bomb threats, BNS and ETA reported on 28 June. The appeal read "A series of bomb threats against the Stockmann department store, the Piria Selver supermarket and the Viru Hotel have exhausted the employees patience." The groups say that unless vigorous steps are taken to combat the bomb threats, Estonia will lose its reputation as a relatively safe country.
* In this year's annual Human Development Report from the United Nations, Estonia was listed in 46th place -- the last country listed in the category of "high human development." Estonia rose from 54th in 1999 and 78th in 1998. Much of this improved ranking reflects the rise in GDP, but the country's rating is held by social indicators, such as life expectancy for men (63.8 years), high ratio of divorces to marriage (102 divorces for each 100 marriage), and crime, BNS reported.
LATVIALATVIAN FIRST QUARTER GDP UP SHARPLY.
The Statistical Office on 27 June announced that Latvia's GDP in the first quarter of 2000 grew by 5.3 percent compared to the same period in 1999, BNS reported. As reported earlier, the Latvian economy grew only 0.1 percent in 1999. LETA reported that non-residents have invested 38.8 million lats ($62.4 million) through direct foreign investments in Latvia in the first quarter of this year, mainly by reinvesting profits from previous years. The Bank of Latvia, however, said that the negative current account balance remains a concern, totaling 37.7 million lats for the first quarter, or 4 percent of GDP, LETA reported on 30 June.
LATVIAN PRESIDENT LINKS BERLIN EMBASSY WITH HISTORY.
In the official opening ceremony of the Latvian Embassy in Berlin on 29 June, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga linked the loss of Latvia's embassy in Berlin with the loss of Latvia's independence. "It was the beginning of tragic events when the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact split Europe, using the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain as a borderline, and it meant Latvia's incorporation into the Soviet Union," Vike-Freiberga said, BNS reported. She continued, "Germany, which used to be split in two, has become whole now and we stand before a renovated embassy in the renovated German capital in renovated and united Germany in renovated and united Europe."
DRAFT DEFENSE BUDGET ENDANGERS LATVIA'S NATO PLANS.
Latvia's executive secretary for NATO integration, Adm. Gaidis Zeibots, told BNS on 29 June that Latvia would have to delay submitting its next membership action plan (MAP) to NATO due in September because the government's 2001 draft budget does not include a spending increase for defense and proposes a cut in spending in 2002. Previous MAPs were based on the assumption that Latvia would be spending 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense in 2001 and 2 percent in 2002. Zeibots said that the 4-year and 12-year development plans for the military are also endangered because they were based on the higher spending projections. Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis said it would be impossible to raise the country's military capabilities under the draft budget. Finance Minister Gundars Berzins defended the budget, saying it was calculated according to NATO methodology which allows non-military security agencies to be counted within the defense figures.
LATVIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS BALANCE SHEET FOR USSR OCCUPATION.
In a press conference on 28 June, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga suggested the compilation of a "balance of losses" sustained by the country during the nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation, LETA reported. The president said that it would demonstrate to the world the damage caused by the Soviet Union, but she stopped short of calling for compensation. "Russia has not recognized the fact of Latvia's occupation, therefore there is no hope for compensation for losses during the occupation," said Vike-Freiberga, adding that a compensation demand on the national level would damage Latvian-Russian relations significantly. A bill concerning such compensation demands was signed into law in Lithuania on 27 June.
* U.S. President Bill Clinton has urged Russia to cooperate with its neighbors, according to a letter the President sent to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Reuters reported on 27 June. Clinton was responding to concerns voiced by the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before his summit with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Clinton assured Vike-Freiberga that Putin understands that the U.S. expects Russia to get along with its neighbors. Clinton also praised the work of the U.S.-Baltic partnership commission.
* Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has received a letter from U.S. presidential candidate George W. Bush in which the Texas governor voiced great satisfaction over the close cooperation between the State of Texas and Latvia, BNS and LETA reported on 28 June. The cities of Dallas, TX and Riga, Latvia have a decade-long sister city relationship. Bush also expressed the desire to meet with Vike-Freiberga in the near future.
* Opposition leaders said they have collected enough signatures to stop, or at least force a referendum on, the proposed privatization of Latvia's state-owned electric utility, Latvenergo, AP and LETA reported on 30 June. This was confirmed by Central Elections Commission chairman Arnis Cimdars in a Diena report on 3 July, who said that 292,002 signatures had been collected in support of amendments to the Law on Energy, which would keep Latvenergo as a unified, fully state-owned utility. A referendum would be needed if, as expected, the parliament rejects or changes the proposed amendments. Juris Bojars, chairman of the Latvian Social Democratic Alliance said the government's proposal to sell a 49 percent stake in Latvenergo's two thermo-power plants is unnecessary because "the plants are modernized and profitable. We don't even need a strategic investor, we can manage everything by ourselves." The utility reported profits of 9.7 million lats ($16.7 million) in 1999.
