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Newsline - October 14, 1999




FEDERATION COUNCIL SNUBS YELTSIN A THIRD TIME...

The upper legislative chamber voted by 98 to 52 to reject a third request by President Boris Yeltsin to permanently dismiss suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. Ninety votes were needed for Skuratov's ouster. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, who appeared to support the measure, said the action was defeated only because senators want to "wait for the Constitutional Court's ruling." Senators had asked the court last June to decide whether Yeltsin's decree suspending Skuratov pending the outcome of a criminal investigation is constitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1999). Addressing the Council before its vote, Skuratov said that "the personal interests of president and his family" were behind his dismissal. The presidential press service released a statement later alleging that to cover up his own incompetence, Skuratov "deliberately makes false accusations." Such an "important post cannot be held by a person letting himself be used in a dirty game," the statement said. JAC

...AS NEW KREMLIN PERSONNEL SHAKE-UP TIPPED

Most newspapers evaluated the Kremlin's decision to bring the Skuratov issue to a vote as a serious blunder for which chief of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin will likely take the blame. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 14 October that this latest attempt to oust Skuratov attracted even less votes than last time (when 61 voted in favor), while "Vremya MN" reported that members of the Fatherland-All Russia alliances voted to support Skuratov. Both "Kommersant-Daily" and "Segodnya," which are owned by rival "oligarchs," one of whom is loyal to and the other opposes the Kremlin, concluded that Voloshin will likely lose his job. "Segodnya" reported the previous day rumors are circulating that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will be replaced because Putin is in danger of becoming more popular than the president. JAC

GOVERNORS PREPARING TO NIX BUDGET?

Federation Council Budget Committee Chairman Konstantin Titov told Interfax on 13 October that "there is little hope" that the upper legislative chamber will pass the revised 2000 draft budget. He noted that the new draft does not allocate half of budget revenues to the regions, as many governors have demanded. Titov's remarks follow speeches by Prime Minister Putin to regional leaders in support of the budget. Putin earlier told members of the interregional association Black Earth to resist approaching the budget with an attitude of "territorial egoism," according to Interfax. JAC

CHECHEN FORCES RETREAT FROM STRATEGIC VILLAGE

Chechen forces on 13 October abandoned the village of Goragorsky, west of Grozny, after losing five men in fierce fighting with federal forces over the past few days, Reuters reported, citing sources close to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. They also said that Russian forces were shelling the village of Tolstoi-Yurt, just south of the Terek River, and appeared to be preparing a new assault on the village of Bamut, 45 kilometers southwest of Grozny. Also on 13 October, Colonel General Viktor Kazantsev, who commands the Russian forces in the North Caucasus, said his men will advance south of the Terek River and expand the security zone, within which schools and medical centers will be set up and pensions paid. Moscow has already appointed military commandants in at least two districts of northern Chechnya. LF

KORNUKOV SAYS AIR STRIKES WILL CONTINUE

In Moscow, Russian Air Force commander Colonel General Anatolii Kornukov told journalists that Russian air raids have destroyed almost all bases and facilities belonging to Chechen militants. But he added that strikes in support of the Russian ground forces will be continued until the rebels are totally destroyed, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. LF

BASAEV VOWS TO FIGHT 'TO THE END'

A senior Russian officer had said on 11 October that field commander Shamil Basaev was among the Chechens surrounded in Goragorsky (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 1999). But on 13 October Basaev met with journalists in Grozny, where he predicted that the war will be a long one and vowed that the Chechens "will not simply let the Russians withdraw. We will fight to the end," Reuters reported. Basaev denied persistent rumors of tensions between himself and President Maskhadov. He also rejected Russian arguments that the invasion of Chechnya was a justified crackdown on international terrorism, attributing it to Russia's "imperial ambitions." Also on 13 October, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS that Basaev is creating a special group tasked with the assassination of deputies to the 1996 pro-Russian Chechen puppet parliament and the abduction of their relatives. LF

RUSSIA WILLING TO ACCEPT AID FOR DISPLACED PERSONS

Russian Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Khetagurov told journalists in Moscow on 13 October that although Moscow has not made a formal request for humanitarian aid, it would welcome "any help or interest" in alleviating the plight of an estimated 160,000 people who have fled the fighting in Chechnya, Reuters and Interfax reported. Khetagurov denied that the influx of fugitives into Ingushetia constitutes a humanitarian tragedy, saying that there are 3,000 vacant places in the tent camps set up to accommodate displaced persons. LF

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA LEGISLATURE APPROVES NEW PREMIER

