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Newsline - May 10, 2000




PUTIN REVIEWS VICTORY DAY PARADE

Standing in front of the Lenin mausoleum next to his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, newly inaugurated President Vladimir Putin reviewed a parade in Red Square on 9 May marking the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Among those marching past the reviewing stand were veterans of that conflict, students from Defense Ministry institutions, paratroopers, marines, and Interior Ministry troops, including 780 who fought with distinction in Chechnya. PG

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA IS 'IN ONE RANK ONCE AGAIN'...

Addressing the marchers, President Putin said that "today we are in one rank once again, holding the glorious banner of Victory," Interfax reported. He added that military victories "will help us in peacetime assist our generation in building a strong and prosperous country and raise high the Russian banner of democracy and freedom." Putin continued that "we know that peace means, above all, a strong economy and the well-being of the people--the basic components of Russia's internal and external strength and of its defense capability." And he pledged that "we will pass this main military secret over to our children." PG

...AND A 'VICTOR COUNTRY'

President Putin told a reception at the State Kremlin Palace on 9 May that "Russia from time immemorial was a victor country, a peaceful country, but [one] respecting itself and its national dignity," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin added that "it will remain this way in the future--we know and we promise this firmly." He said that the current generation "promises to continue the victories" of the war veterans. And he called on veterans to get ready for the next victory parade: "As supreme commander, I give the veterans this task: all prepare for the next victory parade on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of victory. All fall in line." PG

VICTORY DAY PARADES HELD ACROSS RUSSIA

Parades and fireworks took place across the Russian Federation and other post- Soviet states on 9 May, with the largest outside Moscow occurring in the "Hero Cities" of St. Petersburg, Volgograd, Novorossiisk, Tula, Smolensk, Murmansk, and Sevastopol, ITAR- TASS reported. Smaller gatherings took place in Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Chita, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Severomorsk, and elsewhere. PG

LEFTIST PARTIES STAGE COUNTERDEMONSTRATION

The Communist Party and the Working Russian movement on 9 May led a counterdemonstration in Moscow, Interfax reported. Carrying red banners and portraits of Stalin and World War II commanders, the marchers were told by Aleksandr Kuvaev, the first secretary of the Moscow City Committee of the Russian Communist Party, that "the greatness and significance of the heroic feat of the Soviet people and their role in defending the world from the brown plague of fascism" is inestimable. PG

1945 VICTORY VIEWED AS ONLY GLUE HOLDING RUSSIA TOGETHER

Writing in the English-language "Moscow Times" on 9 May, one veteran suggested that the current Russian government is exploiting the anniversary to generate support. Viktor Rodionov said that "today's authorities understand that remembrance of that victory long ago is the sole element that binds the nation together as one family." PG

LUKIN SAYS DUMA WILL BACK ANY PUTIN NOMINEE FOR PREMIER

State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) told Ekho Moskvy on 9 May that the Duma will "react positively" to almost any proposed candidate for prime minister, Interfax reported on 9 May. He said that the Duma "is set to grant the current president credit in the form of a positive vote on any significant issue," and he predicted that "a significant majority" of the Duma will vote for a prime ministerial candidate without "considering the bad or good aspects of the draft national development concept but purely on political grounds." PG

SENIOR CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICIAL APPREHENDED

A senior official in the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed on 10 May that Chechen National Security Service head Ibragim Khultygov has been detained by Russian intelligence in the village of Meskety, in southeastern Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Khultygov was appointed to that post in August 1998, two months after his brother Lecha, who had served in the same capacity, was shot dead in Grozny in a standoff with supporters of maverick Chechen field commander Salman Raduev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June and 25 August 1998). On 9 May, the Russian Interior Ministry reported that some 19,000 people have been screened in Chechnya in recent days as part of an operation to preempt terrorist acts during the celebration of VE Day, ITAR-TASS reported. Ten people were detained and quantities of arms and ammunition confiscated. LF

