Accessibility links

Newsline - October 25, 2000




GOVERNMENT UPS PREDICTION FOR THIS YEAR'S GDP GROWTH...

Addressing a Moscow conference on 24 October, Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref said that the growth rate of GDP is expected to reach 6.8-7 percent at the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. In August, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had predicted that GDP would be up by only 5 percent by year's end (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2000). Gref added that this year's positive indicators show the "results of the beginning of reform" but noted that "very difficult structural problems" remain, "which will make further economic growth impossible if they are not solved." Gref cited the need for banking sector reform, larger investment in industry, transparency within Russian companies, and a higher level of integration into the world economy. JAC

...ADMITS THAT CAPITAL FLIGHT HAS INCREASED...

Gref also announced the same day that capital flight increased this year compared with 1999. He said that the current level is comparable to that of 1998 and is "one of the negative factors in Russia's economy and an indication of its poor health," Interfax reported. JAC

...PROMISES STRICT CONTROL OVER REFORM OF NATURAL MONOPOLIES

Speaking about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier that day, Gref said the president demanded that the reform of natural monopolies be "strictly and thoroughly controlled by the state." Gref added that the president gave him a number of short- and long-term directives related to the issue and demanded that a report on the topic be submitted in a week's time. According to "Izvestiya" on 23 October, the cabinet will discuss the program for reorganizing the Railways Ministry on 9 November. This discussion, according to the daily, will mark the beginning of the reorganization of all natural monopolies, a process that is to be completed by late 2001. In November or December, the government will turn to the reorganization of Unified Energy Systems and to the possibility of restructuring the telecommunications market. Last--but not least--will be Gazprom. JAC

MEDIA MINISTRY PUTS FOREIGN MEDIA ON NOTICE?

The Media Ministry is promoting legislation that would outlaw foreign-owned media from operating in Russia, "The Moscow Times" reported on 25 October. According to the daily, the bill was presented to the State Duma recently and would ban all media outlets that are wholly or partially owned by foreigners, such as "The Moscow Times," RFE/RL, CTC Television and MTV Russia. Derek Sauer, chief executive office of the daily's parent company, Independent Media, said he doubts that the bill will ever become official government policy "since it would be a huge blow to the investment climate." However, Ruslan Gorevoi of the Glasnost Defense Foundation told the daily that he does not think that money is the key issue currently and that "the government's mid-term aim is to control as many media outlets as possible." One of the authors of the Security Council's new information security doctrine, Anatolii Steltsov, said recently that he would give Russian journalists priority access to the economically important part of the information market (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). JAC

DIVERS COMPLETE ENTRY HOLE IN 'KURSK' SUBMARINE

Russian and Norwegian divers have completed a hole in the hull of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine that will allow Russian divers to enter the vessel in search of bodies of the 118 crew members. The operation was temporarily suspended earlier this week owing to deteriorating weather conditions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). According to AP on 25 October, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov is to assess the situation at the site of the disaster before deciding whether to proceed with the operation. The news agency quoted Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotskii as saying that a decision will be made "within hours" and by that time divers will be ready to enter the vessel. Only Russian divers are to go into the interior of the submarine. JC

KEY WITNESS TO BE CALLED IN ALLEGED U.S. SPY'S CASE

At the request of the prosecution, the Moscow City Court has agreed to summon university professor Anatolii Babkin to testify in the espionage case of U.S. businessman and former naval officer Edmond Pope, Interfax reported on 24 October. Babkin is alleged to have supplied Pope with classified information. Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, pointed out to journalists that the court had earlier turned down the same request by the defense. Astakhov also noted that the defense will submit 11 motions aimed at improving his client's chances of a fair trial. They will include requests to call new witnesses for the defense and permission to submit a document showing Pope had been authorized to purchase blueprints for a Russian high-tech torpedo. According to ITAR-TASS, the court has granted permission for Cheryl Pope to meet with her husband on 25 October but denied such permission to U.S. Congressman John Peterson (Pennsylvania). Cheryl Pope and Peterson arrived in Moscow on 24 October. JC

PUTIN SPEAKS TO ARAFAT AT BARAK'S REQUEST

Russian President Putin telephoned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat late on 24 October, urging both sides to exercise "maximum constraint to prevent a worsening of the situation" in the Israeli territories under Palestinian jurisdiction. Putin made that move after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had called the Russian president earlier the same evening to ask him to urge Arafat to bring an end to the violence, Reuters reported, citing Barak's office in Jerusalem. Both the Israeli and Palestinian sides have recently called upon Moscow to play an increased role in the Middle East peace process. JC

MOSCOW WELCOMES ALBRIGHT'S VISIT TO PYONGYANG

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 24 October that Russia welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit to North Korea, which took place earlier this week. Russia, he noted, has "always encouraged efforts aimed at halting the isolation of North Korea." "We hope that after Mrs. Albright's visit, the United States will give up its view of North Korea as a rogue state," Ivanov added. JC

