Baltic American Freedom League to Hold Awards Banquet
The Baltic American Freedom League’s 22nd Annual Awards Banquet will be held on Saturday, October 29, 2005 at the Latvian Community Center at 1955 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles CA. A no host cocktail reception is planned for 6:00 PM with dinner and the awards presentation commencing at 7:00 PM. The keynote speaker will be announced later. General admission is $45.00, for students under 18 years of age the admission is $25. RSVP to Vija at (661) 540-5201 or Maryte (818) 321-1811 no later than October 25.
Representative Dennis Kucinich Gets Married
The Baltic American Freedom League congratulates the Cochairman of the House Baltic Caucus, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) on his marriage to Ms. Elizabeth Harper. Over 250 guests attended the ceremony at Cleveland City Hall, where Mr. Kucinich once served at mayor.
Representative Alcee Hastings Visits the Baltic Countries
Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL), President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, visited the Baltic countries in August. During his visit Rep. Hastings met with Baltic government officials and members of parliaments to discuss future work of the OSCE, Parliamentary Assembly, the ongoing reform process of the OSCE, and the priorities of the Baltic countries within the OSCE. The Congressman noted that “Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have gone through a remarkable development to being full-fledged members of the European Union. The Parliamentary Assembly consists of 317 elected members of parliaments from 55 participating States.
Forbes Lists the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga
Latvia’s President Vaira Vike-Freiberga ranked 48 on Forbes’ (August) list of this year’s 100 most powerful women in the world—women who make things happen. This is the second time the President made the list. Last year she placed 70. The power ranking is based on a composite of visibility (press citations) and economic impact. The brief description of Vike-Freiberga cites the visit by President Bush to Latvia and mentions how she irked Russians by asking them to apologize for the Soviet occupation. The magazine also mentions Latvia’s booming economy. Dr. Condoleezza Rice was ranked as the most powerful woman in the world (The Baltic Times 8/4/05).
Baltic Banks to Prosper
(BNS 7/28/05) Fitch Rating, a leading bank rating firm, reported that Baltic banks are expected to continue to benefit from a strong operating environment and robust loan growth. The firm expects the strong loan growth to continue, particularly in the mortgage loan sector and especially in Lithuania, where borrowing has been considerably lower than in Estonia and Latvia. In the firm’s view, the banks’ ratios’ are quite strong. The report also states that Fitch will monitor the increasing exposure of the Baltic banks to activities in Russia and Ukraine. These risks are currently limited to only a small proportion of the banks’ balance sheets, but a substantial increase may negatively affect the ratings of Baltic banks.
Estonia to Substantially Increase Foreign Aid to Developing Countries and Its Military Budget
(EST-MFA 8/4/05) The foreign aid set aside by the Estonian Foreign Ministry’s budget to developing countries and disaster areas will be increased by EEK40-50 million, approximately $3.1—$3.9 million. This would meet the proposed goal of 0.01 percent of the GDP for foreign aid, as suggested by the United Nations’ and EU’s action plan for aid to developing countries. Last year’s budget allocation for foreign aid amounted to 0.079 percent of the GDP. So far this year Estonia has spent EEK3.7 million ($290,200) on foreign aid of the EEK8 million ($627,000) appropriated. Estonia has participated in three major humanitarian programs: EEK500,000 ($39,000) to the Red Cross for Tsunami victims, EEK400,000 ($31,000) to the UN High Commissioner for refugees to alleviate the situation in the Darfur Area of Sudan, and EEK220,800 ($17,000) to world education projects in Georgia, South Africa and Tanzania. Assistance to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will be among the top priorities of Estonia’s foreign aid program, said the Minister.
Estonia’s Prime Minister announced that he will propose to raise the armed forces budget to one percent of the GDP. The Minister stated that no opposition can be tolerated to the increase of the military budget as Estonia had previously pledged to raise funding to the armed forces. In a recent public opinion survey, 34% of the respondents supported an increase in the military budget.
Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Disappointed in Iran’s Decision
(LATV-MFA 8/10/05) Commenting on the meeting of the Board of the International Atomic Energy Commission on Iran’s nuclear conversion activities, Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Artis Pabriks, stated he regrets Iran’s decision to resume uranium conversion at the nuclear plant in Isfahan. Latvia strongly supports the proposals by France, the United Kingdom and Germany on behalf of the EU leading to mutually satisfactory and beneficial relations with Iran. Latvia considers it essential that Iran abide by the agreements reached in Paris and stop any further nuclear activities.
