Accessibility links

Newsline - July 24, 1997




PRESIDENTIAL VETO OF RELIGION LAW RECEIVES MIXED RESPONSE IN RUSSIA...

Human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva, who chairs the Moscow Helsinki Group, was among those who welcomed President Boris Yeltsin's veto of the controversial law on religious organizations, Interfax reported on 23 July. She argued that the law would have granted unconstitutional privileges to the Russian Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997). Meanwhile, Archbishop Sergii of the Russian Orthodox Church's Holy Synod told ITAR-TASS that the veto "provokes enormous regret and bewilderment among Orthodox Christians." Speaking in Sochi, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev predicted that the parliament will override Yeltsin's veto. In messages to Seleznev and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, Yeltsin warned that if his veto is overridden, he will sign the law but will publish it alongside a list of all its points that violate the constitution or international agreements signed by Russia.

...AND PRAISE FROM ABROAD

The Vatican issued a statement on 23 July praising Yeltsin's decision to veto the religion law and expressing hope that a new version of the law would reflect a "better understanding of the religious reality" in Russia, Reuters reported. U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley said the U.S. welcomes the veto as a "victory for Russian democracy and religious freedom." Opposition politicians have slammed foreign appeals regarding the religion law. Duma Speaker Seleznev called such appeals "gross interference in Russia's internal affairs," ITAR-TASS reported. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin told Interfax that the veto shows Russia has become a "protectorate" of the U.S. Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin argued that Yeltsin would have vetoed the law in any case and that the appeals from abroad have only given the opposition more opportunities to accuse Yeltsin of yielding to external pressure.

YELTSIN ALLOWS ELECTRICITY GIANT TO ISSUE CONVERTIBLE BONDS...

Yeltsin signed a decree allowing Unified Energy Systems (EES) to issue convertible bonds worth 5 trillion rubles ($864 million) this year, Interfax reported on 23 July. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said the proceeds from the sale would be used to settle the EES's debt to the federal budget and in turn would help pay wage arrears to state employees. The bond issue is part of a plan that will reduce the government stake in the EES from about 52.3 percent to 50 percent plus one share. The same day, Yeltsin vetoed a law that would have required the government to retain at least a 51 percent stake in the EES and would have stipulated that no more than 25 percent of EES shares could be owned by foreign investors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 1997).

...AND MEETS WITH CENTRAL BANK HEAD

Also on 23 July, Yeltsin met with Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin and signed decrees on procedures for selling and exporting gold, Russian news agencies reported. No details about the new export rules have been made available to date. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov told reporters that the measures were designed to encourage investment in the Russian gold-mining industry. Earlier this month, a government directive lifted the state's monopoly on the gold trade, allowing licensed commercial banks to sell gold to citizens for the first time. Citizens may also sell gold to licensed banks. Speaking to reporters after their meeting, neither Yeltsin nor Dubinin commented on the banking scandal recently ignited by the Central Bank chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 July 1997). ITAR-TASS had reported earlier on 23 July that Yeltsin and Dubinin were not expected to discuss the scandal.

GOVERNMENT MAY GUARANTEE SOME FOREIGN LOANS TO INDUSTRY

Under a presidential decree signed on 23 July, the federal government or regional governments may guarantee foreign credits to some enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported. However, state guarantees may be provided only to enterprises that have debts neither to the federal budget nor to non-budgetary state funds such as the Pension Fund. In addition, First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said enterprises will have to win open competitions in order to secure state guarantees of foreign loans. A May presidential decree prohibited the government from guaranteeing loans granted by Russian commercial banks to enterprises as a substitute for budget funding. The practice of offering Finance Ministry guarantees of some bank loans to enterprises was criticized as benefiting commercial banks that are close to the Kremlin.

YELTSIN CALLS FOR DUMA TO INTERRUPT SUMMER RECESS...

