Off the wire

  • 2001-03-15
NO PORT HAZARD: The Estonian company Undva Sadam has abandoned a long-delayed project to build a deep sea port in the northwest of Estonia's largest island, Saaremaa, the company's board Chairman Lembit Laido said March 12. The local Council of Kihelkonna in Saaremaa earlier this month initiated a move to cancel a detailed plan for the port area it had earlier approved, in order to end a dispute with environmentalists who are against the port project because of its possible devastating impact on a protected bird species. "There has been no progress whatsoever in two years. At some point we must give ourselves account for how long we can keep on talking to the people about the Undva port," Chairman of the Council Arvo Kullapere said. The main opponent of the port project was the Estonian Ornithological Society, which said that building a port in the traditional wintering site of Steller's eider, a protected species, would pose a major environmental hazard.

MOBILE NAMES: The Latvian mobile phone operator Baltkom GSM changed its name to Tele 2 starting March 12. The decision to change the company's name was made as part of the new strategy developed by the company owner, Swedish telecommunications concern NetCom. As of Feb. 16, the NetCom group was also called Tele 2. Group owners expect the new strategy to include the establishment of a European-scale united mobile network under the common brand of Tele 2. This is why a name change has also taken place for other operators like Baltkom GSM in Latvia and Q-GSM in Estonia. Swedish NetCom's Tele 2 bought Latvian Baltkom GSM for around $277 million last October. Baltkom GSM made a gross profit of $11.8 million last year. The company's turnover in 2000 increased by 48 precent reaching 22.3 million lats. In 1999, the company's gross profits reached almost 4 million lats ($35.9 million). Nevertheless, it closed the year with 2.4 million lats in the red.

DISEASE DANGER: The Latvian National Veterinary Service on March 6 lifted the ban on animal imports from 28 countries earlier regarded as risk areas possibly infected with foot-and-mouth disease. Now, the ban on imports of sheep, goats, pigs, cattle and other artiodactyls, their sperm, egg cells, embryos, products containing meat of the above animals, milk and dairy products, grain and animal feed is left standing for 31 countries where foot-and-mouth disease has been registered. The ban applies to Argentina, Artiga region in Uruguay, Bhutan, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Greece, Georgia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, the Khabarovsk region of Russia, Kuwait, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Namibia, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Taipei, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

MAGIC CARPETS: All traffic entering Lithuania through the Kalvarija checkpoint on the Polish border must pass over special anti-viral carpets in the country's attempt to stop the spread of livestock foot-and-mouth disease. Similar measures will be taken on the Kybartai border point on the Lithuanian-Russian border in the coming days to prevent the spread of the unwanted bug. Lithuania has recently put a total ban on imports of livestock production from Great Britain and transit of animals that could be infected with mouth-and-foot disease. Imports of meat and poultry subproducts have been restricted. The veterinary chief of Lithuania's Marijampole region bordering Poland has ordered that special anti-viral carpets should be placed at all farms in the county. All cattle breeders have been instructed to refrain from allowing strangers, especially foreigners, in their cattle sheds. Since last week, all Lithuanian airports have been unfurling special carpets over which passengers from all international flights arriving in the country must pass. The carpets are soaked with a disinfectant liquid, which kills the agent responsible for foot-and-mouth disease.

BANK VICTORY: The Estonian Parliament decided on March 7 by a majority of votes to place the integrated financial supervisory body under the Bank of Estonia. The bill wavered for three years between subordination to the government and the Bank of Estonia before it had its first reading in Parliament on Jan. 24. The Bank of Estonia has always remained firm in its demand that the new supervisory body, instead of three independent ones, would have to be set up under the central bank. The government, however, was guided by the Justice Ministry's opinion that the supervisory body must be an independent institution in the Finance Ministry's administrative sphere.

MARKET MOVES: The Latvian computer hardware market increased by 20 percent last year and the software market grew by 170 percent, the Latvian business daily Dienas Bizness reported March 7. The computer hardware market in Latvia grew to some 50 million lats ($80.9 million) in 2000. The figure was around 70 million lats in consumer prices with value-added tax included. In 1999 the market totalled 42 million lats. The market for computer servers and portable computers increased by 18 percent last year with sales climbing from 18.2 million lats in 1999 to 21.4 million lats in 2000 (without VAT and retail margin). Last year a total of 43,000 computers were sold in Latvia, including 27,000 computers, or 63 percent, made locally and 16,000 pieces of brand hardware made by recognized foreign producers. The survey showed that the financial sector, led by Hansabanka, had been the most active in acquiring computers last year.

WINES WHACKED: The department of export-import regulation of the Lithuanian Economy Ministry drafted a project proposing to impose import duties on natural and sparkling wines. The draft is intended to be submitted to the government in April. The Economy Ministry proposes to levy an import duty of 40 percent of the declared value on sparkling fresh wine and a duty of 7 percent on natural wine. The duty should be no less than 0.5 litas ($0.12) per liter. Romualdas Rauckis, the department's deputy director, said that import duties would not exert greater impact on the retail price of wine. However, imported sparkling beverages might go up in price. Importers are dissatisfied with such plans.