LATVIA TO TENDER OIL: The first stage in the tender for a license to search, survey and develop possible oil deposits within Latvian territorial waters in the Baltic Sea will be opened on April 19, the Latvian Economics Ministry has announced. The first stage of the license is expected to close in early 2002. Latvian National Geology Service experts have prepared all the geological information required to hold the first stage of the licensing tender. According to the information of the geology service, Russia, Lithuania and Poland are successfully developing oil deposits in the given area of the Baltic Sea. Latvia plans to establish a national oil company, and state participation is estimated to be at least 10 percent. The first license for oil operations at sea was developed by the Latvian Economics Ministry back in 1994. In 1996 the license was granted to Amoco and OPAB. But after signing of the license agreement, the companies withdrew due to the absence of a sea border agreement between Latvia and Lithuania.
MASTERING UNEMPLOYMENT: The high unemployment rate is one of the major problems of the Estonian economy to which the government should pay constant attention, analysts said last week. A part of the economy is making fast progress while some spheres and regions are unable to re-orient themselves, and the labor market is not sufficiently flexible and adaptable, Trigon Markets analyst Toomas Reisenbuk said. Sven Kunsing, an analyst with Uhispank, also cited the structural nature of unemployment. People in Estonia are not ready to move in order to find work, he said. "State policy has had little impact. Apparently considerably more money should be invested in retraining. This is a key factor as far as long-range economic potential is considered," Reisenbuk said. According to data from the statistics department, the rate of unemployment in Estonia rose from 12.3 percent in 1999 to 13.7 percent last year.
BREAD OR ART: Following recent farmers' protests, the Lithuanian government might cover a part of the debts to the agricultural sector at the expense of some cultural objects, a local daily reported on March 23. According to Kauno Diena, the list of cultural institutions might include the art museum of legendary Lithuanian painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis in the country's second largest city, Kaunas. The leaking roof of the old building is posing a threat to invaluable Ciurlionis masterpieces. A week ago, Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas instructed the Agriculture Ministry and other institutions to find 29 million litas ($7.25 million) for the settlement of debts to farmers owed by bankrupt companies. Culture Minister Gintautas Kevisas did not deny or confirm that a total of 2.8 million litas could be taken away from cultural institutions. After a statement made by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus at a farmers' congress earlier this month that the country does not have the resources to boost agricultural funding he was booed off the stage.
NO SUMMER FERRY: The ferry Mihails Solohovs will not be resuming trips between Riga and Stockholm this spring, said Valdis Silins, president of the ferry's agent company. The ferry will not be resuming traffic on the line, as Mono Linijas is unable to continue cooperation with the ferry's owner, Russia's Far East Shipping Company. Silins said that the company will be searching for possibilities of continuing traffic between Riga and Stockholm, but currently the company sees no alternative to the Mihails Solohovs. The Mihails Solohovs stopped plying the route at the beginning of this year after being dry-docked for scheduled repairs. The Mihails Solohovs was the only ferry sailing on the route between the capitals of Sweden and Latvia.
FURTHER NUMBERS: Lithuania's mobile operators are urging the communications regulatory service to address the problems regarding the telephone numbering plan, warning that there might be a shortage of phone numbers for new subscribers at the end of the year if the necessary decisions are not taken immediately. Representatives of the companies are warning that if the mobile market continues to grow at the rate it did in the first two months of 2001, a crisis may emerge at the end of the year. "So measures should be taken to provide the operators with extra phone numbers," said head of the communications regulatory service Tomas Barakauskas. He stated that the problem could be solved by adopting the national numbering plan, which would set the guidelines for the development of telecommunication services for the next five or six years.
FAKE CHEESE: The dairy Vaike-Maarja Meier in Northern Estonia has stopped purchasing milk as it can no longer sell its products at their previous prices due to the import of cheap cheese from Lithuania. More than 100 tons of Lithuanian cheese products sold under the name of Vaike-Maarja Meier, at prices of 4 kroons to 5 kroons lower per kilo, hit the market here in February, the regional newspaper Virumaa Teataja reported last week. Dairy manager Elmu Evestus told the paper that company officials had confirmed that Lithuanian cheese bearing the Vaike-Maarja label was being sold in a Tallinn market. The dairy has informed the veterinary service, consumer protection authority and health authority of the situation.
EXCLUSIVE WHISKY: Lithuania's leading sparkling wine producer Alita intends to become the distributor of Scotch whisky Golden Glen in Baltic and Scandinavian countries this year. Company heads reached an agreement on the possibility of Alita becoming the exclusive distributor of Scotch whisky Golden Glen last week, when Malcolm E. Leask, regional sales director of the Scottish company Inver House Distillers, maker of Golden Glen, visited Alita. Following the implementation of these agreements, Alita expects to increase sales of Golden Glen up to 30 percent. Since last November Alita has been bottling and selling Scotch whisky Golden Glen, produced by Inver House Distillers. The company's share of the whisky market in Lithuania is 21 percent. The overall whisky market in Lithuania grew by 129 percent last year.