The People's Assembly of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia has endorsed the candidacy of Vasilii Neshchadinov as the republic's new premier, Russian Radio reported on 13 October. It had failed to do so on 11 October for lack of a quorum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). It also approved two proposed deputy premiers, Karachai Akhmat Sochiev and Fatima Khunizheva, who are ethnic Karachai and Abaza, respectively. The remaining two deputy premier posts, which are to go to a Cherkess and a Nogai, remain vacant. On 13 October, republican President Vladimir Semenov appointed a respected Cossack Ataman, retired Major General Yurii Antonov, to head the republic's newly created Security Council. LF

GOVERNMENT TO BY-PASS IMF OVER DEFENSE SPENDING

Thomas Dawson, head of the IMF's external affairs department, told reporters on 13 October that it is still too early to say whether the fund will release the second tranche of its loan to Russia in November, according to Reuters. The same day, Prime Minister Putin admitted that military operations in the North Caucasus "are putting additional pressure on the budget" but all expenses there have been covered by additional budget revenues. "Vremya MN" explained on 14 October that the government is trying to reduce its debts to the Defense Ministry from past years and in this way such spending does not formally concern the IMF. According to the newspaper, the government owes the Defense Ministry almost 50 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) because 23.6 percent of the funds allocated for national defense under the 1998 budget and 30.7 percent under the 1997 budget were never transferred. JAC

MOSCOW EXPRESSES 'SERIOUS CONCERN' OVER U.S. SENATE TEST BAN VOTE

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 14 October that Moscow "expresses dissatisfaction and serious concern" over the U.S. Senate's "refusal" the previous day to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. "This decision deals a serious blow to the whole system of agreements in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, especially to the prospects of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," he added. Reuters quoted Rakhmanin as saying Russia will need to analyze carefully the consequences of the Senate vote. The news agency noted that he did not elaborate. Over the last week, Russian officials have said that the final touches are being put to documents needed to submit the test ban treaty to the State Duma for ratification (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 11 October 1999). JC

OLD ZHIRINOVSKII PARTY EMERGES IN NEW FORM

The newly created Zhirinovskii Bloc has announced its top three candidates for upcoming State Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii will top the list, followed by Duma Information Policy Committee Chairman Oleg Finko and Duma deputy Yegor Solomatin, who heads the Russian Union of Free Youth. That organization, the LDPR, and the Spiritual Revival party comprise the Zhirinovskii Bloc, which was hastily assembled after the Central Election Commission failed to approve LDPR's party list (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). Both Finko and Solomatin are LDPR members. ITAR-TASS reported that Finko was elected head of Spiritual Revival on 13 October. However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that Zhirinovskii's half-sister, Lyubov Zhirinovskaya, is the party's head. The new bloc will reportedly submit its documents to the election commission on 14 October. JAC

FEDERAL TROOPS ASSIST IN HOSTILE TAKEOVER AT PAPER MILL

Some 30 Justice Ministry troops raided the Vyborgskii paper mill in Leningrad Oblast early on 14 October to remove workers seeking to prevent the company's foreign owners from assuming control, Russian agencies and AP reported. One employee was injured when the troops opened fire on workers who had barricaded themselves into the building. Some 500 employees reportedly rushed to their colleagues' rescue, surrounding the building that the troops had entered. Meanwhile, police officials have been sent to the site to help end the stand- off. The raid was carried out to implement a local court order in May 1998 that the British owners of the plant be allowed to take control of their property. The mill's strike committee, however, has refused to comply with that ruling, and the plant was bought earlier this year by another British company (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 August 1999). JC

WAGE ARREARS REDUCED AS ELECTION NEARS

Labor Minister Sergei Kalashnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 13 October that the backlog of unpaid wages to state-sector workers has declined more than 30 percent since the beginning of year to 56 billion rubles ($2.2 billion). As of 1 May, arrears totaled 63.108 billion rubles. He added that the government plans to increase pensions by 15 percent as of 1 November. On 14 October, Prime Minister Putin signed a decree raising the average monthly minimum wage to 979 rubles beginning 1 November from the current level of 950 rubles, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

ANALYST: NEW MILITARY DOCTRINE HIGHLIGHTS GENERALS' 'OUTRIGHT ANTI-WESTERNISM'

Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 14 October, independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer argued that the draft of the new military doctrine, published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 9 October, is important as an "indicator of widespread anti-western opinions inside Russia's military elite" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Noting that the draft was ready 12 months ago, Felgenhauer went on to say that the "outright anti-westernism of the published draft is also the most likely reason it has not been signed into law for more than one year." And the fact that the draft was published before receiving the president's approval--a "highly unusual" development for Russian bureaucratic procedure--is a "clear attempt by Russian military chiefs to twist the Kremlin's [arm] into signing a document the West will see as confrontational," he concludes. JC

