MPs discuss occupation damages, visas

  • 2004-12-22
  • Baltic News Service
RIGA - The Baltic Assembly passed a resolution during a meeting in Riga on Dec. 19 urging the governments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to start talks with Russia and Germany on the compensation of damages caused during the years of occupation.

According to the resolution, the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and Germany had "long-term negative effects" upon the Baltic states. "The occupation has had an enormous damage on the economy, education, culture and the intelligentsia. As a result, the Baltic states are far behind their European neighbors," reads the document.

The Baltic Assembly, which unites the parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, also called upon participants of the 1945 Yalta conference - Great Britain and the United States - for mediation in the recovery of cultural values and archives removed from the three Baltic states during the occupations.

The resolution is of consultative character but was saluted by Baltic politicians.

"It would be useful if not only the Baltic Assembly, but also Baltic governments and parliaments were more active in the raising of the issue of compensation of occupation damages," Andrius Kubilius, leader of Lithuania's opposition Conservative Party, said.

Justinas Karosas, chairman of the Seimas' (Lithuania's parliament) foreign affairs committee, said the committee might address the resolution later this week.

In 2000, the Seimas passed a controversial law obligating the government to launch talks with Russia on the compensation of damages caused by the half-century Soviet occupation. Moscow has so far refused to enter talks, describing the demand for compensation as an unfriendly act. Recently Russia's Audit Chamber issued a report suggesting that the Baltic states pay over $3 billion to Russia in compensation for assets lost as a result of the Soviet Union's collapse.

In addition, assembly representatives agreed to cooperate in implementing a Schengen action plan aimed at getting the three Baltic countries to join Europe's visa-free zone.

The head of the Lithuanian delegation at the assembly, MP Valerijus Simulik, said that the resolution adopted at the BA session in Riga over the weekend mostly referred to cooperation among certain services of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In his words, the resolution also stresses the necessity to make efficient use of the Schengen information system and improve the exchange of information between institutions performing mutual control.

"The main issues are related to the cooperation among the security services of the three Baltic states involved in crossing [one another's] border, so that the police could enter the other country's territory for some kilometers with guns and on missions," said Simulik.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia plan to join the Schengen Treaty that regulates visa-free movement across state borders in 2006-2007.

The Baltic Assembly delegations discussed information exchange among the three countries and coordination of actions related to the EU and NATO and addressed social aspects of migration.