- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

What Latvia must do
Latvia must reform its election law, root out corruption and confront its history if it wants to join the Western family of nations, according to Brian Carlson, the U.S. ambassador to Latvia.
The Baltic nation, with a large minority of Russian-speaking residents, guarantees universal suffrage for citizens but requires candidates for public office to speak fluent Latvian.
"As the situation currently stands, the election law divides Latvian citizens into two classes those who can vote and those who can both vote and run for office," Mr. Carlson wrote in the recent edition of the newsletter of the Joint Baltic American National Committee. "That conflicts with recognized international human rights norms."
However, he added, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins have said they will find ways to amend the law, while preserving the Latvian language, which was threatened by the use of Russian during the Soviet era.
Mr. Carlson applauded the Latvian parliament for creating an anti-corruption bureau to investigate the abuse of public office, but he urged that it be "independent of political interference" and have a broad mandate and adequate resources to fight corruption "wherever it occurs."
Mr. Carlson also urged Latvia to pursue plans to teach about its history under both German and Soviet rule.
"Latvia must continue to analyze its sometimes painful history," he said.
The ambassador praised Latvia for its progress toward its goals of joining the European Union and NATO, especially for promises to continue spending 2 percent of its budget to modernize its military.
That is a "figure better than many current NATO members achieve," he said, adding that the U.S. Embassy fully supports its membership in the Western alliance.
"This is an historic time for all the Baltic nations," he added. "Eleven years after re-establishing independence, Latvia and its neighbors [Estonia and Lithuania] are thriving democracies with fast-growing economies on the verge of full integration into NATO and the European Union.
"This embassy's principal goal is to help Latvia be the best possible candidate it can be."

Diplomatic traffic
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Today
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addresses a 1 p.m. rally for Israel at the West Front of the Capitol.
Tokio Kanoh, a member of Japan's House of Councillors, who addresses the 10th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering.
William Cash, a member of the British Parliament, who discusses the future of Europe in a panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute.
Siyuan Cao of the Beijing Siyuan Research Center, who discusses new trends in China's economic system at the American Enterprise Institute.
Tomorrow
Pascal Affi N'Guessan, prime minister of the Ivory Coast, and his finance minister, Bohoun Bouabre, who attend a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Talbak Nazarov, foreign minister of Tajikistan, who addresses Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies about Tajikistan's role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Choi Sung-hong, South Korea's foreign affairs and trade minister, who attends the annual dinner of the Asia Society.
Tsedendamba Batbayar of the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who addresses the Woodrow Wilson Center about Mongolia's strategic linkage between Central and Northeast Asia.
Wednesday
cDemetris Christofias, president of Cyprus' House of Representatives, who meets National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Elizabeth Jones, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, and Thomas Weston, the State Department's special coordinator for Cyprus.
Saturday
Austrian Finance Minister Karl Heinz Grasser and Klaus Liebscher, governor of the Austrian National Bank.

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