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Newsline - November 30, 2000




PUTIN WANTS BORDERS TO CREATE 'IMAGE' OF DEMOCRATIC STATE...

Addressing the Security Council on 29 November, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the need to modernize Russia's borders to create a new image of the state frontier. At the same time, he underlined the importance of ensuring the security of the country's borders. While Russia's national interests in the security sphere must be protected, its borders "should look like the gates to a democratic state, open to the whole world," Putin said, commenting that "no one is going to lower a new 'Iron Curtain,'" according to Interfax. The president urged that Russia's border regime be favorable to trade with foreign countries but also be aimed at stemming the increasing flow of illegal immigrants. "Illegal immigration remains a serious threat to national security," he stated. JC

...AS BORDER GUARD CHIEF ANNOUNCES SIZE OF CUTS

Also on 29 November, Federal Border Service chief Konstantin Totskii was quoted by Interfax as saying that the border guards will be cut by 15,000 troops and 1,000 civilian personnel. Totskii revealed that the decision had be taken at the Security Council meeting earlier this month at which it had been announced that Russia's armed forces would be slashed by some 600,000 troops, or nearly one-fifth of their total strength (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 November 2000). "It's better to have one operational vessel than three broken ones and to have one fully equipped border outpost than three understaffed ones," Totskii remarked. JC

ELECTION COMMISSION NIXES ENVIRONMENTAL REFERENDUM...

The Central Election Commission on 29 November rejected an appeal by environmental groups to hold a nationwide referendum on environmental issues, claiming that the groups did not collect a sufficient number of valid signatures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). Almost 2.5 million signatures were submitted--some 500,000 more than required; however, the commission asserts that only 1.9 million are authentic, Interfax reported. Had it been held, the referendum would have posed three questions: Are you in favor of a ban on the import of radioactive materials for storage, burial, or reprocessing on Russian territory? Do you want Russia to have a federal environmental protection agency that would be separate from an agency on the use and management of natural resources? And do you want Russia to have a legally independent state forestry service? JAC

...AS BILL ALLOWING IMPORTED NUCLEAR WASTE IS FREE TO MOVE FORWARD

Environmentalists told "The Moscow Times" on 30 November that the commission's decision clears the way for the State Duma to consider a bill that would amend current legislation and allow Russia to accept spent nuclear fuel from abroad for long-term storage. If the commission had agreed to accept the signatures, consideration of the bill next month would have been canceled, as stipulated by the referendum law. Thomas Nilsen, a researcher at Norway's Bellona Foundation, told the daily that the chances of the bill passing in December are very high. Some of the groups that gathered the signatures have already said that they will appeal the commission's decision. JAC

IVANOV FAILS TO PERSUADE AZIZ OVER UN INSPECTORS

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz left Moscow on 30 November saying that Baghdad would not agree to the dispatch of new UN weapons inspectors to his country. That statement came after Aziz had conducted talks in the Russian capital the previous day with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Members of the Russian delegation had described those discussions as "difficult," according to ITAR-TASS, and a scheduled news conference was cancelled at the last moment after the talks continued longer than planned. Moscow favors having UN sanctions against Baghdad lifted but has urged Iraq to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). JC

SECURITY COUNCIL CHIEF BLASTS 'TOTALITARIAN' METHODS OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published on 29 November, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov strongly criticized what he described as the "toughest totalitarian" methods of Russia's privately owned media outlets. Those outlets, he said, reflect the interests of Russia's economic and political elites. "The experience of recent years shows that citizens and society at large do not get sufficient and sufficiently truthful information about the actions of the state, its plans, its intentions," he noted. "That's why we are proposing to bolster state media and their capacity to keep both Russians and foreigners informed." Ivanov also noted that the Security Council's information security doctrine favors "equal rules" for national and foreign media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000). "We favor full freedom of speech, the right of the people to have access to information, but the information lines connecting us with the outside world should see two-way traffic," he remarked. JC

DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY BILL...

State Duma deputies voted on 29 November to approve in the first reading a bill providing former presidents with social guarantees and immunity from criminal prosecution. The vote was 282 to130 with four abstentions, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the bill, former presidents are guaranteed pensions equal to 75 percent of their presidential salary, bodyguards, free medical service, lifelong use of a state-owned dacha, and unrestricted use of VIP facilities at airports and train stations. Deputies added a provision so that the bill also covers former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov of the Communist faction, which opposed the bill, charged that Russia's president now "acquires the right to commit any serious crime during his time in office." Fellow Communist and Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev was not present at the vote, having left Moscow for a tour of Latin America, "Segodnya" reported. JAC

...CLEARS THE WAY FOR SOME GOVERNORS TO SEEK THIRD TERM...

