Accessibility links

Newsline - July 13, 1999




BEREZOVSKII TO CORRECT 'BIASES' IN 'KOMMERSANT' REPORTING

In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 13 July, influential businessman Boris Berezovskii revealed that he will seek a seat in the State Duma in an unspecified single-mandate district. Berezovskii suggested that capitalists such as himself know exactly what kind of laws the country needs for its economic development. When asked whether he would be able to work alongside Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the lower chamber, Berezovskii said that he figured that "the left should be represented Russia's parliament." On the issue of his recent acquisition of a 15 percent stake in the publishing house that produces "Kommersant-Daily," Berezovskii said he will not "tolerate the biased approaches demonstrated" lately by the newspaper. Berezovskii added that the purchase of the 15 percent stake will "give our group the opportunity to be first in line to buy the remaining shares." JAC

LUZHKOV WOOS PRIMAKOV

Moscow Mayor and possible presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov revealed on 12 July that he met over the weekend with former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov. According to Interfax, Luzhkov did not ask Primakov whether he wants the top spot on Luzhkov's Otechestvo party list in the upcoming parliamentary elections. However, Luzhkov told the agency that "it would be a dream for every political organization to have such an authoritative and influential statesman as Primakov to join or lead it." "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported the next day that according to anonymous sources in Otechestvo, Luzhkov is prepared to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of Primakov and content himself with the chairmanship of the Federation Council. The newspaper reported that most political analysts consider a Primakov-Luzhkov tandem unbeatable and that Luzhkov could easily launch himself into the presidency in 2004. JAC

WESTERN ANALYSTS OVERLOOKING RUSSIAN ECONOMIC REVIVAL?

In an interview in the July issue of "Vek," Anton Danilov-Danilyan, director of the presidential administration's economic directorate, said that New York Stock Exchange analysts' prediction that Russia will exhaust its hard currency reserves by August is off base. "Western analysts have been frequently making such mistakes these days," he added, noting that a lot of predictions were made that the Central Bank's gold and hard currency reserves would fall to $8 billion by the end of the first half of 1999, when in fact they exceeded $12 billion. According to Danilov-Danilyan, Russia overcame the depression caused by the mid-August 1998 economic crisis "rather quickly" and "demand has shifted to domestic goods, from which local manufacturers are profiting more than they had hoped for." He also said that a revival in real incomes began as early as February. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko estimated on 10 July that industrial output grew by 2 percent in the first half of 1999. JAC

RUSSIA TO SPEND LESS ON Y2K PREPARATION

Tackling the so- called millennium computer bug problem will cost Russia $187 million, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 12 July. That sum is only two-thirds of what the U.S. state of Texas will spend on its own Y2K preparations, according to an earlier Reuters report. Of the $187 million, $50 million will be borrowed from abroad against state securities, "Segodnya" reported on 24 June. Kasyanov added that priority funding will be given to defense and security agencies. The Defense Ministry will receive $13 million earmarked for resolution of the problem and will have to find an additional $10.7 million from its own resources. Earlier estimates of the funding required to prepare the country's computers ranged from $1-3 billion. Also on 12 July, State Telecommunications Chairman Aleksandr Ivanov said that modernization of those computers vitally important for the state is only 30 percent complete. He pledged, however, that by November, the country's computers will be ready for the next century. JAC

GOVERNMENT SENDING MIXED MESSAGE ON ARMS EXPORT POLICY?

After pledging less than two weeks earlier that the government plans to ease arms trade rules, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told reporters on 12 July that a draft decree has been prepared to tighten state control over such trade. Klebanov said that the state will start monitoring the prices of arms sold abroad and require that each state company "prove to the state why it sells arms at such a price," according to ITAR-TASS. In addition, the decree stipulates that a federal agency be established based on existing structures to oversee the operations of Rosvooruzhenie, Promexport, and Rossiiskie Tekhnologii. Klebanov said on 1 July that a decree is being drafted that will "simplify the process of receiving permission to export military hardware." JAC

FUEL MINISTER DENIES EXPANSION PLANS

Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii on 12 July denied that he has plans to expand his ministry by taking over control of Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems, as reported by some newspapers, including "Kommersant-Daily," according to Russian Television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999). Kalyuzhnii said the same day that his ministry will insist on its own representative on the board of directors of Gazprom, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Reuters, Kalyuzhnii had said on 9 July that "the ministry of fuel and energy must become the body that actually runs the fuel and energy complex, regulating the strategically important systems of oil, gas, coal, and electricity supply both directly and indirectly." JAC