Yeltsin has called for the State Duma to hold a special session to discussed revised government proposals for reducing social benefits, Russian news agencies reported on 23 July. He told reporters that "the Duma vacations for too long," noting that the Japanese parliament takes only a 12-day summer holiday. The Duma voted down a package of proposed social reforms in late June, shortly before beginning a two-month recess. The government submitted a revised package of social benefits cuts to the relevant Duma committees on 21 July. Cabinet ministers say the benefits reductions will direct government aid to those who are in need. Yeltsin has been vacationing since 7 July and intends to return to Moscow at the beginning of August.

..ADVISES OFFICIALS TO RELEASE INCOME DECLARATIONS

Yeltsin has criticized officials who failed to release income and property declarations by 20 July and has ordered that their names be published, Russian news agencies reported on 23 July. The president said 33 regional leaders had not complied with his May anti-corruption decree (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 1997). First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov told Yeltsin that almost all government ministers had submitted their declarations but that most Duma deputies had not. In May, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that the decree did not apply to Duma deputies, since they are not civil servants, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 July. Zyuganov and other opposition politicians have since cast doubt on the accuracy of declarations submitted by various government ministers. Speaking in Irkutsk on 23 July, Zyuganov described the campaign to force officials to disclose their income as a "comedy," Interfax reported.

PRESS SKEPTICAL ABOUT INCOME DECLARATIONS

Several newspapers have also reacted skeptically to income and property declarations published by some government officials. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii declared 1996 income of roughly 2.5 billion rubles ($438,000), immovable property valued at 128 million rubles, and securities worth 95 million rubles, "Kommersant-Daily," reported on 24 July. But both "Kommersant-Daily" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" have noted that Berezovskii's declaration is vastly at odds with a recently published article in the U.S. magazine "Forbes," which estimated Berezovskii's net worth at some $3 billion. On 4 July, "Kommersant-Daily" noted that State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh declared $100,000 in 1996 income from a Swiss publisher. Kokh listed the income as royalties for a still unpublished book on privatization. The paper observed that such a large advance fee would be highly unusual, given that Kokh's book was unlikely to become a bestseller in Russia or abroad.

ZYUGANOV, LEBED CAMPAIGN IN IRKUTSK

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov arrived in Irkutsk on 23 July to campaign on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Sergei Levchenko, the leader of the Communist Party branch in Irkutsk Oblast, Interfax reported. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed came to Irkutsk the previous day to stump for Ivan Shchadov, director of the giant coal enterprise Vostsibugol. The election will be held on 27 July. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July that State Duma deputy Yurii Ten of Our Home Is Russia has withdrawn his candidacy and is backing the front-runner in the race, Irkutsk Mayor Boris Govorin. In sharp contrast to the recent election in Nizhnii Novgorod, top federal officials have not campaigned for Govorin. In his campaign, Govorin has stressed defending the oblast's interests over those of Moscow, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Irkutsk on 17 July.

RUSSIAN NAVAL COMMANDER DETAILS PLANNED CUTS

Adm. Feliks Gromov announced in Vladivostok on 23 July that the force will be reduced by some 30,000 men in 1998, Russian media reported. Its current strength is 227,000 men. Gromov said vessels that "do not meet present requirements" will be decommissioned but that the acquisition of new equipment will ensure that the cuts do not adversely affect the force's efficiency and that the Pacific Fleet retains its bases at Vladivostok and Kamchatka. Gromov said efforts would be made to preserve the Progress and Zvezda defense plants in Primore.

YELTSIN ORDERS PRIVATIZATION OF ARMY FACILITIES

Yeltsin on 23 July told journalists that he has ordered the sale of some 9,000 unprofitable army-owned shops, cafes, and sports facilities, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin said 87 percent of the proceeds from their privatization will be used to pay wage arrears to the armed forces and social benefits to demobilized military personnel as well as to build housing for military officers.

UDUGOV SLAMS FOREIGN ATTEMPTS TO DESTABILIZE CHECHNYA

Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, speaking on Chechen television on 23 July, charged that Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Christan states of the West are attempting to create a "belt of instability" around Chechnya by spending millions of dollars on inciting religious and ethnic conflict in neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan, Russian media reported. Udugov claimed that this subversive activity was intended to prevent the creation of a strong Chechen Islamic state but added such an attempt would fail. During the night of 22-23 July, thieves broke into the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe office in Grozny and stole cash and other valuables worth some $30,000 and a jeep. They also abducted a guard, according to Prosecutor-general Khavazh Serbiev. Those responsible have been arrested, according to dpa on 24 July, quoting Interfax.

