Representative Gallegly Introduces HCR 468 Affirming the Importance of NATO
HR 468 is the end product of three comprehensive hearings held on NATO by the HIRC Subcommittee on Europe, according to Subcommittee Chairman Gallegly. The resolution declares that NATO is relevant to the US, and that it must remain the foundation of American security policy in Europe. It further states that NATO enlargement is an essential aspect of NATO. For the new members it will be more than joining a military alliance. “For them it will be a validation of their return to being democratic, European and pro-western states,” said Chairman Gallegly (Congr. Rec. 7/26/02). HCR 468 is cosponsored by Representatives Doug Bereuter, Christopher Cox and Tom Lantos.
Congressional Delegation Visits Tallinn and Riga
A bipartisan Congressional delegation headed by Representative David Drier (RCA) visited Estonia and Latvia in early August. The delegation expressed support to Estonia’s and Latvia’s aspirations to join NATO. After becoming familiar with the situation and accomplishments of the two countries, the delegates were confident that the countries will be invited to join NATO and would make a positive contribution to NATO, Representative Drier told reporters in Riga (8/3/02). The President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga, noted that the best way to learn more about a country is to visit is and get acquainted with the situation firsthand instead of getting the information from the press or other sources. The delegation included Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Pete Sessions (R-TX) and E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (R-FL).
European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) Praises Latvia on Human Rights
The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance Report 2002 notes the progress of Latvia on the issues of racism, intolerance, and discrimination since the last report in 1998 (MFA Press Release 7/23/02). ECRI especially praises the measures undertaken by the government that are aimed at streamlining the naturalization process, as wall as the success of the National Program for Latvian Language Training, adoption of the Society Integration Program, and the establishment of the Society Integration Foundation. ECRI was established in 1993 by the Council of Europe to combat racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe.
Jewish Organization Denies It Protested Against Latvia’s Membership in NATO
Mr. Steven Springfield, President of the US Organization “Jewish Survivors of Latvia” categorically denied a story that appeared in the Russian language newspaper Vesti Segodna (8/19/02) that the organization had sent an open letter to the US President, Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center opposing Latvia’s membership in NATO. Mr. Springfield informed the news agency LETA that the group never sent such a letter. “Quite contrary, we support Latvia’s entrance into NATO and the European Union,” said Mr. Springfield. He stated that the person who informed the newspaper about the protest “does not represent the Jewish Survivors of Latvia in any way.”
Estonia Establishes Official Holocaust Remembrance Day
The Estonian government designated January 27–the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau German concentration camp–as official Holocaust Day, BNS reports (8/6/02. The Holocaust is part of Estonia’s school curriculum, taught in connection with the events of World War II. In 1998, the President of Estonia convened an International Commission to investigate crimes against humanity that were committed against Estonian citizens in Estonia during the Soviet and German occupations. The first report by the Commission is available on the Internet www.historycommission.ee .
Representative Shimkus Supports President’s Budget Request for FMF Funding for the Baltics
In a letter to the Chairman of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Representative John Shimkus, Cochairman of the Baltic Caucus, expressed his strong support for funding the Baltic FMF program at least at the level requested by the President–$21.250 million. The Congressmen noted that the previous year’s funding has significantly supported the efforts of the Baltic countries to attain Western military standards and to improve their capacities to contribute to international security through the provision of peacekeepers to the international peacekeeping missions. He also expressed support for the continuance of SEED assistance to the Baltic countries at least the $5 million level is recommended by the Senate FO Subcommittee.