Also on 29 November, deputies approved in the first reading a bill that would allow some regional leaders to seek a third term in office. That vote was 240 to 155 with seven abstentions, according to ITAR-TASS. The bill would amend a law, passed in October 1999, that forbids heads of regions to serve more than one term in office. That law has proved controversial, particularly with regard to Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, who has already served two terms but is allowed a third one under that republic's constitution (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 November 2000). According to ITAR-TASS, the Fatherland-All Russia faction insisted that the Duma reconsider the bill after a long pause. During the debate, Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina (Yabloko) condemned the legislation, calling it "an attempt at suspending the effect of the Russian Constitution in the regions." JAC

...STEPS INTO DISPUTE BETWEEN UPPER HOUSE, GOVERNMENT

The State Duma called on the Federation Council on 29 November to hold an extraordinary session on 1 December to consider amendments to the second part of the Tax Code, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, Duma deputies claim that delay in consideration of the legislation will cause Russian regions to lose more than 50 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) in 2001. Earlier this week, the upper legislative house voted to postpone consideration of the tax legislation until the end of the December so that it has more time to consider the legislation. However, for the bill to enter into force by the end of 2000, President Putin would have to sign it by 1 December. JAC

MOISEEV'S RE-TRIAL TO START AGAIN FROM SCRATCH

Valentin Moiseev, who is accused of espionage, has been told his re-trial will have to start from the beginning again because the judge presiding over the proceedings has fallen ill, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 November. Moiseev was found guilty of treason for allegedly passing state secrets to a South Korean diplomat from 1992 to 1998, but the Supreme Court overturned that conviction, citing violations committed by the Federal Security Service (FSB) during the investigation of Moiseev's case and ordering a re-trial, which began in September of this year. A new judge will now consider Moiseev's case. Moiseev's lawyers have pointed to numerous violations during both trials so far, including the fact that Moiseev has not been allowed to read the charges against him. "The Moscow Times" notes that before the case first came to trial, Putin, who at the time was head of the FSB, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" that Moiseev's guilt "was proven without a doubt." JC

GANTEMIROV EXONERATED IN PRISONER ESCAPE

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said in Moscow on 29 November that a special commission formed to investigate the disappearance of several Chechen fighters taken prisoner by federal forces in Grozny on 12 November has determined that the city's mayor, Beslan Gantemirov, did not help the men escape, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). Yastrzhembskii also denied that Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev was one of the Chechen prisoners in question. LF

MORE POLICEMEN COMMIT CRIMES...

The number of crimes committed by police officers increased 3.5 percent during the first nine months of 2000 compared with the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 November, citing the Interior Ministry. As a result of these misdeeds, some 100,000 officers were dismissed. Most cases of police misconduct occurred in branches involved in criminal investigation and combating drug abuse. JAC

...AS FEWER PEOPLE GATHER IN THE STREETS

The number of public protests dropped by 12 times during the first 10 months of 2000 compared with same period last year, "Argumenty i fakty" reported in its most recent issue, citing the Interior Ministry. The number of protestors plummeted by 160 times. JAC

METALS THIEVES VANDALIZE STATUE

A week after President Putin called for measures to combat the brisk trade in illegally obtained non-ferrous metals, would-be metals thieves in Ufa destroyed a new monument to victims of political repression (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2000). According to Interfax on 29 November, the thieves were attempting to steal what they thought was bronze but was, in fact, colored plaster. When they discovered their error, they apparently became so enraged that they smashed the sculpture to bits. Also on 29 November, in an interview with "Kommersant-Daily," Nikolai Bobov of the Interior Ministry's Department for Economic Crime called for establishing a body to regulate exports of rare metals such as rhenium, cadmium, and cesium. JAC

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" on 29 November incorrectly reported that 60 percent is the employment rate of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East; 60 percent is, in fact, the rate of unemployment.




ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES SWEEPING TAX CUTS

The cabinet on 29 November approved changes to existing tax legislation that reduce by 50 percent the tax burden on local businesses, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The amendments entail abolishing the present two-tier scale for corporate tax, which sets a maximum 25 percent tax rate for profits in excess of 7 million drams ($12,700), and replacing it by a 20 percent flat tax rate for all businesses. Companies with an annual turnover of less than 10 million drams will be exempt from the 20 percent value-added tax. The current threshold for paying VAT is 3 million drams. The government also proposed reducing employers' social security contributions from 28 percent to 15 percent of employees' salaries and halving the maximum personal income tax rate from 30 percent to 15 percent. Individuals whose monthly wage is less than 100,000 drams will pay only 5 percent tax. The proposed changes must be approved by the parliament. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER FINED

A Baku district court has found "Yeni Musavat," the newspaper of the opposition Musavat Party, guilty of publishing an article insulting the Saatly district electoral commission and fined the newspaper 1 million manats ($20,000), Turan reported. "Yeni Musavat" had claimed that the outcome of the 1995 parliamentary poll in Saatly, in which President Heidar Aliev's brother Djalal was elected, was falsified. The suit against the newspaper was brought by Ragim Azizov, who was appointed Saatly election commission chairman only after the 1995 ballot. LF

CONFUSION GROWS OVER INTERCEPTED GEORGIAN SHIP

A Georgian-registered vessel intercepted by Turkish coastguards in the Aegean Sea on 22 November was transporting mercenaries to Chechnya via a Georgian Black Sea port, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 November, citing an unnamed Russian Interior Ministry source. ITAR-TASS also claimed that the ship is owned by a private Georgian company. Georgian agencies reported, however, that the ship was sold on 1 October to a Turkish businessman and that it was transporting 70 illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Palestine to Italy. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SUPPORTS INCREASED SOCIAL SPENDING

Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Astana on 29 November that he supports some of the parliament's proposals on increasing social spending, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev said that while it is not possible to raise all pensions, those under 10,000 tenge ($70) will be increased by 450 tenges a month. To that end, spending on pensions in 2001 will be increased by 10 billion tenges, or 12 percent. Nazarbaev also said that the salaries of teachers, medical personnel, policemen, and army servicemen will be raised by 20-30 percent and that an additional 500 million tenges will be allocated to combat TB. Reuters in February quoted a Kazakh health service official as estimating that between 80,000 and 100,000 of the country's 15 million inhabitants suffer from that disease. LF

KYRGYZ POLITICAL PARTIES ENUMERATE PRESIDENTIAL POLL VIOLATIONS

The leaders of the Agrarian-Labor, Ata-Meken, Communist, Kairan-El and Republican Parties issued a statement in Bishkek on 29 November listing procedural violations before and during the 29 October presidential poll, which they termed "a setback for democracy in Kyrgyzstan," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They noted that the constitution did not allow President Askar Akaev to run for a third term and claimed that the outcome of the ballot was falsified. They also said that the linguistic commission, which barred several would-be candidates on the grounds of their alleged inadequate command of the Kyrgyz language, was unconstitutional. They point out that government media and local election officials favored the incumbent and that Akaev distributed numerous gifts to voters in the runup to the ballot. LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM

The cabinet on 29 November approved and submitted to the parliament a three-year privatization program that provides for the sale of the country's telecommunications network and national airline, Kyrgyzenergo, Kyrgyzneftegez, Kyrgyzgaz, and the Kadamjai antimony complex, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The sale of those enterprises and some 100 smaller ones is expected to bring some 900 million soms ($20 million) to the budget. LF

UZBEKISTAN SEEKS MODUS VIVENDI WITH AFGHANISTAN

Uzbekistan's National Security Council secretary Mir-Akbar Rakhmonkulov told journalists in Tashkent on 29 November that Uzbekistan will not allow the U.S. use of its airbases to deliver strikes against international terrorist Osama ben Laden, Interfax reported. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov had issued a similar statement last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). Also on 29 November, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov said in Tashkent that Uzbekistan may open its borders with Afghanistan in the near future provided that doing so does not pose a threat to the country's national security, Interfax reported. At the same time, Komilov stressed that Tashkent will continue to demand that the Taliban extradite members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who maintain permanent bases in Afghanistan. LF

UZBEK VILLAGERS CONFIDENT ECONOMIC SITUATION WILL IMPROVE?

