A referendum on joining the European Union would cost some 1.2 million lats ($2 million) - about the same amount as the coming general election in October, Latvia's Central Election Commission said. Latvia's government is considering allocating funds in the 2003 budget for staging the referendum. It hopes to complete pre-accession talks with the EU by the end of this year so it will be set to join in 2004. But voters must first vote in favor of joining the 15-member bloc. (Baltic News Service)
Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Justas Vincas Paleckis called on the British Broadcasting Corp. and France's AFP news agency to stop confusing Lithuania and Latvia in their reports. Paleckis sent a letter to each company after both misidentified Lithuania as among the countries named in a United Nations report on violators of an decade-old arms embargo against Somalia. The report actually named a Latvian company - Arnex - as having sold grenades, guns and ammunition to Somalia in 1994.
Paleckis said he expects the BBC and AFP to correct "their sorrowful mistake" and in future return to the principles of "objectivity and accuracy." (BNS)
A Frankfurt am Oden regional court sentenced three Latvian truck drivers to up to three years in jail for attempting to smuggle 67.7 million cigarettes from Germany to Latvia. Had they succeeded, the three would have evaded taxes of some 7.1 million euros ($7.17 million). Another Latvian resident, accused of leading the transportation scheme, has been arrested in Germany. (BNS)
Estonian Transport and Communications Minister Liina Tonisson admitted that construction of the Tallinn-Tartu highway could stop for a year because of lack of money. To continue the construction into next year, Estonia would have to take a loan from the World Bank, the minister told the business daily Aripaev. "It would mean that we would pay the full sum and interest, or nearly 105 percent in all," she said. The country could also apply for a European Union ISPA loan that requires interest payments of just 25 percent. According to Finance Ministry figures, 180 million kroons ($1.17 million) will be sliced off the Transport and Communications Ministry budget next year. Some 1.3 billion kroons will be spent this year on road building and repair, of which 713 million kroons comes from the state budget. (BNS)
Lithuanian voters are more likely to vote for President Valdas Adamkus in the upcoming presidential elections but currently have more trust in the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, suggests a poll published in the July 20 edition of Lietuvos Rytas. The survey conducted by Vilmorus between July 11 and 14, asked 1,000 respondents to choose between Adamkus and Brazauskas if the two face off in this December's presidential election. Adamkus garnered 52.2 percent support, while Brazauskas got 44.9 percent. But 21.5 percent of respondents said Brazauskas was, in general, the best guarantor of their interests. Some 19.9 percent favored Adamkus. (BNS)