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Newsline - April 6, 2001




NTV RESUMES REGULAR BROADCASTS...

NTV General Director Yevgenii Kiselev told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 5 April that NTV was resuming its regular programming because such a decision was in the interests of its viewers. Station workers had discontinued all programs except news and advertisements to protest what they consider as an illegal takeover of the company's management by Gazprom-Media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). The Media Ministry ordered NTV on 5 April to stop violating the terms of its broadcasting license. NTV Press Secretary Maria Shakhova explained that NTV's journalists will continue to express their opposition by displaying the on-screen NTV logo with the word "protest" written over it, according to Interfax. JAC

...AS GAZPROM, NTV STAFF AGREE TO SET UP CONCILIATION GROUP

After meeting with Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh on 5 April, Kiselev told reporters that each side in the dispute will delegate 10 people whose decisions -- reached by consensus -- will be binding to both parties. The first session was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Moscow time on 6 April. According to Kokh, among the commission's first tasks will be determining who will be the network's general director and editor in chief. On 3 April, Gazprom-Media named U.S. financier Boris Jordan as general director (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2001). Gazprom-Media rejected an offer by Media-MOST Group to place a three-month moratorium on any technical or creative management changes in light of the agreement that company reached with U.S. media magnate Ted Turner. The Union of Journalists plans to hold another rally in Moscow in support of NTV on 7 April and it is projecting that some 5,000 people will attend. The last rally attracted more than 10,000, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. JAC

MORE TELEVISION STATIONS GO OFF THE AIR IN SIBERIA, FAR EAST...

Broadcasts from Russian Public Television (ORT), Russian Television, and other local television and radio stations went off the air on 5 April in Krasnoyarsk Krai as the result of Krasnoyarskenergo turning off electricity supplies to customers with unpaid bills, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Krasnoyarsk Radio and Television Transmission Center owes some 960,000 rubles ($33,000), according to the center. The center also maintains that ORT owes it some 20 million rubles as it has not paid the center for its transmissions in several years. According to Interfax-Eurasia, Krasnoyarskenergo turned off electricity to the center several times last year in order to get them to pay off a 3-million-ruble debt. Earlier this month, stations in Kamchatka Oblast, and the Khabarovsk and Primorskii krais also went off the air due to unpaid bills to electricity suppliers (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 April 2001). JAC

...AS PRIMORSKII KRAI ASKS MEDIA MINISTRY, EES TO INTERVENE

Primorskii Krai acting Governor Valentin Dubinin is conducting negotiations with Unified Energy Systems and Media Minister Mikhail Lesin about restoring central television broadcasts to the krai, "Segodnya" reported on 6 April. Local utility Dalenergo told the newspaper that unless the krai's television and radio transmission center pays its overdue bills, broadcasts of all local television channels will be turned off on 9 April. According to the daily, the center owes more than 12 million rubles. JAC

NEW INTERIOR MINISTER APPOINTS LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE

Newly appointed Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov appointed four new officials at his agency on 4 April: deputy interior ministers Yevgenii Soloviov and Vitalii Mozyakov; Gryzlov's new chief of staff, Andrei Novikov; and Gryzlov's senior adviser, Vyacheslav Zakharenkov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 April. Colonel General Soloviov, who will be in charge of personnel matters, has spent over 20 years in state security, most recently serving as deputy director of the Federal Security Service, according to the daily. Mozyakov, like Gryzlov, hails from St. Petersburg. He reportedly studied at the law school of Leningrad State University at the same time as President Vladimir Putin. He also worked at the St. Petersburg Internal Affairs Directorate. Novikov worked at the same directorate, while Zakharenkov headed the St. Petersburg Internal Affairs Directorate for Transportation. JAC

INFLATION SLOWED SLIGHTLY IN MARCH

Monthly inflation in March dropped to 1.9 percent from 2.8 percent in January and 2.3 percent in February, Russian agencies reported on 5 April, citing the State Statistics Committee. Public utility prices posted the biggest gains, rising 3.4 percent in March. Committee Chairman Aleksandr Surinov told Ekho Moskvy that day that city telephone rates jumped 6.4 percent in March alone. Surinov attributed the growth in prices overall to several factors, primarily the ruble/dollar exchange rate. However, he claimed that Russian citizens are in good shape to cope with any price hikes, since nominal wages grew 50 percent according to January and February data, compared with a 5 percent rise in consumer prices. Nationwide, the Marii El Republic, Volgograd, and Magadan oblasts recorded the highest inflation rates in March with 5.0 percent, 4.7 percent, and 4.6 percent respectively, according to Interfax. JAC

GORE-CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION TO BE REVIVED IN DIFFERENT FORM?

While in the U.S. on a working visit, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told reporters on 4 April that Russia has offered to form a new intergovernmental commission at the level of economic ministries. Gref added that the U.S. government has not yet given "a final answer" to Russia's proposal, but "everyone agreed that such a mechanism is necessary." While in Washington, Gref met with Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Deputy Treasury Secretary for International Affairs John Taylor, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, unnamed State Department officials, and executives from Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, and John Deere, according to ITAR-TASS. Gref also spoke at the annual meeting of the U.S. Export-Import Bank and to the U.S.-Russia Business Council. JAC

NEW NUCLEAR MINISTER SAYS SAFETY FIRST

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 5 April, newly appointed Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that he believes it is possible to import spent nuclear fuel into Russia, but only if the endeavor is completed with a high level of technological security. Rumyantsev also called for the construction of new nuclear power stations in which all safety precautions are to be observed. Deputy Speaker (Communist) Petr Romanov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" the same day that a ban on imported spent nuclear fuel would hurt the prospects for Russian enterprises building nuclear power plants abroad. According to the daily, it "is Russia's duty to take this spent nuclear fuel from the power plants it built in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Finland, Ukraine, and Lithuania." JAC