RUSSIAN BOND RATINGS RISE

Fitch IBCA, an international bond rating service, on 9 May increased its ratings on Russian Eurobonds from CCC to B- and its short-term currency ratings from C to B, Interfax reported. IBCA said that the risk of Russian default has decreased because of economic growth, increased reserves, and progress toward rescheduling foreign debt. PG

EU'S QUOTAS ON RUSSIAN STEEL SEEN AS TEST

Vasilii Likhachev, the Russian ambassador to the EU, explained to Interfax on 8 May how issues concerning EU quotas on Russian steel could become a test of bilateral cooperation mechanisms. A solution of the current conflict would advance relations, he said. A failure to find a solution, on the other hand, could have negative effects, he added. PG

ALEKSII II TO JAPAN

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II left for a 10-day visit to Japan on 9 May, ITAR- TASS reported. He will participate in the inauguration of a new head of the Japanese Autocephalous Orthodox Church. On his departure from Japan, Aleksii will visit Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East. PG

EXPLORATORY DRILLING TO BEGIN ON SAKHALIN

RAO Rosneft and its Sakhalinmorneftegaz announced plans on 9 May to begin exploratory drilling in July on the Sakhalin-4 oil project, ITAR-TASS reported. The launch of this project was delayed after the withdrawal of Atlantic Richfield from the venture. PG

RUSSIAN KOSOVA COMMANDER SAYS NO MAJOR DIFFERENCES WITH NATO

Lieutenant General Valerii Yevtukhovich, the commander of the KFOR Russian military contingent, told ITAR-TASS on 9 May that there are no major differences between Russian and NATO forces over peacekeeping operations in Kosova. "A constructive interaction with the command of foreign military contingents has been established, and confidence and cooperation are being mounted," Yevtukhovich added. He said that Moscow will most probably extend the mandate of its forces there if the UN Security Council allows NATO's mandate to continue. PG

ANOTHER RUSSIAN HOSTAGE FREED IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone rebels released another Russian officer on 9 May, Interfax reported. Another Russian officer is still being held but is reportedly in good condition. The two were among a large group of UN mission observers who were captured by the rebels last week. PG

RUSSIAN TAX POLICE FIND DISMANTLED MIGS

Russian tax police discovered three dismantled MiG jet fighters and some 200 artillery shells during a raid on the Fenix metal trading business in Rostov-on--Don, AP reported on 5 May. PG

SURVIVORS OF 1960 BAIKONUR ACCIDENT RECEIVE AWARD

Five engineers who suffered injuries in October 1960 when a Soviet intercontinental missile exploded at the Baikonur launch site were awarded the Order of Courage by the Strategic Rocket Forces on 7 May, Interfax reported. PG

POSSIBLE HEMORRHAGIC FEVER OUTBREAK IN STAVROPOL

Seven people have been hospitalized in Stavropol Krai after being diagnosed with hemorrhagic fever, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Last year, this disease claimed three lives in that region. PG




TASK FORCE ASSESSES U.S. AID TO ARMENIA

The U.S.-Armenian task force created in January to improve the effectiveness of U.S. economic aid to Armenia held its first meeting in Yerevan on 8-9 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. U.S. coordinator Bill Taylor and Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Levon Barkhudarian both assessed the talks as positive. Taylor told journalists that the two sides are aware of the problems that need to be resolved, including improving Armenia's investment climate and amending restrictive tax and customs regulations. Taylor also said that Armenia's "place and role" in the regional energy system was discussed, but he gave no details. On 5 May, the head of Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power station, Suren Azatian, told Snark that Russia and Armenia intend to intensify their cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy, according to Groong. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS U.S. KARABAKH MEDIATOR

Carey Cavanaugh, the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is mediating a solution of the Karabakh conflict, told Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev in Baku on 9 May that ways of resolving that conflict will be among the topics discussed during U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to Moscow next month, Reuters reported. Cavanaugh expressed the hope that "real results in strengthening peace" can be achieved in the next few months. Meeting on 8 May with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev, Cavanaugh stressed the need, which he said the Armenian government also recognizes, for measures to strengthen the cease-fire along the Line of Contact, which separates Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI TAX POLICE TARGET OPPOSITION JOURNAL

