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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
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
“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
Following the comments, Central Electoral Committee Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas said he
would consider approaching prosecutors on the grounds that Mazurionis’ suggestion could be
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’
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Following the comments, Central Electoral Committee Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas said he
would consider approaching prosecutors on the grounds that Mazurionis’ suggestion could be
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Marlekor, which owned TVMK, went bankrupt in April 2000.
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
"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
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
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
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.
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.
The IV World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples. A forum of Finno-Ugric and Samoyed peoples.
Tallinn. Aug. 15 – 19.
Medifair 2004. 10 international fair of medical technology and pharmaceutical products.
Estonian Fair Center, Tallinn. Sept. 29 - Oct. 1.
Human Resources Management Conference. Eighth international conference organized by the
Latvia Business School, Riga. June 9-11.
EPE-PEMC. International power electronics and motion control conference. Riga. Sept. 2 – 4.
Riga Food. International trade fair for food, food processing and packaging, hotel and restaurant
supplies. Riga International Exhibition Center. Sept. 8 – 11.
Baltic Sea Region Communi-cations Forum. Fifth international business conference of leading
specialists in information technology, Riga. Sept. 20 – 21.
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.
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.
Baltmedica 2004. Inter-national trade fair for medical technologies, diagnostics and therapy.
Pharmaceutical, laboratory technology, dental technology. Lithuanian Exhibition Center. Sept.
25 – 27.
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
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
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
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
Merivalja tee 18, Tallinn (tel: 6055044)
Sun 13 – 18:00 – Concert “Kleine Geistliche Konzerte” by Voces Musicales ensemble.
Conductor Risto Joost. Program: Schutz
Lehike jalg 9, Tallinn (tel: 6440791)
Sat 12 – 16:00 – Concert by the
early music ensemble Hortus Musicus. Artistic director Andres Mustonen
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
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 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
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,
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.
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)
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)
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
Kulikauskas (cello). Program: Haydn, Dutilleux, Schonberg
Tue 8 - 19:00 - Concert by Alfredo Perl (piano; Chil, Germany). Program: Haydn, Beethoven,
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
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)
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
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
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
Sun 6 - 18:00 - Concert by Inesa Linaburgyte (mezzo soprano), Aleksandra Zvirblyte (piano).
Program: Wolf, Schubert, Liszt, Mahler, Strauss
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
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
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
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)
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)
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
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
Vabaduse valjak 6, Tallinn
(tel: 644 2818)
Exhibition by Heli Ryhanen
& Anne Meskanen (Finland)
Open Wed-Mon 12:00-18:00
Harju 13, Tallinn, (tel: 644 2818)
Exercises exhibition by Tonis Saadoja
Open Wed-Mon 12:00-18:00
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
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
11.Novembra 35, Riga (tel: 7509750)
One Man Show - sculptures
by Nishi Masaki (Japan)
Open: Mon – Sat 11:00 – 17:30
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
Kaleju 9, Riga (tel: 7087543)
It Happens - sculptures
by various Latvian Artists
Open: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 19:00,
Sat 12:00 – 18:00
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
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
Vilniaus st. 39, Vilnius
21st Century Portraits - exhibition
Open: Tue - Fri 12:00 - Fri 18:00, Sat 12:00 - 16:00, Closed Sun, Mon
Latako 3, Vilnius
Drawings and pastel
exhibition by Marius Danys.
Open: Mon - Fri 11:00 - 18:00,
Sat 12:00 - 16:00. Closed Sun
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
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
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
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
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
Narva mnt 95, Tallinn
(tel: 6112102)
Sat 5 – 20:00 – Concert by the Estonian pop-band Vanilla Ninja
(tel: 6457220)
Fri 4- Sun 6 – Tallinn Old Town Days with fairs, concerts and competitions around town
June 12 – Estonian Wife-Carrying Championship in Vaike-Maarja, Eastern Estonia
Tel: (372) 3295759
June 12 – 24 – Folklore festival Baltica 2004
Concerts, fairs, exhibitions, seminars will take place all over Estonia
Tel. (372) 6015727
Uzvaras 12, Jelgava (tel: 3022149)
Sat 5 – 24:00 – Concert by Leeroy Thornhill (Ex-Prodigy)
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)
Doma Laukums, Smilsu 1/3, Riga
Thu 3 – Green Petroleum Funk
Fri 4 – Quadrat Musique
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.
Raina bulv. 21, Riga (tel: 7220770)
Fri 4 – 21:00 –
Concert by Ramiros
Fri 11 – 23:00 –
Concert by One Day
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
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
Grecinieku 8, Riga (tel: 7220393)
Thu 3 – 22:00 – Concert by Rhythm Communit, jazz
Sat 5 – 23:00 – Concert by Dzelzs Vilks
(tel: 117/118)
Fri 4 & Sat 5 - Madona
Kalns Iela 37, Riga
Sat 19 – Amateur Video Festival “Vau Vau III”
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
Fri 11 - Sun 13 - 17:00 - Open Air Party with DJs: Emylis, Genys, Zenia, Grikis
Fri 4 - Mon 7 - Klaipeda Jazz Festival
Pamenkalnio 7, Vilnius
Fri 4 - 23:00 - Overtone Party with DJs: Deneez, Pablic. Live: Overtone
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
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
Didzioji 11, Vilnius
Thu 3 - 20:00 - Sutemos: Remix Party
Thu 10 - 20:00 - Sutemos: Live with DJs: Walkman. Live: eXitabEL
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
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,
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:
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
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
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.
