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###1 News Intrigue and subterfuge heat up Lithuania’s presidential ballot 2 By Steven Paulikas, VILNIUS Lithuania’s political scene erupted with intrigue in the run-up to the June 13 presidential and European Parliament elections, as party leaders pulled off a number of surprises to win over the electorate’s support in the final weeks of campaigning. With the Constitutional Court’s May 25 ruling to ban Rolandas Paksas, former president and one of the most popular politicians, from running in the new presidential ballot, parties and candidates jockeyed for a position in what’s looking more and more like a one-man race. However, former President Valdas Adamkus, who is the clear front runner, received a blow from his own traditional base of support when the right-wing Homeland Union-Lithuanian Conservative Party withdrew its support for his candidacy the day after the high court’s verdict. Homeland Union, which had previously supported both Adamkus and former EU negotiator Petras Austrevicius, plumped for Austrevicius alone, arguing that it hoped to push two likeminded candidates into the second round of elections. While Adamkus does not belong to any political party, it was broad support from center and right politicians that swept him to power in the 1998 presidential elections. News of Homeland Union’s official defection from the Adamkus camp came as a shock to political observers and raised question about the solidarity of the right-wing. “In my personal opinion, this was an attempt by the Conservatives to dominate other right-wing parties,” said Marius Lukosiunas, press secretary for the Adamkus campaign. In spite of the Conservatives’ official change of heart, Lukosiunas claimed that recent data had shown that over 80 percent of Homeland Union’s rank and file still planned to vote for Adamkus. Homeland Union’s unexpected decision further subjected the party to criticism for stumping for the same candidate as the controversial Labor Party, which has been branded by mainstream politicians as a start-up populist party. In addition to nominating Austrevicus for the presidential post, Labor’s leader, Viktor Uspaskich, has taken a high-profile role in Austrevicius’ campaign strategy. “I think this shows that Homeland Union is beginning to align itself with Uspaskich,” Lukosiunas said. Meanwhile, in a press conference held on May 26, leaders of Paksas’ Liberal Democratic party took the contentious step of urging his supporters to spoil their voting ballots instead of voting for one of the five approved candidates. “We urge everyone to actively participate in the elections, but cross out the names of all the candidates on the ballot and to write the name of Rolandas Paksas at the bottom, thus expressing their civil will,” said Liberal Democrat MP Valentinas Mazuronis amid an atmosphere of sour dejection. Following the comments, Central Electoral Committee Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas said he would consider approaching prosecutors on the grounds that Mazurionis’ suggestion could be criminal. To round out the chaotic week, on June 1 a special parliamentary investigative committee issued a report accusing politicians involved in the 1999 privatization of the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery of dereliction of duty. The move, initiated by the left-wing Social Democratic party, has been criticized by right-wing parties as an election-year smear tactic directed at Homeland Union and Adamkus, both of whom were in power at the time. Alleging that then President Adamkus and the ruling coalition led by Homeland Union had “given up” Mazeikiu Nafta instead of working to secure the best possible arrangement for the state, the report specifically named several politicians running for European Parliament in addition to Adamkus. Jonas Lionginas, who served as finance minister during the Mazeikiu Nafta negotiations with Williams International, the American petroleum company that procured the refinery, was accused in the report of not executing the duties of his post. Lioniginas is listed as the third candidate on the list of the Liberal Democrat party, which is expected to make a strong showing in the elections. “I don’t think this will damage my candidacy,” Lionginas told The Baltic Times. “I see the report as indicting the ruling coalition at the time. All politicians must take responsibility for their actions, and I have done so.” Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who leads the Social Democratic Party, stated that he approved of the ad hoc commission's conclusions on the privatization. "This is similar to what we said in 1999 when signing the unfortunate agreement, which is the most disgraceful one in Lithuania's economic activity during the entire period of independence," Brazauskas said to Lithuanian national radio on June 1. In his opinion, "the company worth about 2 billion litas [580 million euros] was handed over to strangers, and Lithuania received not a single centas." New anticorruption chief appointed for five years 2 By Aaron Eglitis, RIGA In perhaps the most controversial development since the minority government took power in March, Parliament confirmed the Cabinet-backed Aleksejs Loskutovs on May 27 as the new head of the Corruption Prevention and Control Bureau, Latvia’s anti-corruption division. Loskutovs, who will serve a five-year term, beat out acting head Juta Strike for the post thanks to unflagging support from Prime Minister Indulis Emsis, who had vowed to replace Strike as soon as he took office. Polls conducted on the issue showed without exception that Strike, 33, was by far the favorite candidate among Latvians, while the little-known Loskutovs barely registered. The contest for the bureau’s top spot was extremely crucial given the position’s lengthy term and its sweeping powers in fighting endemic corruption in Latvia. For this reason Loskutovs’ candidacy was bitterly debated in Parliament. Opposition MPs, particularly from New Era, blasted Lokutovs, who headed the bureau’s analysis and methodology department, claiming that he did not have the people’s trust and would not stand in the way of a corrupt ruling coalition. Loskutovs had been dogged by criticism for an interview he gave the Black Panther erotic magazine several years ago, where he graphically described his sexual preferences. While this proved to be publicly embarrassing, Emsis took the opportunity to defend his candidate for the anticorruption bureau, saying Loskutovs’ sexual revelations proved he was both honest and open, elements essential to fighting corruption. In the run-up to the vote, the prime minister continued to criticize Strike, going so far as to suggest she was a contracted lackey of right-wing forces, though he refused to reveal the true nature of the information in his possession, claiming it was classified. To be sure, Strike’s position had been unstable for months since she was left in place after being rejected by Parliament twice during Einars Repse’s premiership. At the time Repse’s intransigence was roundly criticized by NGOs and analysts, who said that if Repse’s government were to fall, so would Strike. This prophecy proved prescient, particularly since the young law enforcement official was aggressive in her position and not shy about taking on the country’s major political parties. “The drive from the beginning has been strong and clear to get rid of Juta Strike and put in her place someone else,” anticorruption expert Valts Kalnins told The Baltic Times. Under Strike’s leadership, the bureau uncovered tens of thousands of lats in illegal campaign donations and demanded their immediate return. The Greens and Farmers itself was ordered to transfer 55,000 lats to the Finance Ministry after having failed to prove the contributions’ origins. Emsis therefore was swift to replace Strike as soon as he took office. He nominated Juris Reksna, state secretary of the Interior Ministry, but the move was blasted in the media. Public pressure over the bureau mounted, and finally Emsis agreed to hold a new competition. The top three candidates all came from the CPCB, including Loskutovs, Strike and Alvis Vilks. A jury of six experts reviewed the candidates, with three preferring Strike and two – one of which was Emsis – choosing Loskutovs. As a result, instead of recommending one candidate for a Cabinet vote, the panel offered three candidates, thereby assuring Loskutovs’ easy passage through the government. “It appeared [ruling coalition] would do anything, use any means, and that undermines any credibility that Emsis might have had,” Kalnins said. Still, both publicly and privately many observers admit that Loskutovs is very qualified, having written 44 publications and having spent 15 years as a lecturer in criminology and criminal law. However, they also admit that he’s in an unenviable position due to the politics surrounding the anticorruption bureau. However, Loskutovs immediately complicated his position by saying in an interview with TV5 that the occupation of Latvia was “a normal process in the expansion of the U.S.S.R.” Officials from both the opposition and the government lamented the statement, and Culture Minister Helen Demakova went so far as to write a long historical explanation to Loskutovs. Others have called upon the anticorruption chief to visit the Occupation Museum. But by the beginning of the week the opposition’s pessimism about Loskutovs seemed to bear itself out. A Riga court on May 31, just four days after Loskutovs’ appointment, struck down an earlier CPCB decision demanding that Greens and Farmers Union, the party to which the prime minister and speaker of Parliament belong, return 55,000 lats (84,300 euros) in illegal campaign donations. The local press immediately took the decision up as an example of the shifting tone in the country’s anticorruption battle, though the ruling coalition was quick to point out the bias in the bureau’s original decision. “We were deeply convinced about [the exoneration],” Greens and Farmers faction head Augusts Brigmanis said after the court verdict. “It was clear from the very beginning that [the CPCB’s decision] was a political order," No Mazeikiu Nafta bailout planned yet 2 By Steven Paulikas, VILNIUS Lithuanian officials are for now rejecting the idea of financial aid for Mazeikiu Nafta, Lithuania’s oil refinery, amid revelations of a possible financial collapse at Russia’s Yukos, the refinery’s largest shareholder and principal supplier of crude. On May 27 Yukos executives warned of a crisis in the company’s finances if the Russian government did not back down on its promise to collect an estimated $3.4 billion in unpaid taxes for the year 2000. Company officials called for an out-of-court settlement with the government, without which Russia’s largest producer of crude oil may be forced into receivership by the year’s end. However, the Russian finance minister last week rejected the idea of such a settlement, as a result of which Yukos shares tumbled 9 percent on May 28. The news sent a shock wave through Lithuania and subsequently pummeled shares of Mazeikiu Nafta, in which Yukos owns a majority stake. The market price of the refinery’s stock fell 15 percent in one session. Officials and politicians responsible for guaranteeing the well being of Mazeikiu Nafta, considered to be one of Lithuania’s most strategic national economic objects, have responded coolly to the revelation that the refinery’s majority shareholder may implode. Following the arrest of Yukos executive Mikhail Khodorovsky last autumn, lawmakers began to openly consider the possibility of a share buyback from Yukos, fearing that a hypothetical Russian state takeover of the company would put Mazeikiu Nafta directly in the hands of the Russian government. Nonetheless, the tornado clouds gathering around Yukos have seemingly bypassed Vilnius this time around. Speaking to The Baltic Times moments after his committee’s May 31 meeting, parliamentary economy committee chairman Vaclovas Karbauskis said that the Yukos crisis had not been on his agenda. “I don’t think it is necessary for us to discuss this question at this time,” he said. He took an even more skeptical view of the possibility of a share buyout. “I think two main factors have to be taken into account: How much this would cost the state, and how necessary it really is. However, in my opinion, I don’t think that we have to do this [buyback],” Karbauskis said. While MP’s threw cold water on the idea of radical intervention, policymakers in the government said that while they were keeping the situation under observation, little immediate action would be taken. Saulius Specius, the prime minister’s adviser most directly responsible for Mazeikiu Nafta, pointed out the tremendous sums of money that the state has thrown at the problematic refinery as evidence both of the government’s commitment and its aversion toward further investment. “Let’s keep in mind that the government has already invested no small amount—over $288 million. More investment would expose the government to even greater risk with very little prospect of any kind of return,” he said. In spite of his circumspect stance towards monetary assistance, Specius stressed that the government was developing plans to react to a variety of possible scenarios. “At this time we are analyzing the situation and modeling solutions, both in the government and at the Economy Ministry. In the case of a Yukos default, we are prepared to respond with full force,” he said. Specius refused to comment on details of the government’s models. Yukos acquired its controlling stake in Mazeikiu Nafta in 2002 from Williams International, the American corporation that won the 1999 privatization bid for the refinery. A Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry concluded on May 31 that the conservative government that passed control of Mazeikiu Nafta to Williams had acted irresponsibly and that the privatization was among the least successful of strategic energy-related objects in Eastern Europe. ###2 Moscow mayor opens culture center 2 By TBT staff, RIGA Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov visited Latvia on May 28 – 29 to open the much-anticipated Moscow Culture and Business Center and continue bilateral investment relations with the Riga city administration. The outspoken Moscow mayor’s visit coincided with the week-long Moscow Days festival in the Latvian capital, the highlight of which was the opening of the $6.8 million Moscow center in the former Railway Workers Culture House on Caka Street, just a stone’s throw from the central train station. The reconstruction and furnishing of the lavish center was financed by the Moscow city government, which wants to use the center to promote city-to-city relations between the capitals. Luzhkov was last in Riga in November 2002, which at the time represented a thaw in LatvianRussian relations. This time he brought along several Russian MPs and dozens of Moscow businessmen to look into possible business projects and investment opportunities in the Latvian capital. Latvian and Russian officials also participated in a forum discussion on economic cooperation in science, industry and infrastructure development. Speaking to reporters, Luzhkov praised cooperation between the Latvian and Russian capitals and said that relations between the two countries should be promoted. However, there were significant obstacles remaining before establishing normal relations. "As I see it these difficulties are mainly related to two issues – the attitude to noncitizens and the right of many youths to continue learning in their native tongue. The problems will remain until these issues are solved. These issues are causing complications both in Russia and in Latvia,” Luzhkov said. Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars said that the biggest problem in mutual relations between Latvia and Russia was the lack of dialogue, and he hinted that the federal governments should follow the mayors’ lead. "For example, our opinion does not always coincide with Luzhkov's on various matters, but at least we try to talk," said Bojars. Neither President Vaira Vike-Freiberga nor Prime Minister Indulis Emsis met with Luzhkov, which the latter perceived as an unnecessary cold shoulder. “I was not set to discuss any horrible issues with him [Emsis] but just call to a dialogue on issues that are of interest for Latvia as well,” the mayor told reporters on May 30. Luzhkov stressed that after the collapse of the Soviet Union 48 million of his compatriots were left outside Russia's borders. "Russia's task is to support compatriots both morally and materially, helping them to acquire an education," he said. When asked about his impressions of Latvia, Luzhkov said, “I am an emotional person, and I felt clearly two different polar attitudes. It was very polar, the residents of Riga, citizens and noncitizens – although I don't know what a ‘noncitizen’ is – and even the press was very positive to me, but the attitude of the Latvian government was opposite. I believe it can be amended gradually.” No Mazeikiu Nafta bailout planned yet Continued from Page 1 The news sent a shock wave through Lithuania and subsequently pummeled shares of Mazeikiu Nafta, in which Yukos owns a majority stake. The market price of the refinery’s stock fell 15 percent in one session. Officials and politicians responsible for guaranteeing the well being of Mazeikiu Nafta, considered to be one of Lithuania’s most strategic national economic objects, have responded coolly to the revelation that the refinery’s majority shareholder may implode. Following the arrest of Yukos executive Mikhail Khodorovsky last autumn, lawmakers began to openly consider the possibility of a share buyback from Yukos, fearing that a hypothetical Russian state takeover of the company would put Mazeikiu Nafta directly in the hands of the Russian government. Nonetheless, the tornado clouds gathering around Yukos have seemingly bypassed Vilnius this time around. Speaking to The Baltic Times moments after his committee’s May 31 meeting, parliamentary economy committee chairman, Vaclovas Karbauskis, said that the Yukos crisis had not been on his agenda. “I don’t think it is necessary for us to discuss this question at this time,” he said. He took an even more skeptical view of the possibility of a share buyout. “I think two main factors have to be taken into account: How much this would cost the state, and how necessary it really is. However, in my opinion, I don’t think that we have to do this [buyback],” Karbauskis said. While MP’s threw cold water on the idea of radical intervention, policymakers in the government said that while they were keeping the situation under observation, little immediate action would be taken. Saulius Specius, the prime minister’s adviser most directly responsible for Mazeikiu Nafta, pointed out the tremendous sums of money that the state has thrown at the problematic refinery as evidence both of the government’s commitment and its aversion toward further investment. “Let’s keep in mind that the government has already invested no small amount—over $288 million. More investment would expose the government to even greater risk with very little prospect of any kind of return,” he said. In spite of his circumspect stance towards monetary assistance, Specius stressed that the government was developing plans to react to a variety of possible scenarios. “At this time we are analyzing the situation and modeling solutions, both in the government and at the Economy Ministry. In the case of a Yukos default, we are prepared to respond with full force,” he said. Specius refused to comment on details of the government’s models. Yukos acquired its controlling stake in Mazeikiu Nafta in 2002 from Williams International, the American corporation that won the 1999 privatization bid for the refinery. A Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry concluded on May 31 that the conservative government that passed control of Mazeikiu Nafta to Williams had acted irresponsibly and that the privatization was among the least successful of strategic energy-related objects in Eastern Europe. EU DOSSIER Latvia's dairy companies see simpler export procedures as the biggest gain after EU accession. Head of Rigas Piensaimnieks, one of the largest dairy companies in the country, Arvids Uscaks said that trade with EU member states has become simpler as there’s no longer a difference if products are shipped within Latvia or the EU. As a result, costs have decreased. According to Talsu Piensaimnieks Dairy Board Chairman Dainis Norenbergs, the only change the company saw was a small increase in production costs due to higher fuel and electricity prices. Valmieras Piens spokeswoman Laima Priede said the milk producer’s main gain after accession was its ability to sell products to the EU market without mediators. The European Union has earmarked 1 billion litas (300 million euros) in grants from the Cohesion Fund for Lithuania's transport infrastructure projects in 2004 – 2006. An additional 132.9 million litas in aid will be allocated for seven projects under the ISPA program over three years. Total financial assistance from the EU's Cohesion Fund and European Regional Development Fund to the country's transport sector should reach 1.54 billion litas by 2006. Transport Minister Zigmantas Balcytis said Lithuania was ready to absorb all the EU money available for transport projects, and the ministry has submitted applications to the European Commission for the financing of five projects, the total costs of which are estimated at around 516 million litas. Lithuania expects to put forward