SOLANA, IVANOV DISCUSS FUTURE COOPERATION

Following a meeting between Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on 5 April, Leonid Ivashov, head of the department for international military cooperation at the Defense Ministry, told reporters that the two officials discussed new proposals for future cooperation between their two organizations, according to ITAR-TASS. Ivashov added that particular emphasis was laid on cooperation in the prevention of crisis situations and joint peacekeeping operations, including in the Balkans. Ivashov added that the EU "shares Russia's position on the settlement of the Balkan crisis by nonmilitary means." Solana told reporters that the two officials also discussed "concrete proposals of how to continue working together in the field of crisis management, Reuters reported. According to the agency, Russia has expressed an interest in the EU's plans to set up a 60,000-strong rapid reaction force by 2003. JAC

RATE OF MENTAL ILLNESS RISES AMONG YOUNG

During the last 10 years, psychological illnesses have increased in Russia by 1.5 times among adults and by 2.5 times among children and adolescents, Tatiana Dmitrieva, director of the Center for Social and Legal Psychiatry, told reporters on 5 April. Almost 6 million people are registered in Russia with mental illnesses, according to Dmitrieva, but the real figure is likely higher since this statistic does not include those treated in private clinics and hospitals, Interfax reported. Dmitrieva added that Russia's increasing number of people afflicted with mental illness is part of a worldwide trend. JAC

EUROPEANS ASKED TO AID CHECHNYA DIRECTLY

Vladimir Kalamanov, the presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, told a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on 5 April that the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should send humanitarian aid directly to Chechnya, rather than to Ingushetia, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSHAILO OUTLINES TASKS IN CHECHNYA

Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo told Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov on 5 April that the most important immediate tasks in Chechnya are the creation of an efficient management system, the formation of a republic government staff, and the restoration of the republic's oil and gas sector, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Chechen administration head Akhmat Kadyrov announced the appointment of Adlan Magomadov, 32, in place of Shamil Beno as deputy head of the administration in Chechnya, the Russian news agency said. PG




NO OBVIOUS PROGRESS MADE AT ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI SUMMIT

The third day of OSCE-mediated talks between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev in Key West, Florida, passed without any sign of headway, Western agencies reported. But Russian, French, and American mediators all suggested that the talks themselves were a sign of progress. Meanwhile, Ramiz Mehtiev, head of the Azerbaijani presidential administration, said in an interview published in "Azerbaijan" on 5 April that there must be a just and equitable peace or a new outbreak of hostilities is possible. And former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofiq Zulfugarov said in an interview published in the 5 April "Yeni Musavat" that he is pessimistic about the outcome of the Key West round of talks. PG

ARMENIA BANS IMPORT OF 'LOW QUALITY' IRANIAN FUEL

The Snark news agency reported on 4 April that Armenia has banned the import of what Yerevan calls "low quality" Iranian fuel and that some 200 tank trucks are backed up at the countries' border as a result. Meanwhile, the same agency reported, Armenia's Energy Ministry is engaged in "tough" talks with Russia's Itera gas distribution company about future gas deliveries to Yerevan. At present, Armenia's total debt to Itera amounts to $26 million. PG

PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL RESUMES

Nairi Hunanian refused to testify when court resumed after a five-week break in hearings on the case of those charged with carrying out the assassinations in the Armenian parliament on 27 October 1999, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 5 April. PG

ARMENIAN UNEMPLOYMENT REMAINS HIGH AS LOW-PAYING JOBS REMAIN UNFILLED

Unemployment in Armenia remained at 10.6 percent in March even though many low-paying jobs remain unfilled, the Noyan Tapan agency reported on 5 April. PG

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS BACK NTV COLLEAGUES

The journalists' trade union in Azerbaijan issued a statement on 5 April in support of NTV journalists, the Trend news agency reported. The union said that "we believe that the steps taken by Gazprom against the free will of NTV journalists are aimed at stifling the only Russia-wide independent TV company... Russia is giving a bad example to the other post-Soviet states, including Azerbaijan. The struggle for media freedom in Russia is the struggle for the same ideals in other countries of the former Soviet Union." PG

AZERBAIJANIS SAY CORRUPTION IS 'VERY HIGH'

Out of a group of experts, officials, journalists, and politicians polled recently, 73 percent said that corruption in Azerbaijan is currently "very high," the Turan news agency reported on 4 April. An additional 17 percent said it was "high." Sixty percent said that the amount of corruption had increased in the past year, and significant percentages blamed the current government, the low level of civic culture in the country, and the impact of the Soviet past. PG

NATO BASE IN AZERBAIJAN SEEN AS PROMOTING STABILITY

An article in "Zerkalo" on 4 April suggested that the deployment of NATO bases in Azerbaijan would help resolve the Karabakh conflict in Baku's favor while reducing Russian and Iranian influence in the southern Caucasus. But at the same time, such bases would likely prompt Moscow to use Armenia even more in opposition to Azerbaijan, the paper said. PG

NATO SAYS GEORGIA IS IMPORTANT TO ALLIANCE

General Joseph Ralston, supreme allied commander Europe in NATO, said in Tbilisi on 5 April that Georgia is the object of "great attention" within the alliance, Georgian television reported. A Georgian correspondent who talked to Ralston concluded that Georgia's cooperation with the alliance's Partnership for Peace program will ultimately lead to Georgia becoming a member of NATO. PG

