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Newsline - December 10, 1999




YELTSIN, JIANG CALL FOR NON-INTERFERENCE...

At the end of Boris Yeltsin's visit to China on 10 December, the Russian president and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, issued a joint statement stressing their determination to allow no country to "interfere in another sovereign country's attacks against domestic terrorism." AFP quoted that statement as saying that, "Both sides are against the use of placing human rights higher than state sovereignty and using human rights to interfere or to harm an independent country's sovereignty." A separate communique issued alongside the joint statement notes that Russia supports "China's principled stand on the Taiwan issue," while China backs the Russian Federation's "attack against the Chechen terrorist and separatist activities." JC

...STRESS IMPORTANCE OF ABM TREATY

The statement also condemned "unacceptable" attempts to violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, saying that document must be "completely and strictly respected." It added that "the plans of some countries in the Asian Pacific region to take steps to deploy an anti-missile defense system will destroy peace and stability in the region." China and Russia also expressed "deep regrets" over the U.S. Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and, in an apparent reference to NATO, opposed the "reinforcing and expanding of military blocs." At the same time, the two sides noted that their cooperation is not aimed at third countries but is intended to protect their "vital national interests." JC

DUTY BEFORE HEALTH

While Yeltsin's doctors were reported to be angry that the president traveled to China against their recommendations, the president's wife shrugged off her husband's behavior as typical. In remarks broadcast by Russian Television on 9 December, Naina Yeltsin was quoted as saying "we begged him not to go...[but] you know it is useless to ask, it has been the style of his work all his life." "Kommersant-Daily" the same day wrote that Foreign Ministry applied "unprecedented pressure." And it quoted one state official as saying that this was "just the occasion" when Yeltsin's presence in person was "essential," adding that all other considerations were "secondary." "Kommersant- Daily" is largely controlled by business magnate Boris Berezovskii. Before returning to Moscow on 10 December, Yeltsin attended an awards ceremony during which he attempted to fix an award to the chest of a Chinese man instead of the intended recipient, the daughter of China's former leader Deng Xiaoping, NTV reported. JC

PUTIN DOES DAMAGE CONTROL...

Shortly after President Yeltsin's remark in China criticizing U.S. President Bill Clinton (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1999), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told reporters that "I am sure that what both the president of the U.S. and Russia have said is not aimed at [cooling relations]." Putin added that "it is absolutely incorrect to infer from this information that some period of cooling down is beginning between the U.S. and Russia." The same day, State Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) said he regards Yeltsin's statement in Beijing as "unfortunate" (neudachnyi). Lukin, who is a former Russian ambassador to the U.S., added that there is no reason "to out-Americanize the Americans" even when they make tough statements toward Russia. Commenting on Yeltsin's statement, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said that "there is no talk about disrupting realties with Western countries." JAC

...AS ANOTHER U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. HAS LIMITED OPTIONS VIS-A-VIS RUSSIA

Echoing President Clinton's statements of 8 December, U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said on 9 December that the influence of countries like the U.S. over Russian behavior is marginal and limited to supplementing what the Russian government and people want, dpa reported. He said, "The U.S. can't want prosperity more than the people and the government want it. The U.S. role is to supplement government policies, but not replace them." JAC

U.S. OFFICIALS ACCUSE RUSSIA OF EXTENSIVE SPY OPERATION...

The FBI's Assistant Director for National Security Neil Gallagher told reporters on 9 December that the detention of Russian embassy employee Stanislav Gusev in Washington, D.C. on suspicion of spying is only one part of a larger Russian intelligence gathering operation. "I think this incident by itself sends a strong message that there is a very aggressive Russian intelligence presence/operation in the United States," the FBI official said. Gallagher also rejected suggestions by some Russian officials, such as former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Lukin, that Gusev's apprehension was a response to Moscow's detention of U.S. diplomat Cheri Leberknight (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1999). Leberknight left Moscow on 10 December on an Aeroflot flight. AFP quoted U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley as saying that Gusev was an embassy attache, while "The Washington Post" reported that Gusev is a technical expert with the Foreign Intelligence Service who is nearing retirement. JAC

...SAY THEY KNEW ABOUT ALLEGED SPY FOR MONTHS

Gallagher said that Gusev's detention came after months of surveillance, during which security officials monitored Gusev driving his car around the U.S. State Department about once a week, apparently looking for the best location from which to pick up the signal from the listening device planted in one of the department's conference rooms. After the FBI became aware that the device had been planted, it arranged for the disinformation to be fed to Gusev, "The Washington Post" reported on 10 December. Perhaps most suspicious was Gusev's habit of carefully feeding coins into parking meters to avoid a parking ticket: many of Washington's diplomats have been known to plead diplomatic immunity when faced with traffic or parking fines. During one 12-month period, the 122 cars of the Russia's UN mission in New York City accumulated 14,437 parking violations. JAC