A poll conducted in various oblasts of Uzbekistan by the country's Public Opinion Center suggests that the rural population is more confident that the economic situation in the country will improve over the coming year than are city-dwellers, RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau reported on 29 November. Only 10 percent of an unspecified number of respondents said they think their personal economic situation will deteriorate over the next 12 months; 60 percent said they believe the country's economic situation will improve over that period. Inhabitants of the Ferghana and Namangan regions, where both population density and unemployment are high, generally professed to be optimistic that the economic situation will improve, while urban dwellers were less upbeat. Independent observers have queried the accuracy of the poll's findings. LF




PUTIN GIVES GO-AHEAD TO RUSSIA-BELARUS SINGLE-CURRENCY ACCORD...

Following his meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 30 November, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to sign an agreement with Belarus on establishing a single currency, AP reported, citing Russian agencies. Putin denied that Moscow is dragging its heels on integration with Belarus but said there is no reason to rush into it. He noted that it is essential "to relieve concern" among the people of the two countries about losing sovereignty. "This is a very subtle process. Any issue in this sphere cannot be passed unless it's with the public's consent," Putin said. JM

...SAYS EVERYTHING PROCEEDING SMOOTHLY IN RUSSIA-BELARUS INTEGRATION

"Everything we plan and everything we agree on is being carried out on time, without failure," Putin told journalists in Minsk on 30 November, on arriving to take part in a session of the Supreme Council of the Russia-Belarus Union and a CIS summit. Commenting on the recent security shakeup in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000), Putin said he learned about the dismissals "after they had taken place," adding that they are Belarus's domestic affair. The two sides are expected to discuss the introduction of a single union currency, new customs and tariff legislation, and Russian energy exports to the West via Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO EVALUATE 'MOROZ TAPE'

The parliamentary special commission investigating the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze is to evaluate the audio recording that was made public by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz on 28 November, Interfax and the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported the next day. Moroz believes the tape proves that President Leonid Kuchma was involved in Gongadze's disappearance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). A group of officers from Ukraine's Security Service said in a statement on 29 November that it is "impossible" to eavesdrop on the head of state's communications links or offices. Moroz claims he received the recording from a security service officer. Meanwhile, fragments of the recording have been placed on the Web in real audio format at http://www.volkskrant.com/real/buitenland/koetsjma.html. JM

DID UKRAINE'S DEPUTY PREMIER BRIBE RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL?

The press service of the Prosecutor-General's Office told Interfax on 29 November that Russian prosecutors suspect Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko of having bribed former Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Litvinov. According to the service, Tymoshenko rewarded Litvinov for his rendering of unspecified favors to Ukraine's Unified Energy System, which was headed by Tymoshenko from 1995 to1997. The service added that the Prosecutor-General's Office will decide whether to instigate criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko only after a verdict is pronounced in Litvinov's case and the Russian prosecutors send to Ukraine materials related to the case. JM

MODERN STEEL TERMINAL IN ESTONIA RECEIVES LARGE INVESTMENT

Germany's HypoVereinsbank, the Banca Commerciale Italiana, and UnCredito Italiano have signed a financing agreement worth 3.8 billion kroons ($205 million) with Ruma Estonia OU to construct a modern steel terminal in Tallinn's Muuga Port, BNS and ETA reported on 29 November. According to "Aripaev Online," this is the largest-ever investment in Estonia, exceeding the 3.5 billion kroons that Swedbank paid to take over Hansapank. The terminal complex, which is expected to be operational in 2002, will have warehouse space covering 35,000 square meters, an export/import facility, and a line for galvanizing steel with an annual capacity of 400,000 tons. The terminal will comply with all EU environmental safety requirements. SG

LATVIA BEGINS ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins on 29 November announced the beginning of the country's largest-ever campaign to inform the community about the problem of corruption and the means to fight it, BNS reported. The campaign--which is financed by the PHARE anti-corruption legislation, education, and public information program, the Latvian government, and other institutions--will last until July 2001. It will include the publication of various booklets and the production of television programs to explain what corruption is and how to combat it. Stressing that any anti-corruption efforts will be in vain without public support, the organizers of the campaign said efforts will focus on informing and educating young people as well as journalists. Berzins noted that "there is no way to eliminate corruption in the twinkling of an eye, but it is possible to keep making consistent steps toward curbing it." SG

POLISH PRESIDENT PONDERS FIVE CANDIDATES TO HEAD CENTRAL BANK

Aleksander Kwasniewski is considering five candidates for the post of National Bank governor to replace Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz when she leaves to take up a senior post at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in January, Polish media reported on 29 November. Democratic Left Alliance leader Leszek Miller said those candidates are former Deputy Premier Leszek Balcerowicz, presidential economic aide Marek Belka, National Bank deputy head Jerzy Stopyra, and economists Andrzej Slawinski and Dariusz Filar. Kwasniewski is currently holding consultations with major parliamentary groups on the nomination of National Bank chief. Jerzy Wierchowicz of the Freedom Union told the media that Kwasniewski has reacted "favorably" to the candidacy of Balcerowicz, who is currently acting as financial adviser to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. A presidential nominee to head the central bank must win parliamentary approval. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT STARTS DEBATE ON 2001 BUDGET

The Sejm on 29 November began discussing a 2001 budget draft and announced it will send the bill to parliamentary committees, PAP reported. The bill projects spending at 182.2 billion zlotys ($40.63 billion) and revenues at 160.5 billion zlotys. The budget deficit is planned at 2.7 percent of GDP. Democratic Left Alliance leader Leszek Miller criticized the budget draft for insufficient funds for health care, social security, combating unemployment, and what he described as too high spending on the central administration. He said the budget provides for overestimated revenues and underestimated spending. "The effects of these [miscalculations] will be apparent in the last quarter of 2001, when a new government will have to face them," Miller added. JM

CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN THE OFFING

Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said on 29 November that the government is "likely" to appeal to the Constitutional Court over President Vaclav Havel's appointment of Zdenek Tuma as governor of the National Bank earlier the same day, Reuters reported. Mertlik said the appointment was not counter-signed by Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who had refused to put his signature to the relevant document. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek responded that the president "cannot accept" the government's position that the appointment requires its approval and that this "goes against established practice and precedent." MS

HAVEL WARNS EU AGAINST POSTPONING ENLARGEMENT

In an interview London's "The Times" published on 28 November, Havel warned that steps aimed at postponing EU enlargement could "play into the hands" of xenophobes, chauvinists, and nationalists in Eastern Europe and threaten the long-term stability of the region, CTK reported. Havel said that if East Europeans start feeling that Western Europe rejects them, they will become "intolerant nationalists." "There are plenty of those in the Czech Republic, and not being accepted by the West would be grist to their mills and a danger to everyone," he commented. Havel also said that "only a fool" who "knows nothing about thousands of years of European history" can believe that "peace and prosperity can flourish forever in one part of Europe, regardless of what happens on the other parts of the Continent." MS

HUNGARY COMMENTS ON ROMANIAN ELECTION RESULTS

"Hungary's foreign policy toward Romania will be determined by the actions of Romania's new government," Foreign Ministry Political State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth told the parliament on 28 November. Nemeth said he hopes that a state governed by the rule of law will prevail in Romania. Nevertheless, he said he shares the view that "an extremist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Hungarian force has alarmingly surfaced in Romania." Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 29 November that the coalition that lost the Romanian elections was a "European government" with whom "one could always establish an appropriate tone." He added that he does not want to harm bilateral relations by making hurried statements on the Romanian election results. MSZ




ETHNIC ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS SAY 'RESTRAINT' LIMITED

Shaqir Shaqiri, who is a spokesman for the ethnic Albanian Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB), told Reuters by telephone on 29 November that the occupation of the village of Lucane by Serbian police was a violation of the cease-fire agreement between Serbian forces and the UCPMB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). The spokesman added that the UCPMB showed "restraint" by not opposing the Serbs. Shaqiri stressed, however, that if "the positions of the UCPMB are at risk [as a result of future Serbian actions], we will be forced to defend them." Meanwhile in Lucane, an unnamed Serbian police official told the news agency that Serbian forces did not enter the 5-kilometer-wide demilitarized buffer zone when they occupied the village. He called on ethnic Albanian civilians "who ran away to come back since there is no reason any more for them to be scared." PM

NATO PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH SERBIAN FORCES AGAINST 'TERRORISTS'...

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in a statement in Brussels on 29 November that the forces of the Atlantic alliance will cooperate with Serbian forces against "terrorist" activities in southwestern Serbia, Reuters reported. Robertson argued that "Albanian extremist activity in the Presevo Valley is in no one's interest and only serves to heighten tensions." He did not mention the UCPMB by name. The news agency reported that the statement reflects NATO's "extreme frustration with Albanian nationalism" in Kosova since the end of the 1999 conflict. The term "terrorists" has been used chiefly by Belgrade and its backers abroad. PM

...PRESENTS SIX-POINT PROGRAM

Robertson's statement in Brussels on 29 November included a six-point program for the region, adding that "KFOR and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities will be able to address these issues directly and pragmatically." NATO pledged an information campaign in Kosova to point out the political problems posed by "extremist" activity in southwestern Serbia. Second, KFOR will "mobilize" Kosovar politicians who may be able to exert a moderating influence on the UCPMB. Third, the alliance will help facilitate contacts between Albanians and Serbian authorities in the Presevo region. Fourth, KFOR will work closely together with Serbian police. Fifth, peacekeepers will step up surveillance operations along the border with the zone. Sixth, "KFOR will also continue to deter and disrupt identified illegal or terrorist-related activity in Kosovo in the vicinity of the eastern boundary." The same day, NATO troops seized an unspecified shipment of arms and UCPMB uniforms in eastern Kosova, Reuters added. PM

BRITISH POLITICIAN TURNS DOWN KOSOVA POST

Former British Liberal leader Paddy Ashdown told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan by telephone on 29 November that he is not interested in succeeding France's Bernard Kouchner as the chief civilian administrator in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ashdown had been widely tipped for the post, which Kouchner has said he would like to give up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000). PM

TENSE TIMES IN ALBANIAN CAPITAL

Police reinforcements arrived in Tirana and Bajram Curri on 29 November following political violence by supporters of the opposition Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). In Tirana, "thousands" of protesters smashed windows in the main government building, AP reported. Deputy Interior Minister Bujan Imci said; "We are determined to protect state institutions with the full force of the law." In Vienna, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on behalf of the OSCE that all sides should show maximum "restraint and avoid any use of force." PM

SCHOOL CLASSES RESUME IN ETHNICALLY MIXED BOSNIAN TOWN

After a break of more than one month, classes resumed at two Brcko high schools on 29 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). PM

ALL THREE BOSNIAN ARMIES AGREE

General Novica Simic, who heads the General Staff of the army of the Republika Srpska, said in Banja Luka that he will continue to make the 15 percent cuts in his forces ordered recently by the Bosnian joint presidency. By the end of 2000, the Bosnian Serb forces will consist of 10,185 professional soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Simic stressed, however, that representatives of all three armies in Bosnia have called for an end to further personnel cuts until new jobs can be found for demobilized soldiers. The Republika Srpska, in particular, has a very high unemployment rate, including for young men of military age. PM

EU FORCE 'READY FOR BOSNIA'

French General Jean-Pierre Kelche said that the EU's planned rapid reaction force is ready to take on its first assignment. "Nothing prevents us tomorrow from saying that we could take [on] responsibility in Bosnia," London's "Financial Times" on 30 November quoted him as saying (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 October 2000). The daily points out that unspecified other European commanders are less optimistic about the preparedness of the force. The newspaper also notes that "neither Washington nor NATO has shown any sign of wishing to pull out" of Bosnia. PM

UN'S BOSNIA CHIEF REJECTS CHARGES AGAINST POLICE

Jacques Klein, who is the top UN official in Bosnia, rejected charges of improper behavior made by UN police officials against six unnamed UN police, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 30 November. Officials of the International Police Task Force (IPTF) said that the six had been suspended from the force, but Klein said that they voluntarily resigned before leaving Bosnia recently. It is not clear what the six men's offense was. A statement from the IPTF suggested that they exceeded their authority on 13 November when they raided "three night clubs in Prijedor," together with local police. The raid allegedly led to the freeing of 33 Romanian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, and Russian women from forced prostitution. One of the night club owners said, however, that the six had been blackmailing him and were frequent, aggressive customers in his establishment, AP reported. PM

ROW OVER NEW YUGOSLAV NATIONAL BANK CHIEF

Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) said in Podgorica on 29 November that his party will join forces with the rest of former President Slobodan Milosevic's ex-governing coalition to oust new National Bank chief Mladjan Dinkic if he does not name Vuk Ognjanovic of the SNP as his deputy. Dinkic has rejected Ognjanovic, who he says is linked to the Milosevic-era policies of hyperinflation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere in Podgorica, several representatives of the governing coalition stressed that Montenegro does not recognize the authority of the Belgrade-based bank. Miodrag Vukovic, who is an aide to President Milo Djukanovic, called that institution the "National Bank of Serbia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). PM

ILIESCU BACKED BY CENTRIST OPPOSITION IN ROMANIAN RUNOFF...

The leaderships of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party, meeting on 29 November, called upon their supporters to "reject extremism" and back Ion Iliescu in the 10 December runoff. They agreed to coordinate positions on the one year-pact proposed by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and on negotiations with the PDSR about the pact. They said the PDSR will prove its readiness to cooperate with the opposition only if it includes its proposals on "national priorities" in the future minority government's program. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) has postponed making a decision on whether to back Iliescu and said it will decide after consulting its local branches. MS

...RESPONDS TO OPPOSITION'S SUGGESTIONS

PDSR chairman Iliescu responded that his party is ready to discuss with the PNL and the Democrats their suggestions for establishing "national priorities" and possibly include those suggestions in the new cabinet's program. Iliescu said the PDSR is not making the same offer to the UDMR, with whom collaboration is possible "only at parliamentary level," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMISTS WANT COALITION WITH PDSR...

The Steering Committee of the Greater Romanian Party (PRM) said on 29 November that the electorate has "clearly signaled" it wants a coalition between the PDSR and the PRM and that the PRM is ready for this partnership. The PDSR would "assume a great responsibility if it allies itself with political forces that have repeatedly proved their incompetence and inclination toward treason," the committee said. Iliescu responded that the PDSR is ready for a "dialogue" with the PRM but cannot envisage a coalition with it because the two parties' programs are "incompatible." PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said later on 29 November that if the PDSR "boycots" the PRM after his victory in the presidential runoff, he intends to make use of his "presidential prerogatives" to dissolve the parliament and announce early elections. The constitution does not provide for such presidential prerogatives. MS

...THREATEN JOURNALISTS WITH LABOR CAMPS

PRM Iasi deputy Anghel Stanciu on 29 November said that journalists who have "sold out to the West" could be sent to labor camps. In this connection, he mentioned the planned Bucharest-River Danube canal: in the 1950s, many communist regime opponents perished in forced labor camps at the Danube-Black Sea canal. Stanciu later denied making that statement, saying it had been "distorted" and "taken out of context," Mediafax reported. On 28 November, PRM Secretary General Gheorghe Funar said that if the PRM "comes to power," the UDMR will be outlawed. Funar commented that UDMR leaders have "nothing to fear" because they will "benefit from the personal protection" of future President Tudor, who is known to be "a Christian soul who can wrong no one," Mediafax reported, citing the Cluj-based Hungarian language daily "Szabadsag." MS.

MOLDOVAN SPEAKER WARNS AGAINST POLITICAL, ECONOMIC 'CHAOS'

Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov said in an interview with "Argumenty i fakty-Moldova" published on 29 November that Moldova "risks dissolving into chaos" if the parliament fails to elect a new president on 1 December. Diacov also said that the failure to elect a head of state will also rob Moldova of much-needed credits from international borrowers. He noted that the center-right coalition that supported the candidacy of Constitutional Court chairman Pavel Barbalat is "only seven votes short" of the 61 needed to elect the head of state. Diacov harshly criticized the Party of Moldovan Communists chairman Vladimir Voronin, saying he imposed his presidential candidacy on his party and, if elected president, will run Moldova "the way things are done in other countries ruled by [former communist] party secretary generals, " Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER APPEALS TO FRANCE TO HELP LIFT VISA REQUIREMENTS

In a 29 November letter to French President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said Sofia is asking Paris to support its efforts to join the EU and NATO and have the visa requirement on Bulgarians traveling to EU countries lifted, AP reported. "I want to believe France is taking into account the efforts and the indisputable success of Bulgaria to become a reliable barrier against the [illegal] immigration pressure on the EU, including pressure from third countries," Kostov wrote. On 30 November, a committee formed by EU interior and justice ministers is to examine how to respond to Bulgaria's request to have the visa requirements lifted. MS




COUNTING AND ACCOUNTING AFTER THE ROMANIAN ELECTION


By Michael Shafir

Once the ballots have been counted, the accounting should begin. And it already has in Romania. The entire leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) resigned two days after the 26 November elections, as a result of which that party was eliminated from the parliament. It is doubtful, however, whether introspection will be practiced by all those who contributed to the triumphant return to power of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), to the transformation of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) into Romania's second-strongest parliamentary formation, and to the nightmarish scenario about to be staged: a runoff between PDSR leader Ion Iliescu and PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor for the highest state office--the presidency.