AGREEMENT REACHED ON REVISING CFE TREATY

The 16 NATO and 14 former Warsaw pact states participating in the Vienna talks on reducing conventional armaments in Europe reached agreement "in principle" on 23 July on a new draft accord to supersede the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Whereas that treaty set equal collective limits for NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries, the new version will stipulate maximum allocations for each individual signatory, according to "The Washington Post" on 24 July. Those national allocations will impose a maximum limit for each country's armed forces and for foreign forces stationed on its territory. The Russian proposal of a collective ceiling for NATO member states was rejected. A U.S. arms control expert said the total maximum amount of weaponry that may be deployed in Europe under the new draft is "significantly lower" than that allowed in the1990 agreement.




ABKHAZ TALKS GET OFF TO ROCKY START

UN-sponsored talks in Geneva between Georgian and Abkhaz government representatives began on 23 July. The start of the talks was delayed for several hours because the Abkhaz side objected to the reading out of a letter by representatives of the Western states that constitute the Friends of Georgia group. In an address read to participants by a representative, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the primary responsibility for reaching a solution to the conflict lies with Georgia and Abkhazia but the international community could provide economic and technical help, Reuters reported. "Rezonansi" on 22 July quoted Annan as saying that the UN Security Council would discuss the possibility of sending a UN peacekeeping force to Abkhazia only after the withdrawal of the CIS force currently deployed there.

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POPULAR FRONT LEADERS...

Imomali Rakhmonov on 23 July met with field commanders from some of the former Popular Front units in southern and central Tajikistan to discuss the reconciliation process, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov asked the commanders for help in disarming their followers in line with Tajikistan's plans to cut armed forces by 30 percent. The commanders said they were still against the return to Tajikistan of fighters from the United Tajik Opposition. They also criticized "separatists" in Tajikistan; in this context, Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade, was mentioned. Popular Front units were armed in 1992 by former President Rahmon Nabiyev and later by those who helped bring Rakhmonov to power at the end of 1992. The units were officially disbanded in 1993, but many commanders disobeyed that order and lived as warlords with their private armies.

...ASKS FOR HELP IN CAPTURING TERRORISTS

Rakhmonov also said it was important to locate and capture Rezvon Sadirov, who, together with his brother Bahrom and their followers, held members of the UN observer mission hostage in December 1996 and again in February 1997. Bahrom Sadirov was eventually captured, but his brother remains at large. UN officials, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan and special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem, said they have received reports that Bahrom Sadirov is living in the compound of Presidential Guard commander Gaffur Mirzoyev and that Rezvon Sadirov has been seen on the streets of Dushanbe.

MORE OFFICIALS SACKED IN TURKMENISTAN

President Saparmurat Niyazov visited the northern Turkmen province of Tashauz on 23 July. On learning that the province would not be able to meet the 1997 grain quota, Niyazov fired many of the province's officials, including the governor of the province, according to ITAR-TASS. This is the fourth Turkmen province that has announced it cannot meet target figures for 1997. Officials were also fired in the other three provinces.

NEW AGREEMENT ON TURKMEN-PAKISTANI PIPELINE

Turkmen Oil Minister Batyr Sarjaev, Pakistani Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Nisar Ali Khan, and representatives from the U.S.'s Unocal company and Saudi Arabia's Delta Corp. signed in Islamabad on 23 July an agreement stipulating December 1998 as the start-up date for construction of the Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistan pipeline, AFP reported. The 1,464 km pipeline is scheduled to be completed by 2001. The Pakistani minister said he has "absolutely no doubt" that the pipeline will be finished by then. At a meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization in Turkmenistan in May, an agreement was signed calling for construction to begin by 1 October 1997, but the situation in Afghanistan has pushed back that date. The signatories of the 23 July agreement are to meet again before 15 September.