SHOIGU CALLS ON MASKHADOV TO LET CIVILIANS LEAVE GROZNY

Russia's Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu on 10 December called on Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to allow civilian residents of Grozny to leave the city "if you are a man," Caucasus Press reported. Shoigu said he is prepare to hold talks with Maskhadov or "with the devil himself" to enable the civilian population to leave. But he stressed he will not discuss any other subject with the Chechen president. Shoigu said that 11 December "is not a deadline after which the corridor for the exit of Grozny residents will be closed," according to ITAR-TASS and AP. He added that the federal forces will cease hostilities and send buses to evacuate the civilian population. LF

FEDERAL FORCES MOVE ON SHALI

Russian troops on 10 December advanced on Shali, southeast of Grozny, Reuters reported. First Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov had told Interfax the previous day he thinks that the Chechen defenders will be driven out of Shali "in the near future." Manilov also again ruled out an all-out Russian assault on Grozny, which is being subjected to uninterrupted bombing. Colonel General Vyachaslav Ovchinnikov, who commands the Russian Interior Ministry forces in Chechnya, similarly said on 9 December that there is no date fixed for storming Grozny. He said that the city is blockaded, and its defenders will not be able to hold out there for long. And he added that "special measures" by "special units" may be used in Grozny, but he did not explain what those measures might be. LF

RUSSIA AGAIN DENIES USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN CHECHNYA

Chechen claims that federal forces have used chemical weapons in Chechnya are "disinformation intended to mislead the international community," an unnamed Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 9 December. Speaking in Istanbul the same day, Chechen presidential emissary Saidhassan Abdumuslimov told journalists that some 31 people died earlier this week as a result of the use of artillery shells containing an unidentified gas in two districts of Grozny on the night of 5 December, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1999). In Chelyabinsk, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov on 9 December ruled out the possibility of Chechen militants purchasing nuclear weapons, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS TARGET QUISLINGS

Some Chechen field commanders have threatened to kill residents of Gudermes and Achkhoi Martan, two towns whose populations surrendered to approaching Russian forces, ITAR- TASS reported on 9 December. Three residents of Gekhi near Urus Martan have been executed by Chechen militants for collaborating with the Russian military, that agency said. Malik Saidullaev, chairman of the pro-Russian Chechen State Council, said in Achkhoi Martan on 9 December that 22 Chechen field commanders have agreed to lay down their arms, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 9 December, administrators of villages in the areas of Chechnya controlled by Russian forces appealed to the Chechen defenders of Grozny to capitulate. LF

NATO COMMANDER SLAMS RUSSIAN TACTICS IN CHECHNYA

Speaking in Washington on 9 December, U.S. Army General Wesley Clarke told journalists that he sees similarities between the Russian tactics currently used in Chechnya and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's offensive against the Kosova Albanians, Reuters reported. Clarke pointed specifically to "the methodology of unrestricted use of fire power" and attacks on civilian targets. But Clarke declined to condemn the Russian tactics as ethnic cleansing and rejected Russian arguments that the Russian military's "anti-terrorist campaign" in Chechnya does not fundamentally differ from the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. LF

SERGEEV: RUSSIA NEEDS NEW WEAPONS TO OVERCOME ANY U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM

In an article published on the front page of "Krasnaya zvezda" on 9 December, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev wrote that Russia must develop new weapons that will be capable of countering any missile defense system that Washington might build, AP reported. Missile defenses currently being developed by the U.S. could render Russian weaponry useless, he noted, adding that "we have the necessary scientific and technological potential...to unveil experimental new types of deterrent weapons within the next few years." He stressed that Russia must begin modernizing its arsenal immediately, adding that any further postponement "may lead to a rapid lag behind the West in the military-technical field." JC

CITY ACCUSES KREMLIN OF STEPPING UP PRESSURE

The Russian Currency and Export Control Service on 9 December imposed a $140 million fine, payable within five days, on the Moscow city government for "breaching currency legislation." City finance official Yurii Roslyn told Interfax that the service's decision is "yet another provocation" in the "political struggle taking place during the run-up to the [State Duma] elections." He added that the city will appeal the fine in court. Previously, analysts predicted that the city of Moscow will have trouble making payments of more than $600 million on Eurobonds due in February and May 2000; however, the city announced on 9 December that it has managed to cut its May payment by more than one half by purchasing some of its debt on secondary markets. Russian agencies reported the previous day that the head of the city's criminal investigation department and its road police department will soon be dismissed. President Yeltsin dismissed the city's police chief on 4 December. JAC

