• 2004-11-01
Latvia's Way, which failed to win any parliamentary seats during the last elections, has passed a resolution calling for a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty. The party states in the resolution that it's calling for "a referendum on the new EU constitutional treaty, and calls on the Parliament and government to organize a general public debate on the subject." One of the resolution's authors, Janis Vaivads, said he doubted that the referendum would actually go ahead. "The call for the referendum is, in fact, suggesting a broader explanation of what this treaty is about," he said. Aija Poca, Latvia's Way's faction leader at the Riga City Council, agreed that the public had not been given "any real clarity" about the EU Constitution. EU leaders signed the EU constitution treaty in a ceremony in Rome on Oct. 29. All EU members must ratify the constitution for it to take effect, which could take two years.

Members of the Estonian Parliament's foreign affairs committee will visit Turkey next week to assess the country's readiness for EU accession. Committee chairman Marko Mihkelson and members Janno Reiljan, Sergei Ivanov and Toomas Alatalu began their trip with a stopover in Azerbaijan on Oct. 30. Birgit Keerd-Leppik, adviser to the foreign affairs committee, said the visit to Azerbaijan was a follow-up to a trip to Armenia in May, which was within the framework of the EU's neighborhood policy. From Azerbaijan the deputies will proceed to Turkey, where EU accession negotiations will be the main topic under discussion. "It is important to meet with people who provide a picture of what is going on in society," the adviser said. The Estonian Foreign Ministry and government have advocated Turkey's accession to the EU.

Latvia is ready to begin exchanging information on ethnic minorities with Russia, according to the country's formal position leading up to the EU-Russian summit on Nov. 11. "If the minority situation is discussed during the summit, our country is ready to talk about it," said Latvian Foreign Ministry Deputy State Secretary Einars Semanis. Latvia thinks the discussion should focus on the signing of a Latvian-Russian border treaty and regular EU-Russian dialogue on human rights, including the situation in North Caucasus. Semanis also said that the question of Belarusian elections was belatedly added to the EU General Affairs and External Relation Council's agenda for Nov. 2.

Despite much discussion over the Baltic Assembly possibly merging with the Nordic Council after Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the EU, Nordic Council President Gabriel Romanus of Sweden has said that the institutions would not merge in the near future. Romanus told journalists in Stockholm on Oct. 31 that most parliamentarians had not approved of such a step, adding that he did not know when this would happen or if it would happen at all. He said that cooperation between the institutions, however, would continue, adding that Lithuania was invited to join the Nordic Investment Bank last year. The Baltic Assembly is a joint parliamentary forum of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and The Nordic Council is its Nordic counterpart.

Estonian President Arnold Ruutel has made 45 foreign visits during his term since October 2001. "The constitution lays down the president's obligation to represent the Republic of Estonia in international relations. After accession to the European Union and NATO, Estonia is systematically expanding its sphere of international relations," Eero Raun, public affairs adviser of the president's office, in justification of Ruutel's frequent trips. This fall the president has already made several visits. He is in Japan at the moment and will go to Armenia in mid-November, the daily SL Ohtuleht reported. Raun said that thanks to his health habits and exercise, the president had never had to be away from work during his present term.