SOBCHAK'S BACK

Returning to St. Petersburg on 12 July, some 20 months after his departure for Paris to undergo medical treatment, Anatolii Sobchak said he has "nothing to fear" about corruption allegations brought against him. The former St. Petersburg mayor confirmed his intention to take part in the upcoming State Duma elections but, according to Interfax, has not yet decided from which district he will run. The news agency also quoted him as saying he has not yet thought about participating in the St. Petersburg gubernatorial ballot since "there is still time" for that decision. Sobchak was reportedly taken ill during questioning as a witness in a corruption case. Last September, the Prosecutor-General's Office opened a criminal case against him on charges of bribe-taking and abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). Sobchak has denied the accusations, claiming his political opponents are behind them. JC

STEPASHIN THREATENS FEDERAL TAKEOVER IN KAMCHATKA

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said on 12 July that if the governor of Kamchatka Oblast continues to prove unable to cope with securing energy supplies, federal rule might be introduced, Interfax reported. Stepashin added that the Interior Ministry and leaders of law enforcement agencies must investigate what happened with oblast resources set aside for fuel purchases. Last June, after weeks of electricity-rationing, Kamchatka residents held demonstrations and signed a petition asking the UN to take over the region (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 23 June 1999). JAC

FOREST FIRES CONTINUE TO SPREAD AS HOT DRY WEATHER CONTINUES

More than 530,000 hectares of Russian forest have been destroyed so far in 1999, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 July. Authorities in Krasnoyarsk Krai declared a state of emergency the same day because of the dramatic spread of fires in the region. Some 640 fires have been registered on 53,800 hectares of forest area in the krai since the beginning of the summer. That figure is 10 times higher than that recorded last year. JAC

INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS ACTIONS AGAINST CHECHEN 'GANGSTERS' WILL CONTINUE

Visiting Stavropol Krai on 12 July together with Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and other senior government officials, Vladimir Rushailo warned that his forces will continue to strike against Chechen criminal gangs insofar as it is possible to do so without risk to the civilian population. He said that his ministry is drafting measures to strengthen security along the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Krai. Rushailo stressed that "we are not at war with Chechnya or the Chechen people." On 13 July, Rushailo met in Vladikavkaz with North Ossetia's President Aleksandr Dzasokhov to discuss the situation in the North Caucasus and measures to combat crime in the region, ITAR- TASS reported. LF




ARMENIA, LIKE GEORGIA, ASPIRES TO EU MEMBERSHIP

Speaking in Yerevan on 10 July at a ceremony marking the entry into force of the Partnership and Cooperation agreement between Armenia and the EU, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said Armenia's goal is ultimately to join the EU, however unreal that aspiration may currently appear, Noyan Tapan reported. Oskanian's Georgian counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, had said earlier this month that Georgia's desire for full integration into European structures includes EU membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). LF

AZERBAIJAN'S OFFSHORE GAS RESERVES EXCEED EXPECTATIONS...

A spokesman for BP Amoco PLC announced in Baku on 12 July that test drilling at the Shah Deniz offshore field 60 kilometers south of Baku suggests the field contains gas reserves of more than 400 billion cubic meters, according to the "Wall Street Journal" of 13 July. BP Amoco is the operator of a consortium that was created in 1996 to exploit Shah Deniz's oil reserves and also comprises Norway's Statoil, Azerbaijan's SOCAR, and Russian, French, Italian, Iranian, and Turkish companies. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev expressed delight at the size of the Shah Deniz gas reserves and suggested that the Azerbaijani government consider construction of an export pipeline to transport the gas via Georgia to Turkey. Aliyev said Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has expressed Turkey's willingness to buy gas from Shah Deniz, according to Turan. LF

...CASTING DOUBT ON VIABILITY OF RUSSIAN, TURKMEN PIPELINE PROJECTS

"Zerkalo" noted on 26 June that reconstruction of the existing gas pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia will cost between $100-150 million. The Shah Deniz reserves are sufficiently large to supply Turkey with enough gas to meet its rapidly growing energy needs, thus calling into question the need for two planned alternative projects-- Russia's "Blue Stream" pipeline under the Black Sea, which poses serious technical problems, and the trans-Caspian pipeline to transport Turkmen gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Failure to proceed with the latter project could, "Zerkalo" suggested, further strain relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The two countries dispute ownership of several offshore Caspian oil fields. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT FIRES FINANCE MINISTER...