projects worth 833.7 million litas for the Cohesion Fund this year. Estonian Agriculture Minister Ester Tuiksoo proposed that the European Commission prohibit mechanically deboned meat from being traded among EU member states without any restrictions until 2006. The minister suggested that the possibility of trade in mechanically separated meat be preserved until 2006 only on the basis of member states' bilateral agreements. "Our wish is to preserve for Estonia the existing situation that allows us to carry on a policy of strict control over quality and safety requirements to [mechanically separated meat]," the ministry quoted Tuiksoo as saying. In the first four months of this year about 2,000 tons of such meat were imported into the Baltic state. Imports from non-EU countries is not permitted. Under a new food hygiene regulation passed by the European Parliament and Council, trade in mechanically deboned meat within the EU will be deregulated beginning Jan. 1, 2006. Latvia's Justice Ministry specialists have started revising legislative acts adopted by the government over the past year to detect mistakes admitted by lawmakers. Most of them were made in a rush due to EU accession time pressure, the ministry said. Ministry spokeswoman Iveta Gruberte said some shortcomings already had been found, though they were “nothing substantial.” The ministry will report the shortcomings to the authors of the legislative acts in question. Environment club wins human rights case 2 From wire reports, RIGA The European Court of Human Rights ruled against the state of Latvia on May 27 on a claim by the Environment Protection Club that its right to freedom of speech had been restricted. In line with the court ruling, Latvia will have to pay environmentalists 3,000 euros in moral damages and 1,000 euros to cover litigation costs. The Environment Protection Club claimed its rights were restricted when a Latvian court had ruled that it should pay compensation to the head of a local authority whom the club accused of carrying out negligent and illegal construction works in a dune zone on the Baltic Sea. The club demanded that an audit be conducted in Mersrags county in Western Latvia, that illegal decisions be cancelled and that the psychological fitness of the county council’s chairwoman and her secretary be evaluated. As a result of the statement, which was adopted as a resolution at the club's meeting, the chairwoman sued the club for libel and distributing false information. In addition to demanding that the information be retracted, she demanded compensation worth 500 lats (750 euros). The Latvian court met her claim in all instances. However, Inga Reine, the government’s international institution representative, said that the European Court of Human Rights found the interference in this case as disproportional. Reine explained that the government would consider whether to appeal the ruling after she reported the court’s judgment in late June, emphasizing that the court practice in these cases “was not uniform,” and that the judgment would “set a guideline by which judges will have to follow while hearing libel cases.” "The judgment sets out several principles by which the court must guide while hearing such cases. These are great guidelines for Latvia's courts because libel cases are still new in the court practice and have not been studied a lot," she added. Environmental Protection Club Vice President Janis Matulis, learning of the court’s judgment from the Baltic News Service, said he was happy. "At last democracy has won," he said. "This is not so much about the money. The judgment means that norms of democracy are respected in Europe, and hopefully soon it will be like this in Latvia as well." The Environmental Protect-ion Club originally wanted to exact 6,000 lats from the Latvian state. ###3 ESTONIA Voters shrug off upcoming EP ballot 2 By Aleksei Gunter, TALLINN Although Estonian parties are doing their best to catch voters with real life – if not populistic – issues during the current European Parliament election campaign, polls show that the average Estonian just isn’t interested. According to the latest poll by Emor, only 33 percent of voters will definitely participate in the election, and around 28 percent will likely do so. Thus an estimated 40-odd percent participation rate would be far below the voter activity of the last general election in 2003. Among several possible reasons for this, one is that European issues are somewhat novel concepts to Estonians. To be sure, this tendency is the norm for old member European countries as well. In the last several weeks, the percentage of EU citizens saying they would cast their votes has decreased. Emor analyst Tonis Saarts suggested one reason for this could be unsuccessful propaganda campaigns by political parties. “One must take into account that everything related to the European Union is still a relatively distant topic for the Estonian people. The enthusiasm of politicians rather makes people shrug their shoulders or causes negative reactions,” said Saarts. In all, 10 party lists and four individual candidates – a total of 95 candidates – have been registered by the National Electoral Committee. The position of a candidate on the party list will not affect his receiving the mandate; unlike in general elections, it is the individual score that will count. The Reform Party and Res Publica have given up their recently registered high rating for the European Parliament election and are now on the third and fourth position (see table). Their minority partner of the ruling coalition, the People’s Union, is sixth. The overall support leader is the Social Democratic Party, followed by the Centrists. The propaganda campaigns, however, have somewhat improved as the key candidates – and some of the runners-up – have personal Web sites. As there is still time left before the election and parties have just started their campaigns, the rating table may change, Saarts emphasized. He added that EP elections could be more person-focused than party-focused for Estonians. In other words, whether or not a party is in power is of little matter, and parties not in the ruling coalition have a good chance to get a seat. “When people will be casting their votes at the European Parliament election they will not focus on the problem of what party must represent Estonia in Europe but rather on who is competent and reliable enough to represent Estonia in Europe,” Saarts predicted. Toomas Hendrik Ilves of the Social Democratic Party was the favorite of the Estonian voters in May, according to Emor. “Toomas Hendrik Ilves is a politician who has proved to be one of the most competent politicians in European affairs. The rating of the Social Democratic Party is not based to a significant extent on them being an opposition party but rather on the good name of Ilves,” said Saarts. “Res Publica, for example, simply does not have any name on that scale [to put to the electoral list],” he added. The participation of well-known people is essential, and extra points are added if this person is perceived as being competent in European matters, explained Saarts. “The Reform Party would definitely win if [European Commissioner Siim] Kallas and [Foreign Affairs Minister Kristiina] Ojuland participated,” he said, adding that survey results show the chances of individual candidates and small parties without well-known personalities are almost non-existent. The campaigns of major Estonian parties are mostly based on the values of their big brothers in Europe - party unions that form the factions of the EP (see table). Naturally, all Estonian parties are claiming the protection of national interests in the EU and express high morale for that task. Res Publica, the leading party in the ruling coalition, plans to call for cooperation of all six MEPs from Estonia to join efforts in protecting the national interests of the country. The party emphasizes the equality of all the EU member states, big and small, and also stands for turning the EU budget policy from redistribution of funds to more growth-focused. The Social Democrats promise to change the EU social policy so that everyone has equal benefits and pledge to raise money for solving social problems in Estonia. The reformists are following their last national election plan, vying for low taxes and preventing a progressive income tax. The party’s pledge for securing equal employment and business opportunities for Estonians and companies is topped by their hope to see a swallow on the euro coin. The Center Party list does not feature anyone of the rebel centrist MPs who have recently left the party. The centrists’ platform is based on cutting transition periods for free movement of labor, equalizing agricultural subsidies and securing a high level of social welfare. Both the Center Party and the People’s Union consider a quick shift from the kroon to the euro unreasonable. The People’s Union explains its campaign slogan – “Protect the Estonian kroon!” – as an attempt to preserve everything that is characteristic to Estonian culture and mentality. The right-wing Pro Patria Union puts its bet - among other matters - on the preservation of the Estonian language, decent life in the countryside, and the avoidance of a visa-free regime between the EU and Russia. Although a recent forum of Russian parties and organizations agreed to have one candidate for the European Parliament, one of the two Russian parties still decided to register its own list. For Estonian voters it will be the third election in the last three years - or even the fourth if the EU accession referendum is included. The next local elections are scheduled for 2005. Parties still fear direct presidential elections 2 From wire reports, TALLINN Parliament on June 1 suspended a second reading of a bill on changing the presidential election procedure, thereby revealing strong party fears of direct presidential elections. The proposal by the Social Democrats and Pro Patria Union to suspend the second reading of the bill was backed by 40 deputies – among them the People's Union and Reform Party, coalition members – while 37 lawmakers from the ruling Res Publica and oppositional Center Party voted for completing the reading. The chairman of the standing constitutional committee, Urmas Reinsalu from Res Publica, said the results showed that parties voting against the second reading feared direct presidential elections because they lacked competent candidates. "I'm hard put to it to find other reasons. It seems those parties do not have as good presidential candidates as our Ene Ergma," Reinsalu said. "We intend to return with the bill in the fall. As I see it, a referendum on constitutional amendments introducing direct election of the president should be held in the fall of 2005 together with local polls." According to the current version of the bill, the president will be elected in a direct vote. A candidate can be nominated by at least 20,000 citizens eligible to vote. The nominee has to be a citizen by birth and at least 40 years of age. A presidential candidate needs the support of at least half the voters to win. If none of the candidates collects the necessary number of votes, the two front-running candidates advance into a second round where a simple majority secures success. The bill gives Parliament the right to remove the president from office in the event of a grave violation of the constitution or oath of office. The motion can be initiated by at least 51 members of the 101-strong chamber. The voting of the Reform Party and People's Union against the reading did not come as a big surprise to Res Publica, Reinsalu said. “They broke their promise also when the question was whether to hold the referendum simultaneously with European polls,” he said. “If they consider the people too stupid to elect the president, then the people's opinion on whether or not they are for direct presidential elections must be asked.” Seventy-one members of Parliament initiated the bill last summer and the government has approved it. Eesti in brief Units participating in the international mine sweeping operation MCOPEST 2004 found 84 explosives in Narva Bay and the Naissaar Island area as of May 31. Among the explosives, most of which were recovered from the Naissaar area, were 77 mines, two torpedoes and unidentified explosives. The Finnish ship Kampela found 24 mines and thus became the most successful participant of the 13 vessels that took part in the operation. uuu Estonia will not allow marketing of genetically modified corn in the EU, referring to the need for more information on its effect on the environment and humans. uuu Arle Molder, 31, former head of the Compensation Fund, was sentenced this week to one year in prison for abuse of power. The court suspended the imprisonment and imposed a three-year probation period during which Molder will not be allowed to keep positions with material responsibility in legal entities with state participation. In the late ‘90s Molder carried out a number of illegal deals while being the head of the state-run Compensation Fund and caused damage to the state that amounted to about 255,000 euros. uuu The city government of Paide, a town some 60 kilometers southeast of Tallinn, prolonged free access to wireless Internet within the town until October 2006. uuu The state will pay tuition for 6,202 students for the coming academic year. Most of the statesponsored places belong to technical universities and specialties with IT, biotech, environment protection and processing industry specialties being the priority, according to the Ministry of Science and Education. uuu The Bank of Estonia issued a collection coin (photo) dedicated to the 120th anniversary of Estonia’s blue-black-white national flag. The 10-kroon coin made of Ag 999/1000 silver is the first in Estonia to feature a color design solution. Ten thousand coins will be minted in Finland. The coin is sold for about 18 euros in the museum of the Bank of Estonia in Tallinn. uuu A male employee of a restaurant in Tartu who for three years regularly filmed his female colleagues in the dressing-room using a concealed camera was detained and interrogated by police but will likely walk free, the SL Ohtuleht daily reported this week. The tapes recovered from the peeping Tom feature nine semi-naked female workers of the restaurant. The man will unlikely face charges, according to the Tartu prosecutor’s office, because he neither distributed the tapes nor revealed any personal information on the ladies. uuu From June 2, Tartu University’s botanical garden will be partly heated by solar energy. The 30panel system - the largest in Estonia - will generate 45 Kw, which will cover 11 percent of total heating needs. The goal of this Finnish-Estonian project is to study solar energy use options in Estonia. ###4 LATVIA Politicians dream of easy life as MEPs, leftists of human rights justice 2 By Aaron Eglitis, RIGA Latvia’s European Parliament election, scheduled for June 12, has been marked with lackluster funding, a retreat to campaigning on domestic issues and the conspicuous participation of seven acting ministers and over 30 members of Parliament. Part of the reason for such an extraordinary amount of interest by leading politicians – quite unusual for West European countries – is the need for so called “locomotives,” or well-known personalities, that will draw voters to the polls. Due to the relative inexperience with democracy, many people place more trust in personalities than parties and their platforms. However, analysts have pointed out that the prospect of working in the EP in distant Brussels and Strasbourg for five years is attractive to many politicians, particularly Latvian ministers, whose average rate of turnover at about once per year naturally leaves them wondering about job stability. What’s more, the EP election is being regarded as the true measuring stick of the public’s trust, an issue of acute importance after the country’s political crisis just three months ago. Therefore not surprisingly, political parties across the spectrum have focused on domestic concerns and used national issues to energize their electorate, even if these concerns will not be discussed in Brussels. “Many people in Latvia do not clearly understand what this election means,” Aigars Freimanis, a sociologist from the polling agency Latvijas Fakti, said. The left is deftly using the specter of education reform to bring out its supporters, although voters will likely split between the National Harmony Party and the more radical For Human Rights in a United Latvia. The National Harmony Party recently petitioned the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, to abrogate the reform on a legal basis. Going one step further, the far-left party For Human Rights in a United Latvia has called for protests on the day of EP election against the law forbidding noncitizens from participating in elections. The leader of For Human Rights and one of the most vociferous opponents of education reform, Tatyana Zhdanok, who was also banned from standing in government for the last 10 years for opposing the independence movement, is expected to earn a seat in Europarliament. Her party has a popularity rating of 8 percent, exceeding the National Harmony Party’s 5 percent. As far as the ruling coalition, the lack of a unifying message and public anger over the recent controversy surrounding the anti-corruption bureau, as well as its flirtations with the left, may hurt parties in the coalition – the People’s Party, the Greens and Farmers Union and Latvia’s First Party. “I think [all these things] will have a negative impact on those parties in the ruling coalition,” Nellija Locmele, editor in chief of the public policy Web portal Politika.lv, said. Right-wing parties, even though they largely lack a unifying message that would entice voters to come out on June 12, are hoping to benefit from the disgruntlement felt by nationalist voters. Still, the message of New Era, which this week called for constitutional amendments that would allow voters to disband Parlia-ment, may not resonate with the public come election time. “They do not have a very clear message for this campaign,” Locmele said. According to one polling agency, Latvijas Fakti, New Era is still the most popular party with 15 percent of the populace’s support, followed by the Greens and Farmers Union with nearly 10 percent and People’s Party with 8.6 percent. Meanwhile Latvia’s Way, a party no longer in Parliament but still present in municipal administrations, was making gains. It eclipsed the 5 percent barrier, something it failed to do in the last parliamentary elections. The poll also revealed a large number of undecided voters, - 20 percent - and nearly 10 percent who do not plan on participating at all. Two hundred forty-five candidates from 16 parties are contesting the election, giving Latvia the highest ratio of candidates per available seat in the EP. Financewise, political parties have not taken the election seriously, having allocated paltry financial resources to the two-week campaign. Indeed, the party that is spending the most is the little known Conservative Party, whose campaign of supposedly 100,000 lats (150,000 euros) has lifted their rating from nil to a little over 2 percent in one month. New anticorruption chief appointed for five years Continued from Page 1 Under Strike’s leadership, the bureau uncovered tens of thousands of lats in illegal campaign donations and demanded their immediate return. The Greens and Farmers Party itself was ordered to transfer 55,000 lats (83.300 euros) to the Finance Ministry after having failed to prove the contributions’ origins. Emsis therefore was swift to replace Strike as soon as he took office. He nominated Juris Reksna, state secretary of the Interior Ministry, but the move was blasted in the media. Public pressure over the bureau mounted, and finally Emsis agreed to hold a new competition. The top three candidates all came from the CPCB, including Loskutovs, Strike and Alvis Vilks. A jury of six experts reviewed the candidates, with three preferring Strike and two – one of which was Emsis – choosing Loskutovs. As a result, instead of recommending one candidate for a Cabinet vote, the panel offered three candidates, thereby assuring Loskutovs’ easy passage through the government. “It appeared [the ruling coalition] would do anything, use any means, and that undermines any credibility that Emsis might have had,” Kalnins said. Still, many observers admit that Loskutovs is very qualified, having written 44 publications and having spent 15 years as a lecturer in criminology and criminal law. However, they also admit that he’s in an unenviable position due to the politics surrounding the anticorruption bureau. However, Loskutovs immediately complicated his position by saying in an interview with TV5 that the occupation of Latvia was “a normal process in the expansion of the U.S.S.R.” Officials from both the opposition and the government lamented the statement, and Culture Minister Helen Demakova went so far as to write a long historical explanation to Loskutovs. Others have called upon the anticorruption chief to visit the Occupation Museum. By the beginning of the week the opposition’s pessimism about Loskutovs seemed to bear itself out. A Riga court on May 31, just four days after Loskutovs’ appointment, struck down an earlier CPCB decision demanding that Greens and Farmers Union, the party to which the prime minister and speaker of Parliament belong, return 55,000 lats in illegal campaign donations. The local press immediately took the decision up as an example of the shifting tone in the country’s anticorruption