GEORGIAN NATIONALIST LEADER BEATEN

Georgian television reported on 5 April that Zviad Dziziguri, leader of the Union of National Forces, was beaten near his home. Several legislative deputies accused the police and security forces of being behind the beating, Caucasus Press reported on the same day. PG

GEORGIAN AUDIT CHAMBER FINDINGS LEAD TO 48 PROSECUTIONS

During 2000, the findings of the Georgian Audit Chamber led to criminal prosecutions against 48 officials, Kavkazia-Press reported on 5 April. PG

ETHNIC AZERIS SAID TO BE MISTREATED IN GEORGIA

The Bilik Dunyasi news agency of Baku reported on 5 April that Azerbaijani villages in Georgia are now being renamed and history books are being burned. The agency said that the status of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Georgia "is constantly deteriorating," even though the situation had improved earlier upon President Eduard Shevardnadze's coming to power. PG

PUBLIC FIGURES TO HELP SOLVE CENTRAL ASIAN CONFLICTS

Tajikistan's Asia-Plus news agency reported on 5 April that a special group of distinguished intellectuals and public figures will serve as "goodwill ambassadors to help solve conflicts among Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Among those who have assumed this role is Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov. PG

JOINT CENTRAL ASIAN FORCE TO BE READY BY SUMMER

A joint quick-reaction force of four battalions from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan is planned for operational deployment in Central Asian hotspots by August, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 April. PG

'KAZAKHSTAN WITHOUT NAZARBAEV' MOVEMENT ORGANIZED

Dauren Satybaldy, the leader of the Zhangyru movement, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 5 April that he has formed a "Kazakhstan without Nazarbaev" movement modeled on the "Ukraine without Kuchma" effort in Ukraine. PG

KAZAKHS' IGNORANCE OF ISLAM COULD LEAD TO ISLAMIST POLITICS

Maulen Ashimbaev, director of the Kazakh Institute of Strategic Studies, said that ignorance among the Kazakh population could lead to the politicization of those who claim to be Muslims, Kazakh television reported on 5 April. He called for the introduction of religious instruction in all schools and for the state to avoid any interference in the work of the Muslim spiritual directorate. PG

KAZAKHSTAN DISRUPTS ILLEGAL MIGRATION CHANNEL FROM ASIA TO EUROPE

The Kazakh National Security Committee has disrupted an organized criminal effort that had been moving people from Asia across Kazakhstan to Russia and Europe, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 5 April. PG

KYRGYZ NGO SUES OVER MEETING RESTRICTIONS

Yelfira Yausheva, coordinator of the Coalition of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 5 April that she has sued the Bishkek city administration over its restrictions on public meetings there. Meanwhile, "Res Publica" editor Zamira Sydykova told RFE/RL that her paper has hired all the journalists from the banned "Asaba" daily. PG

BOMB BLAST IN TAJIKISTAN CAPITAL

A bomb blast killed one person and wounded nine others in Dushanbe on 5 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The motives for the blast remain under investigation. PG

TURKMEN PRESIDENT BANS OPERA, BALLET

Insisting that ballet and opera are "alien" to Turkmen culture, President Saparmurat Niyazov on 5 April closed the main opera and ballet theater in Ashgabat to allow for the development of distinctly Turkmen culture, Interfax-Central Asia and AP reported. He also placed the country's culture minister on a sixth-month probation as director of a youth theater and announced that Turkmen broadcasting will fall under the Communications Ministry, Turkmen radio and television reported on 4 April. PG




BELARUS' YOUTH FRONT LEADER JAILED FOR 10 DAYS

Pavel Sevyarynets, leader of the opposition Youth Front, has joined three older opposition leaders in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March, 3 and 5 April 2001), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 5 April. As in the sentences handed down earlier to Vintsuk Vyachorka, Ales Byalatski, and Yuras Belenki, Sevyarynets was sentenced for organizing an unauthorized demonstration to mark Freedom Day on 25 March. The same day a court in Barysau (Minsk Oblast) jailed Alyaksandr Abramovich for 10 days for staging a protest in support of Russia's NTV television. And Minsk prosecutors instigated criminal proceedings against four activists of the Zubr (Bison) movement: Alyaksey Shydlouski, Tsimokh Dranchuk, Zmitser Drapachka, and Ales Aronich. The four were detained by police while painting graffiti that read: "Where are the missing people? Where are [opposition politicians Yury] Zakharanka, [Viktar] Hanchar, [Anatol] Krasouski?" JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ASKS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO WORK ON REGIME

The Consultative Council of Opposition Political Parties has appealed to international organizations and foreign parliaments to use their influence to improve the political situation in Belarus in the run-up to this year's presidential election, Belapan reported on 5 April. The council's statement says the recent ballot for the Chamber of Representatives showed that the authorities do not intend to comply with international standards for democratic elections. The council notes that Belarus's parliamentary elections, marred by large-scale fraud, were the authorities' rehearsal for the presidential ballot. The appeal is addressed to the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assemblies, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly as well as the parliaments of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CRIMINAL CODE WITHOUT DEATH PENALTY...