BEREZOVSKII PAPER CLAIMS NEW FAULTLINES EMERGING IN OVR

Referring to unidentified sources, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 December that Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev may announce his departure from the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance. Shaimiev is reportedly unhappy with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's recent announcement that the OVR will cooperate with the Communist Party in the new State Duma on certain issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1999). Luzhkov is the head of Fatherland, while Shaimiev is a founding member of All Russia. According to the daily, which receives funding from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, the information about Shaimiev's departure might have been planted by foes of OVR to discredit it on the eve of the State Duma elections. Some analysts suggested earlier that All Russia and Fatherland will likely go their own ways after the elections, since members of the alliance have diverse political views. More recently, Shaimiev and other All Russia members gave an assessment of the recent treaty with Belarus that differed from Luzhkov's. JAC

BELARUS'S HEADACHES TO BECOME RUSSIA'S

After meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow on 9 December, Prime Minister Putin said the two officials discussed the strengthening the external borders of the united state, customs problems, relations between the two countries' finance ministries and energy trade, Russian Radio reported. Putin added that if Russia and Belarus are going to follow the path of integration, the problems of Belarus will become Russia's problems and vice versa. JAC

LUKOIL PROFITS SOAR...

One of Russia's largest oil companies, LUKoil, recorded profits of $830 million during the first three quarters of 1999, a 207 percent increase over the same period last year, Interfax reported on 9 December. According to AFP, the company's net profits rose four-fold. Rising crude prices, the devaluation of the ruble last year and lower operating costs are credited with boosting profits. Last week, the government slapped higher duties on crude exports in what some analysts are characterizing as the government's attempt to get its share of rising revenues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1999). JAC

...AS GAZPROM'S EXPORT REVENUES SAG

Meanwhile, Gazprom reported that according to preliminary results for 1999, its revenues from gas exports have fallen by $1 billion or 15 percent compared with last year, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 December. According to the newspaper, world gas prices have fallen by 21 percent. On 7 December, the Media-Most group announced that it plans to sell a 12 percent stake to Gazprom, according to Interfax. Gazprom already owns a 30 percent stake in NTV, which is part of Media-Most. Other Media-Most properties are "Segodnya" and the radio station Ekho Moskvy. JAC

LOCAL SCHOOLS SHUT BY TEACHERS' STRIKES

Teachers' strikes are continuing in five Russian regions, according to the union for education and scientific workers, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. The largest action is in Bryansk Oblast, where 225 schools have been shut after some 7,500 teachers declared a three-day strike. In Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva, 2,500 teachers are on strike and some 30 schools and kindergartens have been closed since 11 October. Also affected by the protests are schools in Voronezh and Kostroma Oblasts and the Marii El Republic. In all cases, teachers are demanding payment of back wages. JAC

OLD MASTERS RECOVERED, SUSPECTS NABBED

The St. Petersburg City Police have recovered all 16 paintings stolen from the city's Academy of Arts earlier this week and made two arrests in connection with the theft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1999), ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. According to a police spokesman, the paintings, which are estimated to be worth some $1.1 million, were damaged during the theft. JC




GUNMAN TAKES HOSTAGES IN ARMENIAN INSTITUTE

A 17-year-old sportsman identified as Artem Minasian armed with two hunting rifles briefly took a group of students hostage at Yerevan's Pedagogical Institute on 9 December, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He suffered serious gunshot wounds when police entered the building to disarm him. Noyan Tapan quoted the Prosecutor-General's Office as saying that the gunman hoped to pressure the Armenian government into ensuring that his sporting achievements were entered in the Guinness Book of Records. But student hostages quoted the gunman as saying he wanted to protest the government's policies and as demanding that President Robert Kocharian come to negotiate with him personally. Minasian also said that two of his associates were on standby to blow up seven buildings in the city in the event of his death or arrest. Kocharian negotiated with the five gunmen who killed eight people and held deputies hostage in the Armenian parliament in late October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER WAR IN CHECHNYA

Parliamentary deputies adopted a resolution on 9 December describing Russia's ongoing military campaign in the North Caucasus a threat to peace and stability in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. The statement affirmed Georgia's recognition of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and Georgia's desire for friendly relations with all neighboring states, including Russia. But it also rejected Russian demands for permission to launch operations against Chechen militants from Georgian territory and called on the Russian government to negotiate an end to the conflict. Also on 9 December, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze convened a meeting of power ministers to discuss the situation on the Georgian-Chechen border and to assess Russian allegations that the intelligence services of unnamed countries are planning to perpetrate terrorist acts in Georgia in order to destabilize that country's internal political situation. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CONCLUDES VISIT TO JAPAN