battle, though the ruling coalition was quick to point out the bias in the bureau’s original decision. “We were deeply convinced about [the exoneration],” Greens and Farmers faction head Augusts Brigmanis said after the courts verdict. “It was clear from the very beginning that [the CPCB’s decision] was a political order." Latvija in brief Special Task Minister for Integration Nils Muiznieks survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament with support from the ruling coalition and leftwing MPs. New Era and For Fatherland and Freedom put forward the motion, claiming that Muiznieks was responsible for growing anger and increasing protests against the education reform. uuu Prime Minister Indulis Emsis publicly supported a move by coalition ally People’s Party to prohibit people holding duel citizenship from holding high public office. Emsis said that positions such as that of prime minister, president and head of the Constitution Protection Bureau should be held only by Latvian citizens. Some top ranking officials, such as Integration Minister Muiznieks and New Era parliamentary faction leaders Krisjanis Karins, hold dual citizenship. uuu The leader of New Era, Einars Repse, has publicly declared that Latvia needs a new constitutional amendment allowing voters to dissolve Parliament if they are dissatisfied with the work of government. The former prime minister will reportedly seek 10,000 signatures for a referendum on the proposed amendment in the near future. Prime Minister Indulis Emsis, for his part, excoriated the proposal, saying it was tantamount to a no-confidence vote in the presidency, since currently only the president can call for new elections. uuu According to a recent popularity poll conducted by the Latvijas Fakti polling agency, Deputy Prime Minister Ainars Slesers was ranked the most unpopular minister in the Cabinet. Slesers received a negative 31.7 rating. The most popular minister was Culture Minister Helena Demakova, with a positive 18.9 percent approval rating. uuu Ambassador to Russia Normans Penke (photo) said in an interview with the Latvijas Avize daily that cooperation between Riga and Moscow had brought no tangible benefit nor was likely to in the near future. Penke cited the near failure of the intergovernmental working group as well as growing criticism from both the Russian media and the state Parliament. uuu The prosecutor’s office brought charges against the former director of the State Revenue Service, Andrejs Sonciks (photo), for failing to collect 1 million lats (1.5 million euros) in taxes from Dinaz Nafta and instead signed a settlement agreement with the joint stock insurance company Baltikums. The signing of the settlement, which removed the tax burden, led to Sonciks’ termination. He currently works for the Finance Ministry. uuu Latvia may offer to help the new government of Iraq deal with its totalitarian past using its experience of transition from the Soviet Union. The Latvian government has offered aid in preserving historical artifacts, cultural heritage and archeology. ###5 LITHUANIA EP election seen as dull side show 2 By Steven Paulikas, VILNIUS With an unwieldy field of candidates, no polling data to speak of, and voters left unaware of its significance, preparations for Lithuania’s European Parliament election have, critics say, exuded an air of chaos and uncertainty. On June 13, Lithuanian voters will select both their 13 representatives in the EP and a new president, marking the culmination of political turmoil that began last October amid revelations of wrongdoing by former President Rolandas Paksas, who was removed from office in April. While the two polls will fill vacancies in vastly different institutions, the atmosphere of confusion that has surrounded the presidency for the past seven months appears to have crept into the selection process for MEPs as well. With 241 candidates representing 12 parties vying for only 13 seats in Europe’s Parliament, Lithuanians’ first go at EP elections is sure to be a bewildering one. Employing a procedure now familiar in other EU countries but new to Lithuania, voters will cast their ballots for one in a list of parties and rank their favorite candidates from each party in their order of preference. Yet beyond the logistics of the affair, observers worry that Lithuania’s EP effort contains some fundamental causes for disquiet. “It doesn’t appear that people have an understanding of what these elections are about. There’s no widespread knowledge of what the European Parliament is,” said Jonas Cicinskas, who heads the European studies faculty at Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science. According to Arunas Degutis, the number-two candidate from the Labor Party, interest and knowledge of the European Parliament is divided along a cleavage separating those who believe they are benefiting from European integration and those indifferent to it. “In traveling around the country and meeting with voters, I’ve seen that the rest of Lithuania is completely different from Vilnius. Politicians don’t even travel to the countryside to explain to people there about the EU, which means people have a different attitude there,” Degutis said. In spite of rural Euroskepticism, and in contrast to other new EU member states, however, pundits are expecting relatively high voter turnout in Lithuania, largely due to the presidential election. Aside from concerns over an electorate undereducated on the significance of the EP ballot, equally disturbing is the prospect that within the vast field of candidates are very few people actually qualified to work in Europe’s lawmaking institution. “One of my biggest fears is that there’s little quality on all these lists,” said Degutis, himself a complete newcomer to elected politics. Cicinskas agreed. “This is a great misfortune,” he said of the burgeoning list of candidates. “Most of the people at the very top of the lists are indeed qualified, but if you look further down, there’s little to speak of.” Furthermore, indecision at the party level has led to speculation that party leaders themselves are not well acquainted with EP practices and standards. In fact, Degutis’ own Labor Party is one of three running in the elections that has yet to declare which of the five EP fractions its members would join if elected. Like Degutis, Egidijus Klumbys, leader of the Party of National Progress, explained that his party would decide which fraction to join after the elections. “There’s no reason to hurry here. We don’t know what the fractions will look like after the elections anyway, so the question will be considered later,” he said. According to Cicinskas, such a wait-and-see position vis-a-vis EP fractions was previously unknown among EU political parties running for the Strasbourg-based legislature. “This is completely abnormal. As we can see, the experienced political parties chose their factions early on,” he observed. An informal survey conducted by The Baltic Times asking expert predictions on the outcome of the EP election yielded nothing more than educated guesses, as not one public opinion poll has been conducted to determined which party is ahead among voters. One poll carried out in mid-May showed that most Lithuanians – 17.5 percent of respondents – were most likely to support the Labor Party, while the Social Democrats ranked second with 12.6 percent electoral support. While creative local initiatives to promote the elections, such as a flashy lights display on Vilnius’ Gediminas Prospect, have sought to increase interest in the elections, hard data on questions such as prospective voter participation and the number of mandates parties are likely to win remained non-existent. Intrigue and subterfuge heat up elections Continued from Page 1 “We urge everyone to actively participate in the elections, but cross out the names of all the candidates on the ballot and to write the name of Rolandas Paksas at the bottom, thus expressing their civil will,” said Liberal Democrat MP Valentinas Mazuronis amid an atmosphere of sour dejection. Following the comments, Central Electoral Committee Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas said he would consider approaching prosecutors on the grounds that Mazurionis’ suggestion could be criminal. To round out the chaotic week, on June 1 a special parliamentary investigative committee issued a report accusing politicians involved in the 1999 privatization of the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery of dereliction of duty. The move, initiated by the left-wing Social Democratic Party, has been criticized by right-wing parties as an election-year smear tactic directed at Homeland Union and Adamkus, both of whom were in power at the time. Alleging that then President Adamkus and the ruling coalition led by Homeland Union had “given up” Mazeikiu Nafta instead of working to secure the best possible arrangement for the state, the report specifically named several politicians running for European Parliament in addition to Adamkus. Jonas Lionginas, who served as finance minister during the Mazeikiu Nafta negotiations with Williams International, the American oil company that procured the refinery, was accused in the report of not executing the duties of his post. Lioniginas is listed as the third candidate on the list of the Liberal Democrat party, which is expected to make a strong showing in the elections. “I don’t think this will damage my candidacy,” Lionginas told The Baltic Times. “I see the report as indicting the ruling coalition at the time. All politicians must take responsibility for their actions, and I have done so.” Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who leads the Social Democratic Party, stated that he approved of the ad hoc commission's conclusions on the privatization. "This is similar to what we said in 1999 when signing the unfortunate agreement, which is the most disgraceful one in Lithuania's economic activity during the entire period of independence," Brazauskas said to Lithuanian national radio on June 1. In his opinion, "the company worth about 2 billion litas (580 million euros) was handed over to strangers, and Lithuania received not a single centas." Lietuva in brief The Court of Appeals has upheld the verdict of a lower court refusing to extradite Lithuanian citizen Darius Reika for prosecution in the United States. Reika, who denies all charges against him, is accused of bribing an U.S. Embassy employee in Vilnius while seeking to obtain nine U.S. visas for Lithuanian citizens. uuu Internal disagreement within the Lithuanian Jewish Community led to the temporary closure of Vilnius’ only working synagogue. According to the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the synagogue was closed when a small group of supporters of Rabbi Shalom Ber Krinsky (photo) insulted Head Rabbi Chaim Burstein during a religious ceremony. The insults reportedly resulted from a disagreement over who is Lithuania’s chief rabbi. uuu The armed forces announced plans to destroy Lithuania’s final batch of land mines on June 6, the second country among Baltic and Scandinavian states to do so. The 4,000-odd landmines left in Lithuania after the pullout of Soviet forces in 1993 are being destroyed in accordance with the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, which bans their use and production. uuu Lithuanian Foreign Ministry delegation met with Georgian diplomats in the southern Caucasia to discuss bilateral relations and the integration of their countries into the politics of EU. During the meeting, Lithuanian and Georgian diplomats also discussed a possible use of EU security and defense instruments that could help in combating organized crime and corruption in Georgia. uuu Official reports revealed that the number of people emigrating from Lithuania is continuing to increase. When compared with the same period last year, almost twice as many people left Lithuania during the first three months of 2004. While the numbers of people migrating to countries of the former Soviet Union remain the same, migration flows to Western countries show a significant growth from 896 people last year to 2,161 this year. uuu The Lietuvos Rytas daily reported that Boston’s St. Peter’s Cathedral, which was built by Lithuanian immigrants 100 years ago, might be sold by the Catholic diocese as a way of handling the wave of pedophile-related lawsuits leveled against the church. ###6 Business Estonia’s Alta buys Lauma lingerie 2 Staff and wire reports, RIGA An Estonian investment company last week announced that it has acquired a majority stake in Latvia’s Lauma, one of the Baltics’ largest textile producers and most well-known brand names. Alta Capital, a three-year-old investment group, purchased a 76.4 percent stake in the lingerie manufacturer for an undisclosed price in a deal arranged by the Prudentia consultancy. Unofficial sources, however, said the price of each share was 3 lats (4.5 euros), or 13 million lats for the entire lot. Alta purchased stakes belonging to Lauma President Zigrida Rusina (34.68 percent), Vice President Viktors Aispurs (34.31 percent) and a group of small shareholders (7.45 percent). Rumors of a deal had been circulating for weeks, as it was known that Rusina and Aispurs invited Prudentia to help find a strategic investor. "I have spent 35 years with Lauma, including the last two decades as the company’s president -the time has come to do something else," Rusina told reporters, adding that she would continue to work at the Liepaja-based company as a council member and adviser to the new management. "Lauma is in good financial shape. All crises are behind us now, and the company is growing steadily. Sales and profit rise with each year, but new, fresh ideas are required for further growth,” she explained. “I am sure that the new owners will continue to expand the business, making use of their professional skills and expertise and new ideas.” Officials from Alta Capital, which owns one of Estonia’s largest textile producers, stressed their willingness to continue developing the brand-name company. "It's too soon at this moment to speak about our plans concerning Lauma, but I can say that we hope to develop the company further," Alta Capital manager Andres Ratsepp told the Baltic News Service. Firm partner Indrek Rahumaa said the new owners wanted "to develop the company and strengthen Lauma's brand and market positions using the company's current platform and cooperation with Western and Eastern markets." Alta Capital was founded on private capital in 2001. Its biggest acquisition to date was 79 percent in Estonia’s Klementi textile company two years ago. It is also a hotel and spa operator and has an interest in a construction company. However, Klementi has been struggling since Alta Capital took over. Last year the company posted losses of 22.2 million kroons (1.42 million euros), though this was down from losses of 31.9 million kroons in 2002. Sales were largely flat at 133 million kroons. In April Klementi opened a sowing factory in Stockholm and in May signed a deal on the distribution of its products in Denmark. It sells women's clothing under its own trademarks through nearly 200 distributors and stores across Scandinavia. The company announced that it was aiming to increase density of display and effectiveness of sales. Regarding Rusina’s replacement, one candidate named was Edgars Stelmahers, director and board chairman of beer maker Cesu Alus. Stelmahers spokesperson confirmed that Alta Capital had made such a proposal and that talks had been held. Aispurs will continue as Lauma's vice president. In 2003 the company's audited profit amounted to 2.5 million lats on a net turnover of 19.8 million lats. About 80 percent of Lauma's output is exported to more than 20 European countries. TeliaSonera: Lattelekom is state’s whipping boy 2 Baltic News Service, HELSINKI Two former top managers at Lattelekom aired out their frustration last week, telling a Finnish paper that the company was essentially the Latvian politicians’ punching bag and that TeliaSonera’s efforts to obtain majority control over the firm were doomed to failure. Christer Nykopp, who sat for 10 years on Lattelekom’s executive council on behalf of TeliaSonera, which owns 49 percent of the Latvian telecommunication company, told the Kauppalehti daily that TeliaSonera had no hope of acquiring a controlling stake in the company as the government would not consider further privatization for the time being. The statement underscored TeliaSonera’s frustration in Latvia, especially after the SwedishFinnish telecom giant signed a memorandum of understanding with the outgoing government of Einars Repse in March, providing the possibility to sell Lattelekom shares to TeliaSonera. Former CEO Leena Suhonen confirmed Nykopp’s understanding, adding that the Latvian government interferes in company affairs. "Pressure on the company has been strong," she was quoted by the paper as saying. She mentioned the government's attempts to influence the telecommunications market despite a law liberalizing the market that went into effect in April. “Political meddling in the running and operations of the company has clearly been much more modest in Lithuania and Estonia,” Suhonen said, referring to TeliaSonera’s operations in Eesti Telekom and Lietuvos Telekomas. A coalition and related management agreement concluded years ago between Sonera (before the merger with Telia) and the Latvian state expired in January, after which the company’s Finnish CFO was replaced with a Latvian. Suhonen retired in April. Of Lattelekom's 38 foreign top executives, only one remains. The company’s new finance director is U.S.-born Latvian Nils Melngailis. Kauppalehti wrote that although he’s known as a competent financial specialist, he does not know local conditions very well. Lattelekom last year earned the largest profit in its history – 27 million lats (40.2 million euros) on sales of 139 million lats. The state has said it wants to retain the profit to develop rural telephone networks. Meanwhile, in Estonia TeliaSonera has remained firm in its stance on increasing interest in Eesti Telekom, saying it was concerned only in upping its stake to 85 percent and at the price it recently offered. Currently the firm owns almost 49 percent. Kenneth Karlberg, head of TeliaSonera's Norwegian, Danish and Baltic operations, was quoted as saying in Tallinn last week that the government should not overlook the fact that increasing TeliaSonera's stake in Eesti Telekom would benefit all of Estonia by creating new jobs and investments. "The government should discuss this subject in depth and seek relevant counsel," he said. He stressed that if the government rejected the offer on the table – 111.30 kroons (7.11 euros) per share for the state’s 27 percent stake – the bid would fail. For it to succeed, not only the state but minor shareholders will have to sell as well, considering TeliaSonera’s insistence that it possess no less than 85 percent of Eesti Telekom’s stock. The usual practice with such cash offers is to win the support of a couple of major shareholders before the offer is made, but this was not the case with Eesti Telekom, Karlberg noted. "When we discussed the matter earlier with government representatives, we realized that they could not make us such a promise," he said. "I believe there was some political reason behind it, but I don't know what it was. A pre-election situation reigns at present in Estonia." The government has maintained that the price offered by TeliaSonera was too low. Finance Minister Taavi Veskimagi reaffirmed this position last week at a meeting with investors. Vekimagi was quoted as saying in April, "It is surprising that TeliaSonera stuck till the end to the position that it can acquire a controlling stake in Eesti Telekom offering a price considerably below the market price.” In his words, it made more sense for the government “to continue as a shareholder, earning every year a solid dividend income for the state budget." Karlberg, for his part, stressed that TeliaSonera had no intention whatsoever of raising the price and investors needn’t pin their hopes on a higher offer at some point in the future. A final government decision is expected on June 10. VP Market to open household appliance chain 2 Baltic News Service, VILNIUS VP Market, the largest retail chain in the Baltics, announced on May 31 that it would open the first outlet of its household goods chain, Ermitazas, in Lithuania later this year. The first Ermitazas outlet would be opened in Vilnius, in the new annex to the Akropolis, Lithuania's biggest shopping and entertainment center, VP Market CEO Ignas Staskevicius announced at a news conference. Ermitazas will offer building materials, leisure goods, household appliances and utensils. The group plans to establish Ermitazas centers in additional Akropolis shopping and leisure centers. Staskevicius also discussed changes in the chain’s managing structure, revealing that he had been appointed the chairman of VP Market in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, while Egle Marcinkeviciute would assume the position of VP Market executive director for Latvia starting June 14. Gintaras Marcinkevicius, former VP Market executive for Latvia and Estonia, will focus on expansion prospects for the chain in other markets, including Ukraine and Russia. VP Market is planning to open as many as 15 stores in Estonia this year and will raise the total number of outlets within the country to 40 in several years' time. Investments to expand the Estonian market are expected to reach 16 million litas (4.63 million euros). In Latvia the Baltic’s biggest retail chain intends to open 20 trade