Tax officials on 8 May sealed the Baku offices of the "Monitor Weekly," accusing its editor of failing to present financial data for the first three months of the year, AP and Interfax reported. The journal's editor, Elmar Huseinov, said that accusation was unfair as he has not yet received the required audit from the tax directorate. He attributed the move to official displeasure with the weekly's criticism of the president. "Monitor Weekly" began publication one year ago. Its predecessor, "Monitor," ceased publication in the summer of 1998 after a Baku court fined it for insulting senior officials. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES 'NEUTRAL' CANDIDATE FOR STATE MINISTER

Eduard Shevardnadze has proposed Kakheti Governor Gia Arsenishvili as minister of state, Caucasus Press reported. Arsenishvili, 58, is a former mathematics professor. whom observers consider a "compromise" candidate selected in order to avoid having to choose between outgoing State Minister Vazha Lortkipanidze and parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, who were considered rivals for the post (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 17, 28 April 2000). Mikhail Saakashvili, who heads the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia parliamentary faction, characterized Arsenishvili as "uncorrupted," adding that "he has all the preconditions for conducting an independent economic policy." But Saakashvili noted that Georgian "oligarchs" oppose Arsenishvili and are lobbying for their own candidate, whom he did not identify. LF

GEORGIAN CUSTOMS DENIES AFGHAN MISSILES STORED IN TBILISI

The Georgian Customs Department has rejected as fabricated media reports that S-3 and S-8 missiles supplied by the Taliban to the Chechens are being stored at a customs terminal in Tbilisi, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported on 9 May. The department says it fully controls all military cargo transiting Georgia. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIALS ASSESS THREAT FROM TALIBAN...

General Bakhytzhan Ertaev, who is commander-in-chief of Kazakhstan's armed forces, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 10 May that the Taliban pose a serious threat to Central Asia, including Kazakhstan. But he added that Kazakhstan's armed forces are able to repel any offensive from that quarter. Late last month "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Kazakhstan's Premier and former Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev as saying that "we are not saying that there is a direct threat to Kazakhstan, but our geo-political situation is such that we have to think about our army." Ertaev said that a reform of the armed forces is under way. LF

...AND FROM LOCUSTS

Touring Aqmola Oblast earlier this week, Kazakhstan's Deputy Premier Daniyal Akhmetov warned that the Agriculture Ministry currently has sufficient anti-locust pesticides to protect only 4 million of the total 7 million hectares of wheat fields threatened by a recurrence of last summer's plague of locusts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 10 May. He said that the National Security Ministry is investigating why most of the anti-locust pesticides purchased are not suitable for use with Kazakh farm machinery. Reuters on 13 April reported that the Kazakh government had spent $18 million on such chemicals. LF

TAJIKISTAN SEEK WAYS TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY

An IMF mission arrived in Dushanbe on 8 May to advise the Tajik government on the drafting of a long-term program "On the strategy of poverty alleviation and economic growth," Asia Plus-Blitz reported. According to a report on poverty in Tajikistan prepared by the World Bank and cited by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 May, 96 percent of Tajikistan's population live below the subsistence minimum, 80 percent in poverty, and one-third in extreme poverty. State sector employees receive an average monthly salary of $3-5, but some 20 percent of the population are paid less than $1.075 a month. Most people blame the catastrophic economic situation on government incompetence and corruption. Almost 80 percent of the foreign credits Tajikistan has received have been used to shore up the country's balance of payments. LF




BELARUS HOLDS MILITARY PARADE TO MARK VE DAY

Some 4,000 servicemen and 150 military vehicles took part in a 9 May military parade in Minsk to mark the 55th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Belarusian Television reported. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in an statement issued one day earlier that Belarus made a "great contribution" to defeating fascism because it was "the first [Soviet republic] to receive the main blow of the Hitlerites and foiled their plan of a blitzkrieg." Lukashenka noted that now "the Belarusian people are purposefully materializing a dream of many generations by building a prosperous and independent state." According to him, the Russian-Belarusian Union is a "guarantor of the security and independence" of Belarus. Belarusian oppositionists laid a wreath at the obelisk on Victory Square in Minsk on 9 May to commemorate the "fighters against Nazism," Belapan reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER GETS ENCOURAGEMENT BUT NO LOAN PLEDGES FROM WASHINGTON