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT EARLY ELECTION...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists in Minsk on 23 July that there will be no early parliamentary elections in Belarus. "The idea of holding early elections, planted by Belarusian emigrants in the United States, is being imposed on Minsk by officials from the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe," he said. Lukashenka argued that OSCE officials "sometimes forget" that Belarus is a full- fledged member of the organization and is paying its membership fees. He also said he doubts that the "trilateral dialogue" involving his administration, the opposition, and OSCE officials will have "constructive results."

...VOWS STRICTER BORDER CONTROLS WITH UKRAINE

Lukashenka told factory workers in Minsk on 22 July that Belarus and Ukraine "have not yet attained the necessary level" of integration, Interfax reported one day later. He complained that the agreements signed by the Ukrainian and Belarusian presidents in Gomel and Kiev "are not being implemented." In Lukashenka's view, Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to achieve "in the near future" the level of integration existing between Russia and Belarus. "Strict customs and border controls" will be introduced on the Ukrainian border, said Lukashenka, noting that Russia is to set up a similar regime on the Russian-Ukrainian border. "Ukraine wants to be a sovereign state, let it be one. Not at our expense, though," he commented. Lukashenka also told the factory workers that rumors of his aim to take over the Kremlin are being "spread by the Belarusian opposition so as to have him and Russian President Boris Yeltsin quarrel."

UKRAINE, GAZPROM REACH PARTIAL AGREEMENT

Rem Vyakhirev, the head of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, has reached partial agreement with Ukraine on payment of Kyiv's outstanding debt, but some Ukrainian customers seem likely to remain cut off, ITAR-TASS reported. Vyakhirev met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 23 July. The country's overdue bills prompted Gazprom to cut gas shipments to Ukraine the previous day. According to Gazprom in Moscow, Kuchma and Vyakhirev agreed on an extension of a contract to fill Ukrainian reserves. But there was no agreement to resume regular shipments. Gazprom says Ukraine's outstanding gas bill is between $100 million and $150 million.

UKRAINE EXPECTS IMF LOAN WORTH $750 MILLION

Anatoly Galchinsky, the deputy chief of Ukraine's presidential administration, told journalists in Kyiv on 23 July that Ukraine expects that the one-year standby loan being negotiated with the IMF will be worth some $750 million. An IMF team is in Kyiv working out details of the loan package. Officials from the fund say they hope to finish drawing up the program and receive the final approval of the fund's board by the end of August. The IMF offered the regular standby loan after officials said Ukraine has not yet implemented enough reforms to qualify for the three-year extended loan of up to $3 billion that had been negotiated for several months.

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE

Levon Ter-Petrossyan was in Kyiv on 22-23 July for an official visit aimed at strengthening political and economic ties, ITAR-TASS reported. He held talks in Kyiv with his Ukrainian counterpart, Kuchma, as well as newly appointed Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko and Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko. Discussion focused on economic and military cooperation as well as mutual assistance in streamlining tax laws. The two presidents on 23 July signed a declaration on further cooperation between CIS member states. Eleven intergovernment agreements were also signed. Ter-Petrossyan expressed his support for Ukraine's partnership agreement with NATO. He and Kuchma signed a friendship and cooperation treaty in May 1996.

NO CHARGES YET AGAINST ESTONIAN SUSPECTED TERRORIST

The Tallinn City Court has granted permission to extend the detention of the suspected terrorist known as "Viktor" for 20 days without bringing charges, BNS reported on 23 July. The 35-year-old Estonian citizen was recently arrested at the Estonian-Latvian border on suspicion of having threatened to carry out bomb attacks against companies and hotels in Riga. A spokesman for the Tallinn criminal police said much work remains to be done before charges can be filed. He said that the Estonian police were working closely with their counterparts in Russia and the U.S., from where the suspect is reported to have sent electronic mail messages to Latvia.

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN RIGA

Hennadi Udovenko and his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, arrived in Riga on 24 July to sign three intergovernment accords, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. The accords deal with the protection and promotion of mutual investments, easing restrictions for the citizens of one country traveling to the other, and the readmission of illegal immigrants. Udovenko is also scheduled to meet with President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Andris Skele, and parliamentary speaker Alfreds Cepanis.

