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MARKED THE GAP

  • 2000-12-14
Last week's events in Nice and Moscow widened the gap between Russia and its former sattellites in the ex-Soviet Union even further.

As EU grandees after lengthy and tiresome debates agreed on a decision-making mechanism within the new, enlarged European Union, the Russian parliament overwhelmingly supported the restoration of the old Stalin-era national anthem. The spiritual distance between Moscow and its former subordinates increased by years in the course of a week.

Some, albeit quiet disappointment was voiced in response to both events, however. When Latvia and Estonia compare the four votes alloted to them at the Coucil of Ministers with Lithuania's seven, they feel the new decision-making body will not be fair. However, the prospects for bringing the principles adopted in Nice to life are distant enough. Therefore where such a separation of the Baltic neighbors would cause a big row in other circumstances, the disparity was left almost unnoticed this time.

The restoration of the old Soviet anthem (the words glorifying the Soviet Union and Lenin's party were left out this time and the anthem will be sung without words until new ones are written, thank God) is a very different matter. Of course it's the Russian Federation and its parliament's business what anthem they choose for themselves and their countrymen to sing. Still, for those Baltic people over 30 who still remembers the Soviet anthem as they were forced to learn it by heart at school, under the threat of expulsion if they did not obey, hearing it again won't be the most pleasant experience.

However, all those events are far from real life here in the Baltics and won't have any immediate effect on them. One story, we are featuring this week on page two does have a bearing. A two-year-old girl has died in a eastern Latvian town of Rezekne as a result of a doctor's criminal negligence. Her death lasted seven pain-ridden hours, in a hospital where she was not properly checked or even visited, as the doctor was sleeping. It's widely believed that you should pay doctors in cash to receive proper treatment. But you may encounter a situation where there is no one to pay. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, for example, there are almost no doctors in Latvian hospitals. If you become sick over the weekend - it's your fault. And therefore it should be no surprise if respected publications, like Estonian-published Baltic City Paper, for example, under its Medical Help chapter says: "if you are struck down by a major illness while in Latvia, it is probably best to find the nearest plane, get on it and get as far away from here as you can. Many doctors are undertrained and most lack up-to-date equipment. Diagnostics is especially iffy. Emergency services can sometimes be slow."

No need to comment on that. The only thing we can do is express our condolences to the parents of little Jana Koluko of Rezekne and wish that all people of Latvia could follow the City Paper's advice.