Off the wire

  • 2001-05-17
HAVEL HELPS: President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel completely supports the right of the three Baltic states to be invited to NATO during the alliance's summit meeting to be held in Prague in 2002. He said this at an international conference of prime ministers from nine NATO candidate states held on May 11 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Calling the issue of the Baltic states' NATO membership "the most important question of all at present," Havel underscored that he failed "to understand why these three free countries should not be offered membership as soon as possible, especially as they are working so hard to be ready for it. Yielding to the geopolitical or geostrategic interests of Russia, or perhaps merely to its concern for its prestige, would be the worst thing the alliance could do in this respect," the Czech president said.

ANALYST DOESN'T: The European Union's relations with Russia are so important that the club's member states should banish the thought of the Baltic states' entry into NATO, renowned US security analyst Charles Kupchan thinks. If NATO makes up its mind by November on which of the candidate countries should be admitted to the Alliance it should as much as possible take into account Russia's opinion, and this means the three Baltic republics will have to stay in NATO's waiting room, Kupchan said in a discussion organized by the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende and the Danish Foreign Policy Institute. "I think we have a small enlargement coming, with up to two new members admitted," Kupchan said. The two possible new members may be, for example, Slovenia and Slovakia, and the Baltic states' admission will not take place, citing Moscow's reiterations of its opposition to the entry of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into NATO. The analyst labeled the Alliance's current enlargement plans a "catastrophe" and predicted that preparations for Russia's joining NATO will begin soon.

THE PRESIDENT'S ORGANS: In support for organ donating, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus signed an agreement on May 11 to become a tissue or organ donor. Adamkus, 74, filled out a donor card certifying he was willing to donate his organs and tissue after death. Representatives of the Lithuanian Organ Transplant Bureau told the president he would be sent a donor card in 15 days after his data is included in the data register. In the case of death of a person who has a donor card, the doctors need not consult with his or her relatives if they decide the organs are suitable for transplant. At the end of 1999, Lithuanian lawmakers adopted new legislation stipulating that every capable person over the age of 18 has the right to declare his agreement or disagreement that his tissues and organs be used for transplant after death. A poll carried out in mid-1999 indicated that 83.9 percent of respondents supported donating organs for transplant, while only 6.9 percent were against the idea.

HOCKEY KINGS: The International Ice Hockey Federation decided on May 11 to entrust Latvia with the organization of the 2006 Ice Hockey World Championship. The 2005 championship has been handed to Austria to host and will be held in Innsbruck and Vienna. In the decision to select Latvia for the 2006 championship, Latvia received strong support from Russia, Germany and Canada, with enthusiastic fan support being a key factor. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins expressed his own support for the right to holding the 2006 event, and stressed that Latvia "simply must hold the championship." In order to hold it in Latvia, two new ice arenas should be built.

HUMILIATINGLY MUGGED: The Swiss honorary consul to Estonia, Matti Klaar, was attacked by muggers within 50 meters of the Tallinn city government building on May 10. The diplomat was punched and kicked as he was emerging from a pedestrian underpass and robbed of his money, watch, mobile phone and gold amulet on a chain. "My glasses were wrecked as well as my clothes," Klaar wrote in a public letter to the Tallinn city government. The criminals attacked the unsuspecting consul a few minutes before midnight, in a place the tunnel's video guard cannot reach. Klaar said that he as honorary consul had often been asked about Tallinn's criminal record, and he had always claimed the wrong time, place and company were to blame. "But it seems to me I have to revise my view, that everywhere is the wrong place. It is awfully humiliating to be picking up your things, having been beaten up and smeared with blood from head to toe," the diplomat said.

WARM APPLAUSE: Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer on May 11 in Strasbourg praised Latvia's six-month Council of Europe presidency, putting special emphasis on the admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia, assistance to the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in meeting the membership criteria and efforts to improve the situation in Chechnya. Latvia handed over its presidency to Liechtenstein on May 11. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins stressed that Latvia together with the current presidency will continue its efforts on the work initiated. Speaking about Latvia's presidency, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers especially noted Latvia's initiatives to strengthen the council's culture dimension and cooperation between local authorities by staging several conferences in Riga during its presidency. Latvia took over the presidency last November.

SMOKING WEED: Lithuanian police detained on the evening of May 8 a group of youths including the son of the country's former Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, suspected of doing drugs. Vytautas Kubilius, 20, admitted to law enforcement officers that he had been smoking hemp. Kubilius claimed it was his "first and last time." He and his three friends were detained and taken to a police station, and later to an addictive diseases center for examination. If the examination proves the four young men were doing drugs, they could face an administrative fine of between 700 litas ($175) and 1,000 litas. Last summer, police detained the 17-year-old daughter of the then parliamentary chancellor, Jurgis Razma, on drugs charges in the country's coastal resort of Palanga.