• 2004-11-25
Unofficial reports suggest that Brussels has decided on the sequence of the rotating EU presidency, with Lithuania presiding over the organization in 2013 - 2014 in the same group as Ireland and Greece. Sources said this week that Lithuania would be the first Baltic state to hold the EU presidency, while Latvia would most likely share the position with Italy and Luxembourg at a later date and Estonia with Bulgaria and Great Britain. The official arrangement is scheduled for approval next week, and the decision will be later discussed at the Council of Ministers. The new order is stipulated in the EU Constitutional Treaty, which, although signed in Rome last month, has yet to be ratified by all 25 members. Three EU members will together preside over the organization for a period of 18 months starting Jan. 1, 2007.

The current delay in forming Latvia's new government could delay the country's accession to the EU Exchange Rate Mechanism II, a precondition for the introduction of the euro, Bank of Latvia's president said this week. Ilmars Rimsevics stressed that it would be best for Latvia to join the ERM II at the start of 2005, as previously intended. But in order for this to happen, a new government must be approved by the end of the year so that the move can be approved by the European Commission. Rimsevics said that Latvia should listen to the recommendations for cutting the budget deficit, which is unacceptably high considering the country's rapid development and high inflation.

State subsidies allocated to Lithuanian companies by public authorities in 2000-2003, at a meager 0.24 percent of GDP, were among the least generous of EU member states and candidate countries, the European Commission stated in a 2000-2003 review. According to the report, public authorities allocated the largest state subsidies for companies in Malta and Cyprus, at 3.86 percent and 2.85 percent of GDP respectively. The least generous country was Estonia, which allocated state subsidies at 0.11 percent GDP. In 2000-2003, state assistance in the EU-15 averaged at 0.39 percent of GDP, while assistance for then-candidate countries made up 1.42 percent of GDP on average.

Andris Piebalgs, the EU's energy commissioner, said he would first tackle the sector's toughest issue - the EU's common energy market - as well as the problem surrounding fuel prices. The Latvian also stated that he would cooperate especially with the European commissioners for transport, economy and foreign affairs. Piebalgs said on Nov. 19 that the common-energymarket issue is especially important because even though the EU-level regulation took effect on July 1, it must still be ratified by 18 member states.

Meanwhile, Piebalgs hopes to solve the problem of growing fuel prices through negotiations with Russia and the OPEC oil-exporting cartel. "We must activate a dialogue with Russia and, considering the possibility of failure in such talks, activate negotiations with OPEC countries as well," said the commissioner.