POLISH POLITICAL PARTIES WANT ELECTIONS DELAYED

Most political parties on 23 July demanded that the general elections scheduled for 21 September be postponed owing to continued flooding. The ruling former Communists, however, are insisting on keeping to that schedule, PAP reported. Other parties, including the opposition Union for Freedom and the Peasant Party, the junior partner in the government coalition, argue that the president should declare a state of emergency in flood-hit areas, which would automatically postpone the ballot at least until November. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said that holding the polls as scheduled would show that Poland is a stable country that respects democratic rules even in the face of serious trouble.

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER UPSET OVER GOVERNMENT DECISION ON TANKS SALE

Miloslav Vyborny on 23 July threatened to resign over the government's decision to reject the sale of 100 modernized T-72 tanks to Algeria, CTK reported. Vyborny met with Czech President Vaclav Havel following the announcement of that decision. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told journalists Havel fully trusts Vyborny. He added that the president believes the Czech Army has too many tanks and urgently needs to purchase new Czech-made L-39 aircraft, which could be financed by the sale of the tanks. On 24 July, Vyborny announced that he would not be tendering his resignation. Havel has asked the government to reconsider its position on the issue. Some military specialists and politicians say the sale would reduce the Czech Republic's defense capability. Michael Zantovsky, chairman of the coalition Civic Democratic Alliance, is leading the protest against the decision to sell the tanks.

AUSTRIA SAYS SLOVAKIA SHOULD NOT BE ISOLATED

Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima on 23 July said it is important that the EU does not make Slovakia feel isolated as the bloc expands into Eastern Europe. Klima made the remark at a news conference following a meeting with European Commission President Jacques Santer. Slovakia was not recommended by the European Commission on 16 July for EU expansion talks. It was the only Central European country to be excluded from the initial talks and the only applicant ruled out for not meeting the EU's political criteria. Klima said that although Austria initially supported beginning talks with 10 applicant countries, it now supported a plan to make sure those left out of the first wave of expansion are involved in EU affairs, despite the delay in granting them membership (see also "End Note" below).

SLOVAK PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF PRIME MINISTER

In a statement released to the media on 23 July, Slovak President Michal Kovac commented that "it is important to say loudly that with Premier Vladimir Meciar and his government in power Slovakia will never get into NATO or the EU." Kovac added that the good will of developed and democratic countries was conditional on a real functioning democracy in Slovakia and that with Meciar at the helm the country has no hope of establishing such a democracy. Kovac referred to the contents of a letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair which was handed to Meciar by the British ambassador to Slovakia on 22 July. "The [Atlantic] alliance places high value on democracy and the observance of laws. I look forward to the day when Slovakia will be able to join NATO and other important Western institutions," Blair wrote.

HUNGARY ESTABLISHES COMMISSION AGAINST SEX DISCRIMINATION

An eight-member government commission was established on 23 July to guarantee equal opportunities for women, Hungarian media reported. Minister of Labor Peter Kiss said that although sex discrimination is illegal in Hungary, women still earn 10-15 percent less than men employed in the same positions. He said two-thirds of women in the country work in so-called "female positions." Some 30 million forints ($160,000) will be budgeted this year to overcome poverty among and violence against women and to improve social and health care for women, he said. In other news, statistics released on 23 June by the Interior Ministry show crime rose 10 percent in the first half of 1997, compared with the same period last year. Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze told a press conference that, in particular, international crime is causing concern.




ALBANIAN PRESIDENT RESIGNS

Sali Berisha resigned on 23 July, as he had promised to do in the event that his Democratic Party lost the 29 June legislative elections. Berisha issued a statement saying the Socialists' victory marked "the return to power of the last communist nomenklatura." Following the announcement of his resignation, crowds in Tirana fired Kalashnikovs into the air in celebration. Rexhep Mejdani, a leading Socialist Party official and former professor of physics, is expected to be Berisha's successor. Berisha will take up a seat in the parliament and is widely expected to take over the Democratic Party leadership. The governing Socialists and their allies promised during the election campaign to make the country a parliamentary republic and abandon the strong, French-type presidency that Berisha and the Democrats created.

