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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 16, 1998


U.S.-Baltic Relations

President Clinton met today with Presidents Lennart Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania to discuss the strengthening of U.S.-Baltic relations and mutual efforts to advance the integration of the Baltic states into the European and transatlantic communities.

The Baltic Presidents also met this week with senior Administration officials including Secretary of State Albright, Treasury Secretary Rubin, Attorney General Reno, FBI Director Freeh, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Hamre. During these meetings they signed several agreements and held consultations that will give new dynamism to cooperation with the three countries on a variety of economic and security issues. The visit has helped expand mutual trade and investment, advanced cooperation on defense matters, and launched new initiatives on combating organized crime.

The centerpiece of the visit was the signing of the Charter of Partnership. The charter is a political statement of principles that will guide the deepening of mutual cooperation and advance common objectives into the 21st Century.

U.S. Interests

For over fifty years, there was a bipartisan consensus on maintaining a strong policy of non-recognition of the forcible incorporation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the former Soviet Union.

Since they regained their independence in 1991, the United States has played a critical role in helping these states implement democratic and free market reforms and strengthen their security and sovereignty.

The Charter recalls this history, and underscores that the United States has a "real, profound, and enduring" interest in the security and independence of the three Baltic states. This is because, as the Charter also notes, our interest in a Europe whole and free will not be ensured until Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are secure.

The Charter of Partnership

The Charter has the following elements:

It begins with expressions of commitment by the four governments to shared principles and a common vision for a secure, prosperous, and undivided Europe. The Charter makes clear that Baltic integration into the European and transatlantic communities is a part of this vision and that they will not be left out or discriminated against due to factors of history or geography. It also notes how U.S.-Baltic cooperation will contribute to the integration of the Baltic states.

In that context, the Charter notes the shared goal of Baltic integration into European and transatlantic institutions, such as the European Union, OSCE, the World Trade Organization and NATO.

On NATO, the Charter recalls the Madrid Summit Communique language and notes that the United States welcomes Baltic aspirations and supports their efforts to join NATO. It also reaffirms U.S. policy that NATO's partners can become members as each aspirant proves itself able and willing to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and as NATO determines that the inclusion of these nations would serve European stability and the strategic interests of the Alliance.

The Charter does not pre-commit the United States to Baltic membership in NATO. So too, the Charter does not offer back-door security guarantees. The Baltic governments understand, and have said so publicly, that such guarantees can only come through NATO membership. The Charter is not an alternative to NATO membership, nor is it an effort to regionalize the security of the Baltic states.

The Charter affirms a shared commitment to promotion of harmonious and equitable relations among individuals belonging to diverse ethnic and religious groups. The parties affirm their desire to develop close, cooperative relationships among all the states in Northeastern Europe.

The Charter takes note of the progress of existing bilateral working groups with each Baltic government on security and military affairs, and establishes new bilateral working groups on economic reform, trade, investment and related fields. Each year these groups will review progress on bilateral objectives and set the agenda for the year ahead.

The Charter also establishes a Partnership Commission, headed by the Deputy Secretary of State, to review annually the activities of the bilateral military and economic working groups.

Implementation Already Underway

Reflecting the Charter's character as a living document, many elements of the document are already being implemented. During the visit of the three Presidents several new agreements and initiatives were also launched.

Economic Cooperation

Over the past six years, the United States has provided the Baltic states with over $136 million under the Support for East European Democracy Program (SEED) to advance fundamental economic and political reforms. In 1994, the United States established the Baltic-American Enterprise Fund, capitalized at $50 million, to promote the growth of small and medium-sized businesses in these countries. More than 400 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in the three countries since 1992. There are presently 128 volunteers working on a variety of projects, including English language training and advising small entrepreneurs in business practices.

As these countries have made great strides in their economic transformation, our assistance programs are coming to an end. New elements of this relationship have been launched:

Baltic/American Partnership Fund: Today, the President announced the establishment of a $15 million Baltic-American Partnership Fund. In a unique public-private partnership, this endowment will be established with equal contributions from the U.S. Government and the Soros Open Society Institute. The Fund will be chartered to promote the further development of non-governmental organizations and civic society in the Baltic states.

Double Tax Treaties: On Thursday, Secretary Rubin signed signed tax treaties with all three Baltic governments. The treaties foster trade and investment by removing significant tax barriers for U.S. firms doing business in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Bilateral Investment Treaties: On Wednesday, the U.S. Trade Representative, Charlene Barshefsky, signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty with Lithuania. Bilateral investment treaties were previously signed with Estonia and Latvia. These treaties guarantee the right to invest on terms no less favorable than those accorded to domestic or third country investors, in most cases, and guarantee certain transactions. With their reciprocal market-opening commitments, these accords provide a strong basis for trade and investment relations with the Baltic states.

WTO Membership: The United States strongly supports accession of the Baltic states to the World Trade Organization on appropriate terms, and hopes to complete the three separate negotiations underway this year.

Security Cooperation

The United States has greatly expanded its security and military assistance with the Baltic states. By the end of fiscal year 1998, they will have received over $29 million under the President's Warsaw Initiative security assistance program, which helps members of the Partnership for Peace enhance their capabilities and ability to work with NATO. In addition the Baltic governments received over $14 million in equipment and services to develop the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion, elements of which are serving with NATO and SFOR in Bosnia today. A U.S.-sponsored Regional Airspace initiative, various military education and training programs, and close cooperation with counterparts in the Michigan, Maryland, and Pennsylvania National Guards have also contributed to the development of their armed forces.

The United States has provided approximately $8.5 million for the demolition of the former Russian large phased-array radar at Skrunda, Latvia and $2 million for the clean up of the former Russian nuclear reactor facility at Paldiski, Estonia.

Justice and Law Enforcement

Through the Law and Democracy Program, the United States is helping these three countries and other emerging European democracies to develop their judicial systems and combat crime and corruption. Various SEED-funded programs and other efforts have assisted the Baltic states in improving their customs, banking regulations, and police training. Our cooperation with the Baltic states in the area of law enforcement is growing in other ways.

Mutual Legal Assistance: Earlier today, Attorney General Reno signed a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance with Lithuania. A similar treaty is provisionally in force with Latvia, pursuant to an exchange of diplomatic notes, pending ratification. The United States also has negotiated a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Estonia, which we anticipate will be signed in the near future. These accords will further our ability to exchange evidence in connection with criminal investigations and prosecutions, greatly facilitating our cooperation in the administration of justice.

Anti-Crime Initiative: Today FBI Director Freeh also proposed several steps to expand cooperation among law enforcement agencies in battling organized crime -- including the development of mechanisms for information sharing and joint operations with authorities in the three Baltic states. This effort will build on the work of FBI Legal attaches posted in the Baltic and Nordic region, Poland, and Russia. The United States is also prepared to participate in the Operative Committee of the Council of Baltic Sea States' Task Force on Organized Crime. This work will help establish a stable, secure business climate essential to the growth of trade and investment in the Baltic states and also supports U.S. efforts to combat the global reach of organized crime.

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