OIL COMPANIES TO CREATE CONSORTIUM FOR IRAQI PROJECTS

Rosneftegazstroi, Zarubezhneftegazstroi, and the East Siberian Oil and Gas Company have agreed to set up a consortium for oil and gas projects in Iraq, Interfax reported on 13 October. Ivan Mazur, the chief executive officer of Rosneftegazstroi, told the news agency that the group will raise capital only for those projects "certain" to receive UN approval. He added that the idea to form the consortium arose during Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi's recent visit to Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). JC

RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN STATE MOVES A MILLIMETER FORWARD

The Federation Council on 13 October ratified a Russian- Belarusian agreement on the joint use of military facilities, according to ITAR-TASS. Russian and Belarusian defense ministers signed the agreement in the fall of 1998. The upper legislative chamber intends to establish a working group to examine proposals from Russian regions on the Union of Belarus and Russia. On 13 October, Viktor Stepanov, a top official with the preparatory committee for the union, told reporters that the treaty on the creation of a joint state will likely be signed by the end of November. Stepanov added that formation of a single army is not being discussed, but leaders of the two countries are considering a "joint defense order, regional troop groupings, and a common border guard policy." JAC




FRONTRUNNER IN ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS VOTE DENIES GOVERNMENT BACKING

Archbishop Garegin Nersisian, the most likely candidate for the leadership of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has rejected allegations by rival clerics that the Armenian authorities are actively lobbying for his victory in the upcoming ecclesiastical election, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 October. Nersisian said those allegations negatively affect preparations for the election. He also noted that President Robert Kocharian recently assured bishops that the state will not interfere in the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 11 October 1999). Nersisian rejected criticism of the decision to include in the Ararat diocese delegation to the election the Yerevan mayor and the Ararat police chief, saying that "Our Church does not differentiate between its faithful and does not separate them by position and circumstances." LF

ARMENIA RECEIVES NEW IMF LOAN TRANCHE

The IMF has released the final tranche, worth $29 million, of a three-year ESAF loan, Interfax reported on 13 October. The fund and the Armenian government reached agreement on the terms for disbursement last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). The release of the tranche, originally expected in June, was delayed until the Armenian government unveiled its proposals for covering the budget deficit, which was higher than anticipated. LF

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST TV STATION CLOSURE

Some 50 journalists staged an unsanctioned picket outside the Ministry of Justice in Baku on 13 October to protest the closure of the independent Sara TV station, Turan reported. The stations was closed on 9 October after broadcasting an appeal by opposition party leaders to participate in a demonstration that day against the Azerbaijani leadership's Karabakh policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). The Geirat, Vahdat, and Independent Azerbaijan Parties as well as the Party of Democratic Entrepreneurs have followed the example of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and the Azerbaijan National Independence Party and issued statements condemning the closure. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS TRY TO NEGOTIATE UN HOSTAGES' RELEASE

Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze on 13 October cut short his visit to Ukraine and returned to Tbilisi. The following day, he traveled to the Kodori gorge in western Georgia where unidentified gunmen seized seven hostages the previous day, Caucasus Press reported. Five of the hostages are members of the UN observer mission and are citizens of Uruguay, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, and the Czech Republic. The others are an interpreter and a German doctor. Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 13 October that the Georgian authorities are negotiating with the kidnappers, who are demanding a $200,000 ransom for the hostages, Interfax reported. Both he and Tevzadze said the Georgian army will launch an operation to free the hostages if those negotiations fail. The Russian Foreign Ministry offered the assistance of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in western Georgia in securing the hostages' release, Interfax reported. LF

POLLSTERS PREDICT COMMUNIST WIN IN KAZAKH ELECTIONS...

Bakhytzhamal Bekturganova, who is president of the Almaty Association of Sociologists and Political Scientists, told journalists in the former capital on 13 October that a survey conducted by the association suggests that the Communist Party won the 10 October elections to the lower house of parliament, Interfax reported. Bukturganova said exit polls conducted in 16 cities and encompassing one -third of all constituencies suggested that the Communist Party garnered 27.7 percent of the vote, the pro-presidential Otan party 16 percent, and the Civic Party 12.3 percent. She added that under the association's methodology, the survey results are likely to differ from official returns by no more than 15 percentage points and that a discrepancy of more than 10 percentage points would suggest vote falsification. LF

...AS CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION REJECTS COMPLAINTS

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 October that Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission has investigated more than a dozen complaints of violations of voting procedure on polling day. The commission rejected all of them, saying the violations in question could not have affected the outcome of the poll. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW DEFENSE MINISTER