centers. Moreover, the company expects to open its first stores in Poland this fall and another 10 - 15 in Lithuania. VP Market currently runs a chain of 269 stores in the three Baltic countries, of which 186 stores are in Lithuania, 81 in Latvia and two in Estonia. ###7 Cheap auto sales, service attract foreign customers 2 Baltic News Service, TALLINN Many Estonian motor vehicle dealers are anticipating record sales in 2004 thanks to foreigners flocking to Estonia to buy vehicles that are significantly cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. "We're anticipating a record year, too," said Toomas Parna, marketing chief for BMW dealer United Motors. Sales by United Motors during the first four months of the year surged 53 percent over the same period last year. If last year the company sold 250 new cars, then in 2004 the target stands at 380. This is largely expected to result from more efficient work by the dealer and an array of new models. Depending on the make, an hour of service at facilities in Estonia costs up to three times less than elsewhere in Europe, the business daily Aripaev reported. Still, despite the advantageous prices, dealers will not be allowed to market their merchandise outside Estonia until October 2005. "But one is allowed to do it passively," said Hindrek Mannik, sales director for Esma Auto. "Quite a lot of people interested in buying a car have already turned to us." Mannik predicted that agents would emerge first to gather buyers’ wants and then buy a larger number of vehicles, while handling all the necessary documents. "It is difficult to offer a forecast in terms of sales, but this may add anywhere from 10 to 15 cars to monthly sales," Mannik said, adding that most of the price inquiries were coming from Germany, Denmark and Sweden. "I haven't heard that we're having a lot of new people interested in making a purchase. The buyer of a Mercedes vehicle isn't particularly price-sensitive," said Raivo Murde, PR manager for the Mercedes dealer Silberauto. "But we do have many Mercedes owners from Finland and Sweden coming to have their car serviced here. Some weeks we have 10-15," Murde added. The marketing chief of United Motors said the same. "We're seeing more and more cars with foreign number plates in our service area. Most who come are from neighboring countries -Finland, Sweden, Latvia, plus tourists from central Europe," Parna said. Airlines step up the competition 2 Staff and wire reports, RIGA The Baltic airline industry is continuing to undergo dynamic change, as new players enter the market and domestic carriers scramble to meet the competition. The biggest news of the week was KLM’s inaugural flight Amsterdam-Riga on May 31. The Dutch carrier said it planned to fly to the Latvian capital two times daily and seven days per week. This comes just two weeks after Czech Airlines increased the number of its flights to the Latvian capital to 12 in an effort to win a larger share of the lucrative market. Latvian officials expect the number of visitors to Riga to soar over the next year-and-a-half, and to facilitate travel to the Baltics the Transport Ministry has begun cutting costs at Riga International Airport. In Estonia, a SN Brussels Airlines official said last week that the airline was considering launching three weekly flights to Tallinn later this year. "We've done the cost and turnover surveys, and at this point we'd still like to gather information about our potential customers," Markku Ahteela, the airline’s Finland manager, said. "That survey should be finished by the end of June, and it's also then that the decision about opening the air line will apparently be made." The initial plan calls for Brussels Airlines to fly between the two capitals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting in September. Domestic carriers have also been busy trying to keep pace in the deregulation market. AirBaltic announced that in September it would launch to more routes from Vilnius to European destinations. Company President Bertold Flick did not say specify exactly which cities these extra routes would cover, but he said that as of June 1 the airline would initiate direct flights from Vilnius to Berlin, Dublin, Hamburg, Copenhagen and Cologne, making the Lithuanian capital the airline's second hub after Riga. On Aug. 15 this year airBaltic also plans to start operating direct flights from Vilnius to Helsinki, Oslo, Warsaw and Vienna. Currently airBaltic, which is 52.6 percent owned by the Latvian state and 47.2 percent owned by Scandinavian Airlines system, flies to 19 different destinations in Europe from Riga. The struggling Lietuvos Avialinijos (Lithuanian Airlines, or LAL), which is wholly state-owned, has responded to these moves by slashing ticket prices and reviewing its marketing strategy. However, given the cutthroat competition, this may not be enough, and LAL managers are desperately trying to boost investment. Initially investments for 2004 had been placed at a paltry 2.7 million litas (782,000 euros), though the company now admits that it will need an additional 8 million litas to survive. The carrier, which was burdened with debts in late 2003, reported a turnover of 186.5 million litas for 2003, a decline of 10.5 percent from 2002, though it did manage to eke out a profit of 297,000 litas. Meanwhile, the State Property Fund, which unsuccessfully tried to privatize LAL last year, has announced that another attempt to find a strategic investor for the company may take place this year. A new privatization program might be arranged this fall, while the privatization tender, according to the most optimistic scenario, could kick off in late 2004. LAL controlled 45 percent of the domestic market in terms of passengers last year, while SAS, which pulled out of the privatization last year, held a 17.3 percent share. The carrier said it expected revenues to rise 13 percent this year to 210 million litas, even though the Transport Ministry announced on May 28 that the airline had posted a loss – so far undisclosed – during the first quarter. Company briefs Parex Bank acquired 5.29 percent of Wimm-Bill-Dann, the Russian dairy and juice giant. WBD officials said the block was most recently owned by Cyprus-registered I.M. Arteks Holdings, prior to which it belonged to Alexander Timokhins, a private investor, who sold it to Britain's Burlington Investments. WBD, set up in 1992, was the first Russian food company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company placed a $150 million Eurobond last year. uuu The Estonian food industry group Maag has started marketing Lithuanian turkey under the Rannamoisa brand. Ten different turkey products are on sale at prices ranging from 40 kroons (2.56 euros) to 100 kroons per kilo, said product manager David Parnamets. Refrigerated turkey has not been sold in Estonia since 1996 when the Jarlepa turkey farm went out of business. The poultry sold under the Rannamoisa brand is produced in Lithuania in plants that conform to EU requirements. uuu Lithuania's Security Commission has registered a 7 million litas (2 million euro) issue of oneyear bonds to be distributed this month by Apranga, the country's largest clothing retailer. The company will distribute 7,000 bonds with face value of 1,000 litas each on June 11. The issue of bonds, bearing a yield of 4 percent and maturing on June 16, 2005, is managed by Finasta, the leading domestic brokerage company. Apranga will earmark the receipts for the expansion of its chain of stores. uuu Finland’s Kesko Food and Sweden's ICA will continue negotiations on combining their business operations in the Baltics, although the validity of the letter of intent concerning the plan expired on May 31."The negotiations will continue in a positive atmosphere," a spokesperson for Kesko said. The aim is to unite the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian operations of the two groups in order to compete with VP Market and European retail giants that might enter the market. The two sides expect to make a final agreement and start the joint venture by the end of 2004. Kesko has a large presence in Estonia, while ICA is strong in Latvia and Lithuania. uuu Sweden's Brovi Holding, the owner of the Eurolink hotel located on the third floor of the Riga Hotel, said it planned to send a letter to the Latvian Privatization Agency next month demanding compensation of around 1 million lats (1.5 million euros) in damages incurred by the company due to closure of the Eurolink hotel. It will be the first step towards filing a claim against the Latvian state with the Stockholm international court of arbitration, Brovi Holding co-owner and CEO Elisabet Akesson said. She said the company would negotiate with the LPA for six months, and if no agreement were reached it would turn to the Stockholm Court of Arbitration. uuu The number of fixed-line phone subscribers decreased by 5.6 percent in Latvia last year, whereas the number of mobile-phone subscribers grew 32.7 percent, a survey by Latvia's public services regulatory commission for 2003 found. In 2003 the total number of fixed phone lines in Latvia was 662,000, while the number of mobile-phone subscribers late in 2003 was 1.12 million. The number of phone lines operated by Lattelekom late in 2003 was 653,853, down by 6.8 percent over the year. Ober-Haus buys 12 hectares of city land 2 From wire reports, TALLINN Paul Oberschneider, chairman of the real estate company Ober-Haus, and several joint venture partners have signed a contract for the purchase of over 12 hectares of land in central Tallinn for residential development. The land belonged to the Marlekor factory, and its sale is being touted as one of the largest real estate deals in Estonia. "With Estonia at the historic point of having just joined the European Union, large city center land acquisitions like this are unlikely to ever be seen again," said Oberschneider, who has not yet disclosed the price of the deal. "Estonia's entry into the EU will fuel further foreign direct investment, economic growth, and provide stability and low interest rates," he added. "Add to this a deteriorating housing stock, rising social expectations and immigration to the capital, and you have all the ingredients for strong residential construction growth." The Marlekor factory currently owns the site between Veerenni and Vana-Louna streets in central Tallinn and houses the production facilities of furniture and plywood manufacturer TVMK. The firm's CFO, Oleg Panfilov, said the company would shut down Tallinn production in 12 to 16 months, after which they would relocate in Kohila some 30 kilometers south of the capital. Save for the largest production building, 20 hectares of TVMK’s land and buildings belong to the Grove Invest company, in which Pyotr Sedin, a large shareholder in TVMK, has a large holding. Marlekor, which owned TVMK, went bankrupt in April 2000. ###8 ECONOMY/FINANCE Tax harmonization debate heats up 2 Staff and wire reports, RIGA Tax harmonization within the European Union dominated financial talk last week, with economists from new member states defending low taxes as dictated by the needs of competition and rapid growth. Germany and France, however, want to put an end to the “tax dumping” and have begun to put pressure on the European Commission. Last week German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement threatened to call into question the future of EU subsidies, especially those given to new members states refusing to raise their tax rates. Some in the anti-tax dumping camp have suggested that structural funds to new bloc members were being used to finance budget shortfalls caused by low tax rates. Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer, however, refuted this claim, telling a Portuguese paper that the lower taxes offered by new EU members were not being financed with EU funds. "In the first place the new member states must cofinance structural assistance received from the EU. In the second place, they must respect new rules and regulations that often call for substantial public spending," she was quoted as telling the Diario Economico daily. In Riga, participants of the Nordic and Baltic Sea Region Finance Minister Conference agreed on May 28 that an open discussion was needed on the tax harmonization issue but admitted that it should be for the distant future. Latvian Finance Minister Oskars Spurdzins told reporters that Latvia's position remained unchanged and was still against any harmonization, as this would result in a considerable tax rise. Both Estonia and Lithuania have maintained a similar stance, as has Poland, another new EU member. "Unfortunately, according to EU data Latvia is the poorest member country by far, and we cannot drop this instrument as this would slow development," said Spurdzins, who explained that the issue covered not only tax rates but also base rates for taxation, such as corporate income tax. German Finance Ministry’s Parliamentary State Secretary Barbara Hendricks, who was also in Riga, stated that Germany first wanted the base rates for corporate income taxes to be equal on the EU level, leaving final tax rates as a secondary issue. In mid-May German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac announced that they would make a joint effort to harmonize EU tax rates in order to prevent what they saw as fiscal dumping. The European Commission, by contrast, announced that it did not support such a move and believed that fair competition for investments should be supported. Baltic economists continue to claim that low taxes are important for economic development and that the Baltic countries should resist pressure being applied by EU heavyweights. “Low taxes are a good contribution to economic growth. Even if benefits from tax revenues are not as high, this will get business people moving and growing," said Rita Karnite, head of the Latvian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Economics. Well-known economist Uldis Osis said the government should not yield to the pressure. "Germany, France and other old EU members have very high taxes. They are welfare states where the unemployed are very well taken care of, and this is what slows down their growth. But we are in a completely different situation and cannot afford it at the moment," he told the Baltic News Service. Osis stated that growth was very important for Latvia right now. "We cannot afford to pay big money to those who do nothing -- we have to grow," he said. If new EU member states did everything like the old members, development would come to a halt, he added. Vilniaus Bankas catching up to rival 2 Baltic News Service, VILNIUS Vilniaus Bankas, Lithuania's biggest bank by assets, has moved very close to Hansabankas in terms of housing-loan market share after posting strong growth over the first four months of the year. At the end of April, Hansabankas, which is a part of the Hansabank Group, the largest financial group in the Baltics, held a 30.5 percent share of the Lithuanian housing-loan market, while Vilniaus Bankas, which is owned by Sweden's SEB, held 28.2 percent. Nord/LB Lietuva was third with a 20.3 percent market share, followed by Sampo with a 13.7 percent market share. According to data from the state-run housing loan insurer Busto Paskolu Draudimas, Hansabankas has provided 668.6 million litas’ (193.8 million euros’) worth of housing loans as of late April, while Vilniaus Bankas had extended 617.4 million litas. Zilvinas Milerius, director of Vilniaus Bankas' product development department, announced at a news conference on May 26 that the bank had issued 139.3 million litas of housing loans during the first four months of 2004, a threefold increase year-on-year, boosting its portfolio to 659.3 million litas. He said that in April alone Vilniaus Bankas extended 42.83 million litas in housing loans, the highest monthly volume recorded by a local bank in 2004. "We expect to further consolidate our positions in the housing loan market in the first half of this year," Milerius said. He added that the bank's housing loan portfolio was forecast to exceed 800 million litas by the end of the year. Vilniaus Bankas' total loan portfolio grew by 140.6 million litas during the first quarter of this year to reach 4.7 billion litas, giving the bank a 38.8 percent share of the domestic loan market. Euro to bless Latvian economy with more growth 2 Baltic News Service, RIGA Latvian businesses will benefit from the introduction of the euro currency planned in 2008, a number of economists at a conference in Riga last weekend said. The director of Fidea consultancy, Viesturs Kulikovskis, said at the conference – European Union Competitiveness and the Euro, organized by the People's Party – that introduction of the euro would give businesses more benefits than drawbacks. He said that trade and investment costs would be reduced, as currencies would have to be exchanged less. Although this is only a technical change, businesses would benefit greatly, he argued. Kulikovskis said that the reduction of currency risks was a significant gain from introducing the euro, easing investment projects and banking loans, as well as financial reports. The head of the Bank of Latvia's monetary policy administration, Helmuts Ancans, said that by introducing the euro, the competitiveness of Latvian businesses would rise. The positive sale results of Latvian products in other EU countries proves this. Interest rates on loans should drop as a result of the euro, leveling with rates in other EU countries. Thus financial resources will become cheaper and more accessible. Ancans added that local interest rates would, however, level with EU rates only gradually. Kulikovskis also stated that the return on investments would decline along with economic stabilization, and in three or four years profits from investment projects should be similar to that of today. Drawbacks from euro introduction were also inevitable. Both specialists admitted that Latvians and Latvian businesses would most likely undergo a price-rise, but this should not be too large. Another drawback would be the increased dependency on fluctuating currency rates with the U.S. dollar. Latvia’s Big Mac cheapest Baltic News Service, TALLINN The Estonian kroon is 22 percent undervalued, according to the latest Big Mac index published by The Economist. The average price of a Big Mac in four American cities is $2.90, including tax. Converted into dollars, a Big Mac in Estonia costs $2.27. Lithuania's litas, which like the kroon is pegged to the euro, is also 22 percent undervalued, whereas the euro (based on the weighed average of Big Mac prices in the euro area) is 13 percent overvalued in comparison with the dollar. The ratio last year was 10 percent. The Latvian national currency, the lat, is 31 percent undervalued, according to the Big Mac index. The cheapest Big Mac shown in the table was in the Philippines and cost $1.23, and the most expensive could be purchased in Switzerland at $4.90. BUSINESS CALENDAR ESTONIA Baltic Real Estate Investment Forum. One of the largest real estate conferences in Eastern Europe, organized by Ober Haus Real Estate. Radisson SAS Hotel Tallinn. June 14-15. 23rd Nordic Hydrological Conference. Fresh water resources management, climate change and hydrological processes. Tallinn Technical University. Aug. 8 – 12. www.emhi.ee The IV World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples. A forum of Finno-Ugric and Samoyed peoples. Tallinn. Aug. 15 – 19. www.suri.ee Medifair 2004. 