The parliament on 5 April voted by 379 to three, with two abstentions, to pass a liberalized Criminal Code that replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment, Interfax reported. The Constitutional Court ruled in 1999 that the death penalty is illegal and ordered the legislature to annul corresponding articles in the Criminal Code. Under the new code, people under 18 or older than 65 may not be imprisoned for life. The bill also limits punishments for mentally incapacitated criminals. It introduces new penalty methods, including unpaid community service, and reclassifies slander as a civil offense instead of a criminal one. The bill also outlines new types of crime, including copyright violations and illegally holding more than one professional post (an offense often committed by legislators). Lawmaker Yuriy Karmazin commented that the liberalized code will improve the country's overall social situation. JM

...LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES...

The parliament also adopted a new version of the March 2000 law on political parties, which was vetoed by President Leonid Kuchma. Lawmakers rejected seven presidential amendments to the law, accepted five fully, and seven partially, Interfax reported. The adoption of this law, like that of the Criminal Code, is one of Ukraine's obligations to the Council of Europe. JM

...BUT FAILS TO ENDORSE BILL ON PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY, OPPOSITION

The parliament failed to endorse in the first reading a bill on parliamentary majority and opposition. Out of the 394 deputies registered in the session hall, 172 supported the bill while 128 were against it. The parliamentary caucuses of the Communist Party, the Fatherland Party, Rukh (Kostenko), Reforms-Congress, and some legislators from the Socialist Party refused to participate in the voting. The rejected bill stipulated that a parliamentary majority is a voluntary association of no less than 226 deputies who are headed by the parliamentary speaker. JM

UKRAINE'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS REFUSE TO SIGN ACCORD WITH GOVERNMENT

Oleksandr Zinchenko, head of the 34-strong parliamentary caucus of the Social Democratic Party (United), said on 5 April that his group will not sign with the government a political accord that is now being prepared in a bid to preserve the parliamentary majority and Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet until next year's parliamentary elections. Zinchenko explained the decision by citing the refusal of the Fatherland Party, Rukh (Kostenko), and Reforms-Congress parliamentary groups to back the bill on parliamentary majority and opposition (see above). Meanwhile, Premier Yushchenko voiced his concern about the reregistration of the parliamentary majority currently being undertaken (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). "I'm convinced that after the reregistration the majority will become less numerous, and I fear it may become so small that it will lose its majority status," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying. JM

KUCHMA WANTS UKRAINE TO LEARN TO LIVE WITHOUT IMF

President Kuchma on 5 April said Ukraine has to learn how to live without the IMF, Interfax reported. He added, however, that as of now Ukraine should not reject cooperation with the IMF because the presence of such cooperation is a signal to all countries that they can work with Kyiv. JM

AUSTRIAN, ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS SIGN TAX ACCORD

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner and her counterpart Toomas Hendrik Ilves signed an agreement in Tallinn on avoiding double taxation and preventing tax evasion on 5 April, BNS reported. The two countries earlier signed agreements on the promotion and protection of investments as well as on passenger transport. An aviation agreement is also being prepared. Ferrero-Waldner discussed EU and NATO enlargement as well as developments in Russia, particularly in Chechnya with President Lennart Meri. The Austrian foreign minister also repeated that Austria supports a German proposal that would bar citizens of new EU member-states from working in current EU countries for a seven-year transition period following accession into the EU. She also met with Prime Minister Mart Laar and parliament Deputy Speaker Tunne Kelam. SG

LATVIA TO ALLOCATE 2 PERCENT OF GDP FOR DEFENSE IN 2003

By a vote of 74 to 11, with two abstentions, the Latvian parliament on 5 April passed a law stipulating that funding for national defense and integration into NATO be set at 1.75 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002 and at 2 percent of GDP in 2003, AFP reported. Latvia allocated 1.34 percent of GDP for defense spending this year. SG

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

The parliament elected Latvia's Way (LC) deputy Romualds Razuks as its new deputy chairman on 5 April, LETA reported. Razuks received 56 votes, while Social Democratic candidate Viola Lazo received 29. The post became vacant when Social Democrat Gundars Bojars was elected to the Riga City Council. LC initially nominated Edvins Inkens, but withdrew his candidacy after it became clear that he wanted to remain as chairman of the parliament's European Affairs Committee. SG

KAZAKH PRESIDENT VISITS LITHUANIA

Due to a slight illness caught in Norway, Nursultan Nazarbaev canceled a planned visit to Kaunas and flew directly to Vilnius on 4 April, where he spent the day resting before hosting an official dinner with former President Algirdas Brazaukas and parliament deputies Vytautas Landsbergis and Kazimiera Prunskiene. The next morning he gave President Valdas Adamkus documents on Lithuanian deportees and political prisoners who had been imprisoned in his country and declared that Kazakhstan recognized Lithuania's sovereign right to join NATO and praised its progress toward EU membership, BNS and ELTA reported. The presidents also witnessed the signing of a treaty on cooperation in fighting tax violations and interministerial agreements on cooperation in environmental protection and customs as well as a protocol for cooperation between the Klaipeda and Aktau ports. After a luncheon with Premier Rolandas Paksas, Nazarbaev discussed with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas further interparliamentary and economic ties. Nazarbaev then made a speech to the parliament in which he identified transit and transport as the two most promising pillars of cooperation between the two states. Adamkus later hosted a dinner for Nazarbaev at the President's Office. SG

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski on 5 April met with U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell to discuss suits against Poland for the restitution of Jewish property and compensation payments for Nazi-era slave laborers, PAP reported. The two politicians also talked about NATO enlargement. "Powell shares our view that every properly prepared country which meets NATO standards has equal rights, and that nobody can interfere in the decision on whether a given country should or should not be admitted to the alliance," Bartoszewski commented. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell also tried to convince Bartoszewski that Poland should buy U.S.-made fighter-planes instead of European models. As a new NATO member, Poland is obliged to have 16 multipurpose fighters ready for NATO operations by 2003, and 60 by 2006. U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to visit Warsaw in mid-June. JM

