UNABATED GLOOM: More than a half of Latvia's residents believe that processes in the country have taken the wrong direction, showed the latest public opinion poll conducted by the SKDS sociological research company. When asked whether they thought processes in Latvia were moving in the right direction, 53.3 percent of the population gave a negative answer, including 15.4 percent who said they completely disagreed with the statement. Out of 37 percent who replied generally affirmatively, 33 percent said they would not agree completely. The comparison of the latest poll with figures from previous years revealed that Latvia's population felt most positive about ongoing processes in the country in 1999 when 38.4 percent gave affirmative answers to the question. The recent poll also showed that Latvian citizens tend to be more optimistic about processes in the country than non-citizens. Among citizens, 37.7 percent agreed that things are moving in the right direction while 33.4 percent of non-citizens shared this opinion. Attitudes are more often positive among respondents with higher education and income levels.
LONG ARM OF THE LAW: A settlement has been reached in the first Latvian case heard in the European Court of Human Rights with the state agreeing to pay compensation to the claimant. The human rights court on Oct. 18 confirmed a settlement of the claim by Nina Kulakova, who will get 5,000 lats ($8,000) in compensation from the Latvian state for delays in the investigation of a crime in which she was a victim and also a civil claimant. The court officially recognized the settlement between the parties, saying it was in line with the human right requirements. Kulakova filed a claim with Latvian prosecutors in 1994 after falling prey to an apartment exchange scam. As a result of the fraud she was given a place unsuitable for habitation on the outskirts of Riga and some of her personal effects went missing during the moving. Prosecutors for the Riga District Court began investigating the case but then closed it after coming to no conclusions in January 2001 under the statute of limitation.
BALTIC AID: The European Commission last week approved the allocation of 97 million euros ($88.18 million) to a development program for the Baltic Sea region in 2000-2006. The aim of the program is to promote cooperation between Denmark, northeast Germany, Sweden and Finland as well as Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Belarus, the European Union's information center reported. European Union Regional Commissioner Michel Barnier said the commission expects the program to make a considerable contribution to the further development of the Baltic Sea region. A total of 85 million euros will come from the member countries' public sectors, 4 million euros from their private sector and 32 million euros from other sources, including the PHARE program and the state of Norway. In all, the Baltic Sea region cooperation program will receive 218 million euros.
PAGAN RIGHTS: Four Lithuanian MPs belonging to the ruling Social Liberal and the opposition Liberal factions have proposed giving pagans the statues of a traditional religious community in Lithuania. "The teaching and rites of the ancient Baltic religious community do not run counter to Lithuanian laws and morals and have wider public support than the Judaic, Moslem and Karaim religious communities," read the explanatory note attached to the proposed amendment to the law on religious communities. The four initiators of the change in legislation maintain that the amendment will legalize the traditional ancient Baltic religion, which has a long history in Lithuania and has until now been "absolutely" refused legitimization. Lithuania, the last European country to adopt Christianity, was christianized at the end of the 14th century. Almost 80 percent of the Lithuanian population identify themselves as Roman Catholics.
IT WHIZZKIDS: One-fourth of the Lithuanian population use computers on a regular basis, whereas only 1 in 17 residents shop on-line, according to Vytautas Vitkauskas, president of Infobalt, the Lithuanian Association of Information Technologies, Telecommunications and Office Equipment Companies, at an international conference Information Society 2001, which got underway on Oct. 22. According to a survey carried out in September, some 27 percent of the Lithuanian population aged between 15 and 74 are computer users, and 6 percent shop on-line, with young people accounting for the largest part of the Internet users, Vitkauskas said. The survey showed that the Internet is mostly used by young people under 20 (25 percent), with users in the 20-29 age group accounting for 11 percent and users in the 30-39 age group accounting for 8 percent.
SMOOTHER MIGRATION: Estonia signed a cooperation agreement with the International Organization for Migration on Oct. 23, which will permit it to carry out more migration programs. The cooperation agreement was signed by Clyde Kull, Estonian ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, and IOM General Director Brunson McKinley, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said. Under the contract and depending on the decisions of steering bodies and financing opportunities it should be possible to increase the efficiency of migration procedures and to improve aid given to refugees for both domestic and international resettlement. The cooperation agreement will help solve issues connected with migration and return, the Foreign Ministry said. Estonia has the status of observer in the International Organization for Migration.
FOREIGN PREY: Over 600 foreigners fell prey to Latvian criminals in the first nine months of this year, reported the Latvian National Police. According to statistics provided by the Latvian police information center 412 foreigners suffered as a result of theft, including 58 Germans, 29 Russians and 23 Estonian nationals. Of those who were mugged, 12 were Russians, nine were Lithuanians and seven Germans. A Lithuanian national suffered serious bodily injuries in Latvian this year, and another Lithuanian and three Swedes were attacked by local hooligans.