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES

The legislature convened for the first time on 23 July in Tirana amid tight security. The Democrats boycotted the session to protest what they said were gross irregularities in the election. Only Genc Pollo, the party's secretary-general, attended out of the 27 Democratic deputies. The Socialists and their allies have more than a two-thirds majority and have pledged to introduce changes in the constitution. Meanwhile in Brussels, NATO diplomats told journalists that the Atlantic alliance is ready to send a team of experts to Albania to make recommendations on rebuilding the armed forces. The diplomats denied, however, that NATO has any intention of taking over the role of the multinational peacekeeping force, whose mandate will end in August. Albania joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program in 1994, but its military disintegrated in the anarchy that swept the country earlier this year.

DEMONSTRATIONS MARK MILOSEVIC'S INAUGURATION

Slobodan Milosevic took the oath of office as president of federal Yugoslavia in Belgrade on 23 July. He also took up official residence in Beli Dvor, where former Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito lived. Milosevic's inauguration was greeted by some 3,000 noisy protesters, who pelted shoes at Milosevic's car to symbolize the thousands of people who fled the country under his rule. Police used batons to hold back the crowd and to separate it from a group of Milosevic supporters. The new president received official congratulations from his counterparts in Cuba, Ghana, and Slovakia, but not from those in Western countries, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Also in Belgrade, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic warned that Montenegro's deputies in the federal parliament could still oust Milosevic if he fails to introduce key reforms.

TOP SECURITY MEASURES FOR SOCCER MATCH IN BELGRADE

Serbia's Partizan-Belgrade beat Croatia-Zagreb 1-0 on 23 July in the qualifying round of the European Champions' Cup. Police reinforcements arrived to control crowds for the sold-out match. Some Serbs in the crowds called the Croats "fascists," but the game took place without serious incident. Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Serbian coach, praised the Croatian team's performance. The contest marked the first time that major Serbian and Croatian teams have played each other on former Yugoslav territory since 1991. Partizan will play Croatia again in Zagreb in a week's time. Soccer matches between top Serbian and Croatian teams have been highly politicized since the communist era.

U.S. SLAMS SERBIAN MEDIA POLICY

A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 23 July that Serbia's "practice of restricting the operation of radio and television stations is a step backward in the process of democratization and further delays Serbia's integration into the international community." In Belgrade, a group specializing in the rights of independent media said the Serbian authorities have shut down 55 independent radio or TV stations since the start of the year. The Milosevic government has been cracking down on the independent electronic media in the runup to the Serbian elections slated for September. But in Podgorica, the Montenegrin government on 23 July signed several agreements with independent radio and TV stations, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital.

BOMB DESTROYS UN VEHICLE IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

UN spokesmen said in Tuzla on 24 July that a bomb blew up a UN car in Bratunac, near Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia. Americans working for the UN police force were sleeping nearby. This is the latest in a series of almost daily incidents against international personnel on Bosnian Serb territory since NATO's intervention against indicted war criminals on 10 July. UN and NATO spokesmen maintain that there is no evidence to show that the incidents are part of any organized campaign. But in New York on 23 July, the UN Security Council warned Bosnian Serb leaders against violent attacks on peacekeepers and police. Meanwhile in Brussels, countries participating in an international aid donors' conference pledged $1.2 billion for reconstruction in Bosnia by the end of the year. Speakers stressed that money will go only to those working to implement the Dayton agreements.

NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

In Rome on 23 July, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson called on all Western countries to support Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic against Radovan Karadzic and his loyalists. In New York, UN officials announced that U.S. diplomat William Walker will replace Gen. Jacques Klein as the UN's chief administrator in eastern Slavonia. In Zagreb, Croatian Health Minister Andrija Hebrang said he and local Serbs reached agreement on a transition plan to integrate Serbian staff into the Croatian health system at the Vukovar hospital. Pre-war Croatian director Vesna Bosanac will return to her post by 15 October. The hospital has strong symbolic importance for both Croats and Serbs dating from the Serbian siege of Vukovar in 1991.

