• 2002-10-24

President Arnold Ruutel invited members of the Estonian Parliament's Constitutional Committee to his private residence Oct. 22 to discuss plans to introduce a bill calling for direct presidential elections.

The committee wants to amend Estonia's constitution to give voters the right to elect presidents directly. Currently, the Parliament chooses a president.

"Out of respect for the president we decided this bill will not be handled until he has expressed his point of view," said Indrek Meelak, head of the parliamentary committee.

A group of 39 lawmakers in the 101-member Parliament want to introduce a bill that would introduce direct presidential elections but cut the president's powers, limiting him almost entirely to representing the country abroad. (Baltic News Service)


Euroenthusiasts planning to attend next year's Eurovision Song Contest in Riga may start booking tickets in December, Latvia's public television channel LTV said this week.

Tickets will be available for two dress rehearsals on May 23 and early on May 24 and the contest itself that evening.

Latvia won the right to host the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest after Latvian singer Marija Naumova won first place in last year's event in Tallinn.

Ticket prices have not been set yet, but organizers say they will be cheaper than those in Tallinn last spring, which cost from 120 lats (200 euros) to 190 lats.

The contest will be held in central Riga's Skonto Hall. (BNS)


Some 3,000 women from the Baltic states are sold abroad every year to work as prostitutes, a senior Lithuanian official said Oct. 21.

Igoris Bazylevas, head of public security policy at the country's Interior Ministry, said almost half of the women came from Lithuania.

"Trafficking in women is increasing every year. During the first nine months of the year, we have started 19 legal proceedings on women trafficking," he said.

He said 119 Lithuanian trafficking victims were identified in Germany alone last year.

"Lithuania is surpassed only by Ukraine," he said. (Agence France-Presse)


AIDS prevention activists in Latvia said nearly one-third of the country's HIV-positive people are inmates in prisons. Laura Selakova, an expert at the Riga-based AIDS Prevention Center, said most prisoners became infected by using dirty needles to inject intravenous drugs.

Of 655 HIV-positive prisoners, only 32 were infected through sexual contact.

Latvia has 2,229 HIV-positive cases countrywide.

Latvian Prison Authority Deputy Chairman Aleksandrs Tocelovskis said most of the inmates had contracted HIV before entering prison. (BNS)