• 2002-03-14
CONSULATE BACK: An honorary Lithuanian Consulate opened its doors in Bordeaux, France on March 11, as Lithuania celebrates its twelfth regained Independence Day since the country's Parliament adopted a statement breaking ties with Moscow The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry reported the consulate will strengthen economic, political and cultural ties between Lithuania and the ancient province of Aquitaine, where Bordeaux is located, and should serve to boost academic cooperation and tourism. It might be more proper to say that the Lithuanian Consulate in Bordeaux will reopen its doors after a break of some 60 years. Pre-World War II Lithuania operated a consulate there from 1930 to 1940. Dr. Lucy Ann Kukstas, a French-Lithuanian, will serve as head of the Lithuanian Consulate in Bordeaux. The Lithuanian Consulate in Bordeaux will be one of two the Baltic state currently has in France. Lithuania's Embassy in Paris plans to open three honorary Lithuanian consulates this year in the Champagne-Ardennes region, in the Lorraine region and in Normandy. (Baltic News Service)

BLAIR AFFAIR: The prime ministers of the Baltic states will meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on March 14 to discuss the country's bids to join NATO and the European Union. Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas will also deliver a speech at the conference "EU Expansion: Possibilities and Prospects," organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Economic and Financial Center. Brazauskas is also scheduled to attend a breakfast with EBRD President Jean Lemierre and to meet with British Transport Minister John Spellar and Energy Minister Brian Wilson. (BNS)

SQUARE: Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas told a group of more than 100 women on International Women's Day, March 8, that he is worried by the increasingly popular trend in Lithuania of unmarried couples living together. "I must admit that I do not support the phenomenon that is currently very popular in society," Brazauskas said. "Maybe I'm too conservative, but I'm against it." Brazauskas said the trend contributes to the increasing number of single mothers in Lithuania. He said he was shocked when informed recently that as few as 10,000 marriages are registered in Lithuania annually. Ten years earlier the figure was about 35,000. "I don't think that the number of young people is markedly lower now than a decade ago. So it's clear that negative processes are forming in society," said Brazauskas. (BNS)

THREE PLUS ONE: The three Baltic presidents and the president of Poland will gather in Vilnius on March 22. The central topic of the meeting is security policy in the Baltic Sea region. Estonia's Arnold Ruutel, Latvia's Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Poland's Aleksander Kwasniewski and Lithuania's Valdus Adamkus will discuss NATO enlargement and Baltic states defense cooperation. (BNS)

LAW CHANGE: A working group at the Estonian Education Ministry is working on legislation that would cancel a 1999 amendment to the language law and exempt many from having to retake language proficiency exams. Education Minister Mailis Rand told the newspaper Postimees that there were thousands of people who, under the law, would be stripped of their language proficiency certificate from July. Unofficially, the amendment was approved because the certificates issued earlier were allegedly temporary and thus would prevent their counterfeiting, according to the paper. (BNS)

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer has urged Belarus not to sentence four accused men to death and has condemned the use of the death penalty in the country. Schwimmer's call came as Valery Ignatovich, Maksim Malik, Aleksey Guz and Sergei Savushkin were due to be charged in a closed court on charges of abduction and murder. They are likely to be condemned to death, with the sentence following swiftly. "The death penalty is contrary to all acceptable standards of human rights. I urge the prosecutors to refrain from it once and for all," said Schwimmer. In a recent statement Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that Belarus perceived the Council of Europe as its most important partner in dialogue with European states. For this reason Schwimmer underlined the importance of a moratorium on the death penalty in re-opening accession talks with the country. He also said that, "Belarus could never hope to be considered for Council of Europe membership as it maintains these brutal punishments. I therefore urgently call on Belarus to move quickly toward a moratorium." (Council of Europe press office)

CHICKEN ROW: The ban by the Russian Veterinary Service on poultry imports from the United States might spell the end for Kaliningrad poultry producer Produkty Pitanya Kombinat, which has the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as a key shareholder. Around 80 percent of the poultry is supplied from the U.S.A. The official basis for the decision, which became effective on March 10, is the fact that the U.S. poultry products do not meet Russian standards. Rejecting any political motives behind the decision, Russia's Chief Veterinary Inspector Mikhail Kravchuk said that the ban would be lifted when quality guarantees were received. However, Produkty Pitanya Kombinat's Director General Vladimir Zarudnyi told BNS that "the decision to ban poultry imports from the United States to Russia has a political character." Zarudnyi said that during the three years of the company's operations "the veterinary service had no claims concerning the quality of the produce supplied." In his words, "if the situation does not change, the company, into which large investments were made, might be closed." The company employs about 700 people and processes about 3,500 tons of poultry per month. The company supplies poultry to McDonald's restaurants in Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus. (BNS)