TEAMS OF POLICE, PROSECUTORS TO TARGET CRIME IN SMALL POLISH TOWNS

Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski told journalists on 5 April that special groups of police and prosecutors will combat crime in small towns that have become dominated by gangs. According to Kaczynski, such a method for combating gangs has proved successful in Wyszkow, near Warsaw. Kaczynski said Wyszkow has become notorious due to criminals who have taken over the town. Some residents maintained that investigative agencies in the town are corrupt and are doing nothing to improve public safety. JM

EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT VISITS PRAGUE

Visiting EU Commission President Romano Prodi told journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 5 April that Czechs can look forward to EU membership by 2004, CTK and AP reported. "What yesterday seemed to be a dream, is today reality," Prodi said, adding that EU enlargement is the organization's "most important challenge" and that "we are close to our goal." Prodi termed as "unjustified" fears of the free movement of labor expressed in some EU countries, but Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement who accompanied Prodi, said the EU Commission must nonetheless take those fears into consideration. Prodi also rejected the view that the latest EU measures against BSE (mad cow disease) are in any way discriminatory against the Czech Republic. He said the measures apply even to EU countries where the disease has not been confirmed. MS

FIRST RESIGNATION FROM NEW CZECH 'SHADOW CABINET'

Freedom Union member Vaclav Krasa on 5 April resigned from the recently formed Four Party Coalition shadow cabinet, CTK reported. He justified the decision by the fact that his party had nominated him for the post of shadow health minister, reflecting his expertise as chairman of the union's health commission of experts, but the post was given to Christian Democrat Senator Zuzana Roithova, while Krasa himself was appointed shadow labor and social affairs minister. MS

ZEMAN SAYS NO WEAPONS WITH DEPLETED URANIUM IN CZECH ARMY

Premier Zeman on 5 August said the Czech military's arsenal does not include any weapons that contain depleted uranium and that his government has "nothing against the banning of such weapons." Zeman replied in writing to a question submitted by Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia leader Miroslav Grebenicek, CTK reported. Zeman also said the radioactivity of the depleted uranium weapons used by NATO forces in Yugoslavia and Kosova two years ago was 40 percent lower than that of natural uranium that can commonly be found in the soil, water, and air. MS

CZECH ROMA EMIGRATE TO U.K.

Twenty Romany families from the Ostrava region emigrated to the U.K. over the past six weeks, Romany Civic Initiative representative in Ostrava Josef Facuna told CTK on 5 April. Facuna said that Zeman and the ruling Social Democratic Party are responsible for their departure. "Under the government of [former Prime Minister] Vaclav Klaus it was possible to find a job, earn money, and live decently," he said. A spokesman for the U.K. Embassy in Prague said British immigration authorities received 55 asylum applications in January "and the number doubled in February." The applicants were accompanied by 119 dependents, the spokesman said. MS

GERMANY BANS NEO-NAZIS WITH CZECH LINKS

Klaus Hardrath, interior minister in the German State of Saxony, on 5 April issued an order banning the activity of the ultra-right Saxon Switzerland Skinheads (SSS). The organization operated near the border with the Czech Republic and, according to reports in the German media, also trained on Czech territory, CTK reported. The SSS was formed in 1996 by former members of the extremist Viking Youth organization, which was banned in 1994. The SSS had some 100 members and 200 supporters who often attacked left-wing activists, foreigners, and drug dealers. Last year, police confiscated weapons and explosives from apartments of SSS members. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT IN SYRIA

Rudolf Schuster on 5 April began a three-day visit to Damascus, holding talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Miro. They discussed economic relations and the crisis in the Middle East. A Syrian-Slovak joint governmental commission is to be set up to examine the pending Syrian debt to Bratislava. The Slovak delegation expressed an interest in purchasing spare parts in Syria for its Soviet-made air and ground equipment, CTK reported. Schuster requested that his hosts back Slovakia's candidacy for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2006-2007. He stressed the obligation of all UN members to respect the organization's resolutions and added that Syria's position in the Middle East conflict has long been known to have "benefited the peace process." MS

PRODI URGES CHANGES IN HUNGARIAN MEDIA AND MINORITY POLICIES

EU Commission President Prodi said at a closed meeting of the Hungarian parliament's Integration Committee on 5 April that problems related to government influence in public media and the treatment of the Roma minority have to be resolved before the country joins the EU. Prodi said the minority issue is a crucial one for the EU, as "it is itself a community of minorities." Prodi said he understands Hungary's concerns about the state of ethnic Hungarians abroad, but "a similar enthusiasm" is expected toward minorities within the country. Regarding the public service media, Prodi said an amendment of the Media Act is necessary in order to reach an agreement on Hungary's audio/visual policy at EU accession talks. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER IS ASKED ABOUT COOPERATION WITH EXTREMIST PARTY

Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs sent a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orban asking him to clarify FIDESZ's relationship with the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), Hungarian media reported on 6 April. Kovacs said recent statements made by FIDESZ Chairman Laszlo Kover suggest that the only reason preventing FIDESZ from entering into a coalition with MIEP is the EU's rejection of extremist parties. Kover has repeatedly declared sympathy with MIEP's values and policies, Kovacs added. In other news, a Socialist Party panel on 6 April was to begin interviewing Kovacs, Socialist parliamentary group leader Sandor Nagy, former Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy, and former Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth, to find out whether they would accept the nomination if they were to be chosen as the party's candidate for premier in the 2002 elections. MSZ