10 international fair of medical technology and pharmaceutical products. Estonian Fair Center, Tallinn. Sept. 29 - Oct. 1. www.fair.ee LATVIA Human Resources Management Conference. Eighth international conference organized by the Latvia Business School, Riga. June 9-11. http://www.lbs.riga.lv EPE-PEMC. International power electronics and motion control conference. Riga. Sept. 2 – 4. www.eventseyes.com Riga Food. International trade fair for food, food processing and packaging, hotel and restaurant supplies. Riga International Exhibition Center. Sept. 8 – 11. www.eventseye.com Baltic Sea Region Communi-cations Forum. Fifth international business conference of leading specialists in information technology, Riga. Sept. 20 – 21. www.lbs.riga.lv Banking and Finance in the Baltics 2004. Annual conference for financial sector leaders and CEOs of largest companies in the Baltics. Riga. Oct. 25 – 26. www.lbs.riga.lv LITHUANIA Lithuania in the European Union. An international conference to present Lithuania's economic achievements and investment opportunities in this country to high-ranking EU officials and business leaders. June 10. Vilnius Town Hall. International Marketing Seminar. The latest insight into successful global marketing. Le Meridian Villon Hotel. Vilnius. June 15 – 16. Baltic Textile and Leather. Conference organized by the Lithuanian Apparel and Textile Industry Association to cover textiles, clothing, footwear and the industry’s raw materials. Lithuanian Exhibition Center. Sept. 8-10. http://www.litexpo.lt Baltmedica 2004. Inter-national trade fair for medical technologies, diagnostics and therapy. Pharmaceutical, laboratory technology, dental technology. Lithuanian Exhibition Center. Sept. 25 – 27. www.eventseye.com ###9 OUT&ABOUT Portugal’s ‘Fado Princess’ to grace Riga 2 By Elizabeth Celms, RIGA The gilded angels peering down from the extravagant ceiling of the Latvian National Opera house have seen a lot in their lifetime. After almost a century of witnessing some of the finest theater in Europe, those angels are most likely haughty theater snobs by now reacting with little more than a pretentious yawn at yet another Don Giovanni opera or Tchaikovsky ballet. But little do they know, they’re in for a surprise. On June 30, Portuguese fado sensation Mariza will show them, and the rest of Riga’s high society, something they’ve never seen before. Revered throughout Portugal for her unique fado singing, the sound of Mariza is incomparable. Her voice glimmers as one of those truly rare gems in the world music scene. And she provides hope for the future of popular music, which – if radio and TV determines – is sadly disintegrating into little more than commercial noise. Hearing Mariza, one is reunited with the esthetics of music. Her voice carries passion, power, sorrow, jealousy and mystery. These are the notes that create the music of fado, which, although in a dimension of its own, is comparable to flamenco, rebetika or tango. Fado is to Portugal what the blues are to America’s Deep South. Born in Mozambique, Mariza grew up in Portugal attending Lisbon’s Fado House, where she began singing fado as a child. Some 20 years later, she’s known today as Portugal’s “Fado Princess.” In 2000, Mariza won the Central FM Radio Voice of Fado award in Portugal and in 2002 her debut CD “Fado Em Mim” achieved gold status in the country. The following year, Mariza gained worldwide acclaim including two nominations for Best European Artist and Best Newcomer Artist for the BBC Radio’s 2003 World Music Awards. Following her latest album, “Fado Curvo,” she is now considered one of the most popular fado singers in the world. The veins of every blue blooded guest who can afford the 15 lat (23 euros) – 150 lat seats will be boiling - or at least lukewarm - by the end of the show. If you don’t believe in love, you will before you leave. If you’ve never felt a broken heart, yours will shatter at the beauty of her lament. This may sound a trifle over-the-top to some, but I’m not the first to feel this way. Not only has Mariza been referred to as “one of the most exciting new voices in world music in recent years,” she’s been called “an adorable extra-terrestrial being, someone sent by the Great Creator to reinvent the fado.” It’s been said that “when Mariza sings, time stands still,” and she’s been compared with one of fado’s biggest icons, Amalia Rodrigues. Latvia’s National Opera house won’t be the same after Mariza, and neither will you. o Mariza (Portuguese fado diva) Latvian National Opera June 30, 7 p.m. Tickets 15 lats (23 euros) - 150 lats Concerts Estonia ESTONIA CONCERT HALL Estonia Avenue 4, Tallinn (tel: 6147760) Thu 3 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by the string quartet of the St. Petersburg Philharmony. Soloists Vardo Rumessen (piano), Lev Klytshkov (violin), Olga Barsova (violin), Sergey Tsherniadiev (cello). Program: Tubin, Scriabin, Shostakovich Fri 4 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Tonu Kalam. Soloist Sigrid Kuulmann (violin). Program: Bernstein, Barber, Ravel Sun 6 – 18:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by mixed choir SONORE (Latvia), Tallinn Kaarli Church choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Andreijs Jansons (USA). Soloists Heli Veskus (soprano), Antra Bigaca (mezzo soprano), Krisjanis Norvelis (bass). Program: Tubin, Tobias, Oja, Eller, Sibelius Tue 8 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by Marko Martin (piano) and the Tobias String Quartet. Program: Tubin, Tobias, Eller, Oja Thu 10 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by Gwhyneth Chen (USA). Program: Tubin, Stravinski, Skrjabin Fri 11 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Eri Klas. Soloist Cecilia Zilliacus. Program: Oja, Tubin, Sibelius CHAPEL OF PIRITA CONVENT Merivalja tee 18, Tallinn (tel: 6055044) Sun 13 – 18:00 – Concert “Kleine Geistliche Konzerte” by Voces Musicales ensemble. Conductor Risto Joost. Program: Schutz GATE TOWER Lehike jalg 9, Tallinn (tel: 6440791) Sat 12 – 16:00 – Concert by the early music ensemble Hortus Musicus. Artistic director Andres Mustonen PARNU CONCERT HOUSE Aida 4, Parnu (tel: 44 55800) Fri 4 – 19:00 –Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by the string quartet of the St. Petersburg Philharmony. See above for details Fri 11 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by Gwhyneth Chen (USA). Program: Tubin, Stravinski, Skrjabin TALLINN TOWN HALL Raekoja plats 1, Tallinn (tel: 6457900) Wed 9 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by Pille Lill (soprano), Mati Palm (bass), Ralf Taal (piano). Program: Tubin, Rachmaninov, Saar, Oja VANEMUISE CONCERT HALL Vanemuise 6, Tartu (tel: 7 377530) Sat 12 – 19:00 – Tubin and His Time ’04. Concert by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Eri Klas. Soloist Cecilia Zilliacus. Program: Oja, Tubin, Sibelius Latvia DOMA CATHEDRAL Doma laukums 1, Riga (tel: 7213498) Fri 4 – 19:00 – Concert by Cheslav Grods (organ). Soloists: Evita Zalite (soprano), Gidons Grinbergs (violin). Program: Bach, Franch, Rheinberg, Alain, Slavicky, Vitols, Kenins, Gedroica Wed 9 – 19:00 – Concert by Waldemar Krawiec (organ, Poland). Program: Bach, Brosig, Lefebure-Wely, Franck, Brahms, Nowowiejski, Bialas Thu 10 – 19:00 – Concert by Ancishati – Georgian male church choir Fri 11 – 19:00 – Concert by Lilita Ozola (organ), with Sapnis girl’s choir. Conductors Baiba Danovska and Iveta Rismane. Program: Bach, Kaccini, Schubert, Schumann, Reger, Jermaks, Einfelde GREAT HALL, LATVIAN UNIVERSITY Sat 5 – 18:00 – Concert by Berkeley University choir and Perfect Fifth chamber choir (conductor Mark Samner) and Juventus choir from Latvia University (conductor Juris Klavins). Program: Brahms, Briten, Parker, Thomson, national folk songs, etc. AVE SOL CONCERT HALL Citadeles 7, Riga Fri 4 – 18:00 – Concert dedicated to the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, with Svetlana Vidjakina, Leonid Lenc, Olga Moskalonova and Gorenka folklore ensemble Tue 8 – 19:00 – Performance and concert by Indian dance performer Vija Vetra and her dance group Rituals, with Artis Gaga (saxophone), Agnese Argale (flute), Anta engele (voice, guitar) and Indra Burkovska (performer) Sat 12 – 19:00 – Concert of Old Russian Romances, with Natalia Rahmanova (soprano), Sergei Pimenov (baritone), Juris Kaspers (piano) ST. SAVIOUR CHURCH Vienibas gatve 76, Riga Wed 9 – 13:00 – Sacred music concert by Gunta Davidcuka (soprano), Gunta Smirnova (soprano), Anda Akmentina (alto), Gita Andersone (Latvian harp), Kristine Adamaiti (organ) Lithuania LITHUANIAN NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC HALL Ausros Vartu 5, Vilnius (tel: 2626802) Thu 3 - 19:00 - Concert by Ysaye quartet (France): Guillaume Sutre (violin), Luc-Marie Aguera (violin), Miguel da Silva (viola), Francois Salgue (cello) with Arunas Statkus (viola) and Edmundas Kulikauskas (cello). Program: Haydn, Dutilleux, Schonberg Tue 8 - 19:00 - Concert by Alfredo Perl (piano; Chil, Germany). Program: Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert Fri 11 - 19:00 – Concert by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. With Arkadij Volodos (piano, Great Britain), Asmik Grigorian (soprano, Lithuania). Conductor Robertas Servenikas. Program: Bajoras, Hindemith, Prokofiev Tue 15 - 19:00 - Concert by Edgaras Montvidas (tenor) and Simon Lepper (piano, Great Britain). Program: Chausson, Poulenc, Mompou, de Falla, Liszt, Banaitis KAUNAS PHILHARMONIC HALL Sapiegos 5, Kaunas Fri 11 - 18:00 – Concert with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Soloists: Finghin Collins (piano, Ireland). Conductor Nicholas McGegan (England). Program: Elgar, Mozart, Bartok Sat 12 - 18:00 – Concert with Kaunas State Choir. Conductor Petras Bingelis. Soloists Muza Rubackyte (piano, France), Pierre Reach (piano, France), Asta Kriksciunaite (soprano), Vytautas Juozapaitis (baritone) MUSEUM OF COMMUNICATIONS HISTORY Rotuses square 19, Kaunas Wed 9 - 18:00 - Concert by Old Cellar Big-Band. Conductor Petras Tadaras. Soloists: lina Jureviciute (vocals), Egidijus Sipavicius (vocals), Vytautas Grubliauskas (vocals, trumpet), Ricardas Kukulskis (vocals, trumpet). Program: blues, Latin American rhythms ST. FRANCIS CHURCH AND JESUIT MONASTERY Rotuses square 8, Kaunas Thu 10 - 18:00 - Concert by Christopher's Chamber Youth Choir (Germany). Conductor Hans - Ulrich Henning (Germany). Program: Bach, Scarlatti, Morley, Vecchi, Brahms M.K.CIURLIONIS STATE ART MUSEUM Puvinskio 55, Kaunas Sat 5 - 17:00 - Concert by Ciurlionis Quartet: Jonas Tankevicius (violin), Darius Diksaitis (violin), Gediminas Dacinskas (alt), Saulius Lipcius (violoncello), Alexander Meinel (piano, Germany). Program: Brahms, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ciurlionis KAUNAS TOWN HALL Sun 6 - 18:00 - Concert by Inesa Linaburgyte (mezzo soprano), Aleksandra Zvirblyte (piano). Program: Wolf, Schubert, Liszt, Mahler, Strauss ###10 Roll up for ye Old Town Days festival 2 By TBT staff, TALLINN Tourists visiting Tallinn from June 3 to June 6 will be treated to an extra portion of medieval style events in a city that’s hardly shy in showing off its medieval roots, thanks to the 23rd Old Town Days festival. There will be dozens of events, concerts, workshops and free guided tours for history lovers to enjoy. Perhaps the Tallinn City Council should seriously think about cashing in on Tallinn’s obsession with all things medieval. In the hard winter months it could then sell its medieval wares canned, chopped, sliced, dried or pickled and help boost ye city’s coffers. King Arthur’s Gala at Katarina Church (12/14 Vene St.) will be the main event on the first day. Don’t miss this charity concert that will be given by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Estonian and Latvian opera soloists. The money (tickets cost 16 euros) will go to keeping the immaculately pickled Old Town in decent shape. The official opening is at 3 p.m. at the Town Hall Square on June 4. Be there to catch the regular speech of Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar and other officials and watch them sweating in their medieval costumes rented from a nearby theater. Another concert worth seeing should be that of the Police Orchestra playing Frank Sinatra tunes at 9 p.m. at the Town Hall Square on June 4. They’ll doubtless be boasting about how they kept law and order on the mean streets of Tallinn “their way.” One very simple way to stay abreast of the packed program is to hang out in one of the beer gardens on the square – the key events will nearly all be held there anyway. But don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself confronted by the spectacle of Uzbek, Moldovan or Czech music – the festival usually hosts a number of guest performances. It’s a useful reminder amid all the medieval theatrics that modern-day Tallinn is actually a pretty multicultural sort of place. This year the Town Hall of Tallinn will celebrate its 600th anniversary, which is a good reason to explore it as an example of one of the best-preserved town halls in Europe. It will also be the venue for several concerts throughout the festival. o Check out www.vlp.ee for extra info. ART IMITATING LIFE? These posters from the Mir movie theater in Minsk, Belarus, are true masterpieces in the grand tradition of hand-painted, Soviet-style movie posters. For some bizarre reason, the Soviet Union tended to paint its movie posters rather than just slap up a huge photographic print. Perhaps all the Soviet printers were otherwise employed in making vast posters glorifying the magnificence of advanced socialism. But Belarus is effectively the world’s largest museum of Soviet paraphernalia, having largely ignored recent trifling international developments, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the expansion of the European Union right up to its borders. We must assume that the artist responsible for these gems has not seen the films his posters portray, or any promotion posters sent to the cinema by the films’ distributors. Perhaps he was told to simply rely on the gut feelings that such exotic names as Drew Barrymore evoked in him. Which might go some way to explaining why she looks as if she just smoked a bucketful of Californian skunk. Or why Gwyenth Paltrow looks like a confused transsexual. Opera & Ballet Estonia RUSSIAN DRAMA THEATER Vabaduse valjak 5 (tel: 6443716) Guest performances by the Estonian National Opera: Thu 10 – 19:00 – Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (opera) Fri 11 – 19:00 – Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino (opera, premiere!) Sat 12 – 19:00 – Il Signor Bruschino Sun 13 – 19:00 – Eugene Onegin THE STATE VANEMUINE THEATER Vanemuise 6, Tartu (tel: 7 440165) Summer Stage (next to Vanemuine Big House) June 11 – 20 – 21:30 – Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” (rock-opera) Latvia LATVIAN NATIONAL OPERA Aspazijas 3, Riga (tel: 7073777) Thu 3 – 19:00 Adam’s Le Corsaire (ballet) Fri 4 – 19:00 - Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (opera) Sat 5 – 19:00 – Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade/ Stravinsky’s Return of the Firebird, Petrushka, The Firebird (ballets) Tue 8 – 19:00 – Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (opera) Wed 9 – 19:00 Puccini’s Tosca (opera) Thu 10 – 19:00 – Rubinstein’s The Demon (opera) Lithuania KAUNAS STATE MUSIC THEATER Laisves al. 91, Kaunas (tel: 200 933) Fri 4 - 18:00 - Strauss's The Bat (operetta) Sat 5 - 18:00 - Strauss's A Night in Venice (operetta) Sun 6 - 18:00 - Strauss's The Blood of Vienna (operetta) Fri 11 - 18:00 Kuprevicius's Kipras, Fiodoras and Others (libretto) Sat 12 - 18:00 Lehar’s Count Luxembourg Exibitions Estonia ART HALL Vabaduse valjak 8, Tallinn (tel: 644 2818) - Annual Exhibition of Estonian Painters Assosiation, curator Jaan Elken until Jun 6 In My Own Juice - Exhibition of Contemporary Lithuanian Art, curators Anders Hurm, Eha Komissarov and Hanno Soans from Jun 11 Open Wed-Mon 12:00-18:00 ART HALL GALLERY Vabaduse valjak 6, Tallinn (tel: 644 2818) Exhibition by Heli Ryhanen & Anne Meskanen (Finland) Open Wed-Mon 12:00-18:00 CITY GALLERY Harju 13, Tallinn, (tel: 644 2818) Exercises exhibition by Tonis Saadoja Open Wed-Mon 12:00-18:00 GALLERY VIVIANN NAPP Narva mnt 15, Tallinn, (tel: 6623485) Homage to Delvaux II – exhibition by Urve Kuttner until June 2 Photos by Erki Meister from June 9 Open Mon-Fri10:00 -19:00, Sat 11:00-16:00 Latvia LATVIAN MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHY Marstalu 8, Riga (tel: 7222713) Unfinished Composition, photos by Juris Zigurs Open: Tue, Fri-sat 10:00 – 17:00, Wed & Thu 12:00 – 19:00 LATVIAN ARTISTS UNION 11.Novembra 35, Riga (tel: 7509750) One Man Show - sculptures by Nishi Masaki (Japan) Open: Mon – Sat 11:00 – 17:30 GALLERY MAKSLA XO Skarnu 8, Riga (tel: 9482098) A Trip to Another Dimension paintings and drawings by Dags Vidulejs-Ruja Open: Mon – Fri 11:00 – 18:00, Sat 11:00 – 16:00 ART GALLERY OF AGIJA SUNA Kaleju 9, Riga (tel: 7087543) It Happens - sculptures by various Latvian Artists Open: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 19:00, Sat 12:00 – 18:00 THE STATE MUSEUM OF ART K.Valdemara 10a, Riga (tel: 7324461) The Visible World - painting retrospective by Liga Purmale Open: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun 11:00 – 17:00, Thu 11:00 – 19:00 Lithuania ROJAUS KALNAS GALLERY Uzupio 14 - 1, Vilnius My earthly Angels exhibition by Armen Babajan Open: Tue - Fri 12:00 - 18:00, Sat, Sun 12:00 - 16:00, Closed Mon VARTAI GALLERY Vilniaus st. 39, Vilnius 21st Century Portraits - exhibition Open: Tue - Fri 12:00 - Fri 18:00, Sat 12:00 - 16:00, Closed Sun, Mon KAIRE-DESINE GALLERY Latako 3, Vilnius Drawings and pastel exhibition by Marius Danys. Open: Mon - Fri 11:00 - 18:00, Sat 12:00 - 16:00. Closed Sun ###11 Fun Estonia CAFE AMIGO Viru valjak 4,Tallinn, (tel: 6301311) Thu 3 – 21:00 – Nexus. DJ Vaido Pannel Fri 4 – 21:00 – Genialistid Sat 5 – 21:00 – Remu & Hurriganes Sun 6, Mon 7 – 21:00 – Razor Tue 8, Wed 9 – 21:00 – BBX Thu 10 – 21:00 – Pasadena Fri 11 – 21:00 – Slobodan River BONNIE AND CLYDE Liivalaia 33, Tallinn (tel: 6315333) Thu 3 – 22:00 – L’ament Fri 4 – 22:00 – Dance Show Night Dances: Punder & Kammiste Sat 5 – 22:00 – Erich Krieger Sun 6, Mon 7 – 22:00 – Seger & Toun Tue 8 – 22:00 – Aak & Oja Wed 9 – 22:00 – Wednesday Night Dances: Kirsipuu & Kasesalu Thu 10 – 22:00 – Helen Tartes & The Band Fri 11 – 22:00 – Video Disko Night GO-GO. DJ Vardo Rohtmets HOLLYWOOD NIGHTCLUB Vana-Posti 8, Tallinn (tel: 6274770) Thu 3 – 22:00 - Pack The Place. DJ Kermo Hert Fri 4 – 22:00 – Hip Hop Cafe. Toe Tag. DJ Maxzy, DJ Paul Oja, DJ Critikal Sat 5 – 22:00 – Ibiza Night! – Summer Opening! DJ Eddie Lock (UK/Ibiza), DJ Affect, DJ Kermo Hert Wed 9 – 22:00 – Ladies Night. DJ Kermo Hert Thu 10 – 22:00 – Pack The Place. Dj Kert Klaus Fri 11 – 22:00 – Bad Jam. DJ Bad J PANORAAM Mere Avenue 8b, Tallinn (tel: 6674507) Thu 3 – 24:00 – Erotic Night. Sweet Fantasies. DJ Enn Lohu Fri 4 – 24:00 – Friday Night Live: Slobodan River. DJ Vaido Pannel Sat 5 – 24:00 – Club-Wanted: Mari Liis. DJ Mike Sun Sun 6 – 24:00 – Sunday Night Fever. The best dancehits of the 80s & 90s. DJ Rauno Salumets SOSSI NIGHTCLUB Tartu Rd. 82, Tallinn (tel: 6014384) Thu 3 – 20:00 – Sinu Naine Fri 4 – 20:00 – Rock Hotel Sat 5 – 20:00 – pResident Thu 10 – 20:00 – Erich Krieger Fri 11 – 20:00 – Easy Living SONG FESTIVAL GROUNDS Narva mnt 95, Tallinn (tel: 6112102) Sat 5 – 20:00 – Concert by the Estonian pop-band Vanilla Ninja TALLINN OLD TOWN (tel: 6457220) Fri 4- Sun 6 – Tallinn Old Town Days with fairs, concerts and competitions around town EASTERN ESTONIA June 12 – Estonian Wife-Carrying Championship in Vaike-Maarja, Eastern Estonia Tel: (372) 3295759 www.v-maarja.ee COUNTRYWIDE June 12 – 24 – Folklore festival Baltica 2004 Concerts, fairs, exhibitions, seminars will take place all over Estonia Tel. (372) 6015727 www.folk.kul.ee Latvia TONUSS, NIGHT CLUB Uzvaras 12, Jelgava (tel: 3022149) Sat 5 – 24:00 – Concert by Leeroy Thornhill (Ex-Prodigy) DZINTARI CONCERT HALL Turaidas 1, Majori, Jurmala (tel: 7762092) Thu 3 – 20:00 – Concert by Vonda Shepard (U.S.A.) – the composer for the “Ally Mcbeal” series, with Vic Anselmo (Latvia) Fri 4 – 19:30 – Concert “The World of Wine,” by Normunds Rutulis Wed 9 – 19:30 – Concert by Autobuss Debesis Fri 11 – 19:30 – Poetry cycle - Running Fire Sat 12 – 18:00 – Chamber Music concert by Bruno Di Girolarno (clarinet, Italy). Program: Debussy, Saint–Saens, Rota, etc. Sun 13 – 19:00 – Concert by Masha Rasputina (Moscow) CASABLANCA Doma Laukums, Smilsu 1/3, Riga Thu 3 – Green Petroleum Funk Fri 4 – Quadrat Musique SAPNU FABRIKA (DREAM FACTORY) Lacplesa 101, Riga (tel: 7291701) Thu 3 – 19:00 – Concert & action “Help Me Not to Die”, with Ramadance, Autobuss Debesis, Ainars Mielavs, The Hobos, Perkons, Dzeltenie Pastnieki, Ieva Akuratere, Tranzits, Livi, etc. CITA OPERA Raina bulv. 21, Riga (tel: 7220770) Fri 4 – 21:00 – Concert by Ramiros Fri 11 – 23:00 – Concert by One Day CETRI BALTI KREKLI (4 WHITE SHIRTS) Vecpilsetas 12 a, Riga (tel: 7213885) Thu 3 – 23:00 – Concert by Rigas Vilni Fri 4 – 23:30 – Concert by Gunars Kalnins Sat 5 – 23:30 – Concert by Hyper Pro ALTERNATIVE MUSIC CLUB DEPO Valnu 32, Riga (tel: 7220114) Thu 3 – 23:00 – Concert by Inokentijs Marpls, Nervous Nellie (Sweden) + Caraway Fri 4 – 23:00 – Music project Pozze Tive Sat 5 – 23:00 – Spy – Seed Jahngle, with Nuits, Kone, Ginnz, Betons, Melniz Sun 6 – 22:00 – Music project: All The Family Crew, with Les Corte, Pornstone, Quitejack Thu 10 – 23:00 – Concert by Dzlezs Vilks SPALVAS PA GAISU Grecinieku 8, Riga (tel: 7220393) Thu 3 – 22:00 – Concert by Rhythm Communit, jazz Sat 5 – 23:00 – Concert by Dzelzs Vilks GRAFFITI FESTIVAL & COMPETITION (tel: 117/118) Fri 4 & Sat 5 - Madona AURA, NIGHT CLUB Kalns Iela 37, Riga Sat 19 – Amateur Video Festival “Vau Vau III” Lithuania RESET CLUB S.Staneviciaus 21A, Vilnius Fri 4 - 22:00 - Progressive Beat Friday with DJs: Saga, Robee Fri 11 - 22:00 - Reset Birthday with DJs: Mondaugelis, Happyendless, Robee KLAIPEDA, SERNU GARDENS Fri 11 - Sun 13 - 17:00 - Open Air Party with DJs: Emylis, Genys, Zenia, Grikis KLAIPEDA Fri 4 - Mon 7 - Klaipeda Jazz Festival PERGALE CLUB Pamenkalnio 7, Vilnius Fri 4 - 23:00 - Overtone Party with DJs: Deneez, Pablic. Live: Overtone INTRO CLUB Maironio 3, Vilnius Sat 12 - 21:00 - Mega Music Evening! With DJs: Youri Lewitt (Belgium), Porohyre (Belgium), SS DJs. Live: Ceephax (UK), Matthieu Ha (Belgium), Bioxlat (UK), Endiche Vis.Sat LITEXPO EXHIBITION CENTER Laisves avenue 5, Vilnius Fri 4 - 21:00 - Nokia Plug In-Summer! With DJs: Progressive stage: Sander Kleinenberg (UK), Kastis Torau (LT), Nobuhiro (NY). House stage: Danny Rampling (UK), Rulers Of The Deep G LOUNGE Didzioji 11, Vilnius Thu 3 - 20:00 - Sutemos: Remix Party Thu 10 - 20:00 - Sutemos: Live with DJs: Walkman. Live: eXitabEL COZY CLUB Sv. Ignoto 16, Vilnius Fri 4 - 22:00 - The Revolution Will Be Un-Plugged with DJs: Vidis & M Key. Live: Remigijus Ruokis vous present Les Stagnateurs Sat 5 - 21:00 - Milk & Roses with DJs: P-Shaver & GuruSlut, 2Fresh. Live: Pieno Lazeriai Sun 6 - 16:00 - Cozy Sunday Goes Deep with DJs: Tadeu Nice & Domino GRAVITY CLUB Jasinskio 16, Vilnius Fri 4 - 22:00 - Carlsberg City Spirit Party with DJs: Tadeu Nice & Domino Reveling in all that jazz 2 By Milda Seputyte, KLAIPEDA Don’t be surprised if you see thousands of people hit the highway for the port city of Klaipeda this weekend. It’s traditional for hoards of Lithuanians to head out there in late July for the Festival of the Sea, but the forthcoming International Jazz Festival is also increasingly becoming a major draw for the city. And on June 4 – 7, Klaipeda will be abuzz with the wonderful sounds of jazz, which can help put a whole new spin on strange words like “scooby-doo.” Nice. The festival starts off at 5 p.m. at Klaipeda Castle, which is probably about as exotic a setting for a jazz