Viktor Yushchenko held several meetings with top U.S. officials as well as the IMF and World Bank heads in Washington over the past two days in a bid to repair his country's image after an audit had revealed irregularities in dealings with the IMF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2000). U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Yushchenko that Washington will use a "constructive policy" to help restore cooperation between the IMF and Ukraine, including the resumption of a frozen $2.6 billion loan. U.S. President Bill Clinton praised "Ukraine's progress" and encouraged "efforts to integrate Ukraine more fully into the rest of Europe," according to AP. Yushchenko discussed Ukraine-IMF relations with the fund's new head, Horst Koehler, but an official statement did not mention when and if the fund will resume lending. JM

UKRAINIAN VETERANS, LEFTISTS MARCH ON VE DAY

Some 2,000 war veterans marched in downtown Kyiv on 9 May in an official ceremony to mark VE Day, Interfax reported. Later, 2,500 representatives of leftist parties staged another march, carrying red flags and portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Also on 9 May, President Leonid Kuchma visited his father's grave in Russia's Novgorod Oblast, where the latter died at the front in 1942. Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch called for reconciliation between Soviet veterans and those of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The UPA was a 40,000- strong nationalist force that fought German troops as well as Polish and Soviet guerrillas in Nazi-occupied Ukraine in a bid to establish an independent Ukrainian state. UPA veterans have not been officially recognized by the government and do not have the right to social benefits, unlike their Soviet counterparts. JM

BALTIC COUNTRIES MARK VE DAY

Leftist organizations and Soviet war veterans commemorated the end of World War II in Europe in all three Baltic countries, BNS reported 9 May. In Estonia, Red Army veterans met at a memorial to the fallen in central Tallinn, where some 1,000 people, mostly pensioners, assembled peacefully. In Riga, Latvia more than 1,000 people, mostly war veterans, gathered near the Victory Monument, carrying red flags and distributing leaflets with a picture of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The Russian ambassador and a Belarusian diplomat participated in wreath-laying ceremonies. Latvian parliamentary deputy Janis Jurkans and leftist leader Alfreds Rubiks also attended. In Vilnius, some 3,000 Soviet veterans gathered at the Antakalnis cemetery near the graves of their comrades and lit an eternal flame. The Russian and Belarusian ambassadors and the Charge d'Affaires of Ukraine joined Democratic Labor Party leader and MP Ceslovas Jursenas and Socialist Party leader Mindaugas Stakvilevicius in wreath-laying ceremonies. ELTA reported that 10 pro-Chechen demonstrators scuffled with the veterans in a parking lot adjacent to the cemetery. AB

ESTONIAN-FINNISH ANTI-DRUG EFFORTS

Visiting Finnish Premier Paavo Lipponen lauded Estonian police cooperation with Finnish law enforcement structures in fighting international drug-trafficking and also praised the Estonian border guard, BNS reported 9 May. Lipponen stressed the importance of the police and border efforts because "organized crime and drug- trafficking are a threat to the security of all the region's countries." In January, Finland's Interior Minister Kari Hakamies had criticized Estonia's law enforcement agencies saying EU membership cannot be granted to a country "whose police are corrupted or whose police are unable to do anything about a steady inflow of drugs into Finland from or through Estonia." AB

ESTONIAN BUDGET PRIORITIES ARE NATO, EU

The Estonian government's budget strategy document for 2001 through 2004 strongly reflects the country's foreign-policy priorities of NATO and EU membership, BNS reported on 9 May. The long-term strategy paper assumes that Estonia will be ready to join the EU by 2003 and plans for a steady increase in "defense expenditures to 2 percent of GDP as a precondition for entry into the North Atlantic alliance." The government document says that this rate of spending will bolster national security and that its increased defense capacity will make Estonia an acceptable partner to other countries. AB

