Baltic American Freedom League to Hold Awards Banquet
LV-MFA, 9/23/05—At the meeting of the EU and US foreign ministers in New York, Latvia’s Foreign Minister, Artis Pabriks, recommended that the EU and the US adopt a common policy with regard to Belarus to encourage the development of democratic processes in the country. He emphasized that if western countries follow common principles and policies on this issue, there will be a far greater impact on Belarus government and society, thus a greater chance to realize democratic reforms in Belarus. On October 2004, the U.S. Congress passed the Belarus Democracy Act calling for an immediate end to the government of Belarus’ persistent assault on the democracy and human rights and pledged continued U.S. support to local defenders of liberty. The EU has declared that the promotion of democracy in Belarus is a priority of EU. Baltic American Freedom League to Hold Awards Banquet The Baltic American Freedom League will hold its annual awards banquet on Saturday, October 29, at the Latvian Community Center, 1955 Riverside Drive in Los Angeles, just off the I-5 freeway at Stadium Way near Dodger Stadium. The annual awards banquet is held to honor and recognize persons who have made outstanding contributions to the security, stability and democracy of the Baltic countries. The guest speaker will be the State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Defense, Edgars Rinkevics. Mr. Rinkevics has served in various capacities with the Ministry of Defense for ten years. He has held the position of State Secretary since 1997. Secretary Rinkevics holds an MA degree in Political Science from the University of Latvia and is a graduate of the U.S. National Defense University. He has received numerous awards for his work with the Ministry, the most recent being the Medal for Advancing Latvia’s membership in NATO. Participating in the ceremony with Mr. Rinkevics will be Latvia’s Assistant Military Attache in Washington, First Lieutenant Karlis Lidaks. The program also includes a piano recital by the world renown Lithuanian pianist Rudolfas Budginas. Mr. Budginas is the recipient of numerous awards including first prize in the International Liszt Piano Competition, Vitols International Piano Competition and the prestigious Yamaha of Europe award. Admission is $45; a discounted price of $25 is available for full time students under the age of 18. Schedule for the evening: No Host Reception – 6:00 PM Dinner – 7:00 PM Program – 8:00 PM Reservations Required. For additional information, seating arrangements and to make reservations please contact one of the following persons by phone: Nemyra Enck (310) 231-0018 Maryte Sepikas (818) 782-1248 Vija Turjanis (661) 549-5201 or Heino Nurmberg (760) 775-9160. By E-mail contact Valdis Pavlovskis at ValdisP@aol.com. Please make your reservations by OCTOBER 24, 2005.
Latvia’s Foreign Minister Advocates a Common EU and US Policy on Belarus
LV-MFA, 9/23/05—At the meeting of the EU and US foreign ministers in New York, Latvia’s Foreign Minister, Artis Pabriks, recommended that the EU and the US adopt a common policy with regard to Belarus to encourage the development of democratic processes in the country. He emphasized that if western countries follow common principles and policies on this issue, there will be a far greater impact on Belarus government and society, thus a greater chance to realize democratic reforms in Belarus. On October 2004, the U.S. Congress passed the Belarus Democracy Act calling for an immediate end to the government of Belarus’ persistent assault on the democracy and human rights and pledged continued U.S. support to local defenders of liberty. The EU has declared that the promotion of democracy in Belarus is a priority of EU.
Lithuania Will Not Recall Its Troops from Iraq
LIT-Pub-Radio, 8/30/05– Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas stated that the “new EU and NATO member” [Lithuania] is not considering recalling its troops from Iraq. “The question of recalling our troops from Iraq was not discussed and is not on the agenda for debate,” Brazauskas said in an interview aired on Lithuanian public radio. Some 100 troops are currently deployed in Iraq, while another 100 participate in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where Baltic soldiers serve on reconstruction teams in the Ghor province. The number of Lithuanian troops in Afghanistan is set to rise to 130 by the end of 2005.
Israeli President Visits Baltic Countries
BNS, DPA,9/20-22/05– In the first ever visit to the Baltic countries by an Israeli President, Moshe Kastsav, met with his Baltic counterparts, visited holocaust sites and praised Balts for their efforts to fight anti-Semitism. President Kastav warned that anti-Semitism was rising in Europe. In the Baltics, however, the phenomenon was marginal or nearly nonexistent, he said. The President laid the corner stone for Estonia’s first new synagogue since WWII and visited a Holocaust site with President Arnold Ruutel. While in Riga, Kastsav praised the state’s Holocaust education program and commemorated the death of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who passed away earlier that day in Vienna. During his visit to Lithuania, Lithuania’s President Adamkus stated that Lithuania paid a lot of attention to the memory of Holocaust victims and expressed the need to educate the younger generation about the Holocaust.
The Baltic Countries Experience Vigorous Economic Growth During Second Quarter (Q2) in 2005
BNS, 9/8/05– Estonia’s economy expanded by an astounding 10% in the second quarter of the year compared to the same period last year. This is the largest increase since the second quarter in 2000. The increase was largely due to exports, consumption and investments. Rute Eier, analyst of Eesti Uhispank, said that all preconditions for continuation of the trend were in place for the second half of the year. Lithuania’s GDP recorded a vigorous growth of 8% in Q2 and it rose by 6.4% during the first half of 2005. Latvia’s GDP in the second quarter surged by 11.6% and 6.4% for the first half of this year (ELTA 9/8/05).