Those outgoing coalition parties that gained parliamentary representation--the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party (7.5 percent and 7.4 percent respectively in the Senate ballot and 6.8 and 7 percent respectively in the Chamber of Deputies vote)--are unlikely to emulate the PNTCD. Yet their contribution to the debacle was no less, and was perhaps even more, substantial. The two were members of the ever-bickering coalition formed after 1996 by the pro-Western Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), the Democratic Party, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). The PNL and the Democrats held important portfolios in the coalition, but it was the PNTCD from among whose ranks two out of its three premiers (Victor Ciorbea and Radu Vasile) were nominated. This is one of the reasons why the electorate handed down more severe punishment to the PNTCD, which ran as the main formation of the Democratic Convention 2000 alliance, than to the PNL and the Democrats. The PNL, meanwhile, deserted the CDR, while the Democrats opted long ago to be simultaneously in the ruling coalition and in opposition.

Opposition parties never win elections, Winston Churchill is reputed to have once said; rather, it is the government that loses them. Romania is no exception. In 1996, the PDSR was swept out of power owing to disastrous policies that delayed reforms. The CDR came to power promising to implement those reforms and to do so quickly. But it hardly got them started, being more preoccupied with intra- and inter-party skirmishes. Meanwhile, poverty and unemployment grew, the chances of European integration dwindled, and corruption flourished.

By 2000, those with short memories or nostalgia for the "protective hand" of the state had forgotten the PDSR's earlier sins. The party--an unreformed "successor party" to the Communists-- was returned to power as the largest in the parliament, receiving 37.1 percent backing in the Senate ballot and 36.6 percent in the Chamber of Deputies vote. But its representation will be stronger owing to the division of the "spoils," namely, the votes cast for parties that did not pass the 5 percent electoral hurdle. In 1996 the PDSR had scored 23.1 and 21.5 percent in the elections for the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

The extent of the outgoing coalition's poor showing becomes apparent only when voter turnout is examined. In 2000, turnout was down some 20 percentage points on 1996. The bulk of those who stayed away were almost certainly former CDR voters, and this gave an advantage to parties that managed to enlist the support of important segments of the electorate.

Viewed from this perspective, the PDSR's performance is less impressive than that of the PRM. In 1996, the latter party had scored 4.5 percent in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies elections (a small increase over its 3.9 percent backing in 1992). The increase this year over 1996 was nearly four-fold: 21 percent in the Senate elections and 19.5 in the elections for the chamber.

How can one explain the large support for a party that is anti-Hungarian, anti-Roma, anti-Semitic, and overtly populist? First, the PRM benefited from disillusion with both the PDSR and the CDR. Tudor has promoted himself as "righteous" and his party as untainted by Romania's rampant corruption. His promises to solve the country through a "dictatorship of the law" are attractive to an unsophisticated, impoverished, and desperate electorate.

Second, Tudor has managed to attract large segments of the younger electorate, for whom his past as a Ceausescu court poet is irrelevant and who sees its future as bleak. His "solutions" are both radical and simplistic, particularly those blaming the current situation on Romania's foreign "enemies"--among whom Tudor counts the IMF , the World Bank, and an undefined, but obviously Jewish-led globalization drive-- and on its domestic "puppets."

Third, Tudor did exceptionally well in Transylvania, the country's economically most developed region. This indicates that poverty and other economic grounds do not tell the whole story of the PRM's success. The party benefited from the disintegration in Transylvania of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), whose former leader, Gheorghe Funar, is now PRM secretary general. Support for the PUNR, which failed to reach parliamentary representation in alliance with another party, has clearly been transferred to the PRM.

Furthermore, the PRM received more than double the votes cast for it and for the PUNR together in 1996. This indicates that its appeal has gained ground even among former supporters of the CDR. Perhaps those CDR-supporters among Romania's intellectuals, whose praise for and defense of interwar extreme nationalism and nationalists indirectly legitimized Tudor, would be well advised to start asking themselves some questions.


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