ROMANIAN-IMF TALKS

Poul Thomsen, the IMF chief negotiator for Romania, met with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea in Bucharest on 23 July to discuss the implementation of the agreement reached with the IMF in April. The IMF is to decide in August whether to release the second installment of a $430 million standby loan. Thompsen refused to make any statement to the press, saying only that the discussions will continue, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He will meet with Ciorbea again on 28 July. Government spokesman Eugen Serbanescu said the IMF team will be meeting representatives of economic ministries, the National Bank, and the State Property Fund to review future fiscal and monetary policy. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe's Social Development Fund announced on 23 July that it will provide a $ 33.8 million loan for building orphanages and accommodation for abandoned children in Romania.

HUNGARIAN CONSULATE REOPENS IN CLUJ

The Hungarian consulate in Cluj, which was closed by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1988, was reopened on 23 July. The ceremony was attended by Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and his Romanian counterpart, Adrian Severin, an RFE/RL correspondent in Cluj reported. Kovacs said the occasion marks the "end of the epoch of artificial incitement to inter-ethnic conflict." Severin said it showed a "return to normalcy." Gheorghe Funar, the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj, boycotted the ceremony and announced that the local council is on vacation and has "more important priorities" than finding a location for the consulate, which is using temporary premises. Funar also said the hoisting of the Hungarian flag outside the consulate would infringe on the Romanian constitution. Severin responded by saying foreign policy in not made by local mayors.

BILINGUAL SIGNS REINSTALLED IN TARGU MURES

The bilingual Hungarian-Romanian signs recently dismantled in Targu Mures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1997) were reinstalled on 23 July on the order of Mayor Imre Fodor, despite the opposition of the local prefect Dorin Florea. Florea was overruled by the government's secretary, Remus Opris, who said there was no need for the local council to approve the move. Opris said ethnic Hungarians make up 52 percent of the town's population, far more than the 20 percent stipulated in the government ordinance allowing bilingual signs. The anti-Hungarian "Romanian Cradle" organization, which painted over the bilingual signs in the colors of the Romanian flag, protested the decision. The Party of Romanian National Unity, the chauvinist Greater Romania Party, and the Party of Social Democracy in Romania are collecting signatures in support of Fodor's dismissal.

ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTIES CONTINUE TO FIGHT

The Bucharest municipal tribunal on 23 July ruled against the Alexandru Popovici wing of the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD), which contested the merger in June of the party's Nicolae Cerveni wing with the Liberal Party '93. The new Liberal Party claims it is a member of the Democratic Convention, but Popovici says the PNL-CD has "vanished from political life" because the ministers representing the party in the government have all joined the National Liberal Party, according to the private television station Antena 1.

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES LUSTRATION LAW

Petar Stoyanov has said it is "too late" for Bulgaria to pass a law designed to ban former leading communist officials from holding positions in the state administration, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. In a statement released by the presidential office on 23 July, Stoyanov said such a law should have been passed after the collapse of communism in 1989 for it to have had the right effect. At present, the law would no longer "have a stimulative effect for Bulgaria, nor would it have a healing effect on the country's society, which has embarked on the road of the reforms needed to overcome its crisis," Stoyanov noted. In other news, the IMF on 23 July approved the release of a $130 million installment of a $ 510 million standby agreement aimed at cementing the country's economic reforms, Reuters reported.

BULGARIA SEEKS TO DISPEL RUMORS OF POPE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov told a press conference in Sofia on 23 July that Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova and Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev have sent a letter to the German authorities asking them to cooperate in dispelling rumors about the attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981. The German daily "Bild" recently wrote that East German intelligence files show Bulgaria's communist secret services were involved in the attempt. According to "Bild," a former officer of the East German security service (Stasi) told an Italian magistrate in April that the Bulgarian secret service asked the Stasi to help deflect suspicion from Sofia. Vlaikov said that "if there is evidence for Bulgaria's involvement," those responsible "should be charged." He added that "the whole truth must come to light" because it affects not just politicians "but the Bulgarian nation as a whole."




