Baltic presidents claim the same goals

  • 2000-04-06
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS – The three Baltic presidents spoke of foreign policy and economic cooperation in Vilnius March 30 at their traditional annual meeting.

Valdas Adamkus, Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Lennart Meri each stressed their countries' goal to join the European Union and NATO in a common declaration of this conference. The state heads said that bidding of nations for these goals would be individual, although they rejected mutual competition.

"Each of the Baltic nations is pleased to see the progress of another," Vike-Freiberga said.

The Baltic presidents expressed the hope that relations with neighboring countries, including Russia, would be friendly. According to Adamkus, Lithuanian – Polish cooperation can be a standard for neighborly relationships.

He said that he would be the first Baltic president to meet with newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The date is not known yet. We wait for a proposition through our embassy in Moscow," Adamkus said.

During the joint press conference, most journalists' questions were about the tense Latvian – Russian relations. Most wondered about Russia's threat of economic sanctions because of supposed discrimination against ethnic Russians in Latvia.

"Other countries should look after their own affairs," Vike-Freiberga said.

One question made the three Baltic leaders rather puzzled. A journalist asked about the reaction of other Baltic countries should Russia's sanctions against Latvia be implemented.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the press hall following the question. Adamkus and Meri were unwilling to speak. Finally, Vike-Freiberga broke the silence by stating that this issue was not discussed, and that the reactions of each Baltic country would be individual.

The presidents also discussed economic cooperation and spoke about the necessity to create a joint energy market and the building of electricity and gas transportation lines to Poland and Finland. Meri spoke about his idea to build a speed train connection between Tallinn and Berlin.

"This meeting is especially productive because businessmen of all three countries are taking part at this traditional meeting for the first time. Sometimes economy is a more important factor than diplomacy," Adamkus said.

Businessmen and women expressed their dissatisfaction that the trilateral free-trade agreement is still not working although it was signed three years ago. Customs formalities of all three countries are different, and it makes obstacles for the free flow of cargo and people. Businesspeople spoke with anger about the waste of time at the border crossings between Baltic countries.

"The same problem was in the fall of 1939," Meri said sadly.

Still, these problems did not overshadow the rather cheerful atmosphere of this meeting.

"The worst times are in the past. It is time for us to become small but self-satisfied and smiling countries," Meri said.

The idea of the annual meetings on the highest level was conceived by former Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas, former Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis and Estonian President Lennart Meri during their meeting in the Lithuanian seaside resort of Palanga in 1994. Meri said that then their working language was Russian. It is English now since Lithuanian-American Adamkus and Latvian-Canadian Vike-Freiberga became presidents.