* Latvian MP Janis Urbanovics of the leftist alliance For Human Rights in Integrated Latvia (FHRIL) did not rule out the possibility that his parliamentary faction will call for civil disobedience if the draft regulations of the state language law are not changed, BNS and LETA reported on 27 June. Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka suggested that opponents of the draft regulations should submit specific proposals for changes "instead of calling people to the barricades."
* On 26 June Latvian prosecutors said that they will soon travel to Moscow to visit the KGB archives to look for evidence in the case of suspected Nazi war criminal Konrads Kalejs, AP reported. Speaking about the Kremlin authorities, Dzintra Subrovska, spokesperson for the Prosecutor General said "They invited us to see materials that have been pulled and sorted for us, but we can't say how helpful they will be until we see them."
* Director of Latvia's Drug Rehabilitation Center, Astrida Stirna, warned on 26 June that drug use among Latvia's youth is rising, LETA reported. Stirna said that while in 1995 only about 5 percent of Latvia's youth have used cannabis, the same figure in 1999 was 17 percent. Stirna also said that use of other narcotics also rose from 3 percent to 11 percent in the same period, though the number sniffing glue have decreased from 17 percent to 6 percent.
* The Prosecutor General brought charges against Astrida Svipsta, director of the Flandrija company, for organizing the murder of Latvian Privatization Agency department head Ilona Skadina, LETA reported on 30 June. The prosecutor's office had already charged four persons at the beginning of May with Skadina's murder, which took place as she was on her way to work the morning of 17 February in Pardaugava. There is speculation that Skadina was accepting bribes because more than 100,000 lats ($166,000) both in lats and foreign currency was found in her office safe.
* Latvia climbed 11 places in the annual UN Human Development Report, though the country was ranked only 63rd immediately after Russia, Malaysia and Bulgaria. Two years ago Latvia ranked 92nd, rising to 74th in 1999, BNS reported. The human development index is based on calculations of life expectancy, education and living standards.
* The State Real Estate Agency announced on 28 June that it will demolish the town around the former Soviet radar station at Skrunda, BNS reported, because the agency had not received any "noteworthy proposals" for further use of the town. The demolition of the town will cost about 1 million lats (($1.66 million).
* The 11th Latvian Song Festival took place in Toronto, Canada, from 30 June to 3 July. Along with Latvian Diaspora choirs and folk dance groups, the international award-winning Latvian women's choir Ausma participated led by conductor Janis Zirnis, LETA reported. The Nordic and Baltic Song Festival being held in Norway 27 June through 2 July is hosting 1,100 singers from 31 Latvian choirs.
LITHUANIALITHUANIA DENIES RUSSIAN REPORTS ABOUT SPY.
Lithuanian officials denied charges from Moscow that a Lithuanian agent, code-named "Student", passed intelligence he had collected against Russia to the CIA and Lithuania's intelligence service, Reuters, DPA and Itar-TASS reported on 27 June. The Lithuanian State Security Department said in a statement that "no subversive or hostile activities have been or are conducted with regard to the Russian Federation," BNS reported. Deputy director of the State Security Department Arvydas Pocius told ELTA that the suspect named by Moscow is a computer specialist who had in the past performed maintenance on the Department's computer network. Pocius added that the only accurate fact from the Russian report was that the man exists -- but the detention by Russian authorities could not be true, because he is not currently in Russia. Russia's FSB intelligence service on 26 June had said that it had apprehended and released a Lithuanian suspected of working with U.S. and Lithuanian intelligence services to hack into the computer system of the FSB, Reuters reported.
ALLEGED LITHUANIAN SPY NEVER DETAINED IN MOSCOW.
Pavel Ilyin, 24, said he is an "innocent victim" of a hoax perpetrated by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), AP and ELTA reported on 29 June. Ilyin said that he had never been arrested or detained by the FSB during the last few months as claimed by the FSB earlier in the week. Ilyin, who worked as a computer specialist for the Lithuanian Tax Inspectorate in Trakai until the end of May, said he left his job to become a private computer consultant. He had been to Kaliningrad in early June to buy some real estate and to vacation, and during that time he went drinking with some acquaintances who turned out to be FSB agents trying to recruit him. He said that he does not remember much about the evening because he felt ill and "too drunk" after just two cognacs. Ilyin told reporters that the Russian FSB had tried to recruit him on earlier occasions at meetings with Russians in Vilnius. He said he had already told the Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) about those encounters, and the VSD had asked him to inform them about any future meetings, but gave him no assigned tasks. Ilyin also reproached the media for publishing various inaccuracies about him and did not reject the possibility of filing lawsuits concerning the violation of his dignity and honor. Ilyin said that "this racket was a serious interference in my private life and spoiling my future career."
