• 2002-10-17
Security concerns

Lithuania expects hundreds of protesters in Vilnius next month to coincide with a planned visit by U.S. President George W. Bush and police are being trained to ensure that demonstrations do not get out of hand.

Bush is expected in Vilnius Nov. 22, directly after NATO holds its summit in Prague, and will leave the following afternoon.

The Kauno Dieana daily newspaper said Lithuanian anti-globalists and others opposed to the United States' foreign policy are expected to be in town for the visit. The paper reported that U.S. secret service officers have already visited Vilnius to examine police security preparations.

Police are warning Vilnius residents to expect major inconveniences, including traffic delays, during Bush's visit.

Vilnius Police Chief Erikas Kaliacius said all aircraft may be grounded as well. "It's a possibility. This security measure has already been taken in other countries," he said. (Baltic News Service)

Closing accounts

Election winner Einars Respe has closed two bank accounts he set up a year ago for personal and party donations, with funds totaling more than 500,000 euros, according to the New Era party Web site.

Repse had initially asked for 1 million lats (1.66 million euros) from supporters, with funds in one account to support the party and in another to pay him a salary to compensate for stepping down as Bank of Latvia chief to lead New Era.

Repse had said the money was necessary to keep the party free of influence from rich corporate donors and to support his family.

"I cannot afford to give up my well-paid job if I cannot receive guaranteed pay in the new position I will assume," Repse said at the time.

But when asked by the daily Diena how he intended to spend the money, Repse said he would not comment on personal matters.

The move earned Repse criticism last year. But the Soros Foundation noted that all the donations were listed at the party's Web site. (BNS)

Economic ailments

Pensions, unemployment and health care are the most pressing problems in Latvia, according to a September poll by Latvijas Fakti.

Of the 1,000 people questioned, 42 percent said they were most concerned over social security, including the low level of pensions and benefits for children. Some 35 percent said unemployment was the most troubling problem, while 34.3 percent named costly medicines and medical services. Education improvement was named by nearly 25 percent of respondents as the No. 1 problem.

Latvians are least concerned with demographics (.06 percent), culture and art (1.3 percent) and national defense and security (1.3 percent). (BNS)