Visiting Tokyo on 5-8 December, Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono. Nazarbaev and Obuchi signed a joint statement on friendship and partnership in the 21st century. Japan agreed to advance $1.2 million in credits for eight construction projects, including repair of highways in western Kazakhstan, modernization of the Atyrau oil refinery, and construction of an oil pipeline from Atyrau to Kenkiyak. LF

OPPOSITION PARTY IN KAZAKHSTAN COMPLAINS OF HARASSMENT

Lawyer Oleg Sunkov, who represents the Azamat Party, told journalists in Almaty on 10 December that tax police searched his office earlier this week and confiscated materials on the activities of the pro-presidential Civic Party, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The previous day, Temirtas Tleleusov, author of a book detailing the illegal activities of some members of the leadership of the South Kazakhstan Oblast, was attacked and badly beaten in the town of Shymkent. His son told RFE/RL that he has been hospitalized. Local police deny any knowledge of the attack. LF

TAJIK PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAW

Lawmakers on 10 December passed the law on parliamentary elections agreed on by the government and opposition last week, Asia Plus-Blitz reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1999). Also on 10 December, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted that despite President Imomali Rakhmonov's recent decree calling for measures on political liberalization, the Supreme Court has annulled the registration by the Justice Ministry of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (Tehran Platform) on the grounds that the information provided by that party of the number of members in its local branches was inaccurate. The Supreme Court earlier banned the Agrarian Party and the Party of National Unity and annulled the registration of both the Justice and Development and the Renaissance of Tajikistan parties. The Justice Ministry has refused to register the Party of the National Movement of Tajikistan. LF

OSCE DECLINES TO MONITOR TURKMEN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

An OSCE spokesman said in Vienna on 9 December that the organization will not send even a "limited assessment" mission to monitor the 12 December parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. President Saparmurat Niyazov had requested a full monitoring mission during talks in Ashgabat in October with OSCE Chairman In Office Knut Vollebaek. But the OSCE said that the election framework "falls far short of what is required for democratic elections." Specifically, he noted that no provision has been made for non-government political parties to contest the poll, the executive controlled the nomination of candidates, and freedoms necessary for any level of political activity were severely restricted. A total of 102 candidates, some independents and some representing the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, are competing for the 50 mandates in the new parliament. LF

TURKMENISTAN ASKS EBRD TO RECONSIDER LOAN

Turkmenistan has asked the EBRD to reconsider providing a $50 million loan for the reconstruction of the Ashgabat-Mary highway, Interfax reported on 8 December quoting an unidentified government source. Turkmenistan rejected the EBRD's terms for that loan last month, saying it will raise alternative funding for the project. On 9 December, Interfax reported that President Niyazov had completed a visit to western regions of the country, during which he witnessed the beginning of construction of the Geoktepe-Turkmenbashi highway. That project, which will cost an estimated $525 million, is being implemented by a Turkmen-Iranian joint venture and financed by Turkmenistan's state transport and communications fund. LF




BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE TO RATIFY UNION TREATY ON 14 DECEMBER

Anatol Malafeyeu, chairman of the Belarusian Chamber of Representatives, said on 9 December that the Belarusian legislature will debate ratification of the Belarus- Russia union state treaty on 14 December, Belapan reported. The Russian State Duma is expected to ratify the treaty one day earlier. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REPORTED TO HAVE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR REFORM

Ukrainian presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said President Leonid Kuchma's reform program received support from world political and financial leaders during his recent visits to Moscow, Brussels, Paris, and Washington, Interfax reported on 9 December. Martynenko added that "it is possible today to speak about the reality of Ukraine's integration into the European community and about the fact that Russia and the U.S. are strategic partners of our country." According to Martynenko, Ukraine may expect a $370 million loan from the World Bank in 2000. The loan was agreed at a meeting between Kuchma and World Bank President James Wolfenson in Washington earlier this week. JM

UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANK REFUSES TO PREVENT FALL OF HRYVNYA

Traders at the interbank exchange , were selling hryvnya at 5.28-5.55 to $1 on 9 December, while street traders offered an exchange rate of 5.75 hryvni to $1, AP reported. The National Bank, however, said it does not plan to intervene and expects the hryvnya to strengthen soon. A bank official quoted by the agency said the factors forcing the hryvnya's decline are concerns over the parliament's possible failure to adopt a budget and over Ukraine's debts. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION EXPANDED

Communist leader Petro Symonenko told Interfax on 9 December that the communist parliamentary caucus is going to make the country's leadership "consider the possibility" of Ukraine's joining the Russia-Belarus union treaty. "Under circumstances of the financial and political expansion of cultures alien to us...this union is a positive phenomenon also for Ukraine," Symonenko noted. JM

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW LANGUAGE LAW...