RIGA HAS NEW MAYOR

BNS and LETA reported on 9 May that former deputy mayor of Riga, Andris Argalis, a member of the For Fatherland and Freedom party, has been elected the city's mayor. In a secret ballot, he won 51 votes of the votes, while two voted against and two abstained. Argalis thanked his predecessor, Premier Andris Berzins, for creating an "active team" in the city council that has done "impressive work." Argalis is a graduate of the Latvian Agricultural University and worked for the Trade Ministry. From 1985 to 1994, he was in private business, mostly in the catering sector. AB

LITHUANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONFIRMS PRESIDENT'S IMMUNITY

The Lithuanian Constitutional Court handed down a ruling on 8 May stipulating that sting operations can be conducted by police against all citizens, except the country's president, ELTA and BNS reported. The court said in its ruling that the regulations of the Operational Activities Law allowing such operations against the president is unconstitutional. However, the court did confirm that sting operations can be conducted against members of parliament because "the legislators enjoy a more limited immunity than the president." Several lower courts had heard cases with evidence collected during police sting operations and referred those cases to the Constitutional Court. Defense lawyers had argued before the lower courts that the defendants, including convicted parliamentary deputy Audrius Butkevicius, would have "never broken the law if they were not provoked" to do so. AB

POLAND COMPLAINS ABOUT 'SLOWDOWN' OF EU ENLARGEMENT

Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told the parliament on 9 May in his annual address that Poland's top foreign-policy objectives are entry into the EU by 2003, ensuring the country's defense, and securing its position as the political and economic leader in the region. Geremek expressed concern over what he termed "symptoms of a slowdown of integration processes" in Europe. He warned that delaying Poland's EU entry beyond 2003 would diminish Poles' readiness to endure painful market reforms and undermine their enthusiasm for EU membership. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said the same day that the first wave of new EU members will be admitted by 2005, dpa reported. Verheugen added that Poland's impatience regarding an accession date is unjustified as the country still faces negotiations in six difficult areas, including agriculture. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC TO ASK EU FOR 10 'ENVIRONMENTAL DEROGATIONS'

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 9 May said the Czech Environment Ministry will ask the EU to agree to 10 "derogations" or transition periods. Earlier, Prague had requested seven such periods. Kavan told journalists that the ministry has discovered that "the number of skeletons in the cupboard is slightly higher" and that it will be necessary to add three derogation requests. Kavan spoke after a meeting of officials of the government's EU integration committee, CTK reported. MS

MORE THAN HALF OF CZECHS WANT HAVEL TO QUIT

Fifty-three percent of Czechs believe President Vaclav Havel should resign before his term of office expires in 2003, CTK reported on 8 May, citing a poll conducted by Sofres-Factum in April. Twenty-seven percent believe the president should resign because of health reasons and 26 percent believe he must quit "in any case." Thirty-five percent of respondents said Havel should remain president if his health permits it and 4 percent said he must remain president "in any case." Reacting ironically to the poll, Havel on 9 May said he is "moved and delighted" by the public interest in his well- being. He also said he is not surprised that many "cannot stand me" after 10 years in office, commenting that "I cannot stand myself since birth," AP reported. MS

HALIK SAYS HE MAY BE CZECH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Tomas Halik, a leader of the Impulse 1999 civic initiative, said on 6 May that he may decide to run for president in 2003, CTK reported, citing an interview with the German daily "Die Welt." Havel said last year that he would like the Roman catholic priest and sociology professor to succeed him. Halik said in the interview that he is not seeking any personal political power and that "political clericalism is foreign to me." He said he supports reconciliation in Czech society but rejects "belittling guilt," thanks to which, he added, former communist rulers "are now economic rulers" in the Czech Republic. MS

CZECH BANK MANAGERS CHARGED WITH MISMANAGEMENT

Eleven top managers of Komercni Banka, the largest Czech commercial bank, have been charged with mismanaging entrusted property and violation of duties, AP reported on 9 May, quoting a police spokesman. They face up to eight years in jail if convicted. In 1996, the managers had granted the Austrian company B.L.C. an unsecured loan of $200 million, representing 90 percent of the value of the bank's shares on the stock exchange. B.L.C. has since gone bankrupt. MS