RUSSIA, TURKEY SIGN ENERGY AGREEMENT

Continuing his official visit to Turkey on 24 October, Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov signed an accord with Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer whereby Russia will supply Turkey with up to 100 million kWh hours of electricity a month. Part of that power will be relayed via Georgia, which Ersumer said is unable to deliver on an agreement to supply energy to Turkey, according to Reuters and Interfax. Kasyanov also met with Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu on 24 October to discuss possible Turkish purchases of unspecified types of Russian arms. ITAR-TASS quoted the Russian premier as saying that the Turkish side repeated its desire to expand military cooperation with Moscow. LF

STROEV SAYS KREMLIN'S HANDS CLEAN IN RUTSKOI AFFAIR

Speaking to journalists after meeting with Putin on 24 October, Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev said Putin had assured him that neither he nor anyone in his administration had anything to do with preventing Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi from seeking re-election, ITAR-TASS reported. A Kursk regional court had barred Rutskoi from running in the 22 October ballot, citing abuse of office and the filing of an incorrect property declaration (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). Rutskoi has said he will appeal to the Supreme Court, but "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 October that at the time of going to press, no such appeal had been made. Meanwhile, according to Stroev, Rutskoi has asked to be given the floor at the 25 October session of the Federation Council. JC

LEGISLATORS ASK PUTIN TO CURB CHUBAIS...

After his meeting with President Putin on 24 October, Federation Council Chairman Stroev told reporters that a key item discussed was the frequent halt in electricity supplies in the regions by Unified Energy Systems (EES) and its subsidiaries. Stroev said he believes the shutdowns are a "political rather than an economic issue" since the cut-offs result in the "stoppage of work at enterprises and sickness among the population, particularly children in kindergartens." He said that Putin agreed to raise the question again "in the presence of other governors." The same day, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that he plans to demand that Putin stop EES from cutting off electricity to regions that have failed to pay on time. "Someone must say a firm 'no' to [EES head Anatolii] Chubais," Seleznev said, adding that today's electricity charges are so high that they are "literally strangling" many enterprises and industries. JAC

...AS FAR EAST RESIDENTS THREATEN TO BLOCK RAILWAY FOR FUEL

Meanwhile, residents of Nakhodka, a port city in Primorskii Krai, declared on 24 October that they will block the railway that brings fuel to the local terminal for shipment to Asian-Pacific countries if supplies are not first sent to the krai's power and heat-generating stations, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 500 people continued on 24 October to block the city's main street, demanding that hot water and electricity supplies be resumed, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. Krai residents have faced chronic shortages of heating and electricity for a number of years. JAC

RUSSIAN WOMEN FACE THREAT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, LIMITED CHOICE OF PROFESSIONS

The number of Russian women who die from domestic violence each year is comparable to the total number of casualties sustained by the former Soviet Union during its war with Afghanistan, according to Lyudmila Zavatskaya, a representative of the American Bar Association, in remarks reported in "Kommersant-Dengi" (No. 41). According to official statistics, some 12,000-16,000 women die from domestic violence, in what Zavatskaya called the "undeclared war" against women. In addition to being victims of domestic violence, Russian women are also barred from more than 500 professions, such as coal mining or senior positions in the Russian navy, Zavatskaya added. And, according to a secret Interior Ministry directive, no more than 10 percent of police officers can be women. Zavatskaya concludes that the current government's attitude toward women's rights is the same as that of the Soviet-era leaderships. JAC

RUSSIAN POPULATION'S HEALTH DETERIORATING

Following recent reports of another population decline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000), Oleg Shchepin of the Academy of Medical Sciences told his colleagues at the Ministry of Health that the nation's health is worsening and the population's death rate is rising, Interfax reported. According to Shchepin, in 1999 the average life span for men fell by one year to 65.5 years. The death rate is 14.7 per 1,000 people, while the birth rate is 8.4. The number of invalids has grown three-fold over the last 10 years. Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko said Shchepin's report would be given directly to President Putin and urged that a Security Council session be convened to discuss the state of the country's health. JAC

NUCLEAR POWER MINISTRY DENIES WASTE IMPORT REPORT

The Nuclear Power Ministry's press service issued a statement on 24 October denying earlier reports that it is prepared to start importing nuclear waste from Bulgaria's Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). According the statement, "Russia has accepted and is currently accepting spent nuclear fuel from the Bulgarian station, but Russia does not plan to import and store nuclear waste." JAC

BUDGET VOTE SHAKES UP DUMA FACTIONS

"Segodnya" reported on 23 October that the recent votes on the 2001 draft budget resulted in the departure of two deputies from their factions, which is likely to be followed by a third. Deputy Oksana Dmitrieva voted against the budget, despite the fact that the People's Deputy group, to which she belongs, ordered all its members to vote in favor. According to the daily, she cannot be expelled under the group's charter but may be forced to quit "of her own volition." Earlier, Deputy Ashot Sarkisyan was expelled from the Communist faction for voting for the budget in its first reading, while Deputy Aleksei Aleksandrov quit the Fatherland-All Russia faction before he could be expelled for voting for the budget in its first reading. The faction had ordered all of its members to reject the draft. JAC

MORE AND MORE CARS CLOGGING MOSCOW ROADS

The number of cars in Moscow has increased threefold over the last 10 years to total 2.5 million, according to Aleksandr Belyaev, head of the Moscow city department for transportation and communications, Interfax reported on 24 October. Belyaev maintains that the average speed of cars traveling in Moscow is 33 kilometers an hour, but in the center of the city, it is only 18 kilometers an hour. JAC

PUTIN ADVISER SAYS NO FUNDS TO KEEP OR DUMP 'MIR'

Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, who is President Putin's adviser on aerospace matters, told Interfax on 24 October that Russia currently has no funds either to keep the "Mir" space station in orbit or ensure that it is brought down safely into the Pacific Ocean. He noted that "if $200-300 million [become] available," the station will not be dumped. The German news agency dpa quoted Energia, the Russian company that operates "Mir," as saying that $22 million would be needed to dump the space station. Shaposhnikov's statement comes on the heels of Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov's comment that "Mir" will "most likely" be brought down into the Pacific Ocean in late February 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). JC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT TAKES ACTION AGAINST FUGITIVE DEPUTY

The parliamentary Committee for State and Legal Affairs ruled on 24 October that the protracted absence of deputy Vano Siradeghian is "unacceptable," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A former interior minister, Siradeghian went on trial in October 1999 on charges of having ordered a series of contract killings. He fled Armenia in April after fellow deputies voted to lift his immunity to allow him to be taken into custody for the duration of the trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 7 April 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS ARGUE COUNCIL OF EUROPE RECOMMENDATIONS NOT BINDING

Two members of the Azerbaijani presidential administration have sought to prove that the Council of Europe's recommendations on democratization are not legally binding, Turan reported. On 21 October, presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev said those recommendations are "long-term," adding that Azerbaijan will not let any foreign organization dictate to it and will not accept any restrictions on its sovereignty. On 24 October, presidential administration official Shahin Aliyev described the recommendations as "moral in nature." He added that under the Vienna Convention on international treaties, only such treaties that have been signed and ratified are legally binding. LF

REJECTED AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES STAGE PROTEST

Representatives of the several hundred people who were refused registration to contest the 5 November Azerbaijani parliamentary election staged a protest outside the OSCE office in Baku on 24 October, Turan reported. Azerbaijan Human Rights Committee Chairman Chingiz Ganizade said the rejected candidates consider the OSCE partly responsible for their predicament insofar as the organization allowed the Azerbaijani authorities to adopt "undemocratic" election legislation. The Azerbaijani parliament rejected several key amendments to the laws proposed by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. LF

AZERBAIJANI COUP TRIAL OPENS, ADJOURNS

The trial of eight men accused of having plotted to overthrow the Azerbaijani leadership last year opened at a Baku military court on 24 October but was postponed until 26 October owing to the absence of six of the defendants, Turan reported. The eight men are said to have acted on behalf of former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September and 10 October 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET FOR 2001

Deputies adopted the 2001 budget on 24 October by a vote of 90 in favor with three abstentions, Turan and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA ASSESS SECURITY SITUATION

Abkhaz and Georgian government delegations, together with representatives of the UN and the CIS peacekeeping force, attended a meeting in Tbilisi on 24 October of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council for resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. The meeting focused on implementation of the protocol signed in July on stabilizing the situation along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2000). The leaders of the two delegations, Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba and Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili, termed the meeting "a step forward in stabilization," as did UN representative Dieter Boden. LF

ABKHAZ PREMIER LAYS CLAIM TO SHARE OF RUSSIAN MILITARY HARDWARE

Tsugba told journalists in Tbilisi on 24 October that Abkhazia has no objections to the closure of the Russian military base at Gudauta and its transformation into a facility for the CIS peacekeeping force, ITAR-TASS reported. But he added that Sukhum will not permit the withdrawal from that base of all Russian military hardware, part of which it considers Abkhaz property. LF

CHECHEN FIGHTERS SAID TO HAVE LEFT GEORGIA...

Those of the Chechen fighters intercepted in northern Georgia on 21 October who refused to surrender to the Georgian authorities have returned to Ingushetia after the failure of negotiations on allowing them to transit Georgian territory to Azerbaijan or Turkey, Caucasus Press reported on 25 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). It is still unclear whether the men are part of field commander Ruslan Gelaev's force, as suggested by Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii. LF

...AS RUSSIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF AVOIDING 'COOPERATION'

In a statement issued on 24 October, The Russian Foreign Ministry argued that the Chechen fighters' incursion into Georgia testifies to the Georgian authorities' inability to guard its border. The statement rejected as "a provocation" Georgian media reports that quoted Georgian officials as suggesting that Russian security services may have helped the Chechens cross into Georgian territory. The Russian statement also called on Georgia "to show real readiness for full-scale cooperation with Russia in the field of preventing terrorist activities." LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SPEEDING UP LEGAL REFORM...

In his annual address to the parliament, President Nursultan Nazarbaev admitted on 24 October that the implementation of political reforms lags behind the country's economic transformation, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Nazarbaev argued that Kazakhstan needs to create a truly law-based state where laws are obeyed and "pseudo-democratic slogans" extraneous. He noted that control of the judicial system has recently been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Supreme Court and that the next stage of legal reform will encompass a bill on the status of courts and judges. Nazarbaev also noted the need for new legislation on local self-government, again hinting that regional administrators will be elected, rather than appointed by the president, in the future. LF

...PERFECTING NATIONAL SECURITY SYSTEM

Nazarbaev also said in his annual address that Kazakhstan needs to upgrade its security system in response to the growth in instability and terrorism in Central Asia over the past decade, Interfax reported. He characterized Afghanistan as "a particular regional problem," saying that the rise in consumption of drugs produced in that country is "seriously damaging the gene pool" of the peoples of Central Asia. He warned of the possibility of a "humanitarian catastrophe" if hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan flee north into Central Asia. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITIONISTS' PASSPORTS CONFISCATED

Police in Almaty visited opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan deputy chairman Amirzhan Qosanov and Ermurat Bapi, editor of the independent newspaper "SolDat," at their homes on 24 October to demand that they surrender their passports for foreign travel, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WINS LAW SUIT AGAINST STATE MEDIA

A Bishkek district court on 24 October ruled that the KOORT TV station had no right to suspend broadcasting presidential election propaganda by opposition Ata-Meken party chairman Omurbek Tekebaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Tekebaev has brought an analogous suit against Kyrgyz state television and radio. International experts monitoring media coverage of the election campaign say that incumbent President Askar Akaev has received the lion's share of air time to date. LF

TAJIK INSURGENCY PARTICIPANTS SENTENCED

Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 24 October handed down the death sentence to four men accused of taking part in the November 1998 uprising led by Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, ITAR-TASS reported Another 59 men received prison terms of between eight and 15 years, according to dpa. More than 100 people were killed in the course of the uprising in Leninabad Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 9 November 1998). LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS SEE AFGHAN THREAT RECEDING

A senior member of the Federal Border Guard Service said on 24 October that the situation on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan is stabilizing and that the danger that Taliban forces may cross into Tajikistan is receding, Interfax reported. Also on 24 October, Tajik Defense Minister Colonel-General Sherali Khairulloev said that the recent escalation of fighting in northern Afghanistan between the Taliban and Northern Alliance forces demonstrates the need for coordinated joint counter measures not only on the part of CIS Collective Security signatory states but of other CIS countries, ITAR-TASS reported. LF




BELARUSIAN EX-PREMIER WITHDRAWS FROM ELECTIONS BECAUSE OF 'MANIPULATIONS'...

Mikhail Chyhir has withdrawn his candidacy from the 29 October second round of the legislative elections, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 24 October. Chyhir sent a message to the Central Electoral Commission accusing the authorities of using "dirty techniques" and "manipulations" against him. Chyhir said that in the 15 October first round, turnout in his constituency was below 47 percent, but the district electoral commission subsequently shortened the list of registered voters by some 6,000 and reported to the Central Electoral Commission that the poll was valid. "We will have the same parliament as before, which will work...like the KGB; we will not know either what they adopt there or for what they vote," Chyhir commented. According to official results, Chyhir came second after Natalya Masherava, the daughter of Belarus's Soviet-era leader Pyotr Masherau. JM

...WHILE ANOTHER CANDIDATE LURED INTO RESIGNING BY AUTHORITIES

Eduard Naryshkin, a plant director from Babruysk (Mahileu Oblast), has pulled out of the legislative ballot, leaving former Chamber of Representatives deputy Alyaksandr Shpileuski to compete for the legislative seat in Babruysk, Belapan reported on 24 October. Naryshkin obtained 44 percent of the vote on 15 October, while Shpileuski came second with 22 percent backing. However, the Babruysk City Council and the Babruysk City Executive Committee pledged to nominate Naryshkin as member of the Council of the Republic (the upper house of the National Assembly) in exchange for pulling out. In theory, members of the Council of the Republic are elected in a secret ballot, but RFE/RL's correspondent from Mahileu suggested that Naryshkin can be sure he will be elected. Four years ago, a Mahileu newspaper published the names of oblast "senators" ahead of their allegedly free and fair election. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER CONCERNED ABOUT GAZPROM BYPASS PLAN

Viktor Yushchenko has expressed concern over Gazprom's project to build a gas pipeline bypassing Ukrainian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000), Reuters reported on 24 October. "We are confident that Russia must be interested in the existing [gas transport] system, and we have proposed strong arguments to Russia to maintain this system," the agency quoted him as saying. Yushchenko said that Ukraine's gas transport system is used only to some 70 percent of its capacity, adding that "we can easily boost its capacity by 60 billion cubic meters with a small investment." Yushchenko said Kiev is planning to launch "intensive and delicate" talks with Moscow shortly but gave no further details. JM

BANNED NEWSPAPER RESUMES PUBLICATION IN UKRAINE

The Kyiv-based newspaper "Silski visti" has resumed publication after it was closed for failing to pay taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). The newspaper announced on the first page of its 21 October issue that "the 18-day blockade has finally been broken" owing to "widespread public protests, protests by other journalists, and the efforts of people's deputies who supported it," the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 25 October. JM

OPPOSITION FORMS STRONG COALITION IN TALLINN CITY COUNCIL

A coalition large enough to topple the Tallinn city government has been formed. The Center Party, the Coalition Party, the People's Trust coalition, the People's Choice coalition, and the Estonian Democratic Party, which signed a cooperation memorandum on 24 October, have a combined total of 33 seats in the 64-member council. A formal coalition agreement is to be signed at the weekend, ETA reported. A no-confidence motion against Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois and City Council Chairman Rein Voog is scheduled for 2 November. The Center Party managed to topple the Parnu city government earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). MH

WORLD BANK REPORT SHOWS CORRUPTION GROWING IN ESTONIA

A World Bank report shows that alongside a rapidly growing economy, corruption is also increasing in Estonia. In a survey of 132 companies, the report found that companies spend 1.6 per cent of their annual turnover on bribes. "This is a good result for a transitional economy," said Joel Hellman, one of the report's authors, noting that the figure in Lithuania is "two times that," ETA reported. However, Hellman said that since average profitability of Estonian companies is 16 percent, bribes are equal to 10 percent of that sum. Seventeen percent of companies have made unofficial payments to political parties for favors, while 14 percent have paid such monies directly to parliamentary deputies and 8 percent to the central bank and the courts. MH

PAKSAS OUTLINES POLICIES IF CONFIRMED AS LITHUANIAN PREMIER

President Valdas Adamkus on 24 October introduced to the parliament his nominee for prime minister, Rolandas Paksas. In his remarks to that body, Paksas stressed that the priorities of the government are to liberalize the economy, improve the business climate, continue Euro-Atlantic integration, and focus on education, ELTA reported. Paksas noted that reforms are needed in various sectors, ranging from taxation to social welfare, and warned that most of the planned reforms will be "bitter." Paksas also spoke of the advantages of a coalition composed of parties with diverging platforms: "Lithuania is in for a period of consultations and understanding, negotiations and compromise, which means political opportunities that are closer to a significantly more mature Western democracy model." A vote on Paksas's nomination is scheduled for 26 October. MH

POLISH PRESIDENT SUGGESTS 'COMPROMISE' OVER BYPASS PIPELINE SCHEME...

Aleksander Kwasniewski said on 24 October that Poland could agree to a Russian pipeline project to bypass Ukraine provided that Kyiv shared in the plan's economic benefits, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). Kwasniewski added that Ukraine would not necessarily have to be involved in the project "geographically." "It can be involved in the economic sense as well, in some concept of a joint venture or a common company. I think this is a very clever compromise," the agency quoted Kwasniewski as saying. JM

...SEES EU MEMBERSHIP AS PRIORITY FOR HIS SECOND TERM

Kwasniewski told Reuters the same day that securing Poland's EU membership is the priority of his second term. He pledged to work toward changing public attitudes and ensuring steady economic growth in order to see Poland accepted into the EU by the end of his term, in 2005. Kwasniewski noted that Poland's EU accession poses not only an economic but also a "mental and psychological" problem for Poles. "I must convince people to change, adapt to the new situation, learn foreign languages, and give up bad habits," he said. JM

POLISH SENATOR CONFIRMED AS LUSTRATION LIAR

The Lustration Court ruled on 24 October that Democratic Left Alliance senator Jerzy Mokrzycki lied in his lustration statement, PAP reported. Mokrzycki faces losing his mandate and being barred from holding public office for 10 years. In passing that verdict, the court upheld its ruling of November 1999, which had found that Mokrzycki collaborated with the communist-era secret services. The same day, the court re-opened the lustration process of Confederation for an Independent Poland leader Leszek Moczulski. Under recently declassified secret service documents, Moczulski is alleged to have collaborated with Poland's secret police from 1969-1977. Moczulski claims the documents have been doctored. JM

ITALIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR EU EXPANSION IN 2003

Giuliano Amato and his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, said in Rome on 24 October that they are opposed to EU expansion being delayed until later than 2003, AP reported. Amato said after his meeting with Zeman that "we oppose the 'big-bang' proposal to delay the entry of those countries best prepared" until all the countries are ready. "Whoever is ready by 1 January 2003 must enter then." Zeman said the "big-bang" approach "ignores the principle of merit, and it slows down the train of European integration to the pace of the slowest coach." Zeman, who was on a two-day visit to Italy, also met with Italian business leaders in Milan and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in Rome. PB

SLOVAK ROMA FLEEING TO CZECH REPUBLIC

More than 600 Roma from Slovakia have asked for political asylum in the Czech Republic so far this year, CTK reported citing the daily "Lidove noviny." By comparison, only 49 applications from Slovak Roma were registered in the previous six years. None of the requests has so far been granted. Jana Gajarova of Slovakia's Commission for Roma Issues said that many of the refugees are leaving because they cannot repay money-lenders within the Romany community. She says such lenders loan money to Roma at high interest rates and when the latter are unable to pay their debts, they are forced to emigrate to obtain money from abroad. Gajarova said police are investigating these activities. PB

OFFICIAL SAYS SLOVAKIA CLOSING GAP ON CZECHS OVER EU ENTRY

A Slovak Foreign Ministry official announced in Brussels on 24 October that Slovakia has preliminarily closed three more chapters in its EU admission negotiations, CTK reported. Slovakia has now completed nine chapters during negotiations that started just eight months ago. By comparison, the Czech Republic has closed 13 chapters but began negotiations with Brussels in 1998. Jan Figel, state secretary to the Foreign Ministry, said "it appears that we are capable of advancing, of closing the gap that separates us from our neighbors. Our aim is to preserve the cohesion of Central Europe, the Visegrad countries." Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, are, along with Slovakia, the Visegrad countries. PB

CROATIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA

Joze Rados said in Bratislava on 24 October that although Croatia and Slovakia both aspire to join NATO, the two countries are "in a different degree of development in this process," CTK reported. Rados said there are no longer any political obstacles for Zagreb to join the alliance, although Croatia still must fulfill some political criteria. Slovak Defense Minister Pavol Kanis said the two countries' governments "have been confronted with very similar situations." He praised Croatia's quick admission to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Rados met with Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 24 October and was to visit a UN training base in Nitra, western Slovakia, the following day. PB

HUNGARIAN PARTIES, CHURCHES CALL FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION

Representatives of the Catholic Church, the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary, trade unions, the Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, and the Workers' Party have signed a statement calling on society to show greater respect for human rights and to reject social exclusion, Hungarian media report on 25 October. The move was initiated by the Green Democrats' lobbying group. The statement also urges an improvement in social conditions for the country's Roma. Istvan Teszler, co-chairman of the Green Democrats, told reporters that more parties and organizations are expected to sign the statement. MSZ




BALKAN SUMMIT TO OPEN IN MACEDONIA...

Leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia are slated to meet in Skopje on 25 October to discuss Balkan issues in the wake of the recent changes in Yugoslavia. The previous day, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said that "it's time that we start working for the welfare of our region, to work together as good neighbors, instead of waiting for others to do it for us," dpa reported. In Prishtina, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke told Reuters that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica "has just contacted us and suggested we meet in Skopje, where he is going for a meeting of regional leaders... I am very pleased he will take the time to meet with me... I've already expressed my profound admiration for the way he conducted a campaign in favor of democracy and summoned the will and intent of the Serb people to bring about peaceful change in the leadership in Belgrade." PM

...AMID SKEPTICISM BY SOME REGIONAL LEADERS

Holbrooke also told Reuters in Prishtina on 24 October that he is "well aware [Kostunica's] positions do not make all people in Kosovo happy, but we have to begin with facts. The situation is more hopeful for peace in the region than in the past." He was referring to fears of many Kosovars that the West will now force them to return to a joint state with Serbia, which all Kosovar parties reject. Kostunica told Macedonian reporters on 24 October that he wants the Yugoslav army to return to Kosova as soon as the situation allows. Croatian President Stipe Mesic and the Albanian parliament have recently expressed skepticism regarding how profound a change Kostunica will bring about in Belgrade's relations with its neighbors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 October 2000). PM

HOLBROOKE CALLS FOR EARLY GENERAL ELECTIONS IN KOSOVA...

Holbrooke said in Prishtina on 24 October that the international community should begin planning for general elections in Kosova in the first months of 2001 if the 28 October local elections prove free and fair, AP reported. Russian, Yugoslav, and some Western officials have said repeatedly, however, that law and order in the province is not strong enough for elections to be held at present, particularly with regard to the safety of Serbian voters. No Serbian parties and only a few Serbian voters are registered to take part in the 28 October ballot. Kosovars may be increasingly tempted to give their votes to hard-line candidates out of fear that the West will force them back into a joint state with Serbia. Until Kostunica's victory on 5 October, voter sympathies in Kosova had favored moderate politicians around Ibrahim Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosova and not the various fractious, militant parties that emerged from the Kosova Liberation Army. PM

... AND RESOLUTION OF KOSOVA'S STATUS

Holbrooke added in Prishtina on 24 October that time has also come for the international community to deal with the question of Kosova's long-term political status, AP reported. He argued that "the status quo right now may be stable thanks to NATO and [the UN], but it's not going to be stable indefinitely. We will have to address this question." In Prizren, Rugova made it clear that independence is the only option: "We're de facto independent. We just have to work so that it's achieved formally as well." PM

SERBIA FINALLY GETS A GOVERNMENT

The Serbian parliament on 24 October approved a power-sharing government and early elections slated for 23 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). Milomir Minic, who is a moderate member of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), will become prime minister. He will govern by consensus with one deputy from Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and one from Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement. Minic said that "the duration of this government is limited and so are its tasks. Its two main missions are to stabilize economic policy and urgently address the economic needs of the citizens," Reuters reported. The three parties will also share control of the four most important ministries: interior, justice, information, and finance. The government will soon ask President Milan Milutinovic to dissolve the parliament and call elections for December. PM

MONTENEGRO ASKS BELGRADE TO WAIT ON UN

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said in Podgorica on 24 October that he hopes Belgrade will hold off on applying for membership in the UN and other international organizations until the legal status of relations between Serbia and Montenegro is settled, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Montenegrin authorities have repeatedly said that they want their own seat in the UN and other international bodies. Montenegrin officials frequently recall that for centuries Montenegro retained its own government at a time when the rest of the Balkans was part of the Ottoman Empire. PM

CROATIA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BOSNIAN VOTING RULES

In a rare display of support for the political concerns of the ethnic Croats in Bosnia, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic expressed doubts regarding a recent OSCE decision on rules governing the 11 November Bosnian legislative elections, Reuters reported from Zagreb (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Granic said that he fears that the changes might endanger the equal legal status of Croats, Muslims, and Serbs in the neighboring republic. Granic added that by speaking out, "the government wants to show that it supports both the Dayton [peace agreement of 1995] and Croats in Bosnia." Previously, Croats and Muslims in the federation could vote only for members of their respective ethnic groups in elections to the upper house of the parliament. Under the new ruling, anyone can vote for any candidate. The OSCE feels that the change is necessary to reduce the power of ethnically-based parties. But many Croats feel that they will now be outvoted by the much more numerous Muslims. PM

SLOVENIAN COALITION TALKS BEGIN IN EARNEST

On 24 October, election officials in Ljubljana released the final official results of the 15 October vote for the 90-seat parliament. Voter turnout was 70 percent, Radio 24-UR reported. The largest party is former Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats with 34 seats. Second place goes to Janez Jansa's conservative Social Democrats with 14 seats. The former Communists have 11 mandates, followed by nine seats for a coalition of two Christian Democratic parties. Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk's New Slovenia won eight mandates. The nationalist and youth parties won four seats each. One mandate each went to representatives of the Italian and Hungarian minorities. Drnovsek is widely expected to put together a coalition of his party, the former Communists, and the pensioners' party, which has four seats. He and Jansa have ruled out a coalition of the two largest but ideologically opposed parties. Several political combinations are now widely considered possible, including a minority government. The parliament opens on 27 October and has until the end of December to elect a new prime minister. PM

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS PROTESTS AGAINST ILIESCU

The Constitutional Court on 24 October rejected two protests against former President Ion Iliescu's bid to run for re-election, Romanian media reported. According to those protests, Iliescu, who was president from 1990 to 1996, has already served two terms and is now running for a third, which is prohibited by the constitution. Iliescu's candidacy was also contested in 1996. In related news, four other presidential candidates formally registered their candidacies: Democratic Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Petre Roman, Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania Senator Gyorgy Frunda, Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, and Romanian Liberal Democrat Party Chairman Niculae Cerveni. National Alliance candidate Marian Munteanu has announced his withdrawal from the ballot. ZsM

TRIAL OF ROMANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA PRISON HEAD POSTPONED

A Bucharest judge has rescheduled the trial of Colonel Gheorghe Craciun, who is charged in connection with the deaths of 216 political prisoners, after the defendant failed to show up in court, AP reported on 24 October. Cracium, 87, is the first senior communist official from the 1950s to be tried for crimes against political prisoners. He headed the infamous Aiud prison camp from 1958 to 1964. Craciun denies the charges. In an act of solidarity, his former deputy, Mihai Blajut, has asked the court to charge him with the same crimes. PB

SUPREME COURT ANNULS PRIVATIZATION OF ROMANIAN TOBACCO COMPANY

The Romanian Supreme Court on 24 October annulled the privatization of the Romanian Tobacco company, Romanian media reported. An Agriculture Ministry decision last May awarded the company to Interagro, but a loser in the tender, Leaf Tobacco A Michailidis, appealed that decision, claiming procedural irregularities. The ministry will now have to restart the privatization process of the company, which has a 42 percent market share in Romania. ZsM

WORLD BANK TO RESUME LOANS TO MOLDOVA?

Roger Grove, a regional director of the World Bank, arrived in Chisinau on 25 October for talks with the government on resuming credits to Moldova, ITAR-TASS reported. The bank and the IMF suspended all loans to Moldova last year after the parliament refused to approve legislation privatizing the wine and tobacco industries. That legislation has now been passed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). John Odling-Smee, director of the IMF's Second European Department, said a resumption of loans could begin this year if the parliament passes a budget by 1 December. PB




KOSTUNICA VISITS MONTENEGRO AND BOSNIA


By Jolyon Naegele

Vojislav Kostunica, hailed by the West as the savior of democracy in Serbia, wants to preserve the common state of Serbia and Montenegro, although he concedes that the name "Yugoslavia" may have to be sacrificed.

Certain problems need to be resolved first, however. The Yugoslav Constitution requires the federal prime minister to be a Montenegrin in the event that the president is a Serb. But the Montenegrin government, led by President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, boycotted last month's federal presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Djukanovic government claimed that those ballots were unlawful because the constitutional changes that enabled the elections to be held and diminished Montenegro's role in the federal parliament were enacted without the participation of Montenegro. For this reason, it does not consider Kostunica to be the legitimate president of Yugoslavia. Djukanovic and his party also object to serving together with pro-Milosevic politicians.

Montenegro's main opposition party, the pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party, won the parliamentary elections in Montenegro and has agreed to participate in forming a coalition government. Their nominee, Zoran Zizic, is slated to become federal prime minister.

Kostunica agrees to Zizic's appointment and says he is making every effort to ensure that the federal government will be composed of experts representing as many parties as possible. Nonetheless, the government's core structure will comprise two parties, his Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and Zizic's party. Kostunica believes that the cabinet will be approved by the Yugoslav parliament by the beginning of next week at the latest.

Noting the absence of the Montenegrin ruling parties in the government, Kostunica said that "at the moment we are forging a government out of the parties that took part in the federal elections." But he added that both the DOS and Zizic's party would welcome Montenegro's ruling parties into the federal government. Last week, Zizic said that the reason his party had to be represented in the new government was to ensure that Slobodan Milosevic would not be extradited to the UN tribunal at The Hague, which has indicted the former president for war crimes.

Before visiting Montenegro earlier this week, Kostunica traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first visit by a Yugoslav leader since Milosevic went there in 1993 in an unsuccessful effort to mediate an end to the fighting.

Kostunica went to Trebinje. in the southernmost corner of the Bosnian-Serb entity, to attend the reburial of Serbian poet and Yugoslav diplomat Jovan Ducic, who died in exile in the U.S. in 1943. Kostunica had decided to participate long before he was even nominated to run for president. The Bosnian Foreign Ministry initially expressed outrage at Kostunica's participation. But its anger dissipated once the international community intervened.

An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Trebinje that the participants greeted Kostunica with a "storm of applause," although the Yugoslav president did not address the gathering. The entire Bosnian Serb leadership was present, as were the leaders of Bosnia's religious communities and Liljana Karadzic, the wife of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic whom The Hague tribunal has also indicted for war crimes.

The head of the UN mission in Bosnia, former U.S. general Jacques Klein, escorted Kostunica from Trebinje to Sarajevo in a UN helicopter for hastily arranged talks with the Bosnian leadership at Sarajevo airport. Kostunica told reporters afterward that Yugoslavia's recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina is "the issue of the day." He said that their meeting represented a "very serious normalization of diplomatic relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I can announce that very soon-- I'm convinced it will be realized at the moment when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forms its new, democratic, federal government."

Kostunica also called for full compliance with the nearly five-year-old Dayton peace accords, including their references to the existence of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.

The current president of the Bosnian presidency, Zivko Radisic, a Serb, also expressed support for the renewal of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo, while respecting the continued existence of the Bosnian Serb and Muslim/Croatian entities.

"This was an opportunity and we are expressing our readiness and willingness to establish and build up relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [while] respecting the existing territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country and state," Radisic said.

The speaker of the Bosnian parliament, Halid Genjac, a Muslim, said he expects both sides to agree on specific steps to improve relations.

After meeting with Kostunica at the airport, Bosnia's foreign minister Jadranko Prlic, a Croat, said : "We support Yugoslavia in its effort to reach an association agreement with the European Union, but on condition that Yugoslavia undergoes the same procedure for acceptance into European integration [as] all other countries."

UN mission chief Jacques Klein called the meeting "historic." "We all know that we cannot change the past, but if we work together we can build a better future," he noted. And he added that "today is the beginning of the future."


XS
SM
MD
LG