Olga Pavuk, Editor-in-Chief
The most heated debate in the Baltic community is often still centered around integration - integration in the broadest meaning of the word.
Political and economic integration is all about European Union (EU) and NATO membership for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The political elite of the Baltic states would be ready to join both these organizations in the blink of an eye, but various opinion polls show that the general public is not yet all too ready for another radical turn in their lives. No more than half of the Baltic population supports EU and NATO accession.
The most pragmatic part of the community realizes, however, that the Baltics are predestined to be in economic and political co-dependency with their neighbors. And it is good to be able to choose such ties, not to have them forced upon you. As for NATO, the pragmatic opinion which I happen to share is that the Latvian and Estonian purchase of long-range 3-dimensional radar worth over 15 million US dollars each, by way of curtsey to the alliance, is an inadmissible luxury for the national budget.
Meanwhile, speaking of ethnic and social integration, one should hardly fear the loss of national identity upon close contact with Europe. Many centuries of dependency from various forces is proof of viability for the national culture and languages of the Baltic peoples. Even if English comes to replace the languages of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian (which may even be quite likely), there will still be the many other aspects of culture left.
Europeans themselves support economic integration and good relations between the Baltic states and their eastern neighbors. Not before long our borders with Russia and Belarus will be the borders of the EU. A thaw has also begun in Baltic relations with Russia after the melt-down three years ago. Latvians especially feel this move, with relations improving through the friendship of capital cities. Latvia leads the other Baltic states in terms of development in economic relations with Belarus. Lithuanians are reaping the benefits of trade with its eastern neighbor on the account of expanding businesses in the Kaliningrad enclave. Even Estonians, cautious as they are towards Russia, are also doing some business with the eastern neighbor, although they prefer not to flaunt it too much. An important factor is that Eastern capital has taken on a strong foothold in the Baltic oil transit industry - an aspect present in economic systems of all the three Baltic states.
The rigmarole around privatization of large state-owned companies in the Baltics seems greatly annoying to the public and springs allegations of corruption among high-ranking officials. A traditional list of the top Baltic companies may help you find your bearings in Baltic economic developments.
We'll wrap things up with something more pleasing to the eye, offering you to once again take a dip into the depths of the Baltic Sea, where waves keep carrying ashore the warmest stone in the world. They say that bosses should be wary of wearing amber jewelry. Nevertheless, it is my favorite stone, which starts glowing power from the sun just when you thought your energy is exhausted.
Let's give amber to our beloved!