SLOVAK COALITION TO DISCUSS RESTRUCTURING

Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Jozef Migas told journalists on 9 May that talks on restructuring the cabinet, as demanded by his party, will take place on 14-15 May, CTK reported. Migas said the issue will first be discussed at a meeting of coalition parliamentary groups and then by the coalition council. Migas said that if the conclusion is reached that restructuring cannot be avoided, the coalition agreement will also have to be changed. He declined to disclose whether the SDL will propose the dismissal of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda. Last month, Migas and four other SDL deputies cast their ballots in favor of a no-confidence vote in the cabinet. Also on 9 May, deputies representing the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia launched a boycott of the parliament to protest the fact that none of their legislative proposals has been accepted for debate. MS

HUNGARIAN CABINET APPROVES EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM

The government on 9 May approved a National Employment Action Plan aimed at creating full employment in the country, cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai told Hungarian media. The plan proposes the reduction of social contributions paid by employers from 33 percent to 30 percent in 2001 and to 27 percent in 2002. The plan also includes infrastructure projects, investment incentives, and job creation subsidies and gives priority to employment opportunities for Roma, the long-term unemployed, and the disabled. Also on 9 May, the Social and Family Affairs Ministry and the Romanian Labor Ministry signed a labor exchange agreement whereby the two countries will issue 8,000 six-month work permits annually for seasonal laborers from either country. Hungary's current unemployment rate is 7 percent, compared with the EU's average of 9 percent. MSZ




CROATIA TO JOIN KFOR

Prime Minister Ivica Racan told the weekly "Globus" that Croatian troops will soon join NATO peacekeepers in Kosova, dpa reported from Zagreb on 10 May. Racan is in Brussels negotiating Croatia's admission to the Atlantic alliance's Partnership for Peace program. "Jutarnji list" reported that Croatia's joining the program is expected to be announced shortly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). PM

RACAN SETS PRIORITIES

Racan told the "International Herald Tribune" of 10 May that Croatia plans to apply for full NATO membership as soon as it is accepted into Partnership for Peace. Among his other priorities, he listed membership in the EU, creation of an independent central bank, establishing a safe environment for investment, and speeding up transparent privatization. These tasks will be difficult to achieve because the previous government left Croatia internationally isolated and lagging behind other countries in the transformation process. The prime minister warned that Milosevic regime is in "its last stages, although I am unsure it can end without conflict. [Milosevic] fought for a greater Serbia; now he is fighting for survival.... There is the danger of further conflict," Racan added. He feels that "independence is likely for Montenegro. If this is what people want, their wishes must be respected. If [Montenegro] leaves [the Yugoslav federation], that will be the logical end to the process of disintegration [of the former] Yugoslavia." PM

ZAGREB POLICE ARREST RIGHTISTS AT ANTI-FASCIST RALLY

Police detained seven persons on 9 May for attempting to provoke a clash between large groups of anti-fascist demonstrators and rightists who had come to heckle them. The size of the crowd was about 2,000, AP reported. The anti-fascists staged their annual protest to demand that the Square of Croatian Heroes receive back its communist-era name, which was Square of the Victims of Fascism. Since the victory of the center-left coalition in January 2000, rightists have increasingly been on the defensive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2000). PM

PETRITSCH CALLS FOR END TO BOSNIA'S COMMUNIST-STYLE ECONOMY

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, told the UN Security Council in New York on 9 May that Bosnia's economy remains little changed since communist times. He stressed that nationalist parties run major industries for their own benefit, which is "completely out of step with the market requirement of the new millennium," Reuters reported. Petritsch noted that the "payment bureau," through which all commercial and public bank transfers must pass, is "a cash cow for nationalist parties who exploit the system remorselessly." He added that "such arrangements must not be tolerated. We have to start protecting the economic sphere from this kind of old-style intrusion." Petritsch nonetheless concluded that the nationalist parties' grip on power is slowly weakening. Some 300,000 Bosnian citizens still remain abroad as refugees, however, and an additional 800,000 are displaced persons within Bosnia, he noted. PM

