• 2002-05-09
NATO PLAN: A summit of the leaders of the 10 nations hoping to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this year will take place in Riga in July, a Latvian Foreign Ministry official said on May 3. "We have a huge responsibility to show the strong desire of all the countries to be ready to join NATO," said Maris Riekstins, the ministry's state secretary. The heads of the so-called Vilnius 10 group - Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - will gather in Riga on July 5-6. The presidents of the Baltic states have also confirmed they will join the 10 prime ministers, said Riekstins. (Agence France-Presse)

NUCLEAR COST: Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said May 3 that his country was well-prepared for membership in the European Union, after meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin. But he cited the EU's demand that Lithuania close its Ignalina nuclear reactor by 2009 as a potential stumbling block. Ignalina is similar in construction to Ukraine's Chernobyl, site of the world's worst nuclear accident. Adamkus said mothballing the reactor would cost some 3.5 billion euros ($3.1 billion), which Lithuania could not finance without assistance. The president was on a three-day visit to Germany. His talks with Schroeder focused on Lithuania's aims to join the 15-country bloc and NATO. Lithuania hopes to be invited to join the trans-Atlantic military alliance along with fellow Baltic states Latvia and Estonia later this year, and to become an EU member state in 2004. (AFP)

SEIZURE: The Latvian police seized 3 kilograms of heroin, their largest ever haul of the drug, and arrested more than five people, a police spokesman said May 3. The haul had a street value of 200,000 lats ($322,600) and was seized in an operation involving several different security services in the capital Riga. (AFP)

PRAGUE APPROVAL: Czech President Vaclav Havel expressed support May 2 for the NATO bids of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which hope to be invited join the alliance at a summit in Prague later this year. "There are lots of good reasons why these three countries should be invited to become NATO members," he said at a joint press conference with his counterparts from the three countries. Havel is to host a landmark NATO summit in November in the Czech capital, where the Baltic states are leading a list of 10 countries in Central and Eastern Europe hoping for an invitation to join the U.S.-led military alliance. Havel, whose country joined NATO in 1999 along with Poland and Hungary, said the three countries "share the same values as member countries of the alliance. This does not just reflect my personal feelings for these countries, but a real point of view on the situation," he added, saying NATO should recognize the countries "belong to a region or a sphere to which they are historically attached." Havel has expressed his wish that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia be invited to join NATO in November on several occasions. Diplomats say the final decision will not be made until Prague, but indicate that the Baltic states are among the most likely, followed by Slovenia and Slovakia, and then by Romania and Bulgaria. (AFP)

PARTY COUNT: Thirty-six percent of electors support the Estonian Center-Reform coalition, which has now been in power for 100 days, while 28 percent of electors support no party at all, concluded a poll commissioned by the daily Eesti Paevaleht. The Center Party enjoys the support of 20 percent and the Reform Party 16 percent of voters. The People's Party is in third place with a rating of 8 percent. The Pro Patria Union, the ruling party during the previous coalition government, was supported by 6 percent, and the Moderates, another party in the previous coalition, by 5 percent. Res Publica, w~hich has no representation in the present Parliament, also has a rating of 5 percent. As many as 28 percent of voters cannot find a party to meet their tastes. (Baltic News Service)

CASH FOR COMMUNISTS: The Lithuanian Parliament approved on May 7 amendments to the state pension law granting state pensions to people once employed as technical workers at repressive Soviet institutions and former leading staff of the Communist Party. The amendments guarantee state pensions to "technical staff" of the Soviet Internal Affairs Commissariat (NKVD), the Interior Ministry, the State Security People's Commissariat, the State Security Ministry, the State Security Committee and the State Counter-Intelligence Board of the Defense People's Commissariat. The above structures, held responsible for the violent repression of the Lithuanian people, operated during the Soviet occupation in 1940-1941 and 1944-1990. The ruling Social Democratic coalition faction, which initiated the change of the law, says it allows state pensions for veterans of World War II who did technical work, for example, worked as drivers. The change in the law triggered a wave of indignation in the opposition Homeland Union (Conservatives) faction. (BNS)

RACE TALK: Popular MP and presidential candidate Kazys Bobelis, the head of the Lithuanian Christian Democrats, has made a strong-worded statement about people coming from Asia, calling Vietnamese and Laotians "economic criminals." Bobelis spoke during discussions of a proposal to postpone a vote on amendment to Article 119 of the Lithuanian Constitution, allowing all foreigners permanently residing in Lithuania to run for and vote in elections to local governments. "The amendment does not protect us from Vietnamese, Vietcong, Laotians and other Asians who are all economic criminals," Bobelis said. Bobelis said he was not referring to nations in general but to people involved in trafficking in drugs and other prohibited substances. "I was not speaking about all of them, only about the majority," he said afterward. (BNS)