Lawmakers on 9 December approved the new language law by a vote of 52 to 26. The parliament originally passed the law on 8 July, but a week later President Vaira Vike-Freiberga returned it so that it could be revised to conform to European norms (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 July 1999). The president said on 9 December that she was satisfied and that the law "fully complies with our international legal obligations," BNS reported. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel also said that the law is "essentially in conformity" with international norms. The law regulates language use in the public sphere and in some areas of the private sector if public safety, health and other issues are concerned. The law also requires public events and meetings of state-controlled companies to be in Latvian or translated into Latvian. MH

...EXTENDS PORK TARIFFS

The parliament also voted to continue to implement import tariffs for pork, LETA reported. The bill, which sailed through after being deemed "urgent," extends the tariffs for another year. The temporary measure to impose tariffs on pork was introduced on 27 May and was to have to expired on 18 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 28 May 1999). Lithuania and Estonia, as well as the European Commission, had urged Latvia not to extend the tariffs. ETA noted that Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves has suggested taking the issue to the WTO, as both Latvia and Estonia are members of the organization. MH

POLAND OPPOSES SETTING EU ENTRY DATE FOR 2004...

Jan Kulakowski, Poland's chief negotiator for EU accession, said on 9 December that Poland does not agree with European Commission President Romano Prodi's recent suggestion that Poland's EU entry date be set for 2004 rather than 2003, as proposed by the Polish government, PAP reported. Kulakowski added that Poland "will fight" for the 2003 accession date. According to Kulakowski, the negotiations on Poland's EU membership will be completed by the end of 2000 or in the first half of 2001 "at the latest." Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, speaking on a private radio station the same day, confirmed that the year 2003 is a "feasible" date for Poland's EU accession. JM

...DECIDES NOT TO SEEK EU TRANSITION PERIOD FOR AGRICULTURE

The government decided on 9 December that Poland will not request a transition period to modernize its agricultural sector when it joins the EU. Joining the EU without the transition period will mean that the EU will give Poland the equivalent of 10 billion zlotys ($2.3 billion) a year to upgrade agriculture during its first years in the union, AP reported. JM

POLAND TO SIGN VISA-FREE TRAVEL ACCORD WITH ISRAEL

PAP reported on 9 December that the plans to sign a visa-free traffic accord with Israel are the most important result of Premier Jerzy Buzek's three-day visit to that country. Buzek told the agency that the Israeli side assured him it will oppose attempts to blame Poles for the Holocaust. JM

EU INVITES SIX MORE COUNTRIES TO MEMBERSHIP TALKS

A spokesman for the Finnish president on 10 December said EU leaders decided the same day to invite Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, along with Malta, to start membership talks, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The EU is holding a summit in Helsinki. VG

CZECH LOWER HOUSE PASSES REFERENDUMS BILL

The Czech Chamber of Deputies on 9 December passed a constitutional bill on referendums, Czech media reported. The bill enables the president to call a referendum on the country's entry into the EU if the government, two-fifths of deputies, or two-fifths of senators request it. A referendum on constitutional changes can be called if 250,000 citizens sign a petition requesting it. The same day, the lower house also passed a bill on compensation for World War II veterans and their families. Under the bill, the state would pay 120,000 crowns ($3,500) to veterans who fought in any foreign army against the Nazis for more than one year or were injured in combat. Veterans who fought for less than one year are to receive 60,000 crowns. And the Senate on 9 December passed a bill on lifting the statute of limitations on communist crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1999). Meanwhile, the "coalition of four" opposition parties and the Impulse 99 civic initiative announced that they will cooperate on formulating ideas in advance of the next elections, CTK reported. VG

HUNGARY, CZECH REPUBLIC WANT EU MEMBERSHIP IN 2003

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and his visiting Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, on 9 December said they would like their countries to gain EU membership in 2003, CTK reported. Both ministers added that they will ask the EU to include Slovakia in the EU's Schengen border control regime before it enters the EU. Czech Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus, who also met with Martonyi, said the Hungarian minister told him that "rivalry among individual candidate countries" would be a "big mistake." Klaus noted that he agreed with Martonyi on this matter. Finally, the Hungarian minister joined President Vaclav Havel in condemning human rights violations in Chechnya. VG

