Moscow Refuses to Ratify Border Treaty with Estonia
On June 20, the Estonian Parliament ratified the Russia-Estonia treaty that defines the border between the two countries. Under the treaty, Russia obtains possession of two areas, the town of Ianilinn and the Pesteseri district, appropriated from Estonia and attached to the Russian SFSR during the occupation era. These areas made up 5% of Estonia’s territory prior to the occupation. Nevertheless, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it would not forward the treaty to the Duma for ratification because of the preamble the Estonian parliament attached to the treaty. The preamble makes reference to the legal continuity of the Estonia state proclaimed in 1918 and the validity of the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty between Russia and Estonia (V.Socor, EDM 6/23/05).
Jordanians to Train Estonian Police Officers for Duty in Iraq.
(Est.MFA) On June 9, Estonia and Jordan signed an agreement for the training of Iraqi policemen at the Jordanian Police Training Center in Amman. Nearly 300 international police experts from the U.S., EU and other countries work at the Center as experts to train Iraqi police in international police practices and standards.
Baltic Naval Forces Participate in International Naval Maneuvers
Naval ships from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania participated in the annual naval exercise BALTOPS 05 in the Baltic Sea. The exercise was conducted by the U.S. and commenced in Latvian ports. Some 40 ships, 28 aircraft, 2 submarines and 2,500 troops from 11 countries including Sweden, Finland and Russia took part in the exercise. The maneuvers covered gunnery practice, re-supply at sea, undersea and mine warfare and interoperability.
Baltics to Catch Germany’s Second Business Expansion
“German business in the Baltic is ready for a rapid expansion,” Dr. Ralph-Georg Tischer, CEO of the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce told reporters (The Baltic Times (6/15/05). “EU accession at last has created awareness of the Baltics right down to the Swiss border. People now realize there’s life beyond Poland,” said Dr. Tischer. “There has been an unbelievable growth of interest in the Baltics, almost a stampede. EU means added security for foreign investors, especially the small and medium firms. EU enlargement has put the Baltic firmly on Germany’s mental map. If Germany’s eastern neighbors caught the first wave of German expansion, the Baltics seem to be ideally placed to catch the second,” said Dr. Tischer.
Lithuania Resurrects Exiled University
The European Humanities University, a private institution banished last year from Belarus by President Aleksander Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime, is set to be re-opened this fall in Vilnius, reports The Baltic Times. The university was founded in 1992. At one time the University had approximately one thousand students. It was funded largely by European educational foundations, national budgets and the U.N. It is expected that about 160 students from Belarus will enroll this fall. Belarussian Ambassador to Lithuania stated that the re-establishment of the university did not promote pragmatic and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.
Estonia Backs U.N. Democracy Fund Plan
Estonia and 25 other countries have pledged their support to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s call for a U.N. Democracy Fund to promote democratic institutions and practices around the world (AP 6/17/05). The Democracy Fund was one of six U.S. priorities for U.N. reforms announced by President George Bush in his speech to the General Assembly. The Fund will provide assistance for projects in new and emerging democracies.
Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Condemns Attempts to Vindicate the Holocaust
Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Artis Pabriks, issued a statement categorically condemning recent efforts by a few persons in the media to vindicate and mitigate crimes against humanity, particularly the Holocaust and to attempt to exonerate the perpetrators of these crimes (Latv.MFA 5/27/05). “These crimes cannot ever be justified and neither can the perpetrators of these crimes be exonerated…Latvia is proud of its cultural and ethnic diversity; therefore, any statements vindicating and stirring anti-Semitism, national or cultural intolerance are unacceptable,” said the Minister.
Lithuania to Establish Tolerance Education Centers
Antanas Valionis, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that the government plans to establish a network of Tolerance Education Centers in the secondary schools of Lithuania (Lith.MFA 6/8/05). The Centers will be staffed with teachers specially trained for teaching the subject. The Centers will provide teaching materials on the Holocaust as well as books and exhibits on the subject. “Acknowledging and remembering history will lead us to tolerance and mutual understanding,” said the Minister.
