Baltic-Scandinavian Cooperation to Increase
According to Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen, the role of the Baltic sea region in Europe will be strengthened and opportunities for Baltic-Scandinavian cooperation will increase after the Baltic invitations to join NATO ( firstname.lastname@example.org/22/02 ). The Prime Minister singled out commerce and military affairs for increased cooperation. He also observed that the invitation to join NATO will facilitate Baltic membership in EU. “The fact that the Baltic countries have been invited to join the Alliance gives certain confidence in their abilities,” said Mr. Rasmussen.
Representative John Shimkus Presents Resolutions to NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Representative John Shimkus (10-IL), Congessional Representative to the NATO Parliamentary Assemble and Cochairman of the House Baltic Caucus, presented to the Assembly at its fall meeting in Turkey a resolution declaring that the terrorist attacks against the US were attacks against all NATO member states. Representative Shimkus also introduced a resolution calling for support of the UN weapons inspections in Iraq and for NATO support of any future resolutions that might call for actions Iraq if it does not cooperate with the inspectors. The Assembly approved both resolutions.
Lithuania and Russia Praise EU-Russia Agreement on Kalinigard (Koenigsberg) Transit
Lithuanian and Russian officials continue to praise Moscow’s agreement with EU on travel between Russia and ints Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea, which will be surrounded by soon-t-be-EU neighbors Poland and Lithuania. In an interview on Lithuania’s National Radio on 11/12/02, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas stated: “My position is positive, because the controversial issues have been resolved.” President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Kaliningrad said: This is a complete, very civilized, pragmatic decision… We’re satisfied and happy” (RFL/RL 11/12/o2 and 12/1/02). The agreement averted a showdown after months of heated rhetoric by Russian leaders who strongly objeced to the EU requirement of visas for travel between Russia and its enclave, saying it violated Russian sovreignty. The compromise will require Russians traveling to and from the enclave to obtain special multiple-entry travel documents, but stops short of requiring formal visas.
Holocaust Memorial Unveiled in Latvia
A proposed memorial dedicated to the victims of the 1941 massacre of 26,000 Jews in Rumbula Forest on the outskirts of Riga by Nazis was unveiled at the Jewish Community center in Riga, reports Yahoo Group (11/29/02). “We must go through the most difficult stages in our history, and be able to evaluate our history openly and honestly… They were our people who perished. They were part of Latvia for hundreds of years,” said Latvia’s Prime Minister, Einars Repse, in his address to the members of the Jewish community in Latvia.
Lithuania signs Agreement to Purchase US Stinger Missiles
Lithuania signs an agreement to purchase Stinger missiles from the US, reports AP (11/14/02). The system will cost $31 million. The US Ambassodor to Lithuania, John Teffer, noted that Lithuania is the first NATO candidate country to acquire Stingers, which is called a major step “both to assure the defense of the people of Lithuania and to prepare Lithuania’s armed forces to participate fully in NATO operations.” Heat seeking Stinger missiles are designed to shoot down low-flying airplanes and helicopters as well as cruise missiles. Last year Lithuania was the first European country to buy the US manufactured Javelin mid-range antitank weapons system.
Estonia’s Economic Freedom Ranks Equal with that of the United States
BNS reports (11/28/02) that the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Stree Journal annual Index of Economic Freedom just published ranks 161 countries based on 50 indicators such as trade policy, government intervention in economy, fical policies and scale of black markets, placing Estonia in sixth place together with the US and Denmark. Lithuania was ranked 29th and second among other Eastern and Central European countries. Latvia improved it’s position from 38th the previous year to 33rd this year
Latvia Forms New Government
RFE/RL reports (11/5/02) that Latvia’s New Era party reached an agreement with three other center-right parties to form the cabinet. The new ruling coalition controls 55 of the 100 seats in the new parliament. The left-wing party and the conservative party hold 25 and 20 parliamentary seats respectively, but haev been left outside the government. Analysts suggest the new government is not likely to alter Latvia’s standing policy of integration into NATO and EU, and that its changes in domestic reforms are likewise expected to be minor.
Russia is Interested In Good Relations with the Baltic Countries
Russia is interested in developing good and mutually favorable relations with the three Baltic countries, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said at a meeting between the Russian and NATO leaders in Prague. Moscow, while not pleased about NATO enlargement, has muted its once strident oppostion to enlargement for a variety of reasons ranging from acceptance of the inevitable to a belief that Russia’s future lies in cooperation, not confrontation, with the rest of Europe, notes “Los Angeles Times” correspondent David Holley (LA Times 11/22/02).
Newly Accepted NATO Members Declare Their Support for US Actions Against Iraq
As a block of NATO newcomers, the Baltic States and the East Europeans “exude more millitant and openly pro-American spirit” writes “The New York Times” reporter Patrick Tyler ( NYT 11/22/02 ). The seven newly accepted member states issued a communique declaring that if Iraq fails to comply with the recent UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, “we are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq.”
President Bush Visits Lithuania After NATO Summit
President George Bush traveled to Lithuania’s capital Vilnius after the NATO summit in Prague to welcome the people of the Baltic countries to NATO and to express his support for them. Speaking to thousands of Lithuaniians in a dowtown square, President Bush stated that with the Baltic entry into NATO their enemies shall now be America’s enemies. “In the face of aggression, the brave people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will never again stand alone… No more Munichs no more Yaltas,” declared the President. Earlier in the day, President Bush met with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia nd Lithuania and accepted Lithuania’s highest decoration from the President Valdas Adamkus for aiding Lithuania’s integration into NATO ( RFE/LB 11/23/02 ).
Baltic Leaders on NATO Enlargement
Officials from the three Baltic countries hailed NATO enlargement as a history-making event. Latvian Prime Minister Einars Repse called it the most day in Latvia’s history since the Baltic countries regained independance in 1991. “This means our independence and the ideals of freedom and democracy that we fought for will be protected forever,” he declared ( RFE?RL 11/21/02 ).”Our people have been tested in the fires of history, and they have been tempered in the furnaces of suffering and injusitce. They know the meaning and the value of liberty; and they know that it is worth every effort to support it, to maintain it, and to stand for it and fight for it,” said Vaira Vike-Freiberga President of Latvia” ( Boston Globe 11/24/02 ).The Estonian President, Arnold Ruutel, observed the Baltic States had reaced a milestone in their history. “We hope to become members of NATO in 2003, but until then a great deal still remains to be done,” he added ( Est.MFA 11/23/02 ).”The decision is of historic significance and renmoves Lithuania once and for all from the danger of returning to a Russian sphere influence. It’s a turn in our history. It’s not too much to say that,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Lina Linkevicius told reporters in Prague ( RFE?RL 11/21/02 ).
NATO Adopts Historic Decision
On November 21 at the NATO Summit in Prague, the Heads of State and Government of NATO countries made a historic decision to invite seven candidate countries – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania – to join the Alliance.”By welcoming the seven countries,” President George Bush said, “we will not only add to our military capabilities, we will refresh the spirit of the great democratic alliance. We believe today’s decision reaffirms our commitment to freedom and our commitment to Europe which is whole and free and at peace” ( AP 11/21/02 ). Enlargement marks a “historic moment when Europe is finally reunited and when Eurpoe and North America reassert the inseperable nature of their security,” said French President Jacques Chirac ( LA Times 11/22/02 ). British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the expansion “deepens the stability of Europe which is the historical mission of the Alliance” (AP 11/21/02 ).The invited countries will formally join the alliance in May 2004 after the U.S. Senate and the parliaments of the NATO member countries ratify the expansion.