• 2001-04-12
UNDER FIRE: The opposition in the Estonian Parliament initiated a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Mart Laar on April 9, accusing the government of non-transparent privatization, neglect of rural and regional policy and growing unemployment. As examples of this lack of transparency in the government's privatization policy, the opposition named the lack of clarity surrounding the privatization of Eesti Raudtee freight trains and the decision to wind up passenger traffic on Edelaraudtee trains. Some analysts say Laar's government has consistently been reducing budgetary allocations for implementing an efficient regional policy since it came to power two years ago. As a result, the number of residents in rural areas is decreasing and the availability of services to rural residents is on the decline. The motion, signed by 43 MPs, needs at least 51 votes in the 101-seat chamber to be carried.

HOSPITABLE DINERS: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will deliver a lecture in Sweden on May 15 and donate the proceeds to the Stockholm Graduate School of Economics in Riga, Latvia, the Swedish business daily Dagens Industri, which is sponsoring Clinton's visit, reported. Publisher Hasse Olsson, who will chair a seminar during which Clinton will give the lecture, said the former U.S. president will speak about "business and politics." The lecture will be followed by dinner at the Grand Hotel on Stockholm's waterfront where guests will listen to jazz - Clinton's favorite music. Tickets will cost 9,000 kronor ($880) for the lecture and 16,000 for both the lecture and dinner. The Stockholm Graduate School has confirmed the report.

LOST THOUSANDS: Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has given Lithuanian leader Valdas Adamkus documents on Lithuanian deportees and political prisoners who were once imprisoned by the KGB in the Central Asian country. The information was provided on April 5 before the signing of official documents at the president's office. Nazarbayev gave Adamkus the addresses of law enforcement agencies in Kazakhstan that have certain archival materials. In May 2000 during a visit to Kazakhstan, Adamkus asked Nazarbayev to look into the fate of more than 300,000 Lithuanians who were held in Kazakhstan. They were sentenced to labor and death camps in Kazakhstan after the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940 and began mass deportations. "I think we all understand that the Kazakh nation is not at fault in this. All nations suffered," Nazarbayev said.

FREE PATH: The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has reminded Finland of every country's right to choose its way to ensure security. The statement was made in response to Finnish President Tarja Halonen's interview in the German weekly Der Spiegel in which she said she was skeptical about NATO's possible enlargement to include the Baltic states. She said she was worried about Moscow's threat of sanctions if NATO went ahead. Finland cannot support the Baltic republics' entry into the alliance in the same way it supports their candidacy for the European Union, said Halonen, adding that Helsinki is itself not planning to join NATO. Petras Zapolskas, director of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry's information and culture department, said, "Finland's position is currently being defined more precisely, but Finland has repeatedly said at diplomatic meetings that all countries have agreed on the freedom to decide their security policy themselves."

HEAD COUNT: Almost a third of the Lithuanian population - 1.04 million people - has been counted during the first two days of an eight-day count of the population and housing in Lithuania. The statistics department said that each of the 12,000 specially trained census officers counts an average of 40 people a day, which is in line with the projected time frame. The census is organized following United Nations recommendations to conduct a population count in or around the year 2000. The count is designed to gather information about population numbers in cities and rural areas, by sex, age, nationality, education, employment, profession, numbers and sizes of families, housing supply and quality, and so on. The first results - on population number, sex and age - are expected six months after the census, in October. Other data should be ready by the end of 2002. Lithuania took its last general census in 1989.

FUNDS FOUND: After a long debate on April 10 the Latvian government allocated 2 million lats ($3.18 million) from the national budget to fund a pay rise for nurses and ordered the Finance Ministry to come up with cash within a month. A total of 4 million lats are needed for nurses' salaries this year. Welfare Minister Andrejs Pozarnovs told reporters that under this year's budget 1.59 million lats had already been set aside for the pay rise. The budget will also be amended to take 29,000 lats from the fund for unforeseen expenses, 81,000 lats from the internal reserves of the National Obligatory Health Insurance Agency and 66,000 lats from the surplus intake of personal income tax. Nurses are demanding a raise of 25 lats per month on their basic wage from July 1 this year and the monthly salary be increased to 130 lats starting 2002. If the government fails, nurses plan to strike.

TACTLESS: Madzid Mstoyan, a board member of the Estonian Kurdish Society, has been offended by references made by the security police to societies which are in contact with international terrorist organizations. Last month, the security police issued a yearbook that stated that supporters of Islamic terrorists are increasing their activities in Estonia. It says that the activities of supporters of the terrorist organization the Kurdish Labor Party, have increased in the country and contact with foreign activists has grown closer. "Our society is non-political," Mstoyan told the daily Eesti Paevalehet. "We teach our children Kurdish, sing Kurdish songs and dance Kurdish dances." He said the only aim of the organization is to keep Kurdish culture, language and traditions alive among Kurds living in Estonia. The Kurdish Society comprises six families, a total of about 20 people.