Competitive Enlargement?


by Michael Mihalka

The European Commission recommended on 15 July that the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Estonia join Cyprus in beginning accession talks with the EU. The EU would have preferred to set its house in order before proceeding with enlargement. But the 8 July announcement of NATO expansion dictated both the timing and the selection of candidates for the current wave of EU enlargement.

The EU set three main criteria for beginning accession talks: political, which meant stable institutions that guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and the protection of minorities; economic, which meant a functioning market economy that can withstand competitive pressure from other EU countries; and the ability to take on the obligations of membership--in particular, implementing the common law ("acquis communitaire") of the EU. Of the 10 Central European applicants, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia were regarded as capable of meeting the criteria in the mid-term, while Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia were not. Turkey, which first applied for associate membership in 1963, was again give the cold shoulder.

Of the latter group, only Slovakia was considered to meet the economic criteria and have the ability to take on the common law. But it failed to make the first wave because of the instability of its institutions and shortcomings in the functioning of its democracy. Vladimir Drozda of the Slovak Social Democratic Party said on 16 July that Meciar's government has betrayed the historical interests of Slovakia by proving incapable of guaranteeing integration into NATO and the EU.

The EU Commission argued that Latvia and Lithuania had met the political criteria but did not yet have competitive market economies. In the case of Bulgaria and Romania, the recent changes of government in both countries meant they were well on their way to meeting the political criteria. But neither country was judged to have an economy capable of withstanding international market pressures. Romanian Minister for European Integration Alexandru Herlea admitted that his country "cannot afford now to accede to the European Union." Nevertheless, Bucharest argued that the EU summit in December in Luxembourg should agree to start accession talks with all candidate countries and not just those singled out by the European Commission.

The EU had hoped to resolve its institutional and policy problems before proceeding with enlargement. At the Amsterdam summit in June, it failed to do either. Now enlargement will prove the engine for EU reform.

The small states within the EU had wanted to exclude both Estonia and Slovenia from the first wave of accession talks to avoid triggering the institutional reform that would weaken their power. The Amsterdam summit had called for yet another intergovernment conference to deal with institutional reform if enlargement led to an EU composed of more than 20 states. Excluding Estonia and Slovenia would have left the enlarged EU with 19 members. Unfortunately for the small states, both Estonia and Slovenia met the criteria. And perhaps just as important, both had been left out of NATO enlargement.

NATO had excluded the Baltic States from the first wave of its enlargement partly because it did not want to antagonize Russia. But while opposing NATO enlargement, Russia has not raised any objections to other states joining the EU. On 15 July, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said that Russia actively supported the Baltic States' membership in the EU. The Scandinavian countries had actively championed their cause with regard to both NATO and the EU.

Slovenia and Romania had made the short list for NATO enlargement, having received the support of nine of the 16 members. However, the U.S. had insisted that the first wave of enlargement be restricted to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Slovenia was left out of NATO enlargement partly because of concerns that its military contribution to NATO would be limited. But in the economic sphere, Slovenia has been a sterling performer with a GNP per capita almost on par with that of Greece. The states that had pushed for Slovenia's NATO candidacy also ensured that it would be in the first wave of EU enlargement, despite the objections of the smaller states.

By contrast, Romania remains a backward country economically. Even Romania's own ministers admitted that Romania was more qualified to join NATO than the EU. The proportion of the labor force in the agricultural sector, some 24 percent, is a good indicator of Romanian economic backwardness. Corresponding figures for Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are 8 percent, 11 percent, and 15 percent, respectively. According to the World Bank, Romanian GNP per capita has not increased since 1970.

With some 27 percent of its labor force in agriculture, Poland will bring a backward agricultural sector into the EU. Some studies have suggested that extending membership to Poland and other Central European states could double the amount of money that the EU pays for agricultural support through its Common Agricultural Policy. In addition, the EU will need to rethink its so-called structural funds, which go to poorer areas within the EU. Germany has insisted that those funds not be increased, while Spain is demanding that they not be cut. Since the prospective new members are all poorer than current ones, funds will have to be redistributed.

The author teaches at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.


XS
SM
MD
LG