Aliyev issued a decree on 11 July dismissing 43-year-old Fikret Yusifov from the post of finance minister, Reuters and Turan reported the following day. Avaz Alekperov, a trained economist who worked in the Azerbaijan SSR Council of Ministers apparatus from 1981-1991 until his appointment as chairman of the Fund for the Social Protection of the Population, was appointed to succeed Yusifov. Aliyev also created a special commission charged with investigating mutual accusations by the Ministries of Finance and Defense. The Defense Ministry has accused the Finance Ministry of non-payment of funds to the budget, while the latter claims the former has misused government funds. LF

...ANNOUNCES AMNESTY

Also on 11 July, Aliyev signed a decree pardoning 91 prisoners and reducing by half the prison terms of another 25, Turan reported. Observers have suggested the amnesty is to mark the 30th anniversary of Aliev's election as first secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party Central Committee. Beneficiaries include journalist Fuad Gakhramanly, who was sentenced in November 1998 to 18 months' imprisonment for an unpublished article deemed subversive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998), former Agriculture Minister Mizammil Abdullaev, who was charged with complicity in financing alleged coup attempts by former Premier Suret Huseinov; Rasim Agaev, press spokesman to former President Ayaz Mutalibov; and Balash Abbaszade, an assistant to former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev. LF

RUSSIAN FRONTIER TROOPS LEAVE ABKHAZIA

The last contingent of Russian border troops left Abkhazia on 10 July in accordance with an agreement signed last year by Moscow and Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported. Over the previous month, the Russians had handed over control of eight frontier posts to Abkhaz frontier guards, who now control the full length of the breakaway republic's border, according to Abkhaz Deputy Security Minister Sergei Tsargush. It is unclear whether the departing Russians took with them all their movable property, as stipulated in the 1998 agreement, or ceded some equipment to the Abkhaz. LF

RUSSIA STILL HOPING FOR KAZAKH COMPROMISE ON BAIKONOUR

Russian and Kazakh officials failed to reach agreement during their 12 July talks on the 14 July launch from Baikonur of a Russian cargo rocket intended to carry supplies to the orbiting "Mir" space station. Conditions after 26 July for launching that rocket to dock with "Mir" are said to be "unfavorable," and Russian Space Agency head Yurii Koptev told journalists in Moscow on 12 July that "Mir" may go out of control and crash to earth at some point next year unless the new navigation system to be transported by the cargo rocket is installed. Reuters on 13 July quoted unidentified Russian space officials as expressing the hope that the Kazakh authorities will permit the launch of the cargo rocket on 18 July. Both that rocket and a Ukrainian-Russian satellite due to have been launched from Baikonur on 12 July will remain on the launch pad "as long as technical resources permit," Interfax reported. LF

KAZAKH PREMIER ORDERS SALARIES TO BE PAID TO HUNGER-STRIKERS

Nurlan Balghymbaev chaired a cabinet session on 12 July devoted to the social and economic situation in the town of Ekibastuz in northern Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Several dozen employees at the Ekibastuz power station began a hunger-strike two weeks ago to demand payment of back wages for the past two years, totaling 125 million tenge (approximately $900,000). Balghymbaev ordered Energy, Trade, and Industry Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov to pay off the wage arrears within one week. LF

TAJIK LEADERSHIP ASSESSES AFTERMATH OF LANDSLIDES

President Imomali Rakhmonov chaired a government session on 12 July to evaluate the damage inflicted by last week's mudslides and coordinate emergency aid to the population of the regions affected, AP-Blitz reported. Also on 12 July, Rakhmonov telephoned with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, who expressed his condolences and offered material aid in coping with the aftermath of the disaster. LF

TURKMENISTAN REGISTERS ECONOMIC UPSWING

Interfax on 12 July quoted Turkmenistan's National Institute for Statistics and Prognosis as reporting that during the first six months of 1999 GDP increased by 15 percent, compared with 1998. Total GDP growth for 1998 was 5 percent. Oil and gas extraction for the first five months of 1999 rose by 10.7 percent, compared with 1998. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan recently completed its best-ever grain harvest of 1.5 million tons. That amount, as "Nezavisimaya gazeta" observed on 26 June, will make Turkmenistan self-sufficient in grain for the second consecutive year. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DETAINED IN UZBEKISTAN