Nursultan Nazarbaev on 13 October named Lieutenant General Sat Tokpakbaev as head of the Defense Ministry, replacing Mukhtar Altynbaev, who was fired in August following revelations of the unsanctioned sale of MiG-21 fighters to North Korea, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). Tokpakbaev, who is 60, previously headed the National Security Council and the presidential bodyguards. Nazarbaev also issued a decree on renaming or merging several government ministries. The Agency for Economic Planning is upgraded to the status of Ministry of the Economy, and the financial and economic functions of the former Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms are transferred to it. The remaining departments of that agency are subordinated directly to the president. The Atomic Energy and Space Ministries are removed from the Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry and subordinated to a new Ministry for Education and Science. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER OUTLINES GOALS

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 October, former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov said the primary objectives of his recently formed Ar-Namys party are establishing constitutional order in a democratic society and removing the five-year moratorium imposed on the private ownership of land, which the electorate approved in a referendum one year ago. Characterizing the present political situation as "closer to anarchy than democracy," Kulov advocated improving the administrative system by initially combining the posts of president and premier, on the grounds that the president is not responsible for the economy and the prime minister does not have the powers to influence economic processes. In the second stage of reform, Kulov argued, the parliament should be elected on a party list system and should then form a government and elect a head of state. LF

INFLATION SOARS IN KYRGYZSTAN

Inflation in Kyrgyzstan during the first nine months of 1999 reached 32.5 percent, compared with 5.6 percent for the same period in 1998, Interfax reported on 12 October. Food prices rose by 39.7 percent, while consumer goods by 6.8 percent and gasoline by 2.1 percent. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY TO LEAVE TURKMENISTAN

Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Vasilii Mikhailov told Interfax that the 50 Russian officers who have been stationed in Turkmenistan since 1994 will leave, as their help in creating a new Turkmen army is no longer needed. He was speaking after talks with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 13 October. He added that a new bilateral commission for military-technical cooperation will be formed and that Moscow has offered to help upgrade Turkmen military hardware, especially aircraft, in order to prevent other countries from carrying out that task. Turkmen Defense Minister Batyr Sardjaev will visit Moscow early next year, Mikhailov said. LF

TURKMENISTAN UNVEILS DRAFT OIL AND GAS PROGRAM

Turkmenistan's Ministry for the Oil and Gas Industry on 13 October published a new program for the period 2000-2010, which is to be endorsed at the next session of the People's Council in December. The program envisages increasing oil production to 28 million tons in 2005 and to 48 million tons in 2010, with crude oil exports rising to 16 million tons and 33 million tons, respectively. The 10-year draft economic program approved by President Niyazov in July projected that oil output would reach 30 million tons in 2010 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). Gas production is to increase by 220 percent over the next decade, to 85 billion cubic meters in 2005 and 120 billion cubic meters in 2010. Investments in the oil and gas sector are expected to increase by more than 250 percent. LF




CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS EU REPORT IS 'WAKE-UP CALL'...

Jan Kavan on 13 October said that sharp criticism of the Czech Republic in the EU's annual report on candidate countries' preparations for membership, which was released the same day (see "End Note"), is a "wake-up call." He said "hard work is still ahead and we shall have to speed up" but added that Prague's goal of integration in 2003 is "not unrealistic," CTK reported. The report is highly critical of the parliament's slowness in passing legislation bringing Czech laws into line with those of the EU. The report says the Czech Republic must step up the fight against organized crime, including corruption. It is critical of the situation of the Romany minority in general and the wall fencing off that minority in Usti nad Labem in particular (see also item below). MS

...WHILE SLOVENIAN PRESS SOBERED BY EU REPORT

Major Slovenian dailies on 14 October agree that the EU's report gives their country little to be happy about, the Croatian news agency Hina concluded. They agree that the report shows that their country did not perform as well in the "European regatta" as many had expected. Ljubljana's "Dnevnik" writes that the governing coalition has not been sufficiently attentive to meeting EU requirements and has been too slow in bringing legislation into line with EU standards. PM

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS EU REPORT 'POSITIVE'...

