Volume 6 – Number 2

Shimkus Cosponsors Visa Waiver Program Legislation

Washington, DC. Congressman John Shimkus (R, Illinois-19) is joining as the lead Republican sponsor of Visa Waiver Program legislation introduced by Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D, Illinois-5). The Visa Waiver Modernization Act of 2007 (HR 1543) is similar to Senator Voinovich’s amendment that has already passed the Senate. (March 19, 2007)

Baltic Leaders Mourn Yeltsin
Leaders in the Baltic states on Monday mourned the death of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, praising his courage in helping them regain independence from the Soviet Union. “Yeltsin was the statesman who laid the ground for Lithuania to regain independence,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had been forcibly incorporated into Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga stated “Boris Yeltsin played a significant role not only in Russian history but in the history of the whole of eastern Europe.” “We are mourning along with Russia… this is a loss for Europe,” she said. (Independent on Line April 24, 2007)

NORDEA: Baltic Rim Outlook: Record-strong growth spills over into overheating
Press Release – Baltic Rim Outlook: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland are among the fastest growing economies in the world. The Baltic economies are currently expanding even faster than during the previous boom year 1997. The expansion has been strong to the point of overheating and devaluation fears in Latvia. While we remain positive on the authorities’ ability to control the situation, the risk is that the current very fast expansion will end in a hard landing. The real estate market is one important factor behind the expansion. Despite the strong advances in recent years, the potential is far from exhausted yet. “We believe that the Baltic countries will continue growing faster than the EU on average in the coming years as well. (23.4.2007 Nordea Bank AB)

Resistance Growing to the Baltic Seabed Pipeline Project
The Russo-German project for a gas pipeline on the Baltic seabed is meeting with growing skepticism and resistance in the region. The Gazprom-led consortium, Nord Stream, has now unwittingly added to those concerns. It has distributed a poorly substantiated, omission-fraught information package to countries around the Baltic Sea regarding the project’s environmental, economic, and other implications for the region. The report has raised more questions than it answered about those and other aspects of the project. In the course of April, governmental institutions and NGOs from Baltic riparian countries have replied to the consortium’s report, noting its imprecision, missing facts and details, and unclear methodology. The replies, particularly from Sweden and Finland, are raising a host of technical and environmental issues. Those focus on alternative options for the pipeline route in various sectors of the sea, the project’s environmental impact, its consequences for safety of navigation, and risks posed by poorly documented dumps of World War II explosives and chemical munitions on the seabed. (Vladimir Socor April 23, 2007 The Jamestown Foundation)

EU Votes on Holocaust Denial Law
LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The three Baltic nations on Thursday demanded that major Stalinist atrocities should be included in plans for a European Union law to make incitement of racist violence and Holocaust denial a crime. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia demanded that a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers agree to make it illegal for people to publicly condone, deny or trivialize crimes against humanity committed under the Soviet regime led by Joseph Stalin. “Stalinism and Nazism should be treated equally,” said Jurgita Apanaviciute, a spokeswoman for Lithuania’s delegation to the EU. The EU ministers were close to agreeing on the contentious anti-racist package after six years of negotiations on how to combat racism and hate crimes. But other EU nations were loathe to agree to the demand by the Baltic states because they do not legally recognize crimes committed under Stalin as hate crimes or equate them with the genocide perpetrated under the Nazis in Germany during World War II.(CNN 19/04/07)

Barroso: Lithuania’s Problems are Europe’s Problems
On his first visit to Lithuania, Chairman of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso during his speech at the parliament praised the country and reminded about challenges to the European Union. At the celebratory parliamentary meeting on the 50th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, Barroso said that he wanted people to know that Lithuania’s problems are Europe’s problems that over two decades Lithuania has become a prospering country and that within two years Vilnius will become the European cultural capital. (30/03/07 The Baltic Times)

Latvian Cabinet Approves Ratification of Border Treaty With Russia
Latvia’s government has approved and submitted to parliament a law to ratify a border treaty with Russia, the government’s press service said Tuesday. Russian and Latvian Prime Ministers Mikhail Fradkov and Aigars Kalvitis signed the border treaty in Moscow March 27, ending a drawn-out period of contention between the two post-Soviet neighbors. By signing the treaty, EU member Latvia officially recognized the post-Soviet borders with Russia, backtracking on its earlier territorial claims on a district in the neighboring Russian region of Pskov, which was part of the Baltic state before World War II. (RIA novosti April 10, 2007)

Russia Builds First Floating Nuke Station
RUSSIA has begun to build the world’s first floating nuclear power plant despite warnings from environmentalists that it risks creating a disaster. The $239 million vessel, the Lomonosov, is the first of seven plants that Moscow says will bring vital energy resources to remote Russian regions as well as potential foreign markets. It will house two 35-megawatt reactors capable of supplying a city of 200,000 people when it starts operations, in three years’ time. Environmental groups and nuclear experts fear that floating plants will be more vulnerable to accidents and terrorism than land-based stations. They point to a history of naval and nuclear accidents in Russia and the former Soviet Union, most notoriously at Chernobyl in 1986. Nils Boehmer, an expert on Russia’s nuclear industry at Bellona, a Norwegian environmental group, said that floating power plants “raised a lot of new questions because this kind of facility has never been used in the world before”. (Tony Halpin 17/04/07)

Poland, Estonia: Construction of New Nuclear Power Reactor in Lithuania Will Boost Their Energy Security
Poland and Estonia agree the construction of a new nuclear power reactor at Lithuania’s existing Ignalina plant will boost their energy security, Speaker of Poland’s parliament Marek Jurek said after Wednesday talks with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, DPA reported. “This has great meaning for the energy security of both states and is a chance for all of our states to create an enterprise which can have great economic significance,” Jurek said, referring to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland. Poland and Lithuania have also forged plans to hook up their electrical power grids in order to plug all three Baltic European Union states into the EU’s larger electrical power network. (Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review, AIA 08.04.2007)

Small Baltic Nations Play Large Role for Alliance
NATO’s growing role in the western Baltic-rim region is behind a revised Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET) agreement signed April 12 by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The agreement replaces the original 1998 pact and provides a legal basis for establishing a Control and Reporting Center (CRC) to oversee NATO fighter jets patrolling in the national airspace of the independent Baltic states. The new BALTNET will deliver a more effective airspace surveillance and control dynamic, said Jurgen Ligi, Estonia’s defense minister. “The improved BALTNET agreement shows the importance of collaboration in air surveillance and in other defense matters between the Baltic nations,” Ligi said. “Together, we can achieve more, and we are actively looking for more ways to cooperate.” The developing interoperability of BALTNET has helped the Baltic states integrate with NATO structures and facilitate the more efficient use of resources. (Gerard O’Dwyer, Helsinki defensenews.com, posted 04/23/07)