Amnesty International issued a press release on 12 July expressing concern over the detention two days earlier of Ismail Adylov, a member of the unregistered Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan. Interior Ministry officers subsequently searched Adylov's home in Tashkent and confiscated documents related to his human rights activities. The following day, police refused to inform Adylov's wife where he is being held. Also on 12 July, Amnesty International called on the international community to protest the forcible deportation from the Russian Federation to Uzbekistan of Bakhadir Ruzmetov, whom Uzbek officials suspect of involvement in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent. LF




BELARUSIAN POLICE REPORTS ON SUCCESSFUL RETURN OF LOANS

According to the Interior Ministry's press service, law enforcement agencies have successfully carried out President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's order earlier this year to ensure outstanding loans are paid to the state, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 12 July. The operation resulted in the repayment of 833 billion Belarusian rubles ($3.2 million), $17 million, and DM3 million ($1.55 million) as well as in the large-scale confiscation of property. The police arrested 73 businessmen and are looking for another 148 who have not paid their debts. According to confidential information received by an RFE/RL Minsk correspondent from police officers, the authorities resorted to arrests without warrants and imprisonment without trial in order to pressure debtors. JM

A DOZEN PARTIES SUPPORT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION BID

Twelve democratically-oriented parties issued a statement on 10 July expressing support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on the fifth anniversary of his presidency, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. The statement noted that during the last five years, Ukraine has established itself as a state recognized by the world community. It added that "only Leonid Kuchma will be able to secure the further consistent implementation of reforms." The statement was signed by, among others, the Agrarian Party, the Liberal Party, the Popular Democratic Party, and the Party of Muslims of Ukraine. JM

UKRAINE STILL SEEKING TO POSTPONE PAYMENT TO ING BARINGS

Ukraine and the Dutch-based bank ING Barings are continuing negotiations on Kiev's redemption of an overdue $155 million bond. The 9 June deadline was extended to 9 July, but the two sides have not yet agreed on a payment scheme. Ukraine has proposed to pay off only 20 percent and convert the rest into three-year bonds. As of last week, Ukraine had $1.3 billion in hard-currency reserves, but the government wants to save those funds for other debt payments that are due later this year and in 2000. JM

MORE PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS IN UKRAINE SUBMIT NECESSARY SIGNATURES

The Central Electoral Commission has registered former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk as a presidential candidate in the 31 October elections, after incumbent President Kuchma and Petro Symonenko. Marchuk submitted more than 1.6 million signatures supporting his signature, of which the commission accepted 1.37 million as valid. According to AP, 11 other presidential candidates had supplied the necessary signatures by the 12 July deadline. JM

LATVIA'S SKELE NAMED CANDIDATE FOR PREMIER

Former Prime Minister and leader of the People's Party Andris Skele on 12 July was asked by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga to form the next government. Earlier, the three largest parties in the parliament--the People's Party, For Fatherland and Freedom, and Latvia's Way--announced they will cooperate to form a new cabinet. Together, the three parties hold 62 seats out of 100. The New Party, the junior member of Vilis Kristopans's government, has expressed its willingness to cooperate and join the new government, while the Social Democratic Workers' Party announced it will remain in constructive opposition. MH

POLISH FARMERS SAY CABINET FAILING TO IMPLEMENT AGREEMENTS

Trade union activists have accused the government of failing to meet obligations to which it had agreed in February and May, following farmers' protests, PAP reported on 12 July. The activists said the government has done nothing to introduce permanent measures to regulate the agricultural market. In their opinion, government intervention on the pork market is insufficient, while the price for livestock is too low and does not guarantee profits from such sales. Agricultural Minister Artur Balazs responded that the cabinet does not have enough funds to take the measures demanded by the farmers. Deputy Finance Minister Rafal Zagorny said the agricultural sector will receive more money if Poland is granted EU aid funds next year. "The EU will not give a single ecu for the development of Polish agriculture," radical farmers' leader Andrzej Lepper remarked, calling Poland's EU entry a "catastrophe." JM

CZECH REPUBLIC TO SPEED UP PASSAGE OF EU LEGISLATION

Deputy Prime Minister Egon Lansky on 12 July said the government will ask the parliament to approve measures on speeding up the passage of legislation related to EU integration, Reuters reported. Lansky said that according to the government proposal, such laws will be approved after one, instead of three readings, thereby reducing the time required for approval from months to weeks, CTK reported. Lansky spoke after meeting with EU envoy to Prague Ramiro Cibrian. The Czech Republic was criticized last year by the EU for falling behind in bringing its legislation into line with that of the union. MS