Estonia to Provide Foreign Aid to Ukraine, Moldova and Egypt
EST-MFA, 9/15/05– On September 15, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the implementation of a 1,149,298 KR ($91,000) development assistance program for Ukraine, Moldova and Egypt. Ukraine will receive two grants, one to assist strengthening democratic the process of local governments in the Kulikovka region, the other to the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to train private entrepreneurs on EU membership requirements. Moldova will receive funding to bring Moldova’s laws and regulations in compliance with EU standards. In Egypt assistance will go to develop information and communications technology in the Fayoum region.
World Bank Ranks Baltic Countries Top Among Countries with Favorable Business Climate
EST-MFA, 9/12/05– In its 2005 survey on supportive business climate in 155 counties, the World Banked ranked Lithuania number 15, Estonia 16 and Latvia 27. The survey ranks the countries on their success in creating a simple and favorable environment for business. It comprises both tax policy and labor market regulations. Eleven of the world’s competitive countries are members of the EU. Denmark ranks 8, Great Britain 9, Ireland 11, Finland 13 and Sweden 14. The top three countries are respectively, New Zealand, Singapore and the U.S. The Baltic countries were specially noted in the report, as all three were among the 30 most competitive countries even though they launched their economic/business reforms only ten years ago.
Iron Curtain a Tourist Attraction
The Times (9/18/05) reports that under a scheme suggested by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and funded by the EU, the Iron Curtain is to be turned into a 4,340 mile tourist trail for walkers and cyclists. The trail is to preserve the memory of Europe’s past and celebrate the continent’s reunification. The path will stretch from the coast of the Arctic Sea and lead along Finland’s border with Russia, along the coast of the Baltic countries and Poland to Germany. It will continue along the Austrian border with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary and along the Danube to the Black Sea. Twelve countries already have pledged support for the idea and agreed to co-finance the project.
Lukoil and ConocoPhillips Consider Acquiring Major Stake in Lithuania’s Oil Sector
RIA Novosti, 9/29/05– Russia’s largest crude oil producer, Lukoil and American ConocoPhillips have set up a joint group to acquire new assets in Russia and abroad. The group will look into the possibility of purchasing a major stake in Mazeikiai Nafta. Mazeikiai assets include a refinery, the Butinge maritime terminal for crude oil and the Birzai pipeline. Lukoil which owns over 100 gas stations in Lithuania, proposes to link West Siberian oil deposits to the Mazeikiai refinery and to European consumers. Since the 1990’s, it has tried twice to gain control of the Lithuanian company. The Lithuanian government has set stringent qualifications for investors in the oil complex, requiring any Russian strategic investor to team up with a reputable Western company.
Russian-German Gas Pipeline Concerns Baltic Leaders
The signing of a pact by President Putin and Chancellor Schroeder for construction of a natural gas pipeline from Russia directly to Germany along the Baltic seabed has raised concerns among Baltic and EU leaders, reports BNS (9/15/05). The project undermines the EU supply diversification strategy; slows the EU’s common foreign and security policy; and demonstratively ignores the long-standing concerns of the Baltic countries and Poland. The four countries had proposed an overland pipeline through their territories. The overland line would cost about 30% less to build, and is better suited for containing the impact of accidents. The undersea project “openly lacks economic gains, it is clear that it was a political decision,” stated Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia. She added that Germany “apparently thought that it could make a decision with Russia all by itself without considering the fact that such a major energy project will affect many EU member states.” Environmentalists have noted possible danger to the pipeline from chemical weapons and mines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea dumped during and after WWII. Germany also ignored the Council of Baltic Sea Countries’ guideline on energy cooperation and ecological protection.
U.S. Pilots Take Over NATO Air Mission in the Baltic Countries
As of September 30, the U.S. Air Force took over the duties of NATO air patrols from the German air force to patrol the airspace of the three Baltic nations (Lit MOD (9/28/05). The mission will be carried out by F-16 fighter jets from the 52nd Fighter Wing. The 52 Fighter Wing is the largest fighter operation in Germany and the most versatile wing of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The patrol operations are carried out from Lithuania’s Zokniai military air base in northern Lithuania. NATO member countries have been taking turns at sending their fighters to the Baltic countries for patrol duty ever since the three countries joined NATO in March 2004. Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Netherlands and Norway have undertaken the mission in past years. Some 100 U.S. troops will be stationed at Zokniai for a three month tour. Last year, Russia’s Defense Minister criticized the stationing of NATO warplanes in Lithuania.
Russian Fighter Jet Crashes in Lithuania
Russian Fighter Jet Crashes in Lithuania On September 15, flying in good weather, a Russian air force SU-27 fighter jet crashed into a field some 100 miles inside Lithuania. The plane was participating in a simulation of air defenses against a NATO attack on Kaliningrad [Koenigsberg], reports The Week (9/30/05). The plane was carrying four armed air-to-air missiles. The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the plane veered off course due to faulty equipment and crash landed when it ran out of fuel. Lithuanian authorities and NATO are investigating the incident. Moscow sharply criticized Lithuania’s decision to carry out an independent investigation, accusing it of failing to adopt a “good-neighbor approach” and is conseqently stonewalling the investigation. The U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania, Stephen Mull, commended the Lithuanian officials “for their professional and calm response” and for their determination to cooperate with the Russian side, reports BNS (9/23/05). According to The Moscow Times (9/27/05), Russian Air Force Commander, Vladimir Mikhailov mocked NATO over its air defenses. “We had not planned to probe NATO defenses, but they turned out to be good for nothing. The much praised German pilots were on duty there, drinking beer or doing I don’t know what, but when they were scrambled the plane had already hit the ground,” he said. Russian military planes have frequently been accused of violating airspace of neighboring countries including Estonia, Latvia, Georgia and Finland. Russia has always insisted that no violation occurred.