Russian Ambassador to Latvia Bashes Gay Parade in Riga
(BNS 8/12/05) At a press conference in Riga, Russian ambassador to Latvia Viktor Kalyuzhny criticized Latvian authorities for allowing a parade of gays and lesbians and said that such a parade would be impossible to hold in Russia as it is “anti-human.” The Ambassador added that “any normal individual should understand that cheating nature is impossible.”
New Regional Alliance Proposed for the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Caspian Regions
The Baltic Times (8/25), AP (8/19) report that a new regional alliance of nations to reinvigorate the economic and democratic integration of Eastern Europe and forge a counterbalance to Russia’s dominance in the region was proposed by the Presidents of Georgia, Poland and Ukraine at a meeting in Crimea. The alliance, named Community of Democratic Choice (CDC), would “unite democracies of the Baltic, Black Sea and Caspian region.” Lithuania’s President Adamkus stated that “cooperation between the countries of the Black Sea regions have excellent prospects. He also expressed hope that Estonia and Latvia would also join the CDC. “The alliance would not be an “alternative to the CIS,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasuik.
Sen. Brownback and Rep. Christopher Smith Call for Religious Freedom in Russia
The Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), have introduced resolutions (SCR 46 and HCR 190) calling upon the Government of Russia to fully protect religious freedom. “The Russian government’s record on religious freedom has not met the standards of the Helsinki Process, or even the Russian Constitution itself,” said Chairman Brownback. “President Putin must do more to ensure all Russian citizens enjoy their religious liberties.” Rep. Smith noted that the “Russian system of registering faith is used as a shield by the Russian police and other government agencies to discriminate against and mistreat people who hold certain religious beliefs.”
Russia Cancels Border Treaty with Estonia and Latvia
On August 13, the Russian government announced that it intends to withdraw from the border treaty with Estonia signed in Moscow on May 18, 2005 and ratified by Estonia on June 20, reports the St. Petersburg Times [Rus.] (8/17/05). Moscow objects to the legal statement attached to the treaty Estonia reaffirming Estonia’s standing as an uninterrupted legal state since 1918, when it declared independence, and demands that the statement be removed. Tallinn, however, refuses to comply. Moscow’s position is that Estonia and the other two Baltic countries joined the Soviet Union legally and does not recognize the legal continuity of the three countries during their de facto incorporation into the Soviet Union. It holds that the Baltic countries were created in 1991. Russia also refuses to ratify a border treaty with Latvia for the same reason. President Putin describes Latvia’s insistence on legal continuity since 1918 as “total nonsense.”
Putin’s Diatribe Against the Baltic Countries Rebuffed in Public by Finland’s Head of State
Eurasisa Daily Monitor (8/3/05) reports that while on a visit to Finland, President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with Finland’s President Tarja Halonen, villainously portrayed the Baltic countries as breaching European criteria for democracy and the rule of law and falsely accused Estonia and Latvia of withholding citizenship and limiting the rights of Russian citizens residing in the two countries. In an unprecedented response by a head of state, President Halonen declared that Estonia’s and Latvia’s legislation and practice “correspond with the criteria for EU membership”; meet the requirements of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for citizenship; and that the two countries are “doing their best to actively encourage non-citizens to apply for citizenship.” Halonen also went on to urge Putin sign border treaties with Estonia and Latvia
Congress Urges Russia to Accept Responsibility for Soviet Illegal Occupation of Baltic Countries
On June 22, the 65th anniversary of the U.S. declaration stating that the occupation of the Baltic countries by the Soviet Union is illegal and that the U.S. does not recognize the Baltic countries as a legitimate part of the U.S.S.R., the House of Representatives adopted HCR 128 by unanimous vote calling on the Government of Russia to clearly and unambiguously acknowledge that the occupation and annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from 1940 to 1991 by the U.S.S.R. was illegal. The resolution was introduced by Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) and was cosponsored by 30 members of the House, a majority of whom are members of the Baltic Caucus. A similar resolution was passed by the Senate in May. “Russia has been unwavering of its non-recognition of the mass deportations, torture, and murders committed by the Soviet regime [in the Baltics]. Russia needs to acknowledge the mistakes of the past so it can move forward and become a truthful state, and in turn a stronger democracy,” stated Representative Shimkus in introducing the resolution.