• 2002-04-11
DISTANT DREAM: It will take more than a generation for some of the countries preparing to enter the European Union to achieve even 75 percent of the EU's average living standards, according to a recent report by the European Commission. Estonia will need 19 years to do it, Latvia will need 27 years, and Lithuania 31. Romania will need 34 years to achieve the 75 percent level, Poland 33 years, Turkey 32, Bulgaria 31, Malta 30, Slovakia 20, the Czech Republic 15, and Hungary 11 years. Living standards in Cyprus are already at 82.6 percent of the EU member countries' present average level and Slovenia should reach 75 percent this year. (Baltic News Service)

CHEMICAL CONUNDRUM: The newly founded Lithuanian Liberal Democrats Party is organizing an international conference to initiate discussions about finally getting rid of chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea during World War II. When the war was drawing to a close, Soviet forces sank several ships with stashes of the Nazis' chemical weapons. Some of the weapons were sunk at sea off the Lithuanian-Latvian border, close to the Latvian port of Liepaja. Some scientists fear that over the decades the stores of shells filled with chemical agents on the sea bed have gradually corroded and could burst all at once, releasing thousands of metric tons of poisonous chemicals. Party leader Rolandas Paksas said that Lithuania and the other Baltic states weren't taking the problem seriously enough. He warned that the Baltic could become a dead sea. (BNS)

CLINTON PUZZLE: The Estonian Foreign Ministry and embassy in Washington D.C. still have no information about U.S. ex-President Bill Clinton's reported visit to Tallinn in the summer. The business daily Aripaev announced this week that Clinton would arrive in June for a June 11 conference on economics arranged by the paper and IBM's Estonian branch. Aripaev quoted editor-in-chief Igor Rotov, and the publishers will issue a press release on Clinton's visit next week after details of his trip are in place. The organizers invited Clinton to speak at the conference. In the summer of 1994, Clinton visited the Latvian capital Riga as president of the United States, and met with Baltic heads of state. His wife, Hillary, made a trip to Tallinn. (BNS)

DRUGS DEMO: The mayor's office of Kaliningrad has addressed the Russian region's chief of militia and prosecutor's office, asking them to identify and begin legal proceedings against the people behind an anti-drugs demonstration held in Kaliningrad on April 5. The group held a picket near the House of Soviets, an abandoned building in the city center, which was not sanctioned by the mayor's office. The 30 participants had with them the flag and emblems of the regional branch of an all-Russian public organization called Going Together, which promotes youth education. They put up a huge poster, 40 meters in length, across the face of the building. The event began in the early hours of the morning, and those who took part had already left the building by noon. Some 20,000 of the Kaliningrad exclave's residents are involved in drug dealing, and around 2,000 are registered as drug addicts. On March 2, Going Together erected 1,000 wooden crosses on Kaliningrad's Victory Square in memory of young people who died from drug abuse between 1992 and 2001. (BNS)

RELIGIOUS GAFFE: While Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga was on vacation, a presidential official released a statement in which the state leader congratulated Latvia's Russian Orthodox Church metropolitan Alexander on Orthodox Easter. The presidential statement, saying the Russian Orthodox Church was important as it had always taken care about moral qualities, was later retracted by the presidential spokeswoman as premature, as Orthodox believers will mark Easter only in a month's time, on May 5. (BNS)