Russians Say No Need to Apologize to the Balts
Mosnews.Com (6/18/05) reports that 66.4% of Russians surveyed by Bashkirova and Partners, a public opinion survey firm, believe that the government should not acknowledge or apologize for any wrongdoing against the Balts. Only 3.9% of the respondents “completely agreed” that the government should apologize. 6.2% said they partly agreed. On the question of whether the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries in 1940, 52.3% of respondents “completely disagreed”, 18.2 % “partially disagreed,” 9.9% percent “partly agreed,” and 7.1% said they “completely agreed.” 9.7% said they did not know.
Russian Reaction Composed to S. Con. Res. 35
According to Pravda (5/34/05), Russian reaction to S. Con. Res. 35 was cool. The resolution calls for the Russian government to acknowledge that the occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries by the Soviet Union was illegal. “An intricate political game is being played because in recent years Russia started… to defend its interests in the world. Many governments would like to see [the return] of 1990s Russia when the country was weak, quiet and did not demand anything,” stated Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Russia does not see any reason to make special comments on the resolution,” Alexander Yakovenko, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters. A similar resolution, H .Con. Res. 128, has been introduced in the House by Representative John Shimkus (R-IL). The resolution has 27 cosponsors.
Freedom House Report Ranks Baltic Countries at the Top in Democratic Practices
The Freedom House study Nations in Transit 2005, which tracks the movement of 27 (plus Kosovo) post-Soviet countries towards democracy, ranks Estonia in second place as a viable democracy, Latvia comes in fourth and Lithuania places fifth. Russia ranked 23rd. The ratings were based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic development and 7 the lowest. Estonia received a rating of 1.68, Latvia 2.12, Lithuania 2.21 and Russia 5.61. The average for the survey was 4.15 points. The mean was 4.04 points. Scores were based on electoral process, civil society, independent media, national democratic governance, local democratic governance and corruption. “The fact that democracy has failed in so many countries of the former Soviet Union is due in part to the increasingly authoritarian Russian example, stated Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House Executive Director.
Meanwhile Back in Russia….
Pravda (5/27/05) reports that the lower house of parliament unanimously passed legislation to establish a commission to protect the human rights of Russian citizens and Russian speaking minorities in foreign countries. In a separate move, the Cochairman of the Russian Council for National Strategy proposed to set up a national movement for the protection of national minorities in Latvia. (Pravda 5/31/05). And the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, blasted Latvia’s parliament for requiring that all street signs be in Latvian. The Duma also overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the three Baltic countries for what it called gross distortion of history for claiming that Balts did not voluntarily join the Soviet Union. Moscow’s view is that the three countries invited the Red Army to occupy them.
Latvia Ratifies Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
(MFA of Latvia PR 5/27/05) On May 26, 2005, the Latvian Parliament ratified the Council of Europe’s (CE) Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. With the ratification of the convention, Latvia took another significant step towards the protection of rights of national minorities. According to the definition adopted by the Parliament, the term “national minorities” refers to those citizens of Latvia who differ from Latvians in terms of culture, religion or language, who have been living in Latvia for generations and who consider themselves as members of the Latvian community. “By ratifying the Convention, Latvia once again attests that the protection of human rights in Latvia conforms to the highest international standards,” stated Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Artis Pabriks.
“We welcome Latvia’s ratification of the CE Framework Convention,” commented President George Bush on his recent visit to Riga. Latvians were also congratulated on the adoption of the convention by the High Commissioner of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Rolf Ekeus. He noted that the definition of minorities was “liberal” and approved the norms included in the convention. This will allow non-citizens to enjoy all the rights stipulated by CE’s Convention. The same sentiments were echoed by the General Secretary of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis. He noted that non-citizens will be protected by the same rights accorded to all minorities within the Europe Union (Latv.MFA 6/5/05)