Thursday—January 27, 2005
Rüütel and Putin: who said what when and where?
Estonian president Arnold Rüütel said he had to give a lot of interviews right after his two-hour January 20th meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Whether Putin talked about annulling Molotov-Ribbentrop pact or whether it was a mistake on Rüütel’s part, the Estonian president said he may have used different wordings in different interviews. “The general idea has remained the same – MRP and actions that were based on it have to be condemned,” Rüütel said.

Latvian cash clean, just not in the traditional sense…
The United States has warned the Latvian banking sector about its attempts to legalize illegally acquired funds—that means money laundering to you and me—and Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis has resolved to confront the problem. If Latvia does not address the problem, the U.S. says it will impose sanctions resulting in Latvian commercial banks losing business. Latvia ranks fourth in the world in transactions of U.S. dollars.

Estonian men die young
Estonian men have the shortest lifespan in the EU according to the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat. The average life span of an Estonian male is 65 years, 10 years less than the EU average. According to a Tartu University study, the death rate among Estonian men in the 30-50 year-old age category is exceptionally high. The reasons cited are excess consumption of alcohol, traffic accidents, cardiovascular diseases, and lung cancer. Estonian women live an average of 12 years longer than their men, but their average life span is also lower than the EU average.

Wednesday—January 26, 2005
Silver Spoon Awards 2004
The Estonian Gastronomy Society presented the first Silver Spoon awards this January. City Paper urges its readers to support this project: ask your favorite restaurants to take part. And ask the bad restaurants to take part so that they may be smitten from the earth.
Silver Spoon category and winner
Best gourmet restaurant: Stenhus
Best ethnic food: Sushi House
Best family-friendly restaurant: Georg Ots Spa Restoran (Saaremaa)
Best café: Crepp
Best new restaurant: Sisalik
Best chef: Michael Bhoola (Pegasus restaurant)
Best wine service: Stenhus
Best interior: Stenhus
Best service: Restoran Kadriorg

Tuesday—January 25, 2005
Putin’s and Rüütel’s stories differ concerning Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Estonian President Arnold Rüütel announced last week that Russian president Vladimir Putin promised that Russia will declare the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact illegal. The Russians saw things differently. Putin’s spokesman Dimitri Peskov: “At present it is possible to revalue the Molotovi–Ribbentrop pact only historically,” Peskov said. “Considering the real situation, legal revaluation of the pact isn’t possible.”
Rüütel’s Moscow meeting was attended by only three men - Putin, Rüütel and Patriarch Alexy II. Rüütel’s spokesman said it would be easier to interpret what was said if there had been more witnesses.

Latvia to get euro-standard passports
In accordance with EU regulations, member states must issue passports of one type which include enhanced security elements. The new passports, to begin issuance in August, feature microchips with a digital picture and fingerprints of the holder.

Thursday—January 20, 2005
Ministers push for identical interpretation of history
Regardless of the Baltic representation at Victory Day in Moscow, Baltic foreign ministers concluded that the three countries should adopt a single historical viewpoint concerning the outcome of World War II. The Baltic presidents are taking individual decisions regarding participation at V-Day events in Russia.
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the president of Latvia, announced her individual choice to join the celebrations of victory against the Nazi Germany, which will take place in Moscow this May. Vike-Freiberga indicated said she would set forth the stance of the national government with respect to the outcome of World War II. The declaration will read, she said, that for Latvia the war and Soviet occupation ended only after the country regained independence in 1990.
The Lithuanian leader Valdas Adamkus said he would announce his choice whether to go to Moscow on May 9 following a broad public debate.

Katie bar the door: 34% of Estonians would like to leave
34% of Estonian residents are interested in working abroad. 10% claim to have made definite plans, Postimees reports. 10% of Estonians report having already worked abroad. 25% claim to have worked abroad unofficially. The most popular destination is Finland, where a half would be ready to work. Germany and Sweden closely followed. Hollywood was not mentioned.

Estonia troops to exit Iraq?
Postimees claims the Estonian government has reached a not-yet-public decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq. So far, two soldiers have been killed and 20 wounded.

The world loves Latvia’s canned meat most of all (alcohol is second)
Canned meat and fish accounted for 21.2 percent of Latvia’s food exports in the first nine months of 2004. Next follow beverages (19.9 percent), milk, dairy products, eggs and honey (14.4 percent), and fish (6.7 percent).

Friday—January 14, 2005
Who forgot Vilnius?
The capital of Lithuania has been left off the route of the high-speed European railway, Rail Baltica. Rail Baltica is to connect Helsinki, Riga, Kaunas, and Warsaw. Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas is not letting this go unnoticed. He has proposed several alternatives for discussion.
According to original plan, the Rail Baltica, would be built along the eastern edge of Kaunas. A terminal would be constructed in Karmelava, 15 kilometers north of Kaunas. The terminal’s expected cost is 1.192 million litas (345 MM EUR).

