• 2002-02-28
EXPLOSIVE DEMANDS: An organization called Young Communists claimed responsibility for a small explosion last week outside the Vidzeme branch of the Citizenship and Immigration Affairs Department in Riga. In a letter to the newspaper Diena the group demanded that the Communist Party be legalized and that Russian be granted the status of state language. The group warned of more physical reprisals if the demands were not met. The letter was written on a computer and attached to an article from a Russian-language newspaper reporting the blast, which broke first-floor windows in the building in the early hours of Feb. 19 and caused no injuries. Deputy chief of Latvia's security police Didzis Smitins said law enforcement authorities were trying to determine the letter's author. Diena editors said the newspaper received similar letters in the summer and fall of 2000 following blasts on Latvian railway lines.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE: A group of six small political parties in Estonia last week called for changes in campaign finance laws to ensure all registered parties receive state funding. The group said all officially registered parties must have the opportunity to receive state funding to promote democracy in the country. Tiit Toomsalu, chairman of the Social Democratic Labor Party, said party financing shouldn't necessarily be equal, however. "It could be based on the number of votes a party receives in elections," he said. "If a party collects 1 percent of the vote, for example, it should get 1 percent of the funds set apart for parties." The present campaign finance law provides support only to parties represented in Parliament and the funding amount depends on the number of seats the party holds. This year's state budget allocated 20 million kroons ($1,11 million) to political parties. The group includes the Christian People's Party, the Democratic Party, the Russian Party of Estonia, the Russian Unity Party, and the Social Democratic Labor Party, the only one represented in Parliament

COURT DELAYS: Slow criminal proceedings and overly worked courts, which impede investigations and criminal prosecution in Latvia, are one of the primary obstacles to foreign investment, according to Interior Minister Mareks Seglins. Speaking to reporters on Feb. 26 following a meeting with the Council of Foreign Investors, Seglins said the biggest problem is "too long a time from the crime to the court." Seglins also said he learned during the talks that investors were not informed about steps to combat corruption, including telephone hotlines for reporting corruption and other crimes. The meeting focused mainly on corruption and crime as well as on the revamping of the labor permits system. Seglins also criticized the Parliament for delays in adopting amendments to the criminal procedures code, which he said was the most basic action that can be taken to improve the efficiency of criminal prosecution in the country.

ADAMKUS ON IGNALINA: Lithuania shouldn't obligate itself to a specific date for the closing of the country's Ignalina nuclear power plant and destroy its nuclear energy potential in response to European Union demands, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said Feb. 26. "I view nuclear energy as a clean energy source, the energy source of the future," Adamkus said. He said Lithuania's government shouldn't make any specific promises to close the plant's second reactor by 2009, as demanded by the European Commission and European Union. "The Lithuanian government shouldn't pledge to close (the plant) down by any specific dates," Adamkus said. "I don't in any way accept this pressure. We must decide ourselves on our sources of energy and our future, based on the needs of the state." Adamkus said he didn't fear any negative consequences in the ongoing negotiations between the EU and Lithuania if Lithuania refused to specify a date for mothballing the facility. "The consequences will (depend) on how firmly we are able to present our national interests in negotiations, and how firmly we are able to fight for our demands," he said. "The only argument used, that we pose a danger to the environment, hasn't been demonstrated to me."

MERI ON EUROPE: Former Estonian President Lennart Meri says Europe's defenses are at their lowest point in history. In an interview with the newspaper Eesti Paevaleht on Feb. 23, Meri said, "Europe is very well aware of its common values, but the question is how it will defend them." Meri, a well respected statesman who finished his second term as Estonia's president last October, is participating in the first meeting of the Convention on the Future of Europe this week in Brussels. Europeans must develop a sense of common history and values, said Meri, in order to ensure that those values are defensible. The United States has managed to speak to the world in one voice and drive its population toward specific values, he said. "We must think how we could get to this in Europe. Why is it that the winners of the Nobel Prize all come mostly from America? These are issues that the European convention has to solve in one manner or another," Meri said. The convention comprises 105 representatives from European Union member states, candidate countries and EU institutions.

FAKE BUCKS: Europol has launched an investigation of counterfeit bills in Europe and a large part of it will focus on Lithuania, the local press reported. About 90 percent to 95 percent of persons detained in Europe on charges of attempting to exchange forged U.S. dollars and, before the launch of the euro, German marks held Lithuanian citizenship, the daily newspaper Respublika wrote on Feb. 25. Officers at Europol, the European law enforcement organization, say that counterfeit currency operations in Lithuania supply stacks of bills to European countries through Lithuanian citizens who seek low-skilled employment abroad.