OFF THE WIRE

  • 2001-12-13
MAD COW SCARE: The Baltic countries have banned animal imports from Finland after the detection there of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. Since BSE is not carried from animal to animal, the Finnish discovery involves no direct threat for Estonia and no areas will be closed off or movement restricted, an Estonian official said. "We're right now applying for funds under the Phare project to extend surveys in our country and obtain a positive or negative confirmation about our situation regarding that disease," she added. A spokeswoman for Latvia's Border Sanitation Inspectorate said Latvia this year had imported neither live animals nor their carcasses from Finland. Latvia has banned animal and meat imports from 19 countries including Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Denmark due to BSE. The first BSE case in Finland was officially confirmed on Dec. 7 when an analysis carried out in Britain upheld an earlier conclusion by a Finnish lab, the STT news agency has reported.

U.S. MILLER COMING TO TOWN: The Latvian brewery Lacplesa Alus has signed a cooperation agreement with Miller Brewing International, one of the world's largest beer producers and received exclusive rights to distribute in the Baltics the popular Miller Genuine Draft. The Riga-based Bizness&Baltija newspaper quoted Miller Brewing International General Manager Jean-Pierre van Lin as saying this cooperation was the U.S. brewer's first step toward becoming a market leader in the Baltic states. "We know Lacplesa Alus as a quality beer producer. Cooperation with this company will ensure appropriate representation of Miller beer in the Baltic states," he said. Lacplesa Alus is Latvia's largest beer importer, holding exclusive rights to distribute such brands as Budweiser, Grolsch, Lowenbrau, Sokol and Jarpivo.

AUCTIONEER BOUGHT: The Latvian fixed-line-telecommunication company Lattelekom has acquired an Internet auction site, Perc.lv portal. The portal will be operated by Lattelekom's Internet providing subsidiary Apollo, reported Lattelekom. The company did not disclose the amount it would pay for Perc.lv, which offers corporate bodies and individuals the opportunity to auction both inventoried items and real estate. The Internet auctioneer also sells off the property of debtors and bankrupt companies. As part of a Christmas promotional campaign Perc.lv is offering its services free of charge to individual customers. Founded in 2000 the portal currently has around 8,000 registered members or bidders. Perc.lv has subsidiaries in all three Baltic states and Russia.

NORWEGIANS EAT HANSA STYLE: The owners of Old Town Tallinn's medieval-theme restaurant Olde Hansa opened a restaurant in Bergen, Norway at the end of October and are planning other similar establishments throughout Scandinavia. Olde Hansa managing director Margit Hakomaa said the idea of taking the concept of a medieval restaurant to other Hanseatic cities was born years ago. The choice of the location was based on surveys of the restaurant market, consumption, purchasing power and demand, she said. The new medieval restaurant seating 150 customers in two dining halls is situated in Bryggen in the heart of the old town of Bergen.

RUSSIA CAUSES LOSSES: Transit firms and those in related sectors, including the Port of Tallinn, have seen their incomes fall by some 500 million kroons ($28.33 million) as a result of an increase in tariffs charged by Russia's rail system for transporting goods to sea ports outside Russia, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported last week. Port of Tallinn development director Tonis Segerkrantz said the damage to Estonian business amounted to around 500 million kroons so far. "Of this the Port of Tallinn, Estonian railway company Eesti Raudtee and operating firms have seen their incomes fall by 250 million kroons," he said. The remaining fall has been suffered by international shipping firms, their agents and forwarders, he said. Estonia's transit flow is mainly through the Port of Tallinn, where transit shipments make up 75 percent of the total freight volume.

ASSISTANCE GRANTED: The World Bank granted $693,700 for the implementation of pension reforms in Lithuania and another $502,000 for a project on housing policy, the Finance Ministry reported. The support will be provided through the Policy and Human Resources Development Fund of the Japanese government, administered by the World Bank. After it has been passed by the Parliament, the law on pension reform should come into effect on Jan. 1, 2003 and pension funds should become operational from Jan. 1, 2004. The Finance Ministry estimates implementing the pension reform will require some 3.5 billion litas ($875 million) over eight years.

LIBERAL BOOZE: The Lithuanian government has put to the country's Parliament a proposal to abolish the state's monopoly on strong alcoholic beverage production in early 2003. Under proposals approved by the Cabinet on Dec. 5 all licensed companies will be allowed to produce alcoholic drinks with an alcohol content over 22 percent from Jan. 1, 2003. Economy Minister Petras Cesna said this date had been chosen in anticipation that state-owned alcohol manufacturers would be sold into private hands in the year 2002. The legislative amendments would also create new procedures for establishing excise warehouses with the aim of ensuring stricter alcohol controls, to take effect in July 2002. The European Union has set Jan. 1, 2003, as the deadline for Lithuania to do away with the state's monopoly on the production and sale of alcoholic drinks. Under the existing legislation the only private company allowed to produce beverages with an alcohol content over 22 percent is Lietuviskas Midus, a producer of traditional Lithuanian alcoholic drinks. The four other producers of strong alcoholic beverages in Lithuania are Alita, Anyksciu Vynas, Stumbras and Vilniaus Degtine, in all of which the state is the majority shareholder.

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