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT ELECTS NATIONAL PROPERTY FUND HEADS

Legislators on 9 December elected Jozef Kojda and Pavol Hulik as president and vice president, respectively, of the National Property Fund, TASR reported. They also elected Jozef Stahl as head of the Supreme Auditor's Office. The vote comes after the parliament's rejection of two previous candidates on 30 November and weeks of divisive negotiations within the governing coalition over filling the positions in the two institutions. Kojda was the candidate of the Democratic Party, which is a member of the Slovak Democratic Coalition. In other news, the Slovak Statistical Office announced that GDP in Slovakia increased by 1.8 percent in the first three quarters of this year. VG

HUNGARIAN JOURNALIST'S CAR EXPLODES

A car owned by Hungarian journalist and humorist Tivadar Farkashazy exploded in front of his home after an unidentified person doused it with gasoline and set it ablaze, AP reported. Farkashazy was among 13 journalists whom Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. recently described as "hired tools" of the communists. He is the editor in chief of the biweekly "Hocipoe." In other news, Hungary's three largest railway unions announced on 9 December that they will stage a nine- hour railway strike on 20 December to push for wage increases, Reuters reported. The unions are demanding a 14 percent increase, while the national railway company MAV is insisting on a 5.88 percent raise. VG

HUNGARY TO HAVE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM

Culture Minister Jozsef Hamori on 9 December announced that the government plans to renovate and convert a disused Jewish synagogue in Budapest into a Holocaust museum. The government will cover the 350 million forint ($1.40 million) cost of the project. The museum is expected to open in 2001. Hamori said the museum will fulfill an "old and just demand of both the Jewish community and the Hungarian nation as a whole." He added that it will serve as a memorial to the estimated 600,000 Jews and 30,000 Roma from Hungary who died in the Holocaust. VG

HUNGARY INVESTIGATING 'FALSE LETTERS' TO WORLD BANK

Hungarian police are investigating allegations that unidentified suspects sent forged letters to senior World Bank officials in the name of Finance Minister Zsigmond Jarai, according to an MTI report cited by the BBC. Gabor Szabo, head of the office of the minister without portfolio responsible for the civilian secret services, said the forgery affair could "endanger the stability of the Hungarian economy" and discredit the government. VG




YUGOSLAV ARMY WARNS MONTENEGRO OVER AIRPORT...

The Yugoslav army said in a statement on 9 December that Montenegro's leaders should not do anything to challenge the army's authority in the military areas of Podgorica airport (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1999). The army command warned against further attempts by Montenegrin police to build a hangar for their helicopters on what the army regards as its property. According to the statement, "attempting to perform work in this manner, and provoking a situation likely to lead to an incident, could have unfathomable consequences for peace and stability in Montenegro." The army "will continue to prevent illegal usurpation attempts against its property and land," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

...AS DOES SESELJ

In Belgrade on 9 December, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj also warned the Montenegrin authorities: "The Podgorica airport is both civilian and military. It is of strategic importance for the defense of the country.... The federal air control [sic] must have all authority in Montenegro as far as air traffic is concerned and control of all [air] entries into the country," AP reported. PM

MONTENEGRO PLAYS DOWN INCIDENT

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic told the BBC on 10 December that his government reached an "arrangement" the previous day with the Yugoslav military, which led to the reopening of the airport without further incident. He denied that the government has backed down from its intention to take full control of the airport, saying that a decision on that issue will be announced at the next meeting of the cabinet. He added, however, that that session has been "postponed" because of unspecified "other reasons." Perovic thanked Western leaders for their warnings to Belgrade over the incident, adding that such statements should be made "every day." PM

U.S., NATO EXPRESS CONCERN

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a news conference in Egypt on 9 December that "we have concerns about what is going on" in Montenegro, AP reported. She stressed U.S. support for Podgorica. In Washington, NATO commander U.S. General Wesley Clark noted that "the situation is very tense in Montenegro. We know that there are pressures and intimidation coming from Serbia and [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic. We are watching this very, very closely.... It has been made very clear to Mr. Milosevic that he should not--and must not--interfere" in Montenegro. PM

BELGRADE REGIME'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST OPPOSITION CONTINUES