HUNGARY'S SMALLHOLDERS CONVENE PARTY CONVENTION

The "Civic Section" of the Independent Smallholders' Party has convened a special party convention for 5 May to decide on the fate of party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, parliamentary member Andras Varhelyi announced on 5 April. Varhelyi said that following recent developments Torgyan will have to leave politics "if he has even a minimum of moral integrity" Otherwise he will be dismissed by the convention, Varhelyi said. In related news, Phare Funds Minister Imre Boros said the party's Civic Section is discussing electoral cooperation with the Christian Democratic People's Party. MSZ

HUNGARY BRIEFS DIPLOMATS ON STATUS BILL

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 5 April briefed ambassadors from EU and NATO member-states, as well as those from neighboring countries, on a status bill that would provide benefits for ethnic Hungarians abroad. Martonyi stressed that the bill is in full harmony with the country's foreign policy priorities, and with the objectives of the Euro-Atlantic integration and regional cooperation. MSZ




MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS SAY SLAVS 'NOT SERIOUS' ABOUT DIALOGUE

Arben Xhaferi, head of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) that is part of the governing coalition, said on 5 April that politicians from the ethnic Macedonian majority are not interested in addressing the Albanian minority's complaints about discrimination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2001, and "End Note" below). "They are not ready to have a real dialogue. They want to have some kind of a coffee-table discussion without any obligations," Reuters reported from Skopje. "If we do not open a dialogue, the violence will return very easily. The [guerrillas] did not disappear, they are [still] around us." Xhaferi also cautioned against referring to them as "terrorists" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 March 2001). He stressed that "we could have another crisis because of the rigidity of the Macedonian side," London's "Daily Telegraph" reported. The Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which is the largest ethnic Albanian opposition party, boycotted the talks as a waste of time. PPD Secretary-General Muhamed Halili said that "the government of Macedonia is not able to take the responsibility for resolving the crisis," the "Financial Times" reported. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT: NO TALKS WITH REBELS

President Boris Trajkovski said on 5 April that he rules out any negotiations with fighters from the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), Reuters reported from Skopje. He told a meeting of regional defense ministers that "we have intensified political dialogue but we will not respond to those who suggest a concept of a federal state." He also repeated the position of his government that the UCK comes from Kosova and that its emergence is not the result of legitimate grievances of Macedonia's own Albanians. "The agenda of the terrorists is not the internal situation in Macedonia. Their agenda is the situation in Kosovo. Our efforts will be fruitless if the international community does not take care of the roots of the crisis in Kosovo." The Serbian authorities also blame the foreigners for security problems in the area. PM

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY APPEALS FOR DIALOGUE IN MACEDONIA

Romania's Mircea Geoana, who currently holds the OSCE chair, said on 5 April that "all legitimate interests should be presented [at the roundtable talks]. We also feel the need of having some quick success, some quick wins that will give confidence," Reuters reported from Skopje. British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said in Tetovo after meeting with Xhaferi that "we need to work while there is an interval, when Macedonia is clear of violence. We must create the political conditions in Macedonia where all citizens know they have equal rights and feel they have equal opportunities." Earlier, after meeting with Macedonian leaders, Cook said in Skopje: "We want to help Macedonia defeat the terrorists. We support multiethnic Macedonia in which the citizens are equal with equal opportunities. There is no place for violence in a democratic society," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). PM

NATO TO HELP CONTROL MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN BORDER

An unnamed "NATO official" told AP in Brussels on 5 April that the alliance has agreed to a request from Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta to "reinforce controls along the Albanian-Macedonian border." NATO and Albanian officials are working out the details. On 6 April, dpa reported from Skopje that the Macedonian army has deployed heavy weapons at Debar on the border with Albania. Defense Ministry officials said that up to 30 fighters have recently crossed into Macedonia from Albania. That same day, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer arrived in Tirana to discuss bilateral and regional relations with Meta and President Rexhep Meidani. Fischer was to head to Kosova later that day. PM

SERBIAN ROLE IN DRAFTING KOSOVA'S CONSTITUTION

Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said in Belgrade on 5 April that "it is very important" to include representatives of Kosova's Serbian minority in the process of drafting a constitution for Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said he and Haekkerup discussed "the problem of the legal framework for Kosovo," including "the interim constitutional arrangements" for the general elections expected later this year. "We pointed out that there is readiness on part of the Yugoslav side to join the work on that project," AP quoted Kostunica as saying. The two men also said that there will soon be an agreement on cooperation between Belgrade and the UN administration. Belgrade wants to "return to Kosova" with the help of the international community. There are no reliable statistics on the current population of Kosova, but the Serbian share of the total is probably about 7 percent. All political parties representing the perhaps 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority want independence and no further links to Serbia. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER REFUSES, YUGOSLAV ONE ACCEPTS HAGUE WARRANT FOR MILOSEVIC

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic "declined" to accept an arrest warrant for former President Slobodan Milosevic from The Hague tribunal's registrar, Hans Holthuis, London's "The Times" reported on 6 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). Instead, Batic gave Holthuis a letter for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in which he called on the tribunal to indict Hashim Thaci and other former Kosovar fighters. The next day, Yugoslav Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac accepted the warrant during what Holthuis called a "very promising visit," Reuters reported. PM

ARE ARRESTS A MILOSEVIC FAMILY AFFAIR?