CZECH ROMANY FAMILY RECEIVES ASYLUM IN FRANCE

A four- member Romany family from the Czech Republic has received political asylum in France on 12 July, CTK reported. On 9 July, five Czech Roma requested political asylum in Finland. The agency said that Finnish authorities fear an influx of Czech Roma similar to the one of Roma from Slovakia., which prompted Helsinki to suspend visa-free entry for Slovak citizens. MS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION WELCOMES SLOVAK MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW

European Commission spokesman Nico Wegter told journalists on 12 July that the commission welcomes the law on the use of ethnic minority languages in contacts with the authorities, which the Slovak parliament passed on 10 July. Wegter said he will not comment on the content of the law, adding that the commission's experts must first study it. He also refused to comment on why the Hungarian Coalition Party did not support the bill in the parliament, CTK reported. MS

UNCLARITY OVER KRAJCI, LEXA CASES

Jaroslav Ivor, chief investigator at the Prosecutor-General's Office, on 12 July told journalists that the criminal case against former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci and the investigation of former Slovak Counter-Intelligence chief Ivan Lexa are proceeding. Ivor thus contradicted Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky, who recently said following a Constitutional Court ruling that has been leaked to the press, the criminal case and the investigation have been stopped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999). That ruling says Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's annulment of the amnesty granted by his predecessor to Krajci and Lexa was unconstitutional. Ivor said the ruling cannot apply retroactively and is only to serve as a "guideline" for similar cases in the future. He added that the Constitutional Court ruled that the amnesty of both men granted by former Premier Vladimir Meciar was also unconstitutional. MS

COHEN URGES MORE DEFENSE SPENDING IN HUNGARY

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said in Budapest on 12 July that his country expects Hungary to honor its commitments resulting from NATO membership, which include increasing defense spending to 1.81 percent of GDP. Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Cohen that the issue of Vojvodina should be included in a special and separate chapter of a Balkan stability pact. Cohen noted that "ethnic hatred similar to that experienced in Kosova has no roots in Vojvodina." He added that the province "could become an outstanding example of non-violent assertion of minority interests." MSZ

HUNGARY CRITICIZES SLOVAK LANGUAGE LAW

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth on 12 July said that Slovakia's recently adopted minority language law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999) will hinder the development of Hungarian-Slovak relations, Hungarian media reported. He said the law is unacceptable to Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party. Nemeth added that he trusts the Slovak cabinet will find a way to make "appropriate corrections" that will meet the provisions of the Hungarian-Slovak basic treaty as well as European norms. MSZ




VIOLENT PROTEST IN VALJEVO

At least 4,000 people followed maverick local artist Bogoljub Arsenijevic in storming the Valjevo town hall on 12 July. Police quickly evicted the intruders. Some four people were taken to hospital as a result of the violence. Arsenijevic told the crowd that "the international community should not try [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic. We should try him and punish him for what he did to the Serbian people over the past 10 years," Reuters quoted him as saying. Arsenijevic also called on his followers to storm the local offices of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and stay there "until we hear that Milosevic is dead." The United Yugoslav Left, which is headed by Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, issued a statement accusing the protesters of trying to "create a jungle here." The protest in Valjevo was the second spontaneous one in a Serbian provincial town in approximately one week (see "RFR/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). PM

WHICH WAY FOR OPPOSITION TO MILOSEVIC?

BBC Television on 13 July showed footage from the previous day of Arsenijevic kicking in glass at the Valjevo town hall ahead of his followers. The footage also showed the artist vandalizing the town council's meeting room. A BBC reporter in Belgrade said that the spontaneous and violent nature of the Valjevo protest suggests how potentially explosive the situation in Serbia is. Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic, who recently served in Milosevic's government, said that he wants a "constitutional" end to Milosevic's rule. He added, however, that he will soon take part in street protests, which he has not done this year. Elsewhere in Belgrade, spokesmen for the anti-Milosevic petition drive said that they have collected well over 100,000 signatures, despite the police's efforts to prevent them from doing so. In Vranje, some 500 army reservists continued their protest to demand back pay. PM