Ukraine looks to Lithuania for help with EU, NATO integration
The Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Konstantin Grishchenko, asked Lithuania to share experience on EU and NATO integration when he met Tuesday with President Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius. The Ukrainian minister said integration bids would be a priority on the agenda of a new government of his country.

Five million cubic meters of Latvian forests damaged in storm
The Latvian Forest Owners Association reports the recent storm will dramatically affect the wood market where the price for pulp will fall considerably.

Estonia allocates 10 million EEK (639,000 EUR) to storm victims
The Estonian government decided in an emergency meeting to allocate 10 million kroons (639,000 EUR) to storm victims. The money is intended to help people with low incomes to regain a normal life. Wealthier people and companies should try to cope without the state aid, Prime Minister Juhan Parts said. The 10 million may not be the final sum. The government may increase the amount this week.
Initial storm damage estimates are total several hundred million kroons.

Grenade explosion in Tallinn injures eight
A young man insulted in a bar fight threw a hand grenade into a crowd of people in front of a bar in Tallinn’s Lasnamäe district. Seven people in the crowd and the young man himself were injured.

Now just where did we put that extra million?
The Estonian daily Postimees has reported that Estonia’s embassy in Great Britain was the victim of signature fraud. A female employee was tricked out of her signature, which was used to remove nearly one million Estonian kroons from the embassy’s bank account.

Don’t go out alone at night in Siaulai, at least not without your sidearm
Last week, an officer of the Royal Norwegian Air Force was robbed in the Lithuanian city of Siauliai bringing the total number of military victims to eight.

May we help you with that cable, sir?
Lithuanian power companies are attempting to restore the disrupted power supply due to severe weather conditions, and thieves are not making the job easy. 250,000 households were left without power in Lithuania due to flooding and Hurricane Erwin. As power company employees worked to restore power, thieves stole hundreds of meters of cable.

Friday—January 7, 2005
Latvia to spend 144,000 EUR in Southeast Asia on helicopter transport
The Latvian State Emergencies Commission has decided to spend the government-allotted 100,000 LVL (144,000 EUR) with the company GM Helicopters. The company will provide services for a full month for the budgeted amount. Helicopters are a priority at this time since they can deliver aid to otherwise cut off regions.

Most/Least popular Latvian ministers
Latvia’s residents rated Minister of Culture, Helena Demakova, most popular in the new government in a December poll. Defense Minister, Einars Repse, was voted the least popular.

Thursday—January 6, 2005
Laval un partneri turns to the Swedish supreme court
The Latvian construction company is protesting the Swedish labor court’s decision to permit the Swedish builders union Byggands to continue boycotting the Latvian company, Laval un partneri. The Latvian company’s attorneys believe that the labor court did not properly interpret EU legislation.

Estonian modesty at work? Perhaps they stormed the castle alone?
Estonia’s peacekeeping unit in Iraq, ESTPLA, arrested a dozen anti-coalition fighters and discovered an arms warehouse 40 km from Baghdad on Sunday. “…not all praise goes to ESTPLA since it was a joint operation,” said ESTPLA chief Andrus Merilo. ESTPLA-10 serves in the U.S. 1st cavalry division.

Latvia’s swinging prosecutor
The Latvian Prosecutor General decided to dismiss Prosecutor Juris Jekabsons from his duties in the Riga Customs’ Office. The local press reports Jekabsons beat up a man with a baseball bat during the Christmas holidays.

Wednesday—January 5, 2005
Estonia and EU funding: Use it or lose it?
Only half of the planned 5.3 billion kroons (353 million euros) of EU support reached the Estonian state budget in 2004 according to the Estonian Ministry of Finance.
The finance ministry says the money will not be lost since it can be used in 2005 and 2006. The ministry said plenty of proposals were submitted for the money, but that the money’s lack of use is justified by the fact that preparations for very large projects have taken longer than expected. Hospital network renovation was one example given.
This year’s state budget includes 6.1 billion kroons (406 million euros) of EU support.

Latvia, Estonia climb in Economic Freedom Index; Lithuania, USA fall
Estonia and Latvia have climbed to the 4th and 29th places, respectively, in the Economic Freedom Index. Lithuania has fallen one position to 23rd in the world, and the United States, for the first time in eleven years, has dropped out of the top ten to 12th place. Lithuania and the USA ranked 22nd and 6th last year, respectively.
The index, published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, ranks the freest economies in the world. Hong Kong, again, ranks first in the world.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady, editor The Wall Street Journal’s Americas column, writes concerning the USA’s ranking: “Stand still on the highway to economic liberty and the world will soon start to pass you by.” Holding the USA back in the rankings, O’Grady notes, is the country’s fiscal burden, which imposes high marginal tax rates for individuals and very high marginal corporate tax rates. Also heavy governmental regulation and aggressive use of antidumping law in trade policy have held the US back.

Tuesday—January 4, 2005
Latvia to decide aid for tsunami victims
The Latvian government is will decide today what aid to offer countries of Southeast Asia. The local press suggests the amount may be around LVL 51,700 (74,000 EUR). The Latvian Red Cross and the Sri Lanka Honorary Consulate in Latvia are continuing to raise funds.

