schizzi e scazzi di finanza e dintorni
20 dicembre 2007
E' SUCCESSO NEL BALTICO NEL 2007
YEAR IN REVIEW 2007Without
meaning to sound too cynical, we could honestly say that the most
positive thing about 2007 – as far as the Baltics are concerned – is
that it’s finally over. It opened with a warm, drippy winter that
threatened to kill off the local ski industry, and ended on a high
note, with the Baltics joining the Schengen zone. In between there was
a labor crunch, fears of hyperinflation and a hard economic landing,
riots, political crises, and too many scandals to count. To mark the
passing of 2007, The Baltic Times has put together this very brief
sketch of the year’s more memorable events for each of the three
Estonia’s year of the bronze
question one single event in Estonia – easily the biggest story to come
out of the nation since its 1991 independence – overshadowed all others
in 2007: the Bronze Soldier riots of April 26 - 27.
Even as early as January political forces were lining up on both
sides of the issue, with Savisaar and the Center Party wanting to keep
the Soviet-era war memorial in its place, and Ansip’s Reform Party
wanting to move it out of the center of Tallinn. Local extremists were
also vowing to get involved if the politicians’ will didn’t match their
When the March 4 parliamentary elections rolled around – proudly
the first in the world to use Internet voting – Reform squeaked through
with enough points to dump the Center Party from its coalition, and
Savisaar took up his old seat as the mayor of Tallinn.
The Bronze Soldier storm finally broke on April 26 when, seeing the
beginning of archeological work to dig up the graves at the Tonismagi
site, protesters came out in force. It’s hard to say whether the two
days of rioting that followed was more connected to politics or
alcohol. It’s also hard to say to what extent Russia played a part,
either by direct instigation or simply by fanning the flames with false
media reports. What’s clear is the result – one dead, dozens injured,
hundreds arrested, thousands of euros in damage from looting, and a
huge backslide in ethnic relations.
In early May the media’s focus had shifted to the unprecedented
cyber attacks against the nation’s IT infrastructure, and the antics of
Nashi, a pro-Putin youth group, who had surrounded the Estonian embassy
in Moscow. Later in the year the losses from Russian import and export
embargoes would be tallied up, along with those from jittery tourists
who stayed away.
Those events were briefly pushed off the news pages on May 18 when
a carousel ride at the Tivoli Tuur fun park in Rakvere went up in
spectacular flames. Several people were hospitalized, but nobody
suffered lasting injuries.
Estonian residents then had time to either grumble or cheer as new
laws went into effect on June 5 to make the nation’s restaurants and
bars smoke free. Suddenly patios and doorways became the coolest places
to hang out.
Midsummer celebrations were tempered by the news on June 23 that
two Estonians, Sgt. Kalle Torn, 24, Jr. Sgt. Jako Karuks, 33, were
killed in Afghanistan by a missile.
Later that summer Lennart Meri’s cousin Arnold caused a stir by
being charged with genocide, while Franz, a 20-year-old polar bear at
the Tallinn zoo, was killed in an escape attempt.
Since then the Estonian government has refused to allow the Nord
Stream gas pipeline project to conduct survey of seabed in its economic
zone. Yet another sign of continuing bad relations with Russia.
Lithuania: less bread, more circuses
continuing themes, not connected with one another, dominated headlines
throughout the year in Lithuania. Apart from the endless negotiations
over the new Ignalina nuclear power plant, there was also the question
of construction near a Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, battles between gay
rights organizations and the city of Vilnius over the latter’s banning
rallies, and worry about the number of Lithuanians not returning from
Controversial figure Viktor Uspashkich, who had been hiding out in
Russia from fraud charges, got his political start early in 2007 by
announcing he would will run in the nation’s Feb. 25 municipal
elections. He was unsuccessful, but dramatically returned to Lithuania
Sept. 26 to run in a parliamentary by-election. He was arrested on
arrival at the airport and later put under house arrest (where he now
remains). Again he lost the election but in November the millionaire
politico was returned to the helm of the Labor Party, which he had
founded in 2003.
March brought in two major sewage spills in western Lithuania, two
deadly residential fires and the sad story of two boys from the Kelme
region, an 8-year-old and his 12-year-old brother, whose strangled
bodies were found on the banks of the Krazante river. The boys’ mother
was eventually detained in connection with the deaths.
A political era ended May 19 when Algirdas Brazauskas, the last
leader of Lithuanian Communist Party, stepped down from his role as the
chairman of Lithuanian Social Democratic Party.
While Lithuanians sweltered in the summer heat, police had to use
tear gas and rubber bullets to quell a riot that broke out at a July 8
soccer match in Vilnius’ Vetra stadium. Hundreds of Legia Warsaw fans
had rushed the field, breaking fences and throwing stones.
Order was maintained though on Aug. 26 when prominent Lithuanian
parliamentarian Emanuelis Zingeris saved an Italian student from
On Nov. 12, both Lithuania’s interior minister and chief of police
resigned over a traffic incident in Skuodas, in which a police officer
hit and killed three ten-year-old boys. A new interior minister,
Regimantas Ciupaila, was sworn in Dec. 18.
In Latvia, scandals were all the rage
If there’s a positive spin that can be put on the high volume of
scandals that hit Latvia in 2007, it’s that they show someone is
finally fighting corruption, and that the people are no longer willing
to sit back and take politics as usual.
While the country had barely finished mourning two soldiers killed
in Iraq by roadside bomb on Dec. 27, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga was
thrown into a pitched battle with the government over “emergency”
amendments to the laws on security. The July 7 referendum she
eventually got set up on the issue failed but was still seen as a
massive public vote of no confidence in the government.
Politics was forgotten on March 1 when a fire killed 26 residents
of a convalescent home in western Latvia, highlighting the country’s
poor fire safety record.
The beginning of the year also heralded success in establishing a border treaty with Russia.
On March 14, Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs was arrested on
charges of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion. There were rumors
that 31 members of Saeima were on his payroll.
Spring ended with a bang – literally – as a May 21 car bomb failed
to kill the director of the State Revenue Service’s customs related
Ten days later Valdis Zatlers, an orthopedic surgeon who admitted
to not paying taxes on cash gifts from patients, was elected president
in a parliamentary ballot.
A gay pride parade was held in Riga on June 3 without too much
trouble and amazingly Ligo (Midsummer) passed with no drunk driving
In August journalist Lato Lapsa unveiled transcripts of wiretapped
phone conversations among prominent figures of the Latvian judiciary
system from 1998 to 2000.
The next scandal stars Indulis Emsis, a former PM and member of
Greens and Farmers Union, and one of the most influential figures in
Latvian politics. Shortly after taking office Emsis lost a briefcase
containing $10,000 in the Cabinet of Ministers building. He is under
suspicion of having accepted unreported cash income and giving false
information to law enforcement institutions. Republika.lv speculated it
could have been “hush money” related to the Lembergs case.
The biggest scandal of the year of course started in September when
Prime Minster Aigars Kalvitis suspended the head of the anti-corruption
bureau, KNAB, who just happened to be investigating Kalvitis’ own
party’s elections spending. The resulting outcry, in the form of
thousands of people demonstrating in the streets, led to Kalvitis’ Dec.
To pee or not to pee
Much Latvian media attention was given this year to cases in which
British nationals were caught urinating on the Freedom Monument or on
its square. The first actually happened in 2006, for which the culprit
was fined 810 lats (1,152 euros). On March 16 a second arrest was made
– this time the Brit was caught urinating on Freedom Monument Square
while posing for his friends’ cameras. Ironically the incident
coincided with the launch of the British Embassy’s “Responsible
Tourism” campaign, which urged British citizens visiting Latvia to
behave, observe the law and avoid urinating in public. This time the
man was fined 45 lats (64 euros).
Drunkard claws his way to the top
A drunken man climbed up the cables of Riga’s Vansu Tilts
(Suspension Bridge) on April 15 and refused to come down unless given a
sandwich. Authorities were forced to stop all traffic to the bridge for
hours and remove the man with a cherry-picker. The man was charged with
disorderly conduct and then taken to a psychiatric ward.
Beware of edgy giraffes
Stories involving exotic animals are usually good value for “odd
story” hunters, though it’s hard to laugh at the plight of 22-year-old
student Ruta Greiciute, who ended up in hospital on May 6 after her
late-night date with Solutas, a 9-year-old male giraffe at the Kaunas
Zoo, ended in disaster. She and three friends, evidently under the
influence of alcohol, got into the zoo after hours and somehow managed
their way over a four-meter fence and into the giraffe enclosure. By
the time rescue workers pulled her free, Ruta had suffered fractures of
the cheekbone, nose and collarbone, all from Solutas’ kicks. Newspapers
speculated Solutas may have been on edge because of noisy student
The blind driver of Tartu
This summer The Baltic Times reported that police in Tartu stopped
a drunk driver in the early hours of Aug. 5 only to discover that he
was, in fact, blind. They noticed the disability when he had trouble
seeing the breathalizer they were trying to give him. It turns out
20-year-old Kristjan was being guided by a teenage passenger, who was
also drunk. In our next issue we had to report that Kristjan had been
caught driving a second time, guided by friends, in the nearby village
of Torvandi. Even stranger, it turned out he was actually the owner of
the AUDI 80 in which he was caught.
Deep in the merde
A French citizen was rescued from a Vilnius apartment on Oct. 16
where he had been handcuffed to a radiator for several days after being
robbed by a woman he met on the Internet. According initial reports,
the French national met the Lithuanian woman online and came to Vilnius
for the weekend. The girl invited him into an apartment, where she and
a friend deprived him of his cash and credit cards, and then handcuffed
him to the apartment’s radiator. On the morning of Oct. 16, the
Frenchman tore the radiator off and started yelling for help from the
window. When water starting to pour from the broken pipe, neighbors
thought the commotion was a fire and called the fire brigade, who
rescued the captive.
| inviato da houseofMaedhros
il 20/12/2007 alle 14:20 | |