Senator Ben E. Nelson and Representative Elton Gallegly Join Baltic Caucuses
Senator Ben E. Nelson (D-NE) has shown an explicit interest in the Baltic countries and their aspirations to join NATO. He was part of a five member Senate delegation that visited Latvia to attend the Bridge to Prague Summit of the NATO aspirant countries. Representative Elton Gallegly (RCA), Chairman of the HIRC Subcommittee on Europe is a strong supporter of the Baltic nations and an advocate of Baltic membership in NATO. The Senate and House Baltic Caucuses are bipartisan working groups with an interest in strong U.S.-Baltic relations. With the new members, the Senate Caucus has eleven members and the House Caucus 74 members. Senators Richard Durbin (IL) and Gordon Smith (OR) and Representatives John Shimkus (IL) and Dennis Kucinich (OH) are Cochairmen of their respective Caucuses.
World Bank (WB) Places Baltic Nations Among Countries with Upper Middle Incomes
The World Bank survey of the economic situation in the world in 2001 places the Baltic countries in the category of countries with upper middle incomes, Washington-based institute Profiles reports. According to WB’s data, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania are among those 38 countries where average income per capita range between $2,976 and $9,205. The category includes Poland and Hungary. None of the former Soviet Republics, including Russia, has been included into the group.
Latvia and Lithuania Make Rapid Progress Toward Membership in European Union
Two candidates for membership in EU, Latvia and Lithuania, have made rapid progress towards that goal in accession talks in Brussels Michael Emerson, an analyst with the Brussels-based think tank Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), told RFL/RL reporters 98/2/02). “Now they are at or near the top of the list,” noted Mr. Emerson. The two countries are just chapters, behind the expected front-runners Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. Emerson said that EU has not given any special treatment or consideration to Lithuania or Latvia.
Austria and Portugal Support Baltic Membership in European Union and NATO
The Presidents of Austria and Portugal met with counterparts form the Baltic countries in Salzburg July 27, to discuss problems facing Europe. They confirmed their support for NATO membership for the Baltic countries and commended them for their achievements, which, according to the two Presidents, served as a guarantee of their accession to the EU and NATO. (Est. MFA PR 8/1/02).
“Russia’s Threats to Baltic Membership in NATO Have Declined,” Rep. Doug Bereuter
Writing in the Hill News (7/31/02), Representative Doug Bereuter said that no NATO members “should be less reticent to accept Baltic nations into NATO. Russia’s overt threats [to the Baltic nations membership] have declined or disappeared, and intense opposition to NATO expansion by the civilian Russian leadership has noticeably declines. They are also learning that an effective relationship in the NATO-Russian Council can lead to economic prosperity and security.” Mr. Breuter also notes that bringing new qualified nations into NATO is not a burden, rather it will “make NATO a more vital organization.
Russia’s President Putin Lets NATO “Recruit” in Baltic
“President Vladimir Putin gave grudging approval to the Baltic states’ membership into NATO ending years of heated opposition by Moscow to the idea”, reports The Daily Telegraph [London], 6/25/02. While voicing skepticism about NATO’s enlargement to include the Baltic countries in November, Mr. Putin insisted that it was “no tragedy”. Using Estonia as an example, Mr. Putin predicted that joining NATO would not harm relations with Russia. Mr. Putin’s acquiescence to NATO enlargement is the “latest sign of his strategic shift towards the West, noted The Daily Telegraph’s correspondent in Moscow Marcus Warren.
Representative Elton Gallegly: “Baltic Countries on Top of the List”
Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA), the Chairman of HIRC Subcommittee on Europe, while on a two week trip to the Baltic countries, commended Baltic leaders on the “tangible process” they have made towards NATO membership and told them that “should the voting on admission of new members take place today…the Baltic countries would be on the top of the list.” (LETA 8/13/02, RFE/RL 8/14/02).
Baltic American Community Backs HCR 116
The bipartisan resolution HCR 116 supporting the integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into NATO has unanimous support among the Baltic American community, according to the leaders of the Baltic American Freedom League. The resolution introduced by Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL) and Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) commends the three countries for the progress they’ve made “toward political and economic liberty and meeting the guidelines for prospective [NATO] members.” The resolution has 54 cosponsors, ten of whom are members of the House International Relations Committee.