Estonian rescue workers depart for Asia
Estonia’s 15-member team of medics and rescue workers left Monday for Indonesia, where they will work on the island of Sumatra. The Estonian unit will replace an Australian rescue team which received 150-200 patients and made 5-6 operations a day.

Missing Lithuanians located, safe
All of the missing Lithuanian nationals in Asia are safe the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday. During the natural disaster in southern Asia, 112 Lithuanians were vacationing in the region as part of package trips. Forty other Lithuanians traveled to the affected areas on their own.

Ecolines driver under house arrest
Jekabpils, Latvia, city authorities chose he precautionary measure of house arrest for the Econlines driver of the double-decker bus that crashed in Rezekne on December 31. Nine persons were killed; 39 were injured. Local wire services report that unofficial sources say international route drivers often make several trips in a row, ignoring an obligatory rest period.

Monday—January 3, 2005
While you were out… Here’s what happened in the Baltic region over the holiday break. CITY PAPER has now returned to its regular schedule of updating the news.

Hearts out to Latvia
Latvia suffered the most tragic traffic accident in its history December 31st. An Ecolines double-decker bus en route from Moscow to Riga crashed near Stirniene killing nine passengers. Dozens sustained injuries. Overall, 65 people were traveling in the bus. Police are investigating but suspect high speed as the cause of the crash.

20 Baltic citizens missing in Southeast Asia
Foreign ministries in each Baltic country are trying to trace missing tourists. 15 tourists from Latvia are still unaccounted for in the tsunami-hit region of Southeast Asia.
Three Estonians and two Lithuanians are listed as missing.

Unit I of Ignalina nuclear plant shut down
In compliance with its commitment to the European Union, Lithuania shut down Unit I of Ignalina Nuclear plant on December 31st. The electricity load of the plant was reduced to 250 MW and the red stop button was pressed. “That’s it. Ten seconds and total silence. Everything went on smoothly and in line with the plan,” said Viktoras Sevaldinas, CEO of the plant. Unit II is expected to be closed by the end of 2009. Lithuanian top officials however have said that the country should remain a nuclear power state in future.
Lithuania government has called the country “the most nuclear dependent state in the world.” Currently, about 80 percent of the electricity demand in Lithuania is generated at the Ignalina plant.

Full fourth of Estonian parliament observes Ukraine elections
While Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Sweden sent just a few observers to the Ukrainian presidential elections, an entire quarter of the Estonian parliament, 26 MPs, traveled to Ukraine for the December 26 elections. Marko Mihkelson, the parliament’s foreign committee chairman attempted to justify the need to send a full fourth of the Estonian government: “Going there is a very important foreign political step. Observing elections is very necessary…we need to show our readiness to support Ukrainians.”

Vilnius mayor attempted 45,000 litas bribe says prosecutor
The vote of Vilnius councilor Vilmantas Drema was worth 45,000 litas (13,000 euros) during the mayoral election in Vilnius in 2003. The defendants in the case are Mayor Zuokas and Andrius Janukonis, the chairman of the board at Rubicon Group, a security company. The two are accused of exerting unjustified pressure to sway votes. According to the public prosecutor, Mayor Zuokas used Mr. Janukonis to secure councilor Drema’s vote.

Estonia to grant humanitarian aid to Pskov
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to send 300,000 EEK (20,000 EUR) worth of Hepatitis A vaccines to the children of the Russian city of Pskov. The vaccines will be transported to Pskov by the Estonian Red Cross. Around 1,280 children will be vaccinated for the donation.
In 2004, the Estonian foreign ministry allocated 1.5 million EEK (100,000 EUR) in humanitarian aid.

Estonia supports the victims of the Asian earthquake
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted 500,000 Estonian kroons (33,000 EUR) to the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) to help the victims of the Asian earthquake.

Russian superspy visits Lithuania
The Lithuanian State Security Department confirmed that Vladimir Alganov, a Russian intelligence officer, visited Lithuania in 2002.
Lithuanian MPs are calling for an explanation of why Alganov obtained a long-term Lithuanian visa in 2002 at the request of the managers of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. Alganov was expelled from Poland for spying in 1997.

Adamkus welcomes Yushchenko
Adamkus offered congratulations to Yushchenko for winning the Ukrainian presidency. The Ukrainian politician, in turn, thanked the Lithuanian president for mediation in resolving the political crisis in Ukraine, the presidential press service reports.
“You were with us when Ukraine was living through hard times. We are very grateful to you for this,” Yushchenko said. The Lithuanian president extended an invitation to Yushchenko to visit the Baltic country. The results of the Ukrainian polls, with 98.36 percent of ballots counted, give Yushchenko 52.29 percent of the vote. His rival Viktor Yanukovich obtained 43.92 percent.

Category Countries: Estonia, Countries: Latvia, Countries: Lithuania

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Gene Zolotarev about EU financial system