KLEIN CALLS FOR BOSNIA'S ADMISSION TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE

Jacques Klein, who is the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 9 May that the Council of Europe should admit that republic to membership as soon as possible, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Klein warned that Bosnia's continuing international isolation will only play into the hands of extremists and nationalists. PM

SLOVENIA TO PRESS AHEAD WITH EU AGENDA

European Affairs Minister Igor Bavcar told a press conference in Ljubljana on 9 May that the country will stay on schedule for implementing legislation aimed at speeding its admission to the EU despite the change of government (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 April 2000). "We have established enough security mechanisms to give the whole process [its own momentum]...which politics cannot change," Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION FORMS 'CRISIS COMMITTEE'

Officials of several opposition parties and the Otpor (Resistance) student movement told AP in Belgrade on 10 May that they have agreed to form a "crisis committee" to pool resources and form a network of lawyers and activists. This task force will organize protests and otherwise react swiftly against "every harassment of pro-democracy forces," the officials added. The Social Democrats' Slobodan Orlic argued that "all parties of Serbia's united opposition have approved the formation of the crisis committee. We should have done this a long time ago." The move comes one day after the opposition's and Otpor's decision to cancel a protest meeting in Pozarevac, which is Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's home town and known in opposition circles as "the forbidden city" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2000). Opposition leader Milan Protic said that the rally organizers "did not want to put people in danger," Reuters reported. Some opposition activists nonetheless blocked the Belgrade-Pozarevac highway for one hour, "Danas" reported. PM

KOSOVA GRENADE ATTACK WOUNDS SIX SERBS

Unknown persons hurled a grenade into a Serbian-owned shop in Cernica in the U.S. sector of eastern Kosova on 9 May, injuring six Serbs, Reuters reported. Earlier that day, KFOR troops prevented a clash between an unspecified number of Serbs in northern Mitrovica and a group of 30 Albanians, who attempted to cross into that area from the south, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BULGARIA FINDS NO PROOF OF ANGOLA SANCTIONS INFRINGEMENT

Justice Minister Teodosii Simeonov told journalists on 9 May that a government commission has "come to the conclusion that Bulgaria cannot be charged with violating the UN embargo" on arms supply to Angola, Reuters reported. A UN report by independent experts released in March accused two incumbent African presidents and a dozen countries, among them Bulgaria, of helping UNITA rebels smuggle diamonds to buy arms and oil for their forces. The report said Bulgaria had supplied arms to UNITA since 1997 and that UNITA personnel masquerading as Congolese were trained in Bulgaria in how to use the weapons. Deputy Foreign Minister Vasili Takev said the government intends to increase control over arms exports by requiring exporters to confirm delivery of each arms shipment, in addition to presenting the end-user certificate required at present. MS

BULGARIA DISMISSES TOP ORGANIZED CRIME FIGHTER

The government on 9 May approved Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov's proposal that General Kiril Radev be dismissed as head of the National Service for Fighting Organized Crime, Reuters reported. He is to be replaced by Rumen Milanov, who until now headed the Gendarmerie. A ministry spokesman said that under Radev, the National Service has "significantly lagged behind in countering economic crime," which is "one of the ministry's priorities." The local media links Radev's dismissal to the row between Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev, whom Kostov sacked in December 1999. Radev was appointed by Bonev. MS

ISRAELI OWNER SUES STRIKING BULGARIAN PILOTS

Gad Zeevi, owner of a 75 percent share in Balkan Airlines, said in Sofia on 9 May that he is taking legal action against the carrier's striking pilots. Zeevi urged the government to help end the week-long strike and threatened to pull out of the investment if the cabinet fails to do so. A spokesman for the strikers said 76 of the 250 pilots have received summons in a civil suit. Earlier on 9 May, the pilots rejected a proposal by Zeevi that they share one-tenth of any future profits. MS




WILL ALBANIA'S DEMOCRATS RETURN TO POWER?


By Fabian Schmidt

Three years after mass riots and widespread anarchy toppled the Democratic Party (PD) government of President Sali Berisha, some analysts in Tirana suggest that the party may have a good chance of winning this fall's local ballot and general elections due by June 2001.