CLARK: MILOSEVIC BODES ILL FOR KOSOVA PEACE

NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark said in Milan on 12 July that if Milosevic "remains in power and in control, there will be strong internal pressures to violate the demilitarization agreement [for Kosova], to be prepared for the worst possible outcome: a return of Serb efforts directed against Albanians" in the province. The general added: "I encourage the growing demonstrations by the people of Serbia to hold Mr. Milosevic accountable. He is the source of their problems and should be removed from office," Reuters reported. PM

COHEN WARNS OF CONTINUED DANGER IN KOSOVA

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said in Budapest on 12 July that "the situation in [Kosova] remains dangerous. It is likely to remain dangerous for some time to come by virtue of the tensions, the passions that are running very high. It's all the more important that the remaining forces that are to be contributed to KFOR arrive there as soon as possible." He added that KFOR will "remain neutral and balanced" in its dealings with the rival ethnic communities. Kosova, he stressed is "still a very dangerous environment and all of the forces there must be prepared to encounter that kind of danger." PM

SERBS, ALBANIANS WORK IN REOPENED PRISHTINA CITY HALL

J. F. Carter, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, officially reopened the Prishtina city hall on 12 July. He called the move "a step in the return to normality." Two "municipal co-presidents" (mayors) head an administration consisting of 80 ethnic Albanians and 60 Serbs. One mayor is the Serb Zvonimir Stevic, while the other is the ethnic Albanian Mexhid Syla. AP reported that tensions between the respective Serbian and ethnic Albanian groups of municipal workers were evident. PM

RED CROSS RECEIVES LISTS OF KOSOVARS IN SERBIAN JAILS

The Serbian Justice Ministry on 12 July handed to officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)a list containing the names of 1,438 Kosovars currently held in Serbian jails. An ICRC spokesman told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina that earlier this month, Serbian officials handed over another list containing 481 names. He added that ICRC representatives have so far visited 381 imprisoned ethnic Albanians and are still seeking confirmation about missing people who are not on the lists. UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson recently estimated that up to 5,000 Kosovars are still in Serbian prisons. FS

LDK OFFICIAL URGES QUICK UNIFICATION OF KOSOVARS

Melazim Krasniqi, who is a senior official of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 12 July that "I do not know what the real reasons are why [LDK leader Ibrahim] Rugova does not return to his homeland. I believe that he should be here and [help] unite the [various] Kosovar political groups.... I am also concerned that Rugova has...covered himself with a disturbing silence." Krasniqi stressed that "the LDK must face the new realities in Kosova, and it cannot do so with an old mentality.... The membership demands concrete actions and clear positions toward current problems.... If it fails to [meet the challenge], the LDK [may face] very severe [internal] divisions." FS

THACI CONDEMNS SERBIAN WALK-OUT

Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci on 12 July condemned a decision by local Serbs to stop cooperating with Kosovar Albanians and international organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999), Reuters reported. Thaci appealed to the Serbs to reverse their decision, saying that "my wish is that these people do not continue Milosevic's game of boycott, a game which is not in the interests of...the Serbian people themselves.... I believe that this was a rash decision...and I hope that these people will realize there is a new reality and new life" in Kosova. Thaci also said: "I have no comment on why Rugova has not come back. It is his personal decision but it's not a smart one.... He must realize that no one can hold Kosova to ransom." FS

MORE ALBANIAN REFUGEE CAMPS LOOTED

An RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from Tirana on 12 July that Albanian villagers looted a refugee camp near Peshkopi the previous day. The camp previously accommodated about 3,000 refugees. Unidentified persons also looted a camp in the village of Shtoj near Shkodra. The incidents follow the raid on the Italian camp in Vlora on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999). Most refugees had left the camps before the villagers began plundering them. The correspondent reports, however, that refugees remaining in Albania now fear that their accommodations could also become the scene of uncontrolled looting and robbery. Meanwhile, NATO soldiers have begun to reinforce security around remaining camps. FS

YUGOSLAV ARMY DENIES TROOP INCREASE IN MONTENEGRO

The Yugoslav Army said in a press statement in Belgrade on 12 July that recent comments by several top NATO officials that the army has raised its troop levels in Montenegro are "propaganda-style fabrications and allegations." The statement added that NATO is deliberately circulating false reports about alleged tensions within Montenegro and between Podgorica and Belgrade in order to mask NATO's own "destructive intentions toward our fatherland." PM

