• 2004-05-27
Nail in the coffin
In his events organized in the Rokiskis and Birziai districts yesterday, impeached President Rolandas Paksas was just wasting words.
Paksas became the country's first political actor to lose his right to serve as a high-level politician because he trampled on laws, broke his oath, lied and made mischief with the people.
Speaking in images, Paksas collected all the stones he had for over half a year irresponsibly been casting at his political opponents, bishops of the Church, the people, intellectuals, the media, the Constitutional Court and generally at the Lithuanian state.
If Paksas had admitted the mistakes he made in a timely manner, if he had distanced himself from Yuri Borisov and other connections compromising to him and threatening to the state, if he only had listened to church leaders who were encouraging him to resign last Christmas, then today, quite possibly, he would have been able to preserve the possibility of remaining in politics, and perhaps even would have become the country's president once again.
It is possible to say today that the last nail in Paksas' political coffin was driven in by Social Democratic leader Algirdas Brazauskas. Brazauskas' resolution in convincing his party's MPs, among whom were more than 10 Paksas supporters, to find a legal means to block the road to the head of state to an impeached president allowed for the last-minute adoption of fateful amendments to the presidential election law.
Yesterday's Constitutional Court decision was a painful but necessary lesson. Not just for the impeached president. It was also a lesson to other politicians who would forget their oath to the state and who with their words and actions damage and destroy what has been done to fortify democracy and independence.
May 26

The kiss of Putin
Again an EU-Russia summit, again an Italian kisses Putin. In November at the Rome summit the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi pleased the Russian President with full support for his bloody politics in Chechnya. On Friday (May 21) President of the European Commission Romano Prodi was enraptured with his friend Vladimir, joining his stated concerns about the condition of the Russophone community in the Baltic states.
Many in Latvia hoped that after our accession to the EU and NATO Russia would understand and accept that the Baltic states have left their zone of influence, and we all would be able to take a breath and live a normal, peaceful life. Yet Russia has neither understood nor accepted anything. Russia has decided to make the Baltic states one of its fundamental questions in its relationship with the EU.
In the first place yelling about the Baltics helps turn attention away from those horrors that are taking place in Chechnya. During the press conference Putin himself raised the morally absurd parallel between the education reform and the mass graves, or as he called it, two "uncomfortable problems." "We speak about the problematic Chechnya, we also speak about those questions, that to my mind are not very comfortable for our colleagues, that is the violation of human rights in the Baltic states."
It would be naive to imagine that we could avoid these attacks in bilateral talks with Russia. The only hope is for effective work in the European Union, which will make Russia understand that such attacks on an EU member state will not bring positive results.
With accession to the EU we have not arrived at some eternally peaceful port where the most exciting foreign policy task is how to get the most possible funds out of Brussels. Russia is full of resolve to test how seriously we take our comembership in this organization. If we let ourselves be made into second class Europeans, then instead of a peaceful port it will turn out that we are again out in the open sea under heavy black clouds.
Pauls Raudseps
May 24

No need to exaggerate
Alcohol sale restrictions should not become ridiculous.
The bill of the new Law on Alcohol contains, among other restrictions, an idea to establish four alcohol-free days - Fathers' Day, Mothers' Day, Childrens' Protection Day [June 1] and Sept. 1 - when alcohol sale in shops nationwide would be banned.
Postimees considers that with those restrictions one has pushed the joke too far as the principle seems to be "if we ban something, let's ban everything and at once." An innovative ban is one thing, but its implementation is something completely different. It is impossible that nobody would drink at home on those days, so the ban would be merely declarative anyway.
What we do not need now are empty-worded declarations. A decrease in alcohol consumption and a solution to problems caused by liquor require concrete and effective steps, and above all, control over alcohol sales to underage persons and restrictions for alcohol sale at night - measures the bill does contain.
Postimees has repeatedly emphasized how important the proper execution of alcohol sales and advertising restrictions are. The police should have an opportunity to actively control illegal sales, and fines should be significant. Prevention and information campaigns would supplement that.
Filling the bill with baseless and hardly controllable bans may discredit the whole high-minded struggle. Setting senseless and uncontrollable bans takes us back to the Gorbachev times when, during the prohibition period, soft drink jugs were filled with a heady mixture of vodka and juice and formally everything was in order. The idea of setting alcohol-free days stands out as if the same hypocrisy.
It looks like political parties have easily given in to populist ideas before the elections without studying the options of how to control realization of those bans.
Pre-election populist hypertension will not improve the alcohol consumption situation. More analysis and control, fewer declarations!
May 22