• 2004-10-06
The designate European commissioner for transportation, Jaques Barrot, has promised to solve transit problems between new EU member states and Russia, adding that Russia's desire to join the WTO should be used to achieve certain goals. Latvian European Parliament member Roberts Zile spoke of the need to enforce shipping regulations on Russia in the Baltic Sea that would be the equivalent to those required of EU members.

According to Barrot, the bilateral transit problems between Russia and new EU external border countries, including Latvia, should be solved very soon. He further emphasized the importance of "placing Russia's wishes on one side and our needs on the other" in order to prevent Russia from freighting tankers in poor condition and supporting unequal airline requirements for flights across the country.

The European Commission proposed on Sept. 29 to earmark 815 million euros for financing the shutdown of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant between 2007 and 2013. Yet Lithuanian officials noted that the proposal was of an interim nature. "I believe that this might change in the course of negotiations. It is not a final decision,' said Arturas Dainius, INPP chairman and Economy Ministry secretary. Discussions over EU funds have begun only recently, he told the Baltic News Service, adding that final decisions on the INPP would not be adopted soon. "The decisions are subject to approval by other EU institutions as well," he pointed out. Dainius refused to say whether the proposed amount met the expectations of Lithuania's authorities.

The Finance Ministry recently announced that Lithuania's consolidated public sector debt reached 12.6 billion litas (3.6 billion euros) at the end of June, accounting for 20.8 percent of projected GDP in 2004. The ministry pointed out that Lithuania had one of the lowest debt rations in the EU. According to Eurostat, only three countries - Luxembourg, Estonia and Latvia - had lower debt levels.

The Latvian Port Council on Sept. 29 resolved to ask the European Commission for permission to lower food and veterinary service transit cargo inspection fees, as the transit industry is vital to Latvia's economy and needs support. Andrejs Zorgevics, director of Latvijas Dzelzcels (Latvian Railway), said that the fees were a burden on carriers and authorities needed to find ways to cut them.

An Agriculture Ministry task force looking into transit business complaints about FVS fees found few differences from respective rates in Lithuania, Estonia and Finland. But Zorgevics said that Latvian fees were uncompetitive compared with Ukrainian and Russian transit corridors. Agriculture Minister Martins Roze suggested that the three Baltic states, Finland and possibly Sweden cooperate "to get a joint regional handicap because we are different from French or German ports."