PRESIDENT'S OFFICE SUPPORTS CLAIMS ON RUSSIA.
Violeta Gaizauskaite, spokesperson for Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, said on 30 June that Russia's deputy foreign minister was misinterpreting "internal discussions" on foreign policy, and that the Lithuanian president supports compensation claims for damages during Soviet rule, BNS reported. Gaizauskaite was responding to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Sergeyev's comments while visiting Lithuania that the law on compensation "cannot be regarded as Lithuania's political decision because the president is in charge of foreign policy...and refused to sign the law." BNS and ELTA reported. Gaizauskaite said, "The utterance of the Russian deputy foreign minister seems strange to the head of Lithuania. The Lithuanian people expressed their opinion concerning the reimbursement of damages cause by Soviet rule in the referendum of June 14, 1992." This statement appears to reverse the Lithuanian president's earlier position on the law requiring the Lithuanian government to claim reparations against Russia for damages incurred during the USSR occupation of Lithuania. In a nationally televised speech on 23 June, Adamkus condemned the legislation which he believed would worsen relations with Russia, returning the law without his signature to the parliament on 26 June.
* Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Algimantas Rimkunas said that Lithuania's membership negotiations for the World Trade Organization are nearing an end, BNS reported on 26 June. Rimkunas claimed that all outstanding issues could be resolved "within the next two weeks." Lithuania is still holding talks with the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Rimkunas said that while the U.S. has shown "good will" during this last round of negotiations, Canada maintains "the strictest stance." Rimkunas is confident that Lithuania will get a higher limit for agriculture subsidies than its neighbors Latvia and Estonia did when they became WTO members last year.
* On 30 June, the Political Prisoners and Deportees Association, one of the largest political groups in Lithuania expressed its profound disappointment with President Valdas Adamkus for failing to sign the law on seeking compensation for damages under Soviet rule, BNS and the daily "Lietuvos Rytas" reported. The group's statement says that the President's failure to sign the law "dismisses the importance of the occupation and the damage it inflicted, and diminishes the country's sovereignty, prestige and reputation."
* The government announced on 30 June that the Center for the Investigation of the Lithuanian Population's Genocide and Resistance Movement will act as the counterpart body in Lithuania for residents seeking compensation from the German government for slave labor during World War II. A conference was held at the Center 30 June to exchange views on how best to collect claim applications and forward them to the German-established fund Memory, Responsibility and Future. The conference decided to accumulate a database on Nazi victims in Lithuania which would be kept by the center.
* The Lithuanian parliament on 28 June rejected an amendment sponsored by MP Jan Senkiewicz, a member of Polish Election Action political association, to exempt organizations of national minorities from the five percent threshold for national elections. ELTA reported that Senkiewicz threatened that this action by the Lithuanian parliament would "weaken the enthusiasm of the U.S. Polish Congress" to bolster Lithuania's NATO candidacy.
* The Lithuanian Statistics Department reported that the Lithuanian state has borrowed 14.67 billion litas ($3.66 billion) through 225 international loans as of 1 April, ELTA reported on 26 June. The share of the debt per capita is 2,821.2 litas ($705.30). The loans were allocated: 39.7 percent for investment projects, 38.9 percent for balancing the state treasury, 10.9 percent for the purchase of fuel and other energy resources, 4.7 percent for currency stabilization, 2.5 percent for municipalities, 2 percent for agriculture and 1.3 percent for small and medium-scale trade.
* Lithuanian farmers began a nation-wide strike on 29 June withholding milk from processing plants until the government restores a guaranteed price of 55 cents per liter for the highest quality milk, BNS and ELTA reported. Since the government liberalized the market, the price has dropped to as low as 40 cents per liter. Strike organizers, the Peasant's Party and the Farmers Union, claim that as of 1 July, 18 percent of the milk supply was being withheld. Several dozen large dairy farmers have refused to take part in the action because they are satisfied with their current contracts with the milk processors. The New Union (Social Liberals) and Democratic Labor Party both endorsed the strike.