Janos Martonyi noted that the EU annual report on Hungary is "generally positive" and the critical remarks in it reflect the main tasks outlined in the country's national program. He noted, however, that Hungary and EU Commission differ on time frames set for fulfilling some of those tasks. The report considers both Hungary and Poland to be the economic leaders among the 13 countries aspiring to the EU. With regard to Poland, however, the commission criticized the pace of bringing Polish legislation into line with EU standards. The commission also pointed to Poland's unsatisfactory progress in combating corruption and smuggling, implementing privatization, and restructuring its coal mining and metallurgy sectors. MSZ/JM

...AS DOES ESTONIAN DIPLOMAT

The European Commission Mission head in Estonia, Ambassador Arhi Palosuo, said that "the tone of the entire report is good," "Postimees" reported. The report commends both Estonia's economic performance, despite the Russian crisis, and its harmonization with EU legislation. At the same time, it criticizes the stricter new language law, administrative efficiency, corruption, protection of intellectual property, and policies toward the agriculture and fishing sectors. MH

LATVIA, LITHUANIA HAIL DECISION TO START MEMBERSHIP TALKS

Responding to the news that the EU will start membership talks with another six candidate countries (see "End Note"), Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said that the report on Latvia was among the best of the six and that he expects the talks to end in 2003 and membership to be achieved in 2005, BNS reported. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus also praised the report, which he said signals the "nation's progress," ELTA added. MH

SLOVAK LEADERS WELCOME EU DECISION...

President Rudolf Schuster on 13 October said he is glad that the EU Commission has "objectively [assessed] Slovakia's development and its results in meeting EU criteria," SITA and CTK reported. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said the report gives Slovakia "new motivation" to establish a viable functioning market, as demanded by the EU, "no matter how painful that may be." Pavol Hamzik, deputy premier in charge of relations with the EU, said the commission's report is "the first concrete result" of the government's foreign policy," AP reported. MS

...ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS IT 'POSITIVE SIGNAL'...

Emil Constantinescu, speaking in Iasi on 13 October, said the EU decision to include Romania among those countries with which negotiations will begin is "a positive signal, with beneficial effects for our country." Constantinescu said the government will have to "demonstrate it is able to continue reforms" aimed at improving conditions in orphanages and ensuring economic stability--both of which were mentioned by the EU as a precondition for membership talks. He said the government has already sent a letter to the EU detailing its intention to improve conditions in orphanages. MS

...AND BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS SOFIA ACHIEVING ITS AIM

Ivan Kostov on 13 October said in Plodviv that Bulgaria is "witnessing the achievement of our aim--to be put on a track of our own and be included" among the countries that will conduct talks on full EU membership, BTA reported. President Petar Stoyanov, speaking in Turgovishte, said he believes Bulgaria will be in the position to fulfill the conditions set by the EU for starting accession talks. He said it is necessary to find a way "acceptable to both the Bulgarian national interest and the EU" for closing down the nuclear reactors at Kozloduy. And he said he is "not worried" about the country's progress in economic reform, because the IMF has given it "a very positive estimate." MS

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT TRADE UNION DENIED REGISTRATION

The Justice Ministry has refused to register the Belarusian Independent Industrial Trade Union Association, which unites two trade unions representing workers in the machine-building and electronic industries, Belapan reported on 13 October. The ministry gave no reason for its decision. Association leaders Alyaksandr Bukhvostau and Henadz Fyadynich believe that the move is the government's revenge for the association's independent stance and its many anti-government protest actions. JM

PRICE OF BREAD GOES UP IN BELARUS

Belapan reported on 12 October that the price of bread has recently risen by 2-30 percent, depending on quality and type. The authorities noted that the hike results from the increased price of flour and energy. Despite the hike, they noted, state bakeries are still incurring losses. A 1 kilogram loaf of rye bread currently costs 30,400 rubles ($0.1), while its production cost is 68,000. Belarusian commentators say the hike in bread prices may also be caused by this year's poor harvest. Belarus is currently seeking to buy some 2 million tons of grain abroad. JM

UKRAINE'S MOROZ WARNS OF ASSASSINATION PLOT AGAINST HIM...

Presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz on 13 October said unknown assailants are plotting to kill him during a campaign trip this week, AP reported. According to Moroz, he received a warning about the alleged attack from a regional branch of the Ukrainian Security Service and another one from his electoral headquarters. "This is a yet another attempt to create an artificial stir around this candidate," President Leonid Kuchma commented on a regional television station the same day. JM

...FAILS TO GET AIR TIME ON UKRAINIAN TELEVISION

National Television Company head Vadym Dolhanov told Interfax on 13 October that the previous day Moroz and some 50 supporters, including parliamentary deputies, entered the company building to demand that Moroz be given air time. Moroz reportedly wanted to speak about the allegation that one of his election campaign organizers is involved in the attempt on the life of Natalya Vitrenko. The parliament on 12 October adopted a resolution demanding that the television company grant Moroz air time so that he can present his version of the attack on Vitrenko. Dolhanov said he will not obey the parliamentary resolution because the activities of Ukraine's media are regulated solely by laws. JM

