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Transition Nations Press Review: The Difficulties Of Change

  • Don Hill

Prague, 12 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Recent commentary in the press of the nations of Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltics, and Central Asia concentrate overwhelmingly on the difficulties and tensions of those countries' transition from communism and central control to democracy and free markets.

MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS: 1999 budget is inadequate

Russian Duma Deputy Chairman Vladimir Ryzhkov commented in Moskovsky Komsomolets that the 1999 draft budget still under discussion in the legislature is inadequate as it stands. He said: "Discussion of the budget in Duma committees was supposed to be the most important event of the week. Alas, it was postponed." He said also: "More than 150 amendments were forwarded to the committees, and each must be considered. Deputies are dissatisfied with the poor funding of the army, the Interior Ministry, the social sphere, and the regions. They are going to demand that more money be set aside for these spheres at the expense of foreign debts."

SEGODNAYA: Russians should be wary of the Euro

Igor Moiseev, writing last week in Segodnaya, passes on a recommendation that Russians be wary, at least for now, of the new European currency, the euro. He writes: "The first results of the introduction of the euro will be discernible only in about a month, when the first excitement has abated. In this light, Alfa-bank President Pyotr Aven advises readers of Segodnaya against rushing to convert their savings into the new currency."

The writer quoted Aven as saying that the dollar remains a better hedge against loss of value of the Russian ruble. Moiseev said that the Central Bank of Russia has established an exchange of 24.4 rubles to the euro, but, the writer added: "Russia and Russians couldn't care less, because the new bills will appear only three years from now."

KRASNAYA ZVEZDA: Russia should refuse to ratify START-TWO

Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Musatov made a case in Krasnaya Zvezda for Russia's refusing to complete START-TWO, the long-pending U.S.-Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. He wrote: "The START-Two treaty was signed six years ago and we haven't ratified it yet. Why? Before trying to answer, let us recall that the document was prepared in some haste and consists mostly of what American experts insisted upon." Musatov went on: "The necessity of another START treaty is evident, but many of the clauses of the document in question unfortunately are unacceptable these days."

The writer concluded: "We can only believe leading experts in the field, who maintain that in the course of the reduction the total megatonnage will decrease more than five times for Russia and only two times for the United States. Other destabilizing factors [deployment of an antiballistic missile system by the United States, possession of high-precision weapons etc.] will tip the scales even farther. The Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces may lose all their deterrent capacity and the country will be left absolutely helpless."

VERCHIRNIJ KYIV: Ukraine's economy needs protectionism and gradualism

Mykhailo Shvaika wrote in the Ukrainian evening newspaper Vechirnij Kyiv that Ukraine must accept a phase of protectionism and gradualism on its way to a market economy. He wrote: "Neither liberalism nor shock therapy are needed for dying industry. [What is needed] is protectionist encouragement and assistance of the state on the way to a mild, gradual and smooth transition to a market [economy]."

SEGA: Bulgarians are used to life under Communism, afraid of other forms of government

In Bulgaria's daily newspaper, SEGA, Iva Nikoleva used the anniversary of the fall of communism there to draw some comparisons about old, present, and different forms of government. She wrote: "The Bulgarians accept the current government because they have learned over 45 years how to survive in similar circumstances." She said that people shun different forms of government because these are charged with uncertainty. They prefer the familiar stereotype, which, Nikoleva wrote, is this: "All of us were poor but those in power; all of us dreamed in vain to become rich, but the only riches belonged to those in power; all of us lived in the name of the bright future, but those in power had already built it up for themselves."

VECHERNAYA KAZAN: Life is too hard for Tatarstan's intelligentsia

Vechernaya Kazan in Tatarstan carried a comment by Tatar State Council Deputy Chairman Renat Kharis. Kharis described what he would tell the Russian republic's president, if he had the opportunity. Kharis said: "I would like to complain to the president about the financial condition of the creative intelligentsia. Tatarstan's writer, singers [except popular show persons], and literary and theatrical critics live in misery. Their standard of living is below reason. The president knows about this and takes measures, but more support is necessary."

TAJIKISTAN WEEKLY: Security ministry to concentrate on illegal imports, exports

Tajikistan's minister of security, Saidamir Zuhrov, commenting in Tajikistan Weekly, said that his ministry is expanding its concerns to a significant new area, in his words, "national economic security." He said: "Illegal imports and exports of goods are a principal threat to Tajikistan's economic security. About 3,000 tons of cotton fiber were exported to foreign countries without permission or border and customs control. Illegal importing of alcohol and tobacco has increased during the last year. These crimes are perpetrated by ordinary citizens as well as by civil service staff."

HURRIYYET: Azerbaijanis divided over need for opposition movement

The Azerbaijani opposition newspaper Hurriyyet ran a commentary about differing views over the need for an opposition movement. Hurriyyet wrote: "The nation is divided. One part believes that opposition is a great obstacle in the way of successful government. Another side regards opposition as an important factor of political life." But, it adds, many others have "lost faith in both the government and its opponents."

DIENA: Confusion over laws means endangered species lack protection

Latvia's largest daily, Diena, commented that because of uncertainty over which of the country's old Soviet-era laws are still in force and which are not, many endangered animal and bird species have been left without any protection since last October.

LIETUVOS AIDAS: Interior Ministry broke its own rules in asylum decision

Lietuvos Aidas in Lithuania reported that the Interior Ministry failed to meet its own rules when it refused to grant temporary asylum to a Russian citizen named Vladimir Jakovlev, who identified himself as a reporter for Belorussia's Novoye Vremya. The Lithuanian newspaper said: "The Migration Department analyzed Jakovlev's petition and supporting documents and determined there was cause to deny Jakovlev asylum. But the department did not cite the reasons for the decision as required by the Refugee Law."

DOMINO FORUM: Dzurindza has not matched words with deeds

Slovakia's Domino Forum weekly commented critically on the New Year speech of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. The paper says Dzurinda hasn't matched words with deeds, but not necessarily for lack of courage. The newspaper said: "It seems to be something worse than lack of courage; it's lack of conviction."

The paper said that Dzurinda spoke of radical changes for economic recovery, but has done little in three months. It said: "There remains in all the ministries labyrinths of division, sections and departments, full of wastrel clerks." The newspaper said also: "It's true that the current ministers are more qualified than those of [former Prime Minister Vladimir] Meciar's cabinet. It would be even better if socialism were finally replaced by a free society."