Third Army Commander General Nebojsa Pavkovic said that former army chief-of-staff General Momcilo Perisic "worked for a long time in the interest of the Western powers" before Milosevic fired him in November 1998. Pavkovic characterized Perisic's behavior toward the EU and NATO as "servile," the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 10 December. Perisic now heads a small opposition party, the Movement for a Democratic Serbia. In Belgrade on 9 December, an unspecified number of police forced their way into the offices of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement. They "were looking for" three of Draskovic's aides who had previously accused the authorities of conducting "state terrorism" against their leader, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN COURT SENTENCES KOSOVAR RIGHTS ACTIVIST

Judge Marina Milanovic told her court in Nis on 9 December that she has sentenced Kosovar medical doctor and human rights activist Flora Brovina to 12 years in prison for providing aid and comfort to "terrorists" of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) during the recent conflict in the troubled province. Brovina has denied the charges and called the trial "political." Gradimir Nalic, who leads an organization of Yugoslav human rights lawyers, said that the sentence will only encourage Albanian judges in Kosova to pass tough sentences on Serbs. He added that Milanovic's ruling "reveals the state's negligence towards Serbs" in Kosova. In Washington, the State Department's special Balkan envoy James Dobbins said that the trial was "severely flawed" and urged Belgrade to overturn the conviction. PM

STATE DEPARTMENT PUTS KOSOVA DEATHS AT 10,000

"The number of victims whose bodies have been burned or destroyed may never be known, but enough evidence has emerged to conclude that probably around 10,000 Kosovar Albanians were killed by Serbian forces" in the conflict in the first half of 1999. This was the principal finding of the study "Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting," which the U.S. State Department released on 9 December in Washington. PM

KOUCHNER 'SUSPENDS' OPPONENT OF FRENCH TELEPHONE DEAL

On 9 December, the UN's Bernard Kouchner suspended Agron Dida as head of the post and telecommunications service in Kosova. Kouchner said that Dida was "uncooperative" by refusing to sign an agreement with the French firm Alcatel to establish a mobile telephone system in the province (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 November 1999). Dida argued that a rival offer by the German firm Siemens was more advantageous to Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kouchner is French. PM

CROATIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS STATE-RUN TV

The six main opposition parties said in a statement in Zagreb on 10 December that state-run television continues its long- standing bias toward the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The parties charged that broadcasts paint an idyllic picture of the current situation and spread fear of change. The parties called for an end to the bias in the runup to the 3 January parliamentary elections, AP reported. For years, the opposition, EU, U.S., and numerous NGOs at home and abroad have criticized the pro-HDZ orientation of state- run television and demanded that it present more balanced coverage. PM

ROMANIAN RAILWAY STRIKE ENTERS FIFTH DAY

Romanian railway workers began the fifth day of their strike on 10 December after union leaders the previous day had again failed to reach an agreement with the Transport Ministry on wage hikes. Prime Minister Radu Vasile took part in the 9 December negotiations. Union leader Gheorghe Sultana said Transport Minister Traian Basescu "showed no understanding for our problems." The unions are calling for a 70 percent raise, while Basescu has offered a 20 percent hike. The Supreme Court is expected to decide on 10 December on the legality of the strike; if it declares the action illegal, railway employees will have to resume work. Meanwhile, an official from the Jiu Valley coal field said that if the strike continues, coal production may have to stop on 11 December owing to a lack of trains to transport cargo, Reuters reported. VG

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES RESTITUTION LAW

Romanian legislators on 9 December passed a bill on the limited restitution of farmland seized by the former communist regime. The bill provides for the restitution of up to 50 hectares of farmland and 10 hectares of forest to original owners. The parliament passed the bill in a joint sitting of the lower and upper houses. The bill must now be signed by President Emil Constantinescu. VG

ROMANIA SEEKS TO IMPROVE TRADE TIES WITH IRAQ

Romanian Secretary of State for Trade Sorin Potanc met with the Iraqi Transport Ministry's senior undersecretary, Jameel Ibrahim, on 9 December in Baghdad for talks on improving trade relations, according to an INA report cited by Reuters. Iraqi Communications and Transport Minister Ahmed Murtada Ahmed Khalil said he hopes Romanian firms can help meet his country's transportation needs as part of the UN oil-for-food deal with Iraq. VG

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW PRIME MINISTER- DESIGNATE

Presidential spokesman Antol Golea on 9 December confirmed that President Petru Lucinschi will ask Ion Casian to form a new government, BASA-Press reported. The 49-year-old Casian is the deputy manager of the Ericsson company's office in Moldova and a former communications and information minister. Casian on 9 December said a majority should be formed among the parties in the parliament to support his candidacy, Infotag reported on 10 December. VG