KLEIN TO REPLACE REHN IN BOSNIA

Jacques Klein, who is currently a deputy to the international community's High Representative Carlos Westendorp in Bosnia, will soon replace Elizabeth Rehn as the UN's chief representative in that country, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Sarajevo on 12 July. Rehn will return to her political career in Finland. PM

CROATIA GETS FIRST NATIONAL INDEPENDENT TV STATION

Zagreb- based Nova TV received a license on 12 July, thereby becoming Croatia's first nationwide private television broadcaster. Nova's main share-holders include Europa Press Holding, which also owns the independent daily "Jutarnji list" and the weekly "Globus." Another main share-holder is "Vecernji list," which is close to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The top managers of the station will be veteran broadcasters Miroslav Lilic and Tomislav Marcinko, "Jutarnji list" reported. State-run television is currently the only nationwide television broadcaster and is widely regarded as a mouthpiece of the HDZ. PM

CROATIAN RAILWAY WORKERS DEFEND RIGHT TO STRIKE

Locomotive drivers halted railway traffic across Croatia for half an hour on 12 July to defend their right to strike, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The railway management has taken the drivers' union to court in conjunction with a strike in April. Union spokesmen say that management has gone to court in the hope of deterring future strikes. Strikes are not unusual at the loss-making state-run railway. PM

LANDSLIDES, FLOODS CLAIM VICTIMS IN ROMANIA, HUNGARY

At least 13 people were killed and 23 injured in a landslide caused by heavy rain and floods near a dam on the Raul Mare River in the Retezat mountains in western Romania. Romanian Radio reported on 13 July that one person drowned in Cluj County. Prime Minister Radu Vasile met with cabinet members to examine ways of helping victims and coordinating rescue works. Heavy rains are expected to continue in western Romania. Reuters reported that at least six people were killed as the result of landslides caused by floods in Hungary. Three persons were buried in a wine cellar in Siklos, south of Budapest, and three drowned in Heves County, in northwestern Hungary. In Bulgaria, floods caused heavy damage in two villages near the town of Montana, north of Sofia. MS

MOSCOW-HELD ROMANIAN TREASURE UNDER CE EXAMINATION

Takis Hadjidemetriou, special rapporteur for the Council of Europe's Cultural Commission, met in Bucharest on 12 July with members of the Senate's National Security and Foreign Policy Commissions to discuss Romanian treasure held in Moscow since World War I, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. AP said that Hadjidemetriou will study Romanian archives and report to the council, which has recommended that member countries return illegally-held foreign patrimony. The treasure is one of the main bones of contention hindering the signing of the treaty between the two countries. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS

Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea on 12 July "categorically" denied that President Petru Lucinschi played any role in the parliamentary crisis triggered by the dismissal of Party of Democratic Forces (PDF) leader Valeriu Matei from the post of deputy parliamentary chairman, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Golea said that the crisis was "a purely internal affair" of the legislature and that Lucinschi hopes the stalemate will be solved "as soon as possible" to avoid "undesirable consequences for all of [Moldovan] society." He also denied that Lucinschi may exploit the crisis as "an argument for promoting a presidential system" (see End Note below). MS

PDF SAYS IT WILL NOT LEAVE MOLDOVAN RULING COALITION

In a statement released on 12 July, the parliamentary group of the PDF said the party does not intend to leave the ruling Alliance for Democracy (ADR) in retaliation for Matei's dismissal. PFD deputy Vasile Soimaru told journalists the same day that the present parliamentary crisis has "demonstrated" that a new majority can "easily be formed" by the Party of Moldovan Communists' 40 deputies and the 12 deputies representing the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc. The PFD, Soimaru said, believes that only if the party stays in the ADR can Moldova's "integration into European structures" be safeguarded. MS

IMF SAYS BULGARIA MAKING PROGRESS

The head of the IMF mission in Bulgaria on 12 July said that Bulgaria is making "satisfactory economic progress," despite the effects of the Kosova crisis, AFP reported. Juha Kahkonen said that because of the impact of the Kosova conflict on Bulgaria's economy, economic growth is likely to be less than was forecast at the start of 1999. He said that exports have fallen, which, he argued, could affect the current account of the balance of payments. Kahkonen predicted that Bulgaria's budget deficit will total some 5.5 percent of GDP this year and that the economy will grow by 1.5 percent, instead of the 3.7 percent growth predicted at the start of the year. However, the IMF expects that in 2000 economic growth will total 4-5 percent and inflation will be less than 2 percent, he said. MS




LUCINSCHI BABA AND THE MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES


by Michael Shafir

No political system is totally immune to corruption and nepotism. But when these maladies become the rule, rather than the exception, one faces what political scientists call "systemic entropy." In systems making the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, the risk of entropy is higher than in "established democracies": while such democracies deal with corruption and nepotism by applying the rule of law, transitional systems may be faced with a situation where the authority of those making the law (the parliament), those applying it (the executive), and those adjudicating it (the judiciary) is questioned because those institutions lack credibility.

