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Transition Nations Press Review

  • Don Hill



Prague, 25 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Selections of recent commentary from the press of Eastern and Central Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union include often-critical opinions of the work of national governments.

SLOVAKIA

In Slovakia, the daily Sme says it's surprising that the new government there isn't canceling some of the pacts with Russia made under the Slovak-Russian Grand Treaty of 1993. The newspaper says: "The parts of the Grand Treaty speaking about a joint stand against further attempts for a new division of Europe or about Europe's security being closely linked with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not add, to put it mildly, to the credibility of Slovakia's efforts to join NATO."

The daily said that the Slovak government should reevaluate its decision not to change anything about the Slovak-Russian agreements. Sme cites also an agreement signed by the defense ministries, which provides for cooperation in the fields of national military doctrine, an exchange of information about new armaments, flight navigation and the use of army air fields for landings of army transport planes.

LITHUANIA

Lithuania's Lietuvos Rytas devotes an editorial to President Valdas Adamkus' Lithuanian Independence Day speech. The editorial says: "The President urged [the audience] to look at Lithuanian reality through the eyes of a robbed businessman, through the eyes of an unemployed person, through the eyes of a mother who has no food for her children." The paper added that: "This speech has almost nothing in common with the speeches made in the ceremony by the other leaders of the country. It is not hard to see reproaches for Lithuanian authorities in this speech, more expressing discontent than praising Lithuanian independence in a festive mood." The paper suggested: "The honeymoon is over between the president and the prime minister."

LATVIA

Diena, in Latvia, comments on a proposal by Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans to divide the equivalent of two million U.S. dollars in the pending budget among the four parties of the governing coalition according to the numbers of seats each has in parliament. Diena writes that the deputies themselves argue that the money should instead go to support government programs, not the aims of individual parties.

Diena also publishes a commentary under the headline, "Place at the Trough." The commentary says: "The parties now will have something to divide [and will] not pay much attention to what happens to the rest of [the money]. That is exactly what Kristopans hopes for." The paper goes on: "The plan of the prime minister is really splendid -- each coalition party will be able to prove that it's kept its pre-election promises by granting money here and there."

The commentary concludes: "As soon as the ultimate criterion for the budget allotment ceases to be common priorities set in the governmental program, and instead becomes merely the policy stance of the parties, people seeking subsidies will, with hat in hand, go to the party bosses to beg for money."

ESTONIA

In Estonia, Eesti Paevaleht looks at a proposal by rural parties to establish import duties. It says: "If their bill should be accepted by parliament, this would mean the end of the negotiations with the World Trade Organization. Estonian acceptance would be delayed by three or four years." The paper says: "Although the European Union recommended establishing trade tariffs in Estonia, this doesn't mean that it should be done to the pleasure of the rural parties before [March] elections."

RUSSIA

Several Russian newspapers comment over apparently extemporaneous remarks made by President Boris Yeltsin at a recent meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder about a telephone call to U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Commentator Yury Chubchenko writes in Kommersant daily: "The arrival of the German Chancellor in Moscow confirmed that [Russian Prime Minister] Yevgeny Primakov is becoming the West's strategic partner, despite the fact that Moscow achieved the impossible -- Boris Yeltsin participated in the Kremlin discussions in good health. However, the President's activities favored the premier. Yeltsin publicly proclaimed Russia an associate member of the EU, and then announced: 'We will not let Kosovo be offended', later adding, 'Yesterday, I gave you my opinion both in written form and in my phone conversation with Clinton -- this will not do. That is all.'" Chubchenko then noted that U.S. officials denied any recent phone conversations between the two presidents. He writes: "The diplomatic confusion only confirmed to the guests that they weren't dealing with someone who could evaluate and control the situation properly. Yevgeny Primakov became such an interlocutor for Gerhard Schroeder...."

ARMENIA

The Armenian newspaper Azg publishes comments by the president of the Armenian Sociological Association, Gevorg Poghosian. Poghosian says that the change of government in Armenia a year ago hasn't lived up to popular expectations. The commentary says: "The population seeks to see a strong leader whose image in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is associated with power and, in particular, defense ministers." He says, "The people seem to have come to terms with a belief that force takes precedence over the law and prefer a strong leader to a democratic society where it is unclear who gets things done."

(The Transition Nations Press Review is compiled from contributions by RFE/RL's broadcast services and the Information Unit.)
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