U.S. LAUNCHES AID PROGRAM FOR BULGARIA

The U.S. on 9 December inaugurated a $4 million aid program for Bulgarian towns along the River Danube that have been affected by the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia earlier this year, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The towns depend heavily on the Danube as a trade route, but the river has been blocked since the bombing. VG

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT PREPARES FOR Y2K

The Bulgarian government on 9 December declared 3 January a non-working day in preparation for any potential Y2K problems, AP reported. Meanwhile, the Plama oil refinery announced that it will temporarily suspend operations at the turn of the new year to deal with potential disruptions in electricity and natural gas supplies. In other news, an explosion took place on Sofia's Narodno Subranie Square across from the parliament building, BTA reported. The blast broke the windows of a nearby cafe and bank, but no injuries were reported. Police are investigating the incident. VG




TIMOTHY GARTON ASH DISCUSSES 1989


Timothy Garton Ash, the well-known British

contemporary historian and a fervent advocate of rapid EU expansion to Eastern Europe, spoke to Elena Nikleva of RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service last month. Garton Ash was in Prague to moderate a high-level conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 1999).

Asked about the several new dividing lines in Europe that he believes have replaced the Berlin Wall, Garton Ash responded that "there are now many dividing lines instead of one, and I think in 10 years' time there will be still many dividing lines. But I think one of the most dangerous doctrines of the [1990s] has been what I call vulgar Huntingtonism--the idea propagated by the [U.S.] political scientist Samuel Huntington that the great and enduring divide in Europe is precisely between the area that had Western Christianity and the area that had Orthodox Christianity or Islam."

Garton Ash said that he has never supported "that sort of cultural determinism and I think it is both analytically wrong and politically misguided. I think it is terribly important that the process of the enlargement of the European Union and of Western structures continues and remains open not just to countries like Bulgaria, but also to parts of the former Soviet Union."

Nikleva asked Garton Ash whether he agreed that only politicians--not ordinary people--were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Wasn't this another new dividing line, one between elites and the people?

"You are absolutely right that the celebrations of the 10th anniversary have been largely media events and political events rather than popular events. Both in Berlin and here in Prague, I think there is a painful contrast between then and now, but that's perhaps not surprising. And of course one of the new divisions which you get, particularly in capitalism, is the division between rich and poor. But I don't think, whatever the odd public opinion poll says, that a majority of East Germans or even a significant minority of East Germans would want the old system back. Nor would I think [does] anyone else in post-communist CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE."

How long does Garton Ash think it will take for the three Baltic States and the Balkan countries to attain full EU membership?

"I think that there is a good chance that in the next 10 years southeastern Europe and indeed the Baltic States could come into a larger EU. I think the process of [EU] enlargement will continue and I think that the great challenge of the next 10 years is probably not southeastern Europe actually--because I think that this process has already begun, the process of enlargement--but the former Soviet Union, and there I think you could see a big dividing line between the former Soviet Union and the West of Europe. I believe [that] because of the West's engagement in the Kosovo war most politicians in the West now recognize that we have to get serious about reintegration of the Balkans [into Europe]. Whether deeds will follow words, I'm not sure, but I believe I am going to be cautiously optimistic about that in the medium term."

If "Europe" doesn't end in Central Europe, then where in his view does it end?

"Europe doesn't end, it fades away. It fades away across the Eurasian continent somewhere between Moscow and Vladivostok. And it fades away into Turkey. These are the two open frontiers of Europe, and only a fool would say Europe ends here and draw a sharp line on the map. Frankly, [in the past] for most West Europeans, Europe ended on the East German border; and even today for many West Europeans, Europe ends on the Polish frontier. That's actually a considerable achievement for those of us who have advocated enlargement--that the definition of Europe even extends this far, and it even includes...Central Europe. My point is that that has set a precedent. And indeed the new European [Union] Executive Commission under [President] Romano Prodi has recognized this fact and they now envisage an EU of 30 to 35 states."

Finally, Nikleva asked Garton Ash about the paradox that while there is much talk about the new millennium, there is not much talk about a new morality. Doesn't Europe need a new morality for the new millennium?

"Well, it would be very nice, wouldn't it? There is a sense that something is going wrong in the sort of model of consumer democracy that post-communist Europe is taking over from the West--a bad copy of the West. I think in this part of the world--and by this part of the world I mean Bulgaria as well as the Czech Republic [and elsewhere]--you sense this malaise of consumer democracy. My contribution as a writer is to analyze the malaise, to expose it and certainly I think that better political leadership--a leadership that puts the long term before the short term--is one of the answers we need. But we also need more critical intellectuals who point out these problems and try to drag people away from the television screens."


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