UKRAINE TO PAY PART OF RUSSIAN ENERGY DEBT WITH BOMBERS

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk and his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, have signed a schedule for delivering 11 Ukrainian strategic bombers to Russia as part of Ukrainian payments for energy debts, AP reported on 13 October. Ukraine will send eight Tu-160 and three Tu-95MS machines to Russia. Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said the deal will allow Ukraine to cut its energy debts to Russia by $275 million by the end of this year. He did not specify the price of each bomber. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS IMPORT TARIFFS

Lawmakers on 13 October approved the government-sponsored import tariffs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). The measures are to go into force at the beginning of next year. The tariffs will be imposed on various agricultural products from countries with which Estonia has no free trade agreement. MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS OIL AMENDMENTS...

President Valdas Adamkus on 12 October signed the controversial package of amendments under which U.S.-based Williams International is to take a majority stake in Mazeikiai Oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). The opposition had asked the president not to approve the changes and threatened a court challenge. Meanwhile, the director of Mazeikiai Oil, Vidmantas Macevicius, has been sacked for poor performance, ELTA reported. MH

...WHILE OIL SHIPMENTS RESUME

ELTA also reported that a LUKoil representative in Lithuania confirmed that the shipment of crude oil to the Mazeikiai Oil refinery has resumed. The Russian Embassy in Vilnius has criticized press coverage over the issue, adding that no bilateral agreements "have been concluded between Russia and Lithuania that would bind Russia to supply oil." MH

CENTRAL BANK DELAYS LITAS REPEGGING PLAN

The Lithuanian Central Bank on 13 October announced that it plans to repeg the litas to the euro in the latter half of 2001. This would replace the current plan of adopting a dollar/euro basket in 2000, according to ELTA. The Central Bank stressed that there will be no devaluation of the currency now or during the repegging. MH

CZECH PREMIER, OPPOSITION LEADER, END TALK INCONCLUSIVELY

Prime Minster Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus, leader of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party, failed on 13 October to reach an agreement on the future of the minority Social Democratic (CSSD) government but did agree to continue talks next week, Reuters reported. Klaus refused to disclose to journalists his demands but said that "at least" a large cabinet reshuffle must take place. He added that he cannot guarantee that his party will support in the parliament the government's 2000 budget draft. Zeman said the CSSD is "more optimistic" than the ODS about the country's economic and political situation. MS

ANTI-ROMA WALL IN USTI NAD LABEM COMPLETED

In what a local observer described as "a speed record in Czech construction history," the wall in Usti nad Labem separating Romany and other residents was completed on 13 October, Reuters reported. Police guarded the builders, while the presidential office in Prague launched an official complaint against the town's police on grounds that they had restricted the free movement of residents by forcing Roma to stay in their homes. Also on 13 October, the Chamber of Deputies revoked the town council's decision to build the wall. However, some deputies voiced doubt over whether that decision is binding on the council. Council members later said they will take the case to the Constitutional Court, CTK reported. MS




THUGS ATTACK PROTESTERS IN BELGRADE

Goran Svilanovic, who heads the Civic Alliance of Serbia, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 13 October that "some 20 criminals who work for the police" injured at least five anti-government protesters in Belgrade. The thugs arrived at the scene in cars and attacked the demonstrators with sticks. The violence was not as "serious" as that used by police against protesters two weeks earlier, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Nonetheless, the opposition Alliance for Change decided on security grounds to cancel protests slated for the following day in the Novi Beograd and Slavija districts of the capital. PM

BELGRADE POLICE 'CHECK OUT' ALBANIANS

An unnamed official in the large Novi Beograd district, which is controlled by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists, said that local officials will "check in detail all [ethnic] Albanian residents and tenants in apartment blocs there." AP quoted him on 13 October as saying that "the reason is to prevent bombing attacks such as the recent ones in Moscow, where explosive devices were planted in apartment buildings. We thought that perhaps our Albanian neighbors, under orders from the [former Kosova Liberation Army], could begin such attacks." He added that "many" local ethnic Albanian males were absent from their Belgrade flats during the NATO air strikes in the spring. "I do not wish to speculate whether they were then trained in terrorist or subversive activities. [But] it is our goal to remove everything undesirable," he concluded. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION READY WITH ELECTION PROPOSAL

Opposition parties have concluded their agreement on conditions for early elections and will announce those conditions on 14 October, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Democratic Party spokesman Zoran Sami said that in future talks with the government, the opposition will insist on a maximum of eight electoral districts. He added that the opposition has worked out a formula for electing legislators from Kosova, but he did not elaborate. Sami noted that the number of legislators elected in each district in Serbia will depend on the number of voters casting their ballots there. The long-standing opposition demands for changes in electoral and media laws, for revising electoral lists, and for a rigorous monitoring system remain unchanged, he added. PM