festival as you’ll find anywhere in Europe. Vytautas Grubliauskas, the festival’s director, says that the festival has become so renowned for its quality that it’s now a major fixture on the international jazz festival circuit. As usual, many of the concerts are freebies, which is possibly why the festival is such a huge draw. But then Lithuania is a mecca for free concerts. It’s a wonder how it ever affords to stage them. The festival will start off in the picturesque Theater Square, and organizers are confident that even more people will attend the four-day event than last year’s impressive turnout. Organizers are also trying to make the festival appeal to as mainstream a crowd as possible. So while the goatee-bearded jazz lovers of popular myth are sure to be there in number, hopefully the musically curious will also venture out for a listen. Concertgoers will be treated to the likes of jazzmania, the masterly music of the Jean-Jacques Milteau Quartert and the Dutch reggae band, Bash Crew. A whole range of concerts will be taking place all around the city, with the weekend’s events culminating in a huge concert in Theater Square on June 6 at 7 p.m. that will feature the likes of The Jive Aces from the U.K. and the J.D. Walter Quartet from the U.S.A. and Russia. At midnight there will be a jam session at Kurpiai Jazz Club. Don’t miss it, since jamming is when jazz is at its finest. The festival comes to an official close on June 7 with a concert also at Kurpiai Jazz Club at 8 p.m. Jazz somehow seems very at home in Lithuania , and it’s great to see Klaipeda attracting some of the limelight away from Vilnius for a few days. Just remember to nod your head attentively during the concerts, and occasionally say “nice” while twiddling with your chin. o For more info: www.jazz.lt Days and knights of fun 2 By TBT staff, RIGA The picturesque town of Cesis in northeast Latvia will be holding its fourth Baltic Medieval Festival on June 12 - 13 in the grounds of Cesis Castle. More than 300 brave knights, noble court ladies, stately dancers and jesters will be coming together to recreate the Middle Ages. The festival is a two-day celebration of Cesis’ medieval origins, and enables the public to really get into the swing of things. Not only will there be some medieval boogy to which dancers can shake their medieval booties, but medieval grub after working up a medieval style appetite. Livoniesi, a troupe that specializes in staging medieval battles, will wow the crowds with authentic military reenactments. But a huge number of enthusiasts will be contributing to the festival, including Rati, the traveling medieval theater troupe, Auli, the drum and bagpipe music group, Krivicu, the Belarusian handicraft studio, the folk bands Vilki and Vilkaci, Saltatriculi, the Estonian medieval dance group and many more besides. Weather permitting, this should make a great family day out. ###12 In Desert and Wilderness Oh, the horror. The film is based on a 1911 novel by Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, and it’s just dreadful to see such a racist attitude and an ignorant, stereotypical portrayal of races and cultures. Its mind-set is stuck somewhere in the time of D.W Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” (1915). In the late 19th century in Africa, two perfect upper-class children (one English, one Polish) are kidnapped by brutal Muslim rebels. The kidnapped girl is cute and helpless. The boy is courageous and has dazzling blond curls. You can’t believe your own eyes as native Africans are portrayed as stupid, and all Muslims as evil savages. Our heroes are, of course, good, rich, white Catholic folk. Why on earth was this book made into a film today? ½ Julie Vinten This Polish children’s flick seems to have everything required for good old-fashioned family entertainment. The splendid cinematography by Paul Gilpin is breathtaking. The cast is an intriguing mixture and the two young leads are attractive. The sets, costumes and exotic locations are professionally perfect in every way imaginable. So, what went wrong? Filmed in Namibia, South Africa and Tunisia, “In Desert and Wilderness” is exploding with potential. Unfortunately, without knowing a single word in Polish you can tell that the actors, especially the starring youngsters, go way overboard with the melodramatic histrionics. The overacting gets to the point where you just can’t stop laughing; it’s so atrociously bad. It ruins all the other fine points of this movie. Only very small children could possibly take this seriously. II Laimons Juris G The Punisher “The Punisher” is directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, the scriptwriter who gave us “Die Hard: With a Vengeance.” Sadly, his directorial debut has turned out to be a somewhat messy affair. This is not a very clever movie. It’s a 1980s’-style, old-school action flick with heavyweight fistfights, explosions and gruesome deaths. When Frank Castle’s (Thomas Jane) whole family is wiped out by crime lord Howard Saint (John Travolta), he decides to pay the bad-guy back in the same brutal manner. He then starts dealing out hardcore punishment. The best thing about “The Punisher” is that it’s so campy. The worst is its weak story and undeveloped characters. Watch it for its hot-tempered and humorous action, and you won’t be disappointed. Watch it for anything else, and you will. II Julie Vinten Here’s another one of those action-packed movies based on a Marvel comic book. The difference is that “The Punisher” actually feels and looks like a comic book, which is a definite plus. However, there seems to be an extra something bubbling beneath the surface as it casts a mesmerizing spell over your common sense. A top-notch ensemble of actors provides this dark, violent tale with the necessary spark and energy to make it work. Thomas Jane is terrific as our tortured anti-hero, while John Travolta delivers a superb performance as the despicably vicious bad guy. Excellent acting by Laura Harring, Rebecca Stamos and Will Patton add to the believability of the basic plot. Let yourself get caught up in the film’s bull-headed reality and enjoy the bittersweet taste of revenge. IIII Laimons Juris G Japanese Story Geologist Sandy (Toni Collette) is asked by her firm to be a guide for Japanese Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunshima), who has come to see a mining project in Western Australia. Sandy is angry as she feels she is babysitting a little boy on holyday, but gradually their relationship grows. It’s not actually love they find, stranded in the desert when the car gets stuck. It’s something else, as they both slowly open up to a different side of life they hadn’t sensed before. The film is also about how people react when the unexpected happens. With the Australian desert as a backdrop, this is a very beautiful film. It moves at an immensely slow pace, and some would call its understated manner insightful, others pretentious. It’s likely a bit of both. II Julie Vinten This reviewer was unable to see “Japanese Story.” However, the Australian film comes decorated with practically every major award given by the Australian Film Institute, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay, etc. But although it was made for a paltry $5.7 million, the picture has barely earned $600,000 since its commercial release in January. The press reviews overwhelmingly praise Toni Collette in the leading role. Film critic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote that, “She burns this movie into your memory.” Collette is best remembered as Haley Joel Osment’s mom in “The Sixth Sense,” for which the Australian actress received an Oscar nomination. Laimons Juris G All about Marlene Gwyneth Paltrow will star in and produce a new biopic about Marlene Dietrich, according to Variety magazine. The DreamWorks production is apparently being made with the full support of the Dietrich estate. The German legend, who was born in 1902, started out as a cabaret singer in Germany but went one to become one of the most iconic female leads in Hollywood history, starring in classics such as “Blonde Venus” and “A Touch of Evil.” Paltrow, who recently gave birth to a daughter called Apple, is in need of some box office success, as her last three films all bombed. uuu Jim Caviezel has admitted turning down a series of commercial endorsements worth some $75 million following his latex-laden turn as Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” One of the products was a new clothesline called Heavenly. Caviezel, who is a devout Catholic, said that he was tempted by the offer but managed to resist. “I would never have been able to forgive myself,” he said. Films Estonia THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT Coca-Cola Plaza, 5 Hobujaama, Tallinn, tel: 1182 Fri 10 – Thu 3: Hall 9 – 13:35, 18:35, 21:25 THE CAT IN THE HAT Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 6 – 11:05, 15:20 THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 1 – 13:00, 16:00, 19:00, 22:00 Hall 2 – 12:00, 15:00, 18:00, 21:00 A le Coq Sviit Hall – 13:00, 16:00, 19:00, 22:00 DISTANT LIGHTS Soprus, 8 Vana-Posti Tallinn, tel: 6441919 Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:30 50 FIRST DATES Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 9 – 11:15, 16:15 INFERNAL AFFAIRS/WU JIAN DAO Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 6 – 13:05, 17:40, 20:00, 22:15 KITCHEN STORIES Soprus Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:30 (Fri 4 – Sun 6 only), 17:00 (except Mon 7), 21:00 (Fri 4 – Sun 6), 21:30 (Mon 7 – Thu 19) THE SCHOOL OF ROCK Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 7 – 11:30, 14:30, 17:00, 19:30, 22:05 SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 3 – 11:00, 16:05 TROY Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 8 – 13:30, 17:30, 20:55 Hall 10 – 11:20, 14:50, 18:20, 21:45 21 GRAMS Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 3 – 13:10, 18:15, 21:20 UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 4 – 12:15, 14:55, 17:50, 20:30 VAN HELSING Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 5 – 11:50, 14:40, 17:35, 21:05 Latvia ALONG CAME POLLY Daile 1 Kr. Barona 31, Riga (tel: 728 3854) Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:00, 18:00 THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT Coca-Cola Plaza 13. Janvara 8, Riga,(tel: 722 2222) Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 10 – 12:00, 14:30, 17:00, 19:30, 22:00 (Fri&Sat) THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW Coca – Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 1 – 12:30, 15:30, 18:15, 21:00, 23:45 (Fri&Sat) DIRTY DANCING 2 Coca – Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 14 – 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00, 19:00, 21:00, 23:00 (Fri&Sat) EL CID – THE LEGEND Kino Riga Elizabetes 61, Riga, tel: 728 1105 Fri 4 – Thu 10: Big hall – 13:00 (Sat&Sun), 15:00 (Fri, Mon-Thu) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 13 – 1 1:45, 14:00, 16:15, 18:30, 20:45, 23:00 (Fri&Sat) 50 FIRST DATES Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 4 – 11:30, 14:00, 16:30, 19:00, 21:30, 24:00 (Fri&Sat) GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS Coca – Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 8 – 11:00, 12:30, 14:00, 15:30, 17:00, 18:30, 20:00, 21:30, 23:00 (Fri&Sat) GOTHIKA Daile 2 Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 16:15, 21:15 THE IDIOTS Kino Galerija Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 20:00 THE LAST SAMURAI Daile 1 Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:00, 20:00 LATVIAN FILM PROGRAM Documentary film program by Ilona Bruvere Kino Riga Thu 10: New hall – 19:00 LOVE ACTUALLY Daile 2 Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:45, 18:30 ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO Coca–Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 11 – 11:45, 14:00, 16:15, 18:30, 20:45, 23:00 (Fri&Sat) OUT OF TIME Kino Suns Elizabetes 83/85, Riga (tel: 7285411) Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:00, 17:15, 19:30, 21:50 THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 5 – 15:45, 18:30, 21:15, 24:00 (Fri & Sat) PETER PAN Daile 2 Sat 5 & Sun 6 – 11:15 THE PUNISHER Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 11 – 11:00, 13:30, 16:00, 18:30, 21:15, 23:45 (Fri&Sat) SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED Coca-Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 5 – 11:30, 13:30 SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE Coca–Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 6 – 11:00, 13:45, 16:30, 19:15, 22:00 TROY Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 2 – 11:00, 14:30, 18:00, 21:30 Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 12 – 12:00, 15:30, 18:45, 22:00 TO KILL A KING Coca–Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 9 – 15:00, 17:15, 19:30, 21:45, 24:00 (Fri&Sat) VAN HELSING Coca-Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 7 – 11:30, 14:30, 17:30, 20:30, 23:30 (Fri&Sat) VIJAY (documentary film) Kinogalerija Jauniela 24, Riga, tel: 7229030 Fri 28 – Thu 3 – 18:30 WHO KILLED BAMBI? (in French) Kino Riga Fri 4 – Thu 10: Big hall – 16:40, 19:00, 21:20 IN DESERT AND WILDERNESS Kino Riga Fri 4 – Thu 10: New hall – 12:40 (Sat&Sun), 14:30 (Fri, Mon-Thu), 16:20 (Fri, Mon-Thu) Lithunia THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT Forum Cinemas Akropolis Ozo 25, Vilnius tel: 2484848 Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 19:15, 21:30 Coca Cola Plaza Savanoriu 7, Vilnius tel: 2652525 Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:40, 19:30, 21:40 BROTHER BEAR Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:30 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:00 THE CAT IN THE HAT Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 11:50 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:00 THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 11:00, 13:40, 14:40, 16:20, 17:20, 19:10, 20:00, 21:50 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:30, 11:40, 13:00, 14:20, 15:40, 17:00, 18:20, 19:30, 21:00, 22:20 DEEP BLUE Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:30, 12:40, 17:30, 22:00 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:10, 17:30, 19:20 DEVDAS Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 22:05 DIRTY DANCING 2 Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:10, 14:10, 18:10, 22:10 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 19:40 EL CID - THE LEGEND Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:20, 13:55, 17:25 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:20, 14:10 HIDALGO Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 19:30 LA FINESTRA DI FRONTE Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 16:00, 18:00, 20:00, 22:00 LOST IN TRANSLATION Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 21:30 THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:15, 19:15 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:30, 17:00 THE PUNISHER Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:05, 12:30, 14:55, 19:30 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 11:10, 13:50, 16:30, 19:10, 21:50 THE SCHOOL OF ROCK Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:15 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:40, 17:20 SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:00 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:40 SECRET WINDOW Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:20, 17:15 TAKING LIVES Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 17:25 TROY Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:00, 13:05, 16:10, 19:20, 22:30 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:30, 15:40, 18:50, 22:00 21 GRAMS Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:00, 21:20 UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:00, 15:55, 20:00 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:50, 19:50, 22:10 VAN HELSING Forum Cinemas Akropolis Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:40, 21:40 Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 17:10 WHO KILLED BAMBI? Coca Cola Plaza Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:50 ###13 SPORTS Estonia loses to Scotland, ties with Denmark 2 By Aleksei Gunter, TALLINN The Estonian national soccer team underwent a tough test last week but managed a couple of better than average performances, partly thanks to a little luck. Estonia was beaten 0-1 by Scotland in their May 27 meeting, but managed a 2-2 with Denmark in their May 30 fixture. To be sure, Scotland is not exactly considered one of the best teams in Europe, but it’s still a pretty mighty outfit compared with Estonia. Which is precisely why Scottish coach Bertie Vogts brought a brace of youngsters over for the game, some of whom were making their international debuts. But Estonia played surprisingly well throughout the entire game. Had both teams capitalized on all the on-target shots they had at goal, Scotland would have won 4-3. For the Estonians, the duo of Sergei Terehov and Andres Oper was responsible for most of the home side’s more threatening play. Kristen Viikmae also had a good scoring chance in the first half. However, the visitors immediately took advantage of a clumsy back pass by Estonia’s Taavi Rahn, and Everton’s James McFadden neatly put the ball into the left corner of Martin Kaalma’s goal in the 76th minute. It was the seventh game in all between Estonia and Scotland, and the famed Tartan Army of Scottish supporters seemed quite at home in the Tallinn bars. Estonia’s next friendly match was against Denmark, which is certainly a stronger side than Scotland. The Danes brought some of their best players over to Tallinn for the game, including stars such as Jesper Gronkjaer from Chelsea, Martin Laursen from AC Milan and Dennis Rommerdahl from PSV Eindhoven. Denmark’s Jon Dahl Tomasson opened the scoring in the 28th minute following a concerted period of pressure. Viikmae equalized in the 77th minute after a scramble in the six-yard box, but Kenneth Perez, who had earlier missed several good scoring opportunities, put Denmark in front again after just a couple of minutes after a swift and sweetly worked counterattack. The Estonians, however, put the final score at 2-2 thanks to a lucky deflection off a Danish defender in the 90th minute, which the keeper had no chance of stopping The Danish coach, Morten Olsen, said the game turned out unexpectedly even though his team knew the type of football that Estonia plays. “We did not have the necessary quality for this game although we actually had to win it. The two mistakes we made today will not be allowed to happen at Euro 2004,” said Olsen. The Estonian coach Arno Pijpers took an almost excessively prudent approach to the game judging by his substitutions. He said that his team initially planned to play more openly but was prevented from doing through the Danes’ tactics. “But I have to compliment our young team. They managed to play well in this formation,” said Pijpers Martin Kaalma, the Estonian goalkeeper, played tremendously well in both matches, which will give Pijpers some cause for encouragement. Some fans observed that he was “saving like Poom,” which refers to Estonia’s number one goalkeeper Mart Poom, who plays for Sunderland in the English First Division In a rather bizarre incident that helped compensate for the general lack of passion exhibited by the two sets of notoriously taciturn Nordic, at one point a stray black-and-white cat ran across the field close to the Estonian goal. It didn’t bring much luck, but it sure moved nicely. Lembergs fears cap on foreign players in LBL 2 Staff and wire reports, RIGA Aivars Lembergs, the oil tycoon and president of Ventspils basketball club, has publicly spoken out against the Latvian Basketball Union’s (LBS) plans to limit the number of foreign basketball players that each team can field in the Latvian Basketball League. Lembergs claimed at a press conference that the new plans would effectively ruin the Ventspils team. The LBS wants to bring the LBL into line with the Union of European Basketball Leagues’ (ULEB) rules on quotas for foreign players. A maximum of three foreign players (non-FIBA) per team is permitted per game in ULEB games, and in Latvia only two non-FIBA players are allowed per game. But there are currently no restrictions on how many players from FIBA countries can play per game in the LBL, allowing teams with the most financial muscle, such as Ventspils, to make up the bulk of their squads with high quality players from abroad. Venstpils had five foreigners in its squad last season. Lembergs’ argument is that the new quota system would further dilute the quality of the LBL and hinder Latvian clubs from breaking into the European basketball elite. He added that Ventspils had only played eight “difficult” games in the LBL last season, in addition to 12 high level games in the ULEB cup. “A club needs to play at least 40 good games each season, and the LBS should not think about how to play dirty with Ventspils, but how to essentially improve the quality and competitiveness of the Latvian basketball championship,” Lembergs told journalists. Lembergs said that Ventspils, which has won the Latvian championship for five years in a row, wanted to successfully participate in the ULEB Cup but complained that because the standard of the LBL is so low, Latvian basketball players do not want to play for the top Latvian teams, such as Ventspils and Skonto. "If the LBS does not want Ventspils to participate in the ULEB Cup, then it just has to say so and we will not put out a team. But we’ll field another team in the