* A Lithuanian court on 1 July said a medical commission had ruled that Kazys Gimzauskas, 92, another man being prosecuted for aiding the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War II, was mentally unfit to stand trial, Reuters and ELTA reported. The court will rule on 11 September how to proceed in the Gimzauskas trial which has been suspended since February 1999 when Gimzauskas was hospitalized. Meanwhile, the trial of 93-year old accused war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, which restarted on 23 June, was halted just 10 minutes into his testimony when attending physicians said Lileikis had to be rushed to the hospital. His is the first trial using video-conferencing equipment for testimony for defendants not able to appear to the courtroom, a new provision adopted in February of this year to revive stalled war crimes trials. The trial has been temporarily recessed while Lileikis is hospitalized.
* Central bank experts told ELTA on 29 June that the sharp drop in Lithuania's current account balance deficit is due to a spectacular growth in exports during the first quarter of 2000. The current account deficit stood at 278 million litas ($69.5 million) at the end of the first quarter. That is a 472.2 million litas ($118.05 million) or 62.9 percent less than last year (y/y). Exports rocketed up by 36.9 percent in the first quarter compared to last year--doubling to Latvia and Ukraine, and increasing 84.9 percent to the CEFTA countries of Central Europe, 14 percent to European Union states, and 11.6 percent to CIS members. Imports during the same period grew by 19.4 percent, but 97.3 percent of the imports were crude oil and other mineral products--a major portion delivered to the Mazeikiu oil refinery.
* The parliament adopted a new law to regulate lobbying on 27 June. Lobbying is defined as paid actions aimed at exerting "influence on adopting, amending, supplementing or invalidating legislation." It bans former politicians, civil servants, and employees from budgetary institutions as well as the central bank from working as lobbyists for one year after leaving their government positions. Lobbyists are to register with the chief commission for civil service ethics and their names are to be kept on a list published by the official government register, Valtstybes Zinios (Government News).
* The Justice Ministry has issued a warning to the university-based Principle Studies Association to stop its illegal activities by 15 August, ELTA reported on 28 June. The Justice Ministry said that the association is holding various events across the country to recruit young people and force them into membership in the Unification Church, although its by-laws say that its only objective is to "promote student activities in global peace efforts" and the "development of friendship and cooperation among students throughout the world." Because the association's statute excludes religious goals and fails to list contacts with the Unification Church, the association is in violation of its own registered by-laws and the Lithuanian law on public organizations.
* In 1999 the Lithuanian government spent 56.9 million litas ($14.2 million) to fund technological research which formed the bulk of yearly allocations for research in the country, ELTA reported on 27 June. The government also provided 41.9 million litas for environmental research and 27 million litas for medical research
* Lietuvos Dujos, the national gas distributor reported that as of mid-June consumers owed the company 83.9 million litas ($20.9 million) of which 10.8 million litas ($2.7 million) was for late fees and penalties. Over 50 percent of the amount is owed by Kauno Energija, a regional energy distributor.
* French company Dalkia announced on 29 June that it has decided to invest in the Kaunas city-owned, Kauno Energija (Kaunas Energy), BNS quoted "Lietuvos Rytas." A subsidiary of the French concern Vivendi, Dalkia said it wishes to lease the facilities for 10 to 20 years. Dalkia has since sent a confirmation to Kaunas municipal authorities. Originally Swedish energy giant Vattenfall hoped to lease the heating utility, but pulled out several months ago because the city government said it would not allow energy prices to be increased.
* Lithuania was placed at the 52nd position by the UN's 2000 Human Development Report, climbing ten spots from its ranking in 1999. President Valdas Adamkus said that such reports can be taken as a "solid source of advice," ELTA added.
* A Vilnius public transport users group has threatened retaliation against the city's public transport trade unions if they should call another strike to seek wage increases for the bus and trolley drivers, BNS reported 26 June. Jonas Burdulis speaking for the public transport passengers' group said that the trade unions would come to their senses when the "passengers are able to organize themselves as well" and retaliate with protest actions.
* A Lithuanian-American Business Council has been established with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, BNS reported on 30 June. Gary Litman, executive director of the US Chamber's Europe and Asia department, said that the council is evidence of the Chamber's companies and members to expand US-Lithuanian trade and investment ties.
* The U.S. Coast Guard informed the Lithuanian shipping company AB Klaipedos Transporto Laivynas (Klaipeda Shipping) that it had called off its search for the company's refrigerated cargo ship the MV Linkuva on 30 June, ELTA reported. The U.S. Coast Guard had renewed the search for possible survivors and the wreckage at the request of the Lithuanian government on 29 June but called it off one day later because only three fenders and two empty lifeboats had been detected in a 800 square mile search in calm seas. The ship had a crew of 18 when it was overtaken by Hurricane Carlotta in the Pacific Ocean 220 nautical miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico.