Lithuania. During the year, Lithuania was given a clearance for
membership in both NATO and the EU. At the NATO Summit in
Prague in November, all three Baltic States were invited as
new members of the military alliance from 2004. After the
Prague Summit, US President George W. Bush visited Lithuania and
declared to an enthusiastic crowd in Vilnius that Lithuania to the
enemy will also get the United States as the enemy.
In the final negotiations with the EU, the Ignalina
nuclear power plant was a difficult matter of dispute.
Countryaah website, Ignalina's two reactors are of the same type as the
accident-hit reactor in Chernobyl and the EU stipulated as a
condition for membership that Lithuania would close the last
reactor by 2009. Previously, Lithuania had agreed to take the first
reactor out of operation until 2005. In June Lithuania agreed to
the EU's requirements, while the EU promised to contribute
"adequate" funding to the settlement process. Ignalina
produces about three quarters of Lithuania's electricity.
At the EU summit in Copenhagen in December, Lithuania, Latvia,
Estonia and seven other countries were accepted as new
members of the Union as of 2004. But first, EU membership
must be approved in a referendum, which for L's part will be
held in 2003.
During the year, tough negotiations were held between the
EU and Russia on the Russian requirement for visa-free
travel through Lithuania to the Russian Kaliningrad area, when
Lithuania becomes an EU member. In October, a compromise was reached
to introduce a lighter form of transit document in 2003. The
conflicting privatization of the Mažeikiu Nafta oil refinery
took a new turn during the year. In a controversial deal,
the Russian oil company became Yuko's majority owner in
Mažeikiu, which is L's largest company and accounts for
about a tenth of the country's GDP.
Ahead of the December presidential election, Valdas
Adamkus was running for re-election, while his strongest
political rival, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas,
abstained. Assessors felt that it was good for the country's
stability, especially ahead of NATO and EU entry, if the two
continued in their respective offices. The election then
became a deal mainly between Adamkus and former Prime
Minister Rolandas Paksas. Adamkus received just over 35% of
the vote, compared to just over 19% for Paksas. They both
went on to a decisive election round in January 2003.