LBL - Ventspils University team - which will be made up of only young students,” Lembergs said. But Ilze Laca, director of the LBL, said that the planned changes were only intended to help improve the quality of homegrown talent in Latvia and had nothing to do with challenging Ventspils’ supremacy. “Last season we cancelled all limits on FIBA players in the LBL and limited non-FIBA players to two per game, but we saw how it seriously affected our league. So we want to limit the number of foreigners, both FIBA and non-FIBA, to three per game. Otherwise teams can field all foreigners every game. We have seen how this system hinders the development of Latvian players and the Latvian national team,” Laca said. “But we’re not proposing a limit on the number of foreigners per squad. In theory a team could still be made up of only foreigners.” Lembergs has threatened to quit the LBL and play in the Lithuanian league instead if the changes are implemented, and hinted that Ventspils has already approached the Lithuanians in regard to this idea. The council of the basketball federation is expected to take a final decision by June 9. In brief The Los Angeles Lakers have reached the NBA finals for the fourth time in five years with a 9690 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on May 31. The Lakers went through 4-2 in the best of seven play-offs, thanks to high scoring from Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Rush and 32 points from Kevin Garnett, who is currently the NBA Most Valuable Player. The Lakers have won an impressive 12 out of their last 13 series. They will now face either Indiana or Detroit in the finals and will be hoping to add to the three straight titles they won from 2000 to 2002. uuu Months of intense speculation were finally ended when English Premier side Chelsea sacked its Italian coach Claudio Ranieri, despite the fact that Chelsea finished second in the league – its highest league position in 49 years – and reached the semifinals of the Champions League. Ever since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovitch bought the London club last summer, Ranieri’s job has been on the line, even though he was a massively popular figure with fans and journalists thanks to his wonderful sense of humor. Ranieri has said that he would like to continue working in the Premier League, while Jose Mourinho, who coached Porto to Champions League victory, will take over at Chelsea. uuu In an intriguing example of soccer history in the making, French and Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane was voted the best European footballer of all time in a special BBC radio phone-in poll. Zidane finished ahead of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff in second place, and the awesome George Best in third place. Interestingly, David Beckham didn’t make the top 40. Zidane has consistently shown his breathtaking skill and grace at every level of the game, and fans will be hoping for more of the same at Euro 2004. uuu In an almost depressingly predictable race, Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher clocked his sixth win in seven races in the Formula One World Championship in front of a home crowd at the European Grand Prix on May 30. Having crashed out at Monaco, Schumacher was back to winning ways, with his teammate Rubens Barrichello taking second spot on the podium and Briton Jenson Button taking third place for BAR. Schumacher said that rival McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen helped him to win by holding up the rest of the field on the seventh lap. Sports calendar Estonia SOCCER Estonian Championship Fri 4 – 19:00 – JK Merkuur – FC Levadia Fri 4 – 19:00 – JK Tulevik – FC Lootus Fri 4 – 19:00 – FC TVMK Tallinn – FC Valga International Fri 11 – 16:00 – Estonia – Macedonia (U21) Sun 11 – 29:00 – Estonia – Macedonia Venue: A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn More info 6512720 MOTOSPORT Sat 5 – 43rd Kalev Race (international competition) Venue: Pirita, Tallinn Sat 5 – Teboil Estonia Championship, 3rd stage Venue: Kaina carting track, Hiiumaa Sun 6 – Estonian Cup II stage in motocross – Yamamoto Cup Venue: Keila Sat 12 – Sun 13 – Sidecar Motocross World Championship Venue: Jaanikese Motocentre More info: 6398666 CYCLING Fri 4 – Sun 6 – Tartu Velo Tour: Fri - 20:00 – prolog 1,4 km Sat - 12:00 – group ride 50 km Sun - 11:00 – criterion 15 km Sat 5 – 8th Erika Ride More info: 6031545 SHOOTING Sat 5 – Sun 6 – Paula Cup/Estonian Championship More info: 6411160 Latvia AERONAUTICS Sat 12 & Sun 13 - Latvian Cup More info: 7224073 ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS Fri 11 - Sun 13 - Baltic Star international competition More info: 3622732 CRICKET (VEF STADIUM) Sat 5 – 10:00 - Mach between Latvian cricket team and visiting side from U.K. More info: 9516075 ATHLETICS Fri 4 – Latvian Championship (10,000-meter walking race) Sat 5 - Latvian Championships (50-km walking race) Sun 6 - Open Championship Fri 11 - 57th Latvian School Sports Games Fri 11 - Latvian Championships (individual & decathlon) More info: 7311225 AUTOMOBILE Sat 5 - 4X4 Go-round Rally Latvian Championships Fri 11 - Sun 13 - Cesis 2004 Latvian Championship Rally Sat 12 - FIA Autocross North-European Championships Sat 12 - Auto Cross Latvian Champ. More info: 7012209 CANOE SLALOM Thu 3 – Sat 5 – Latvian youth & Riga championship More info: 7295751 POWERLIFTING Thu 3 – Sat 5 – Latvian open (bench press) More info: 9551406 FISHING Thu 10 & Fri 11 - Latvian Championships (course fishing) Sat 12 - Spinning Latvian Championships More info: 7428422 GOLF Mon 7 - Tue 8 European Junior Tournament Thu 10 - Ramirent Invitation Cup More info: 7282033 Lithuania ORIENTEERING Sat 5 - Sun 6 - Lithuanian Youth and Children’s Championship (Svencionys district) Sun 6 - Vilnius Orienteering Championship (Pasaku Park) Sat 12 - Sun 13 - Lithuanian Orienteering Championship (Druskininkai) AUTOMOBILE Sat 5 - 19:00 - Bike Show (Raseiniai) Sun 6 - 11:40 - Plunge 2004 Auto Cross Championship (Plunge) More info: 869804717 Sun 13 - Lithuanian Championship of Cars' Slalom Sun 27 - Lithuanian Open Championship of Cars' racing More info: 212 77 43 Sat 26 - Sun 27 - Cross and Rally championship (Silute) More info: 212 77 43) Sat 12 - 15:00 - Bike Show (Kaunas, Aleksotas) Sun 13 - 12:00 - Bike Show (Kaunas, Aleksotas) SOCCER Lithuanian Football Federation Cup Tue 9 - 18:00 - Silute - Zalgiris Tue 9 - 17:00 - Vetra - Atlantas Tue 9 - 18:00 - Suduva - Ekranas Tue 9 - 19:30 - Vilnius - Kaunas Sun 13 - 17:00 - Zalgiris - Vetra Sun 13 - 13:00 - Vilnius - Silute Sun 13 - 17:00 - Atlantas - Ekranas Sun 13 - 17:00 - suduva - Kaunas More info: 370 5 2638741 quote of the week “I'd really love to play James Bond.” Ex-Bayern Munich goalkeeping legend Oliver Khan speulates on his future after retiring from the game. ###14 Special Water parks diversify services to lure foreign tourists 2 By Aleksei Gunter, TALLINN Aquaparks in Estonia have been popping up like mushrooms after a hot summer rain. Granted, the concept of an aquapark is quite liberal – a flume or two added to a “water center” that consists of a spa, swimming pool and sauna – but they have nonetheless spread across the country. And while they do not compete with one another, that hasn’t stopped park owners from being creative in order to attract tourists. Today there are seven major “water centers,” the largest of which is in Parnu (also the biggest in the Baltics), followed by Viimsi Tervis Spa near Tallinn and Laulasmaa Spa on Hiiumaa Island. Tarmo Tuisk, head of the Haapsalu Water Center that opened in March 2003, explained that the business concept of the water center in western Estonia was to cater to both the sports-obsessed and the family more interested in slides and jacuzzis. Tuisk said that in summer over a half of the center’s visitors were tourists who came to visit Haapsalu’s renowned spas, which Russian royalty used to enjoy in the 19th and 20th centuries. “Today we have 150 to 200 visitors daily. We want to have more, but it seems difficult in our region. We can take 150 people at a time,” he says. To attract new clients, he says the center has arranged swimming courses for companies’ staff and has introduced water aerobics and body-pump training. The Haapsalu Water Center has been barely breaking even, Tuisk says, but he sees solid growth this year. 2003’s turnover amounted to 4 million kroons (255,000 euros). “Aquaparks in different towns in Estonia do not compete for one and the same audience, as their primary target group are local residents,” he says. The Aura aquapark in Tartu, open since 2001 and the largest in the country, registered a 20,000euro profit in 2003. The park, the first such water complex in the Baltics, has a total area of 7,340 square meters and can simultaneously host 480 customers. Marilin Kroon, marketing director of Aura, says the center has been actively developing since opening. “The sports side of operations has been particularly fast growing. We have hundreds of kids attending our swimming club,” says Kroon, who adds that the park’s novelties include a climbing wall, a summer terrace and a conference room. They will soon bring in water bicycles that are now catching on in Europe. Curiously, tourists from Latvia and Russia make up the main foreign clientele of Aura, whereas other water parks are often dominated by Finns. Aura’s turnover last year exceeded 18 million kroons, and the average number of visitors daily stood at 1,200. Describing the current situation, Kroon says, “Estonian summers can be very short. According to our experience people still have high demand for water leisure options and for swimming as a fitness option.” Tiina Kiibus, marketing director of the Tervise Paradiis aquapark in Parnu, says the company was satisfied with its operations. Having opened at the end of February, the 11,500-square-meter park, boasting a total capacity of 700 people, saw a wave of customers during the first month of operations. The park is also part of Tervise’s larger complex that includes sports and leisure facilities, a casino and a hotel. “In March we had about 900 visitors a day [in the aquapark alone], which was a predictably high number because the place was new. Now we have about 500 visitors a day,” said Kiibus. “It would be too greedy to expect more during the initial period, which we consider to last for about one year,” she says. The aquapark recently received publicity in the Estonian press for its idea of accommodating a crocodile in one of its pools. While this would certainly be an additional reason for kids to listen to their moms and behave, Kiibus said a final decision has not been made. “There’s a minizoo in Parnu, and its owner has a little crocodile. The owners problem is where to keep it when it grows up, and this problem is growing together with the crocodile,” Kiibus explains. The aquapark is polling customers to find out if they don’t object to swimming under one roof with a reptile. Water skiing, boarding creates new wave in Latvia 2 By Elizabeth Celms, RIGA In the past 15 years, Latvia’s sports and leisure industry has spread like wild fire from Soviet rubble. Twenty years ago there was no such thing as an aquapark, and the country’s ambitious water skiers had to rig boats with car engines to reach the proper acceleration. Now there are sundry aqua exotica to be tried, such as slalom skis, wakeboards, kneeboards, inner tubes and the latest trend – the sky ski. “These days water sports are growing very fast,” says Egils Emersons, a competitive and recreational water skier developing a water sports center on Lielupe River. “Because in the Soviet Union we had no boats or equipment, today we have everything and want to relax somehow from our lives and work.” Although Emersons’ sports club is still in its infancy, just a few kilometers up the river is the recently finished Sturis Water Sports Center. Offering the most modern water sports equipment, Sturis is just one of the many flourishing sports and activity centers being created for Latvians who, now more than ever, can afford to relax. The center offers a variety of aqua recreation, including the prized sky ski. What looks like a wake board mounted on a long fin-tailed blade, the sky ski elevates riders 2 meters above the water, eliminating drag so they can reach up to 12 mph. “The sky ski is unbelievable,” says Ivars Ildens, 49, an avid water skier for the past 10 years who opened Sturis in April. “It’s very easy. All you have to do is lean back and you can jump 7 feet into the air. It’s the latest thing out there.” Ildens, who just completed his first 360-degree flip on the sky ski this past month, feels that water skiing is an ideal way to get one’s mind off work and relieve stress. Emersons is one of the best slalom skiers in the country and consistently places in the top 10 in the national championships. He says he first felt the joy of skimming the water as a young child growing up in Soviet Latvia. During those years, water skiing was relatively popular, and although there was a scarcity of professional boats, devoted daredevils managed to build their own by culling together car engines, veneer and lorry. In fact, these ramshackle boats produced one of the best slalom skiers in the world – Ingus Burks, who placed seventh in the 2000 Water Skiing World Championship. “You can imagine that it’s not so easy to have a place like this in the world,” says Emersons, who grew up skiing with Burks. “When he announced that he trained his whole life on a home made boat, nobody believed him.” In the early 1960s Burks helped found the Soviet Union Water Skiing Association, which bred some of the world’s best skiers. There were four teams representing the Soviet Republic of Latvia, one of which was the second biggest in the entire U.S.S.R. However, water skiing’s popularity faded somewhat in the 80s, as people were too busy dealing with the ubiquitous political changes. But now the sport is being revived. “Water skiing is finally back and at a new level,” Ildens says. Pricewise, Sturis offers relatively decent rental fares. For 10 minutes of water skiing, wakeboarding or tubing the price is 5 lats (7.6 euros). The sky ski costs 10 lats. And for cold weather days, customers can rent wet suits for 1 lat and dry suits for 2 lats. By comparison, in America rental prices for identical equipment are more than twice this. Ildens fears that the biggest challenge for his business will be convincing Latvians that water sports are not dangerous and can be enjoyed by the whole family. In an effort to do this, the center is offering free lessons. “I think it will take some 10 years to really catch on with Latvians and for the majority to afford it,” Ildens admits. “It’s an experiment from our side because we don’t know.” “Latvians are a stubborn and determined people,” Emersons says. “If something new is invented they want to get it.” ###18 Q&A Less politics, more business Back in January, when then Prime Minister Einars Repse suddenly fired his deputy Ainars Slesers, the latter responded by saying that Repse would end up paying for what he did. Lo and behold, two weeks later the Repse-led Cabinet resigned, and a month after that a new Cabinet was formed, with Slesers resuming his position as deputy prime minister in charge of economic development. Now comfortably back in power, Slesers claims that the minority government is doing well and will even survive until the next elections in October 2006. Interview by Gary Peach. What are you expecting from today’s [May 28] visit by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, a man with significant influence and capital? It is very important during Mr. Luzhkov’s visit that he can see business opportunities in this region. I believe good business projects from Moscow could be a good example for other Russian investors interested in Latvia, because Latvia is open for investments. It doesn’t matter where they are coming from – Russia, Germany, the U.K. or United States – we are very open. After the First of May, Latvia became part of the European Union, part of a market of 450 million consumers. Naturally Russia has an interest in the market, and Latvia can be like a gateway between the EU and Russia. Therefore this business center [Moscow Culture and Business Center] is a very good base for launching new projects. What will you do as deputy prime minister and transportation minister to facilitate more Russian investment? We have one of the lowest tax rates in Europe – 15 percent corporate tax, reduced from 25 percent. Another thing I strongly have stressed is to have a direct dialogue with Russia, and we believe that by looking into the future it will be easier to solve existing problems. Less politics, more business – this must be the attitude in the new Europe, because we must be good neighbors. Today at the Baltic Forum where I gave the opening speech, I said very clearly that we don’t need intermediaries between Latvia and Russia. We must do it by ourselves. We don’t need Brussels to settle our bilateral relations. Russia had elections and got a new government; we have a new government. Let’s cooperate. But in today’s Latvias Avize, Normands Penke, the Latvian ambassador to Russia, seemed to suggest the opposite of what you just said – that hopes for an improvement in relations were in vain, that it was naive to think that Russia would adopt a new stance toward Latvia after its elections. Mr. Penke should think more about his duties as ambassador and not play politician. I think he’s speaking too much, and he has to think about what he’s saying. You cannot say everything you think if you are an ambassador. I think we will have a discussion with Mr. Penke about his attitude, because if he is ambassador to Russia he must think about how to draw the two countries closer. As the head of Latvia’s First Party, you have promised to help bridge the gap between the two parts of Latvian society. How successful have you been at this, and how much will you be able to do before the end of this year? We are the only party that can succeed on this issue. We are the ones who raised the issue of integration and consolidation of society from day one. Because of our initiative the position of integration minister was created. We are working on it. We know there are difficulties with education reform, and our party took responsibility also for the Ministry of Education because we don’t want to have this confrontation between Latvian and Russian radicals. We, as a center party, would like to try to solve these things through dialogue. And we are getting quite many Russians supporting us - who are becoming members of our party. You are also transportation minister, and recently you came forth with a very interesting initiative to bring more competition in the air industry. Will you actually be able to do this? I will. Last year we [Riga International Airport] had a 12 percent increase of passengers, which is good for airport development but not for Riga. This year I told the airport authorities and airBaltic that we have to do something about this. We have to increase direct flights; we have to reduce costs. And by the end of this year we will have an increase of 30 percent to 1 million [passengers]. Next year we will double it to 2 million. We are going to do this. Riga is going to become the largest airport in the region, and it will be a hub for this region. It will be the EU’s largest airport next to Russia. You also mentioned Ryanair in this context. Ryanair, Easyjet and others are going to be here, because we will provide them good terms. We are reducing airport costs. We will change our philosophy: Today our airport is just like one entity, and we will use it as a tool for development of our economy. But won’t you meet resistance from airBaltic? AirBaltic is going to be one of the winners of this situation. This year they will have half a million passengers, and their plans are to have 1 million. More competition will increase business. Baltic Pulp – in August last year you said the environmental damages outweigh the economic benefits of this billion-dollar project. What is the status of the pulp project for Latvia? We will study information coming from the environment-investigation bureau at a government meeting. We have to find a balance between economic and environmental interests, because the Daugava River is a source of drinking water for many Latvians, so we have to be careful. But what is your gut feeling on this project? No comment. Let’s not speculate during this pre-election time, when everyone would like to use statements [for their own purpose]. Let’s wait and see. You just returned from China speaking about trade, Asian markets, the Silk Road and developing Latvia’s ports. Is this all realistic? Yes. China today is one of the largest exporters to Europe, and they are using seaways to transport goods, which takes more time and is more expensive. We could establish more trade by rail, which could go by rail through Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia. The question is: why Latvian and not Russian ports? Because we are in the EU. China is not thinking about Latvia just as a transit place, but as a distribution and logistics center, just as Rotterdam does with goods coming from different parts of the world. But what about Russia? Anything that comes to Latvia must go through there. But this will be big business for Russia. Two days ago I discussed it with the Russian transport minister [in Slovenia], and Russia is open for business opportunities. Russia would like to protect its ports, but the reality is that the St. Petersburg port is already overcrowded now. There will be enough business for everyone. Latvia’s European