NIS MAYOR SAYS MILOSEVIC CANNOT STOP OIL DELIVERIES

Zoran Zivkovic, who is the mayor of Nis, said that "there is no legal way for anyone, not even...Milosevic, to prevent" the EU's planned deliveries of $5 million worth of fuel oil to opposition-controlled Nis and Pirot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). He insisted that the opposition has "created a system to prevent even a single litre of oil from falling into [government or criminal] hands," Reuters reported. PM

CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS OIL DELIVERIES TO SERBIA

Several Serbian opposition politicians have criticized the EU's decision to deliver oil to only Nis and Pirot as "politically motivated," Reuters reported on 13 October. Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic said that his town was unfairly excluded from the program. The Belgrade regime has denounced the shipments as interference in Serbia's internal affairs. The U.S. State Department has warned that the oil could easily fall into the wrong hands. An EU spokesman said in Brussels on 13 October that the program has a "political element," but he did not elaborate. In Belgrade, Alliance for Change leader Veran Batic argued that the opposition's relations with the EU are "excellent." He referred to some opposition leaders' recent boycott of an EU foreign ministers' meeting as a "minor glitch." PM

ROBERTSON DEFENDS OIL DELIVERIES

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said in Brussels on 14 October that Western countries are justified in using fuel oil deliveries for political purposes. He stressed that it is necessary to show Serbs that "there is a welcome for them in this European family of democratic nations, and there are benefits for them individually and collectively as well as benefits for the whole region, if they reject the regime of Milosevic." Robertson added that "the majority of the people in that country are good and decent people.... We have got to use every means at our disposal to get that message over. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is not Milosevic, Milosevic is not Yugoslavia," Reuters reported. PM

BELGRADE PROVOKING EU?

The Yugoslav government on 13 October named Sinisa Zaric as consul in Milan, Italy. Zaric is one of 308 prominent Yugoslav officials banned by the EU from receiving an entry visa. He is currently the director of the Belgrade Trade Fair. PM

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR KOSOVA 'TRUTH COMMISSION'

Joschka Fischer said in Copenhagen on 13 October that Kosova will need a "truth commission" on the South African model to promote inter-ethnic reconciliation. He noted that "there is a complete segregation between [ethnic] Albanians and Serbs" in the province. And he argued that it is difficult to envision the two peoples living together again. In Prishtina, NATO commander General Klaus Reinhardt told the private news agency Beta that the Serbs and Albanians should do as the Germans did after World War II and orient themselves toward a new life and the future. PM

MORE THAN 400 MASS GRAVES IDENTIFIED IN KOSOVA

A spokesman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said in that Dutch city on 13 October that international forensics experts have found more than 400 mass graves in the province. Some 68 experts are currently working there in five groups. They hope to have completed investigations of 150 sites by the end of October. PM

CARDINAL BLASTS CROATIAN GOVERNMENT 'INTERFERENCE'

Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic, who is the only serving ethnic Croatian cardinal in the Balkans, called "unacceptable" a recent attempt by Croatian government representative Vice Vukojevic to decide who could participate in a commemorative Mass for a Croatian emigre in Paris. Puljic made the remarks at the European Bishops' Synod meeting in Rome, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 14 October. The 10 October Mass was in connection with the reburial in Croatia of an anti- communist journalist. PM

SERBIAN LEGISLATORS APPEAL TO TUDJMAN

The three ethnic Serbian legislators in the Croatian parliament wrote President Franjo Tudjman on 13 October to ask him to block legislation that would reduce from three to one the number of legislative seats reserved for Serbs. Jovan Bamburac, Vojislav Stanimirovic, and Milorad Pupovac wrote that it is "illogical" to reduce the number of seats for Serbs in the wake of the successful reintegration of Serbian-held eastern Slavonia and the beginning of the return of ethnic Serbian refugees, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

DUBROVNIK HOTELS ON THE BLOCK

The Croatian government will soon begin taking bids from interested buyers around the world for 19 Dubrovnik hotels that belonged to the defunct Dubrovacka Banka, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 13 October. Andronico Luksic, who is a Chilean of Croatian origin, has already obtained a 71 percent stake in the Hotel Argentina in the Dalmatian resort town. He previously took control of the Atlas tourist agency. PM

ROMANIAN COALITION PATCHES UP DISAGREEMENTS--FOR NOW

Meeting on 13 October, the leaders of the governing coalition said they have managed to "clarify malfunctions" in the way the alliance works, and they expressed full support for the economic reforms envisaged by the cabinet. The coalition leaders said the special Senate commissions (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 12 October 1999) will hear testimony not only from the heads of the ministries they are investigating but also from "other ministers." Thereafter, a decision will to be taken on whether the investigation is still "warranted." The Democratic Party stressed at the meeting that its members are not opposed to the law on land restitution sponsored by the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic and currently under debate in the Senate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS




EU UNVEILS NEW APPROACH TO EASTWARD ENLARGEMENT


By Breffni O'Rourke

The EU on 13 October announced a radically new approach to the process of enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe.