Credibility may be acquired through the historical experience of those granting it (a factor often absent in "transitional systems"), but this is not a lasting factor unless it is quickly complemented by proof of more immediate experience. Conversely, the lack of credibility can be the outcome of some psychological factors, but by and large it exists when those called upon to rule are not up to the task. In democratic systems, the instrument through which credibility is supposed to be restored is changing the powers that be through elections or changing some systemic elements that induced entropy--for example, some provisions in the constitution. The deficiency of the former solution is that it can require considerable time, while the latter may mean "throwing away the democratic baby" with the bath water.

Last week, a typical situation of entropy emerged in Moldova. On 9 July, the parliament dismissed one of its deputy chairmen, Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) leader Valeriu Matei. Matei had long been accused by the opposition Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) of corruption, an accusation that appears not totally unfounded. Earlier this year, a tribunal in Chisinau ordered him to pay General Nicolae Alexe, chief of the government's Department for Fighting Crime, the equivalent of 100 monthly wages. The tribunal had found Matei guilty of insulting Alexe during a search of the premises of a dubious commercial company with which Matei was linked.

The ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR) repeatedly postponed voting on the Communists' demand to dismiss Matei from his parliamentary position. Since the PFD is a member of the unstable ADR, few political observers were surprised by that delay. All of a sudden, however, Matei's coalition colleagues from the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD) were ready to join the Communists, and the legislature dismissed him by a vote of 59 to four during the evening of 9 July. The Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD)--a party that since March, when it failed to obtain the portfolios it wanted in Ion Sturza's cabinet, has been unable to make up its mind whether it is in the coalition or out--also supported the motion. The other ADR component, the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), did not participate in the vote, to protest what happened in the parliament earlier that day.

That earlier development may partly explain the twist leading to Matei's dismissal. On 8 July, the legislature began debating a report by its Committee for National Security and Public Order. Among other things, the report criticized the activities of Prosecutor-General Valeriu Catana, who had long been accused by FPCD leader Iurie Rosca of covering up the illicit activities of parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov. Again, the accusation may not have been entirely unfounded.

Shortly after being named prosecutor-general earlier this year, Catana had appointed Diacov's brother, Ion, as Chisinau's top prosecutor. Whether this was "merely" a case of nepotism or whether Rosca's 8 July statement denouncing Diacov's "Mafioso activities" was based on insider's knowledge is hard to say. Nonetheless, as late as 8 July the communists were demanding that the committee's report be debated in the house. But rather than permit such a development, Diacov announced that Catana had tendered his resignation.

In line with Moldovan legislation, Catana's departure should have been debated and then approved by the parliament. But Diacov proposed that a resolution be adopted merely "taking note" of the resignation. The resolution passed with the support of the PCM, as well as that of Diacov's own PMPD. It was at this point that former President Mircea Snegur's CDM walked out of the meeting, thus missing the vote on Matei's dismissal. But Snegur then joined Rosca in demanding the dismissal of Diacov as parliamentary chairman.

The PCM's action is not hard to explain. By joining forces with Diacov and his supporters, the party seems very close to writing the ADR's obituary.

But a lot more happened on the eventful day of 9 July. First, all those throwing punches in the Moldovan parliamentary arena seem to have knocked one another out. Not even the PCM has emerged untainted, for the electorate is unlikely to forget that the Communists' attack on Matei was triggered by Matei's denunciation of the son of PCM leader Vladimir Voronin for his involvement in seemingly illicit business activities.

With entropy looming large, President Petru Lucinschi's argument for curtailing the powers of the parliament and instituting a presidential system can only gain ground. Lucinschi finds himself in the fortunate position of an Ali Baba whose path to the treasure has been opened by the thieves who guarded it. But as Aladdin put it, "Who will change old lamps for new ones?" Or, in other words: Will a presidential system fare any better? This is first in a series of two articles.


XS
SM
MD
LG