"The Times" reported on 6 April that Belgrade prosecutors are preparing an Interpol arrest warrant for Milosevic's son Marko. The youthful underworld kingpin is believed to be in Russia. The Serbian Interior Ministry has filed criminal charges against Milosevic's daughter Marija for her use of violence in resisting her father's recent arrest, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. And unconfirmed reports continue to circulate in the Belgrade media that Milosevic's wife Mira may be arrested soon for her widely suspected role in some unsolved political murders. She currently visits her husband in Belgrade's Central Prison daily. PM

IS FRANCE BACKING BELGRADE AGAINST MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION?

London's "The Times" reported on 6 April that an unnamed "senior EU official" said in Brussels that the U.K. and especially Germany want future EU aid to Serbia made conditional on Belgrade's cooperation with The Hague in the Milosevic case. The official added that France is "at the other end of the spectrum in trying to push the EU towards a soft line. It is very sympathetic to Kostunica," whose anti-American views have found a warm hearing in Paris. PM

PEACEKEEPERS 'TAKE OVER' HERZEGOVINIAN BANK...

SFOR troops blocked off access to offices of the Hercegovacka Banka in Mostar and its branches in several other towns on 6 April, Reuters reported. Chris Bird, who is a spokesman for the international community's High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Sarajevo that "there has been a joint operation this morning between SFOR, IPTF [the UN's International Police Task Force], Ministry of Interior [police], and financial police to establish an international provisional administration in Hercegovacka Banka according to a decision by the high representative." The aim of the move is to remove the financial basis of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which refuses to recognize the authority of the federal government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). PM

...BUT NOT WITHOUT INCIDENTS

Bird also said in Sarajevo on 6 April that the attempt to take over the bank offices was marred by violence and that details are still coming in. "There are reports that during the course of the riot, several participants in the operation were attacked and injured by bank employees and thugs... The high representative demands that local authorities and political leaders act to bring calm to the situation and requires that all citizens act within the law," Reuters reported. PM

BOSNIAN GENERAL TESTIFIES IN THE HAGUE

Controversial former Muslim General Sefer Halilovic testified in The Hague on 6 April against Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Many Serbs feel that Halilovic himself should be in the dock. PM

EU-CROATIAN AGREEMENT NEARLY READY

EU Commissioner Chris Patten and Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 5 April that they will be able to initial the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Brussels and Zagreb in early May, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Patten stressed that the progress on the agreement is "a mark of the extraordinary transformation of the relationship between Croatia and the EU" since the new government took office in early 2000, AP reported. PM

ROMANIAN 2001 BUDGET THREATENED BY PDSR, LIBERAL RIFT...

National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Valeriu Stoica said on 5 April that the PNL is not ready to renounce its principles for the sake of improving the image of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), and that the PDSR must understand that PNL support of the 2001 budget is conditional on the acceptance of the party's amendments. He also said the PNL "rejects the paternalistic postures" of the PDSR. Stoica reacted to Prime Minister Adrian Nastase's declaration one day earlier, in which he said the PNL must "decide whether it travels in the [governmental] carriage or on foot." Nastase also said that a PNL vote against the 2001 budget would amount to an infringement of the December 2000 agreement between the two parties. He said such a vote can "topple the government, and thus be considered as a no-confidence vote." MS

...WHICH LEADS TO SUSPENSION OF PARLEYS ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Stoica also accused the PDSR of attempting to bargain on the budget by linking its approval with PNL-pursued constitutional amendments. On 5 August, Chamber of Deputies' Chairman Valer Dorneanu told PNL deputy Radu Stroe that the discussions of the two parties' representatives on amending the basic documents "are suspended" and that the PDSR now wants the PNL to agree to an extension of its support of the minority cabinet until 2002. The PDSR said the envisaged new agreement would deal with the constitutional amendments as well, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE VOTES TO PUNISH CORRUPT MINISTERS

The Senate on 5 April introduced a provision in the Law on Ministerial Responsibility now under discussion that would punish ministers convicted of fraud with prison terms of up to 20 years, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The law has yet to be debated in the Chamber of Deputies. Ordinary citizens convicted on similar charges face between one and seven years in prison. The Justice Ministry and the Judicial Commission opposed the measure on the grounds that punishment for corruption and fraud is already provided for in the Penal Code, but the measure was passed with the support of PDSR senators who refused to toe the party discipline line, headed by Senator Antonie Iorgovan, who proposed the stipulation. The vote was 65 in favor and 35 against. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN ITALY

Premier Nastase on 6 March is meeting in Rome with his Italian counterpart Giuliano Amato and with opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi and will later be received by Pope Paul John II, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase began a two-day visit to Italy on 5 April, meeting with representatives of the Ansaldo company, which is likely to participate in the financing of the second nuclear plant unit planned at Cernavoda, Mediafax reported. The total costs of the unit are estimated at $750 million, and the government said its construction would be regarded as one of its top priorities. The other foreign company slated to be involved in financing the construction is the Canadian AECL. Due to bad weather, representatives of the Torino-based automaker Fiat canceled a meeting in Rome with Nastase. Romania is interested in Fiat's participation in either the privatization of its troubled Brasov Tractorul tractormaker, or in the plant's modernization. MS

ILASCU THANKS ROMANIAN AUTHORITIES FOR SUPPORT

Ilie Ilascu, in a letter given to his wife when she visited him in prison on 26 March, thanked Prime Minister Nastase and Romania's parliament for their efforts to bring about his liberation, Romanian radio reported on 5 April. In his message, Ilascu said he will "never accept [making a] political compromise in exchange for my freedom." Ilascu, elected a Romanian senator in November 2000, was sentenced to death for terrorism by the Transdniester authorities and has been imprisoned in Tiraspol since 1992. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT THREATENED BY ILASCU FAN