At the core of the new strategy is the decision to recommend the start of negotiations next year with another six countries: Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria as well as Malta. These countries, regarded as the group of less advanced candidates for membership, will therefore join the six so-called first wave countries-- Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, and Cyprus--which have already opened negotiations with Brussels. In this way, the union will no longer distinguish between first-wave and other candidate countries.

Turkey is now also acknowledged as a formal candidate but is not yet admitted to negotiations, on the grounds that key criteria are not yet met.

In the new negotiations, each country will progress toward meeting membership requirements at its own individual pace, a principle called "differentiation."

The new accession strategy bears the stamp of the EU's first commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen of Germany. Verheugen says the strategy is aimed at balancing two potentially conflicting objectives: namely speed of accession and quality of preparation. He says speed is essential because of the expectations of the candidates, while quality is vital because the EU does not want "partial members" but new members with full rights and responsibilities.

Verheugen also brought more clarity to the vexed question of when new members will be admitted. The report welcomes the fact that some applicants have already set their own target dates and says that the EU Commission will recommend that the EU summit in Helsinki in December commit the EU to be ready to decide from 2002 about the accession of candidates that fulfil the necessary criteria.

Among the individual countries that were not included in the first wave, the progress report names Slovakia as having made good progress during the year, both in terms of democratization and economic reform. However, it says that Slovakia does not yet have a fully functioning market mechanism and in addition needs to do more to implement policy decisions and legislation on administration and the judiciary.

The head of the EU integration section of the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Jan Kuderjavy, told RFE/RL that "this kind of relatively positive evaluation was badly needed [in Slovakia] and now I think everybody can see that the effort that was employed throughout the whole year, since our [reform] government was established last autumn, is bringing already first fruits."

Lithuania, like Slovakia, is not yet regarded as having a full market economy, and in addition is seen as sluggish in adapting its legislation to fit EU norms. Fellow Baltic State Latvia needs to devote serious attention to general public administration and judicial reform but has made good economic progress in the last year. Estonia, which is also doing well economically and is one of the first-wave countries, needs to ensure that its language legislation is implemented in such a way as to comply with international standards.

Turning to Bulgaria and Romania, the report finds that neither country met economic criteria. Bulgaria continues to make significant progress and shows sustained effort but started from a very low level. Romania has, at best, stabilized as compared with last year, the report argues. In the case of both those countries, the EU Commission has set conditions before membership negotiations can begin.

For Bulgaria, those conditions stipulate that it must continue to make economic reform progress and must decide by the end of this year on an acceptable closure date for the risky nuclear reactors at Kozloduy. For Romania, the terms are that it, too, must make continued economic progress, and in view of the large number of orphans in the country it must implement reform of child-care institutions.

The deputy head of Romania's diplomatic mission in Brussels, Viorel Ardeleanu, told RFE/RL that his country will work hard to meet the conditions so that negotiations can begin. He praised the EU's new approach, saying that "the main thing is that all six countries are invited to start negotiations in 2000.... This is an extraordinary signal for the political class and in general for the whole society in Romania."

Turkey, with its long-strained relations with the EU, is a special case. The report recommends that Turkey be made a formal candidate, thereby giving it the prospect of eventual EU membership. But at the same time, the EU declines to open negotiations with Turkey and in this context points to failings of democratization in that country.

The commission urges Ankara to undertake specific steps. These include enhancing domestic political dialogue, with particular reference to improving human rights, revising the way it handles EU financial assistance, and developing a national program for adjusting its legislation to EU norms.

As for the west Balkans, the EU report recommends that EU leaders confirm the prospect of eventual membership for the former Yugoslav states and Albania. But it says that in addition to meeting the usual criteria, those countries will have to recognize one another's borders, settle all issues relating to national minorities, and pursue economic integration in a regional framework.

Looking further afield, the report notes that relations with Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus states and the Maghreb countries of North Africa are of strategic importance to the EU. They should go beyond trade and assistance programs and include issues such as the fight against organized crime, drug trafficking, and migration and environmental policies. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


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