Parliament elections 2 By Daunis Auers It’s hard to believe that we are just a week away from an important election in Latvia. In stark contrast to previous ballots, there are virtually no posters of grinning politicians on the streets, while beer and chocolate advertising continue to dominate television screens (bar the agonizingly amateur Conser-vative Party adverts – more on them later). Compare this with the ridiculously expensive parliamentary elections in 2002 that saw an unbearably intrusive election campaign with competing parties spending a conservatively estimated total of 5.3 million lats (7.9 million euros). There are two main reasons for this contrast. First, political parties have traditionally been the happy beneficiaries of generous corporate sponsorship from businessmen and “oligarchs” (such as they are in Latvia). In return, these sponsors have benefited from favorable privatization regulations and legal tinkering, and the forces of law enforcement have been kept at bay. Although there have recently been changes in the Latvian party financing law, this is not the reason for this change in campaigning intensity; rather, Latvian political parties have no comparable influence at the European Parliament. Thus very little money has been made available by sponsors, who are nervously checking their bank accounts and considering the upcoming 2005 local and 2006 national elections. Let us look at the facts. New party financing regulations demand that parties declare how much money they expect to spend in upcoming elections. The sums are a fraction of those spent in 2002: the People’s Party has allocated 75,000 lats (as compared with an estimated 1 million plus in 2002), Latvia’s First Party will be spending just 30,000 lats (over half a million in 2002), and so on. Only the curious little Conservative Party will be spending a six-figure sum – 100,000 lats. Second, there is a prevailing mood of anticlimax in Latvia. Accession to the European Union and NATO has been achieved, but the relief and happiness of joining Europe has been rapidly replaced by grumbling about rising prices: gasoline (only partly down to EU accession), cigarettes, food and so on. The press, previously so very pro-Europe, has gleefully published stories of EU-sleaze and corruption (of which there is certainly no shortage). There is also an increasingly frivolous attitude to the European Parliament. This is disingenuous, because the European Parliament has shared responsibility with the Council of Ministers for adopting about half of all new domestic legislation in Latvia and the other 24 EU states (most significantly in the single market and environmental policy spheres). While it is ridiculous to imagine that the nine Latvian representatives can have a great impact on policy-making in a 732seat legislature, the increasing legislative importance of the European Parliament demands that the elections be taken seriously. Despite the lack of financing and public interest, the election will still be eagerly contested by almost 300 candidates from 16 parties. Moreover, some of the biggest names in Latvian politics are contesting the election, including two former prime ministers, the current foreign minister, as well as a number of serving MPs and former ministers. A seat in the Europarliament is enticing to national politicians jaded by alienation from the electorate, pressure from sponsors and constant attacks from the press. Brussels is a long way away from Latvia. MEPs can lead lives of comparative wealth, following undemanding schedules, fiddling expenses and, best of all, without demanding oligarchs pestering them for favors. Moreover, with only 9 MEPs, all those elected will be sure to maintain a high profile in Latvia, making it possible for them to spring back into Latvian politics after their 5-year sabbatical in Brussels (and Strasbourg). The cheaper campaigning in this election also gives fringe parties the opportunity to make a name for themselves. Hence the emergence of the Conservative Party, largely bankrolled by the worst-dressed businessman in Latvia – Valerijs Belokons (a portly gentleman clad in denim and leather, looking more like a dodgy taxi driver than a millionaire). His unintelligible Latvian led to the recruitment of the unknown Arnolds Babris, a confused looking man who hardly appears to be “Latvia’s Putin,” as the party’s in-house newspaper calls him. (Then again, Belokons is hardly Winston Churchill, as the paper also claims). The party unrealistically claims that it will use its influence in the European Parliament to peg the lat-euro exchange rate at 2:1 and bring down gasoline prices. Hmm. Despite the money, and the populism, opinion polls have them garnering only 2 percent of voters. Nevertheless, we should be thankful for the Conservatives. At least they have added some much needed color to an otherwise dreary election. But perhaps this is a sign of Europeanization in Latvia – after all, Europeans in the western half of the continent don’t take European elections any more seriously. o Daunis Auers is a EuroFaculty political science lecturer at the University of Latvia. ###19 OPINION LONG LIVE GRAFT “I want to make sure than no body gets the idea to use [the anticorruption bureau] as a political tool.” These words belong to Indulis Emsis, speaking in February before his confirmation as prime minister, and they will probably be immortalized as the single most disingenuous set of words spoken in Latvia this year. Everything Emsis has said and done vis-a-vis the Corruption Prevention and Control Bureau can be used against him to prove that he and his allies in the Greens and Farmers Union want to use the bureau as a political instrument. Or more precisely, a political “non-instrument” – an agency that will be docile and subservient and generally leave political parties and their crooked system of finance alone. Without detailing all of Emsis’ statements and deeds to this affect, it is sufficient to mention that three of the six individuals on the expert commission he formed to review candidates for the bureau’s top spot selected acting head Juta Strike. But this wasn’t good enough for Emsis. It wasn’t “a majority,” as he explained. So he proposed three candidates to the Cabinet, and – surprise! surprise! – his man, Aleksejs Loskutovs, got the job. Now Latvians can rest assured that no significant inroads will be made against partisan corruption for the next five years. To be sure, part of the blame for the CPCB fiasco needs to be placed at New Era’s door. Instead of building a consensus on one candidate while he was in power, former PM and New Era leader Einars Repse, a very stubborn individual, kept Strike in place despite her candidacy being rejected twice by Parliament. For the party that markets itself as the anticorruption force, this was a myopic miscalculation that will be felt for years to come. But then again, one could even go further back, to 2002, when the bureau was created, and pin some of the blame on Latvia’s Way, who ruled the roost at the time. Realizing it could become the target of the future law enforcement agency, the nation’s leadership at the time, including former Prime Minister Andris Berzins, undertook maximal effort to ensure that the process of nominating the bureau’s chief would be maximally politicized. When in fact, the ideal solution would have been to allow a team of experienced foreigners to head the bureau for a transition period of two – three years, during which the local staff could have been trained to take over. Had that been done, we would have seen a handover sometime later this year if not in the beginning of next. Instead, the bureau now has its fourth leader in less than two years, and politicians are still wrangling over how much independence the law enforcement agency should have. It’s often mind-boggling how self-defeating politics in such a small country like Latvia can be. The only time politicians seem united is when a foreigner straggles in and mentions something inappropriate about the occupation or World War II; they immediately band together under a common banner. But when it comes to something as fundamental as battling corruption, they lose all cohesion. QUoTE OF THE WEEK "Former acting KNAB [anticorruption bureau] head Juta Strike could just as well take that money from her own pocket." Augusts Brigmanis, parliamentary faction head of the Greens and Farmers Union, on Strike’s claim that the union had violated party finance regulations and should return 55,000 lats. James Lovelock, nuclear power and global warming 2 By Gwynne Dyer “Unless we stop now, we will really doom the lives of our descendants. If we just go on for another 40 or 50 years faffing around, they'll have no chance at all. It'll be back to the Stone Age. There'll be people around still. But civilization will go.” James Lovelock, The Independent, May 24 When Lovelock calls for a massive expansion in nuclear power generation to ward off the worst effects of climate change, as he did in a front-page article in The Independent this week, you have to pay attention. The future may view him as the most important scientist of the 20th century, and he is revered by the Green movement, which hates nuclear energy. But now he writes: "Every year that we continue burning carbon makes it worse for our descendants and for civilization... I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy." Lovelock is an independent scientist who grew wealthy by inventing equipment to measure the presence of CFCs, the chemicals used in spray cans and refrigerators that were destroying the ozone layer before they were banned. But his real claim to fame, on a par with Darwin's and Galileo's, was his insight that the Earth is a living system. He often regrets having named that system “Gaia” (after the Greek goddess of the Earth), because the Green movement and various New Agers started using it as a beautiful metaphor and delayed its acceptance as a valid scientific observation for several decades. But it is finally being accepted by the scientific community worldwide (with a name change to Earth System Science to placate the guardians of academic orthodoxy): last December the scientific journal Nature gave Lovelock two pages to summarize recent developments in the field. Lovelock has always been worried about radical climate change, because the essence of the Gaia hypothesis is that the current composition of the Earth's air and seas – the global temperature regime, the salinity of the oceans, even the proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere – has been shaped over the eons by the activity of living things. Our planet would be radically different, he argues, if living things did not actively maintain the status quo so hospitable to life. Recent evidence, including last summer's unprecedented heat wave in Europe and new data on the speed that the Greenland ice-cap is melting, has persuaded Lovelock that global warming is now moving far faster than most studies anticipated and will have calamitous effects on key support systems of human civilization like food production in decades rather than centuries. He doesn't believe that current efforts to reduce the output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases through the Kyoto accord (which has still to be ratified, in any case) and the encouragement of power generation by wind, wave and solar power can possibly cut carbon emissions enough in time. "I think we should think of ourselves as a bit like we were in 1938," he said. (Lovelock's 84, so he remembers.) "There was a war looming, and everybody knew it, but nobody really knew what the hell to do about it." The Kyoto protocol, he said, is "the perfect analogy for the Munich Agreement," because it would solve nothing: the cuts it mandates in greenhouse gases are tiny, while it lets politicians look like they are doing something." And the Greens' attachment to renewable energy is "well intentioned but misguided, like the left's attachment to disarmament in 1938." So the man who was among the first to warn of climate change says that there should be a massive expansion of nuclear power, which produces hardly any carbon, to deal with the inevitable growth of demand for power without toppling the world into climate change so abrupt and extreme that it would cause a massive human die-off. The problems of radioactive waste and the danger of nuclear accidents are minuscule by comparison, and there is no third alternative. Only France and Japan among the developed countries get most of their electrical power from nuclear energy. No new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States or Britain for over 20 years: the “fear factor” linked to the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl killed the market dead. But those were local disasters that caused limited local damage, not massive and irreversible changes for the worse in the whole planetary environment, and with better design and more attention to safety they might have been avoided. Would we be on the brink of massive climate change now if the nuclear power industry had continued to replace fossil-fuel-burning plants at the rate we expected in the late 1950s and early 1960s? Almost certainly not. We'd have a much smaller problem, and more time to deal with it. James Lovelock has done us all a favor: this debate is long overdue. o Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. To the editor Run to the border The Baltic Times has to be congratulated on highlighting the tourism potential across two local borders. The Valga/Valka phenomenon is unique in Europe and yet is sadly ignored as such. A border walk there is an eerie attraction but an attraction nonetheless. Within a few hundred yards on both sides are museums and churches worth seeing, and on the Valga side there is a remarkably good Korean restaurant. Even with the current lack of accommodation, tourists should be encouraged to spend a few hours there. Ivangorod could save itself economically if it admitted tourists without visas. You quote the deputy mayor as saying that there are no economic benefits from being Narva's neighbor. Has he never considered the money he could make from his castle if tourists were actually able to visit it, rather than just taking pictures of it from Narva? Daytrippers to East Berlin in the 1980s proved that if common sense is put before ideology, a lot of money can be made. Why does Ivangorod not rise to the challenge now? Neil Taylor Director Regent Holidays ###20 OUTLOOK Baltic music industry seeks magic formula for success 2 By Tim Ochser, RIGA For some people the idea of a Baltic music industry is an oxymoron. Yes, the Baltic states churn out a lot of music but it can hardly be said to be the product of a thriving industry. The best one can say about the Baltic music scene is that it is kept going by the dedication and enthusiasm of those involved in it. The worst is that it is a bad imitation, in almost every sense of the word, of Western-style music industry practice. It was little surprise then that the British Council’s sponsored Baltic Music Industry Conference was so well attended when it was held at the newly opened state-of-the-art Sound Division studio in Riga on May 27 - 28. It was the first conference of its kind in the Baltics, bringing together a lively mix of music industry experts from the U.K. and key figures in the fledgling Baltic music industry. The discussions ranged from the still-rampant problem of music piracy, to the difficulties facing promoters in attracting top performers to the region, to the complicated question of whether Estonia, Latvian and Lithuania are capable of producing artists for the extremely lucrative international market. Music by numbers There’s no doubt that the music business in each of the Baltic states is relatively insubstantial in terms of both revenue and influence. That’s why Lauri Laubre, a prominent Estonian music promoter, believes that the three countries should take a cooperative approach to developing their respective industries. “The Estonian market is just too small to generate serious money. The best-selling artists can sell around 30,000 albums. A lot of our music is very locally orientated. It’s basically beer drinking and dancing music. There’s nothing we can sell outside Estonia,” Laubre expained. In Lithuania the situation is even worse. According to Vaidas Stackevicius, director of MP3, a music management company, the music industry is in a dire condition. “CDs are cheaper in Lithuania than in Estonia and Latvia. No one can make a profit from music retail,” Stackevicius said. “We have artists who can sell some 16,000 or 17,000 albums, but for an album to go platinum in Lithuania it has to sell 20,000 copies. The best-selling album in Lithuania was back in 1995, when a compilation of schlager music sold about 150,000 copies, but nothing’s come close to that since.” In Latvia, the situation is a little better, but hardly something to shout about. Platform Records is one of the country’s biggest record companies. Its best-selling act at the moment is A-Europa, which is close to going platinum at 14,000 copies. Such figures may help pay off some people’s mortgages but they would hardly support the wildly opulent lifestyles of music legend. There is certainly the will, if not quite the way, to improve things. But perhaps the key question facing the industry is what kind of success it really wants. There is no shortage of talented musicians and performers in all fields of music, from jazz and hip-hop, to pop and rock. But most of these are merely imitating a perceived notion of such music, rather than creating their own distinct sound, which seems to be hindering the problem instead of helping it. Mel Bush, a well-known and respected manager and promoter in the U.K. music industry, was behind the unlikely global success of Vanessa May, among many others. He doesn’t believe that the Baltic states need a joint strategy in order to break into the international market. “There’s no rocket science behind making successful music,” he said. “It’s all about having common sense and a good ear for what the public wants. There’s no reason why an artist from a Baltic country couldn’t become internationally known,” Bush said. Copy kills music In a slightly surreal scenario, a panel of experts sat listening and then passing professional comment on a selection of some of the most popular and commercially successful Latvian songs. But it was perfectly clear that Nicky Graham, A&R at Sony U.K., and Steve Lyon, an English producer, weren’t too impressed. The hook was in the wrong place. The production was off. The melody too folksy. The drumming awful. And so it went on. The audience didn’t quite know how to take it all. The two men were being perfectly polite while saying that, in their professional opinion, the best of Latvian music was pretty awful. At one point an Estonian promoter stood up and complained that the discussion was only focused on Latvian music, although it was supposed to be a Pan-Baltic conference. He asked if they would play any Estonian music. “Um, er, no”, came the answer. But it just so happened that the Estonian had a compact disc of a 16-year-old singer called Kerli. The panel told him to bring it over so they could play it. Cue a husky female voice singing about how she doesn’t care at all, because she’s “beautiful inside.” “It’s brilliant, I like it!” Graham enthused. “What does she look like?” “She looks as good as she sounds,” the Estonian replied with obvious pride. “Come and see me afterward,” the Sony man said. At which point the audience broke out into rapturous applause, and I slipped out the back door for a cigarette. Pop culture One of the most interesting speakers at the conference was Daniels Pavluts, the state secretary for the Ministry of Culture in Latvia. He gave an eloquent speech in which he explained why the establishment was only now beginning to do away with the old highbrow/lowbrow paradigm of culture. “We have to make it clear that music is an investment and not a cost incurred,” Pavluts said. “The music industry could become a major economic force. We also can’t overestimate the positive impression that pop music can give of our country. It all helps to brand Latvia, to create an awareness of it.” This is all very true of course. Ask any foreigner what associations they have, say, of England, and they are almost certain to mention music. And remember when the Canadian government officially apologized for Alanis Morisette in the “South Park” movie? Music goes a long way as a point of reference. Yet it seems improbable that there could be any meaningful cooperation between the Baltic states in this regard, beyond the obvious benefits of working more closely together to stage large scale concerts. There’s very little cross-selling between the Baltic states. Even the tiny Latvian market is markedly divided along Latvian/Russian lines. But, as Mel Bush said, there really is no reason why the Baltic states couldn’t produce international breakthrough artists. Estonia’s Vanilla Ninja is currently popular in Germany. Latvian stalwarts BrainStorm have enjoyed significant sales in Germany, Sweden, Poland and Portugal. And there are more and more examples of Baltic artists popping up on MTV screens all around Europe. But it’s worth remembering that pop music is, by its bizarre nature, a celebration of the ephemeral. The pop music that dominates the European and American charts is not so much music, as an industrial formula for generating huge sums of cash. If that’s what the major record labels in the Baltics want to get in on, then there’s no reason why they can’t. After all, it has nothing to do with the Baltics.