Coca-Cola Plaza, 5 Hobujaama,
Tallinn, tel: 1182
Fri 10 – Thu 3: Hall 9 – 13:35, 18:35, 21:25
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 6 – 11:05, 15:20
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
Soprus, 8 Vana-Posti
Tallinn, tel: 6441919
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:30
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 9 – 11:15, 16:15
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 6 – 13:05, 17:40, 20:00, 22:15
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)
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 7 – 11:30, 14:30, 17:00, 19:30, 22:05
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10:
Hall 3 – 11:00, 16:05
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
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10:
Hall 3 – 13:10, 18:15, 21:20
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10:
Hall 4 – 12:15, 14:55,
17:50, 20:30
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 5 – 11:50, 14:40, 17:35, 21:05
Daile 1
Kr. Barona 31, Riga
(tel: 728 3854)
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:00, 18:00
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)
Coca – Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 1 – 12:30, 15:30, 18:15, 21:00, 23:45 (Fri&Sat)
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)
Kino Riga
Elizabetes 61, Riga, tel: 728 1105
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Big hall – 13:00 (Sat&Sun), 15:00 (Fri, Mon-Thu)
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 13 – 1
1:45, 14:00, 16:15, 18:30,
20:45, 23:00 (Fri&Sat)
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 4 – 11:30, 14:00, 16:30, 19:00, 21:30, 24:00 (Fri&Sat)
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)
Daile 2
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 16:15, 21:15
Kino Galerija
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 20:00
Daile 1
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:00, 20:00
Documentary film program
by Ilona Bruvere
Kino Riga
Thu 10: New hall – 19:00
Daile 2
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:45, 18:30
Coca–Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 11 – 11:45, 14:00, 16:15, 18:30, 20:45, 23:00 (Fri&Sat)
Kino Suns
Elizabetes 83/85, Riga
(tel: 7285411)
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:00, 17:15, 19:30, 21:50
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 5 – 15:45, 18:30, 21:15, 24:00 (Fri & Sat)
Daile 2
Sat 5 & Sun 6 – 11:15
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 11 – 11:00, 13:30, 16:00, 18:30, 21:15, 23:45 (Fri&Sat)
Fri 4 – Thu 10:
Hall 5 – 11:30, 13:30
Coca–Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 6 – 11:00, 13:45, 16:30, 19:15, 22:00
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
Coca–Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 9 – 15:00, 17:15, 19:30, 21:45, 24:00 (Fri&Sat)
Coca-Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Hall 7 – 11:30, 14:30, 17:30, 20:30, 23:30 (Fri&Sat)
(documentary film)
Jauniela 24, Riga, tel: 7229030
Fri 28 – Thu 3 – 18:30
(in French)
Kino Riga
Fri 4 – Thu 10: Big hall –
16:40, 19:00, 21:20
Kino Riga
Fri 4 – Thu 10: New hall – 12:40 (Sat&Sun), 14:30 (Fri, Mon-Thu), 16:20 (Fri, Mon-Thu)
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
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:30
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:00
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 11:50
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 13:00
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
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
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 22:05
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:10, 14:10, 18:10, 22:10
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 19:40
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:20, 13:55, 17:25
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:20, 14:10
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 19:30
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 16:00, 18:00, 20:00, 22:00
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 21:30
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:15, 19:15
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:30, 17:00
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
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:15
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 12:40, 17:20
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:00
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:40
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 10:20, 17:15
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 17:25
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
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 15:00, 21:20
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
Forum Cinemas Akropolis
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:40, 21:40
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 17:10
Coca Cola Plaza
Fri 4 – Thu 10 – 14:50
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Fri 11 – 16:00 –
Estonia – Macedonia (U21)
Sun 11 – 29:00 –
Estonia – Macedonia
Venue: A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn
More info 6512720
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
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
Sat 5 – Sun 6 – Paula Cup/Estonian Championship
More info: 6411160
Sat 12 & Sun 13 - Latvian Cup More info: 7224073
Fri 11 - Sun 13 - Baltic Star
international competition
More info: 3622732
Sat 5 – 10:00 - Mach between Latvian cricket team and visiting side from U.K.
More info: 9516075
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
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
Thu 3 – Sat 5 – Latvian youth & Riga championship
More info: 7295751
Thu 3 – Sat 5 – Latvian open (bench press)
More info: 9551406
Thu 10 & Fri 11 - Latvian Championships (course fishing)
Sat 12 - Spinning Latvian Championships
More info: 7428422
Mon 7 - Tue 8 European Junior Tournament
Thu 10 - Ramirent
Invitation Cup
More info: 7282033
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)
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)
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.
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
“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
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.”
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
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
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
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
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
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.
“I want to make sure than no body gets the idea to use [the anticorruption bureau] as a political
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
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.
"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
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
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
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
“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
“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.