Baltic Assembly reaches some consensus

  • 2000-12-14
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - The 17th session of the Baltic Assembly was held in Lithuania's parliament building on Dec. 7 and 8. There were some disagreements among the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian delegations over issues concerning NATO and Russia during the session.

Each delegation prepared its own draft resolution on the second wave of NATO expansion, expected in 2002. Lithuanians have spent the most on defense this decade and are thought to have the best chance of being invited to join NATO in 2002. Lithuania proposed a statement declaring that an invitation for one country to join NATO would be beneficial for all three, in case all three Baltic states weren't invited at once.

"One of the resolutions of the [1995] Baltic Assembly says that an achievement by one country is an achievement for all three countries. When Estonia was the first invited to start European Union entry talks, it was a good sign for the other Baltic countries too. If at least one Baltic country were named an undisputed candidate for NATO membership, it would be of obvious benefit to the other Baltic countries," Lithuanian parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas said.

Romualds Razuks, head of the Latvian delegation, wasn't so confident about the situation. The Latvians believe all three Baltic countries should be invited at once. "Latvia's position is as follows: It's a worse scenario to invite just one country than to invite all three at once," said Lithuanian-born Latvian MP Razuks, speaking in his native Lithuanian. According to him, a new "red line" in the Baltics would enable Russia to increase its pressure on Latvia and Estonia.

Razuks said "the defense budget isn't the main thing." It's the tendency of defense spending increases that matters, according to him. Lithuania is planning to allot 1.95 percent of its GDP to defense in 2001, while Estonia and Latvia will allot 1.8 percent and 1.35 percent respectively.

The Estonian delegation proposed inviting all democratic countries, which meet the criteria for NATO membership. Lithuanian MP Vytautas Landsbergis was pleased with their draft and called it "a good basis for compromise."

Trivimi Velliste, head of the Estonian delegation, said that it's difficult to say which side was right in the Lithuanian-Latvian dispute at the Baltic Assembly in Vilnius.

The compromise resolution of the assembly says that "a more speedy NATO integration of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would add to the development of democracy and safety in Europe," and "entering the North Atlantic Alliance is a common matter for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia."

Audrius Klisonis, head of the Lithuanian delegation, expressed his satisfaction that some compromise words were found. However, Alvydas Medalinskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said that Lithuania's point of view remains the same: all three Baltic states should be invited to NATO although the timing of their invitation may be different.

At the Baltic Assembly a resolution demanding that Russia recognize the Soviet occupation of the Baltics was also discussed. The document was proposed by the Estonian delegation.

"Our future has no strong foundation if we can't make clear our past. We're especially sorry that Moscow hasn't made any official apology to Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius for what Russia, as the successor state to the rights and obligations of the Soviet Union, did to Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians during World War II and over the following decades," said Velliste.

Lithuania's delegation opposed demanding Russia's official recognition of the former occupation at the current time, citing a possible downturn in relations with Moscow. The resolution wasn't adopted due to a lack of time and will be considered again in May at the next session of the Baltic Assembly in Riga.

The Baltic Assembly comprises 20 MPs from each Baltic country. This international organization meets biannually.