The Tirana-based analyst Armand Shkullaku argued in the weekly "Klan" of 23 April that "the Socialists have failed to fulfill their promises to the electorate. They have failed to prove the accusations they put forward against Berisha--that he is a thief and a killer--and they have shown the inability to govern."

Shkullaku argues that just one year ago, most people would have ruled out the possibility of Berisha returning to government. "Now you better think twice before you speak," he says. "In the last three years of the left-wing government, very few things have changed, people have forgotten many events of the past, and [the Socialists] have not kept many of their promises. For the PD of Sali Berisha, current Albanian political reality offers also significant opportunities, despite the huge problems the party has had so far."

The first factor playing into the hands of the PD is voter behavior: "We should not forget that the Albanians, who have generally been betrayed [by the politicians], have learned to vote against [rather than for a particular political option]," Shkullaku says.

Thus the main reason why people may vote for the PD can be found within the governing coalition. In the course of three years, the Socialist-led coalition has conducted four government reshuffles. Two were under Prime Minister Fatos Nano, one saw the appointment of Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, and the last brought in current Prime Minister Ilir Meta.

These reshuffles took place even though the Socialist Party has an absolute parliamentary majority and the coalition has over two-thirds of the seats. Shkullaku points out that none of these governments has been able to clear itself of all corruption and smuggling allegations.

He also argues that recent governments have lost credibility when they claim great success at international donors' conferences and through their participation in the EU's Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. In fact, they have been unable to provide enough electricity in the winter, drinking water in the summer, or properly maintained roads. Many people are dissatisfied with the coalition's failure to solve these day-to-day problems and have lost their trust in its ability to govern.

Second, the Socialists have lost the moral high ground in competing with Berisha. A lack of transparency and the slow process of investigating the whereabouts of the money that people lost in fraudulent pyramid investment schemes in 1997--as well as the failure to indict some of the suspects-- have played into the hands of the Democrats.

One of Berisha's strongest moral arguments during recent opposition rallies is that the investigating authorities have been unable to prove charges against him of participation in the pyramids. The Socialists in 1997 used these accusations in overthrowing his government.

The investigators have also been unable to substantiate charges of corruption against the previous PD administration or prove the Socialists' accusations against the PD government that the Democrats sought to use military force against rebel southern cities during the unrest. Courts have closed all cases based on that charge for lack of evidence. Furthermore, a trial dealing with riots in the capital after the killing of PD legislator Azem Hajdari on 14 September 1998 did not result in sentences against prominent PD leaders. The Socialists earlier accused the Democrats of having attempted a coup d'etat.

Third, Berisha has been running an aggressive public relations campaign, holding rallies in all major cities throughout the country. The Socialists would need to match Berisha's campaign in order to reach the rural population, but they have shied away from public rallies, arguing that they do not need to give Berisha a dose of his own medicine. In any case, Shkullaku remains skeptical about what the Socialists will have to offer to the electorate: "The Socialists' difficulties in presenting themselves to the people show that the governing party will not have an easy time in facing its rival during the election campaign."

Berisha's campaign, however, appeals more to those unsatisfied with the current government than to those who are looking for specific alternative political options and better government.

While the Socialists have the problem of presenting results to the electorate, Berisha will have difficulties putting his words into action. The voters still remember his authoritarian way of governing during the first years of post-communism, and he has done little or nothing to change that image. His attempt at the start of the year to exclude the reformist wing around Genc Pollo from the PD shows that Berisha has not changed his style of leadership within the party.

In addition, the relationship between Berisha and the international community has deteriorated considerably since the mid-1990s. This is due to the lack of democracy within the PD and to the party's continuing refusal to negotiate compromises with the government under the umbrella of the OSCE. This was the case surrounding recent roundtable negotiations about a new electoral code.

Indeed, many voters who fear international isolation should Berisha return may turn their back on both the PD and the Socialists. Nonetheless, a recent poll suggests that no "third force" is capable of capitalizing on public disillusionment with the two parties. The result is likely to be low voter turnout.


XS
SM
MD
LG