Baltic Reports No 14 / September 30 – October 6

  • October 7, 2019

Pan-Baltic

Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Georgian delegations will boycott the Council of Europe’s celebrations that will mark its 70th anniversary. The organisation that is known as the continent’s leading human rights organisation has let Russia return to its Parliamentary Assembly. In solidarity with Ukraine, the Baltic States and Georgia are striving to attract organization’s attention to  Russia’s crimes in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Latvia will be the only Council of Europe member not to participate in the plenary meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s autumn session, but the Latvian delegates will continue participation in the organisation’s political groups and committees. Delegations of five states established a permanent group called Baltic plus and agreed to work towards a more credible Parliamentary Assembly. The next meeting of the group will take place in Kyiv.

Finnish scientists at the University of Turku have noticed that the salinity in the Baltic Sea has been declining since 1967. At the same time, the temperature has been rising by around 1.5 degrees in surface waters. Saltwater species, such as the Baltic herring, are coming under pressure as the freshwater species are thriving. University of Turku’s Archipelago Research Institute has found changes in the diet of herring in these waters. As a result, herring in the area have lost a quarter of their length in average and up to half of their weight since the 1980s. Not only will the Baltic Sea contain more fresh water in the future, it will also contain higher concentrations of nutrients and overload the sea bottom with organic materials. This will impact not only the deepest parts of the sea, but also more shallow waters, as well. Even though Baltic herring will not disappear, the scientists predict that it will be found in more southern parts of the Baltic sea with saltier waters.

SOURCES: 112.international, eng.lsm.lv, yle.fi

Estonia

Estonian government has decided to support the EU’s carbon neutrality goal and with this decision has joined 24 other European countries. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will now be the only ones in the EU that are in doubt of the ambitious goal. The EU’s ambitious green target is to try to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas earlier refused to support the goal claiming  that there is not enough evidence that it is even feasible. In September, a report from the local institute showed that Estonia can bring CO2 emissions down to zero and even profit from the so-called “climate neutrality”. The Estonia’s ruling Central Party then managed to convince the climate deniers in the conservative EKRE party. The voting took place at the same time as the member of Central Party, an EU commissioner-designate Kadri Simson was trying to convince the Members of the European Parliament that she is  suitable as the European Energy Commissioner. In European Commission her job would be to pursue green energy policies. Simson was approved, but did not convince all MEPs of her climate credentials.

Archaeologists have discovered fragments of about a hundred swords that once belonged to viking warriors. This is the largest find of Viking swords in Estonia that date back to the middle of 10th century. The fragments from swords and also a collection of spearheads were found near the capital of Tallinn. It appears that the weapons were deliberately destroyed by the Vikings as part of their burial customs. The findings are very similar to other Viking-era swords in Northern Europe. These weapons were used by Vikings in their battles and raids all over Northern Europe and beyond. The discovery is a significant addition to  the Viking-era in Estonia. It demonstrates that the northern coastal area was under the direct influence of these fierce warriors and great traders.

SOURCES: euobserver.com, epl.delfi.ee, climatechangenews.com, ancient-origins.net, news.err.ee

Lithuania

A rotational battalion of the U.S. army has arrived in Lithuania with 30 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles or in short IFV, and 70 wheeled vehicles. The battalion and the vehicles will be based on the training ground near Pabradė, a village 10 kilometres from the border of Belarus. The US troops have been deployed in Lithuania on a rotation basis since spring 2014 as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The US forces will also help Lithuanian ones to start using German made IFVs that were bought by Lithuania and will start to arrive soon. Lithuania’s military mechanisation process is gaining pace, as 340 Daimler offroad trucks are being delivered. This takes place in the wake of The US Armed Forces plan to deploy one of its divisions to Eastern Europe as part of the Defender-2020 military exercise.  The exercises will take place in April and early May 2020 and will involve up to 20 thousand US troops. It will be the largest in the region in the last 25 years.

MG Baltic, a Lithuanian business group at the centre of the biggest ever corruption case, got its first victory in their new court case. It is fighting government officials investigating the corruption of the business group’s leadership by suing them. This time one of the biggest business groups in the country sued Vytautas Bakas, the former Head of The Parliamentary National Security Committee for leaking information gathered on the group by Lithuanian intelligence. On October 3rd, Vilnius District Court ruled that Bakas is rightfully named as the respondent in the case. Earlier Bakas was found guilty for damaging MG Baltic’s reputation when he publicly said that the business group’s activities remind him of organized crime and that it had caused around 500 million euros in damage to the state. But the investigation into MG Baltic, where the business group is accused of running a puppet political party the Liberal Movement, goes on. The groups leadership were also allegedly bribing other political parties, and using their agents of influence pretending to be journalists on the group controlled TV channel LNK to pressure them. The MG Baltic political and media corruption scandal can be distinguished from other corruption scandals by its systemic large-scale impact on political processes in Lithuania.

SOURCES: lrt.lt, shephardmedia.com, uawire.org, delfi.lt

Latvia

The Latvian diaspora in Australia has been campaigning for the past ten years that it’s necessary to open an embassy in Canberra. Finally, it has happened. This September, the government allocated additional 3 million euros to Foreign Ministry and the minister Edgars Rinkēvičs has promised to use it for opening the embassy in Australia. After the Second World War, more than 20,000 people fled Latvia for this far away country. Today, about 5,000 people there speak Latvian at home and about 20,000 see themselves as Latvians. There are Latvian-language schools, a secondary school, a summer school as well as churches and other Latvian houses. Along with Europe, the diaspora in Australia has also been one of the most active ones when it comes to cultural and political ties with Latvia. Apart from benefits for the diaspora and travelers, the foreign minister also hopes that opening an embassy would boost economic relations between the countries, because currently they are insignificant. At the moment, Latvia’s Ambassador to Australia is based in Tokyo.

Every fifth Latvian medical student has decided to continue their profession in other countries with better pay, work environment and professional growth conditions. This is what the Latvian Junior Doctors Association found out in their latest survey. Latvia spends three percent less of its GDP on health care compared to the average spending in Europe. On average 100 physicians leave Latvia each year and there are no reasons to expect the situation to change in the following years. According to the association, young doctors, aged between 25 and 35, work 240 hours a month in several jobs and the junior resident’s monthly salary in Latvia can be up to twice as low as compared to other Baltic states. The outflow of young medics from Latvia leads to severe staff shortage. The Ministry of Health estimates that by 2025 Latvia will be short of about three thousand nurses and nearly one thousand doctors who provide state-funded medical services. Currently the pre-retirement and older doctors and nurses are holding the Latvian health care system on their shoulders. If they retire, the acute shortage of medical personnel will turn into an emergency. Even though the state budget for next year includes raising salaries for medics, no polititian has proposed a realistic solution for the problem as a whole.

SOURCES: lsm.lv, en.rebaltica.lv/

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