The Baltic Course  

Editor's note

The falls are really becoming turning points in the Baltic. Last fall had been that of NATO, this autumn is a significant and historic moment, as well. The three Baltic States have gained popular support for joining the European Union. It has been quite clear up to the end of this year that Baltic States have been fully involved in major Western world development aspects, i.e. first, joining NATO, then the Union. In all walks of life, these two events have been regarded extremely positive for Baltic States' social, political and economic development. The former offers military solidarity and promises security; the latter provides for economic and political transformation in European societies. And if NATO, so to say, is in the past, the EU is in future: We hope that it will provide fundamental changes in European civilization, although this success is still to be determined.

On top of this comes new EU Constitution, i.e. at the start of October 2003, 25 European Presidents and Prime Ministers gathered in Rome to endorse a new draft, which was an outcome of about a year and a half work of a special European Convention. After the endorsement, the rest is up to the member states' governments, Parliaments and people to make the new draft a real European Constitution. Quite a historic moment and opportunity too! 

Unfortunately, a mere fact of adherence to any international alliance or grouping does not automatically solve all the problems; and this is true for countries in the Baltic. For some of them, notably Lithuania, it has provided an acute transit problem to be solved for citizens from neighboring states, particularly Russians, to come to Kaliningrad enclave. The latter is being surrounded by the future EU member states. Lithuania is to be praised for her efforts to solve the issue through fruitful cooperation with Russian counterpart. Estonia has a good proven record of both solving their minorities' issues and economic problems. Latvia is lagging behind on several issues to be solved. For example, a huge and still greatly unresolved Russian non-citizens' problems: this "minority" group in many Latvian regions accounts for up to 30-40% of population. And they do not have right even to take part in local elections. This historic "Russian legacy" is the core of another acute problem, i.e. that of education, where Russian language is forbidden. It's just too big "a minority" to be assimilated through such draconian methods. Unstable governments in Latvia in recent years do not help to provide an attractive picture for stable political regime in the country either. Foreign investors keep their eyes open for the situation in Latvia.

Recent 5th annual Baltic Development Forum Summit in Riga this fall has become quite a pretentious meeting place for businessmen in the region. With a justified at the moment title "New Europe meets old Europe", the Forum has come up with a good advice, i.e. to make Baltic Sea region a global front runner in technology and development. That's a very promising path to follow. 

Eugene Eteris,

BC's International Editor