At the entrance to the parliament in Chisinau on 5 April a 67-year-old pensioner threatened to "settle accounts" with President Vladimir Voronin, whom he accused of "doing nothing to free Ilie Ilascu," Infotag reported. The man carried a large kitchen knife and after being detained by police, was found to also to be in possession of a large paving stone. Police said he will be submitted to psychiatric examination. Infotag also reported that Voronin's neighbors are pleading with the new president to forego his promise not to move to the presidential palace. Ever since his election the residential building where Voronin lives in central Chisinau has been filled with secret police agents who check identities and divert traffic. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES ARMS EXPORTS TO MACEDONIA

The parliament on 5 April unanimously ratified a February Bulgarian-Macedonian agreement allowing the sale of arms to neighboring Macedonia, Reuters and AP reported. Macedonia will pay only for weapons and munitions, but not for the other supplies, which were not specified. The vote will enable the government to supply the arms after the parliament is dissolved on 19 April, ahead of the 17 June general elections. MS

BULGARIAN CABINET BANS ARMS EXPORTS TO 19 COUNTRIES

More than a year after coming under international criticism for allegedly providing weapons to Angolan rebels, the cabinet headed by Ivan Kostov on 5 April forbade the sale of arms to the African country and 18 other states that are on the UN list of countries to which arms exports are banned, AP reported. A UN report published in March 2000 said UNITA rebels in Angola purchased weapons from Eastern Europe, primarily from Bulgaria, in exchange for gems, and had the arms supplied via other African countries. The Bulgarian government has repeatedly denied the allegations. MS

EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVE SUMMIT LAUDS BULGARIA'S ROLE IN BALKANS

A summit of the European People's Party, (EPP) which includes Christian Democratic and conservative parties from Europe, on 5 April in Sofia praised the role played by Bulgaria in ensuring Balkan stability, the English-language daily "Monitor" reported. The summit is the first to be held in a state that is not a EU member. The meeting expressed strong support for Kostov's cabinet ahead of the June elections. EPP Chairman Wilfried Martens stressed that Kostov's Union of Democratic Forces is implementing "painful but vital reforms that [have already] brought about positive changes." Addressing the gathering, President Petar Stoyanov said the venue of the meeting is in itself an acknowledgment of the country's progress. The forum endorsed a swift EU enlargement. MS

IMF ASSESSMENT PRAISES BULGARIAN REFORMS

An IMF assessment of Bulgaria's economic performance said on 5 April that the country "has come a long way" in the past three years, "Monitor" reported. The country's GDP has increased by 11 percent, after having dropped by more than one-third between 1989 and 1997, the report said. Inflation has been brought under control after having reached hyperinflation levels in 1996-1997, and the external debt declined from nearly 100 percent of GDP in 1997, to about 80 percent now. The assessment says some sectors of the economy must still undergo reforms, mentioning among them the energy sector and business regulations. It also says that while an amended Privatization Law was approved in November 2000, new strategies for selling the state telecommunications and tobacco monopolies have yet to be put in place. MS




COALITION MANEUVERING IN SKOPJE


By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz

It seems very likely that an institution from the early days of Macedonia's independence will be revived: all-party talks under the auspices of the president.

When Kiro Gligorov was still in that office, all manner of topics were regularly discussed. Some authors -- like Stefan Troebst and Heinz Willemsen in the latest issue of "Osteuropa" -- even go so far as to suggest that Gligorov led a kind of government by consensus. They argue that this system of governing ensured that the ethnic tensions that undeniably existed in Macedonia during the early 1990s did not lead to an armed conflict like in some other former Yugoslav republics.

For the almost two years since Gligorov left office in 1999, the talks have been suspended. Only the outbreak of violent clashes between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian fighters has prompted a revival of these discussions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 April 2001). Now the initiative lies in the hands of President Boris Trajkovski. Even though not all parties came to the first rounds of the talks, Macedonian as well as European politicians -- like Javier Solana or the coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, Bodo Hombach -- have hailed them as a first step toward easing the tension and reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Parallel to the beginning of the all-party talks earlier this week, another idea from the early 1990s has reemerged: that of a broad coalition. The government led by Nikola Kljusev (March 1991-July 1992) had been described as an "expert government," with a strong anti-Albanian stamp. The "expert government" was made up almost exclusively of non-Albanian party members from the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), the ex-communist Social Democrats (SDSM), and the Movement for All-Macedonian Action (MAAK). It was eventually brought down by a vote of no confidence and replaced by a coalition government formed by the SDSM and the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which lasted until after the fall 1998 elections.

Today, Macedonia again is ruled by a coalition government. The biggest party -- the VMRO-DPMNE -- and its leader, Ljubco Georgievski, refrained from making the openly anti-Albanian sentiments of earlier times. This made possible the coalition with the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) led by Arben Xhaferi. This party and its leader similarly ceased making radical statements in exchange for political offices. The third original coalition partner, the Democratic Alternative (DA), has been replaced by the Liberal Party (LP) in the meantime.

Shortly after the armed conflict between the Albanian guerrillas and the Macedonian security forces broke out earlier this year, the opposition Social Democrats as well as the ruling VMRO-DPMNE started to look for ways to form a "government of national unity" based on a broad coalition.

After having exchanged bitter accusations this past weekend, the leaders of the major Macedonian parties -- Georgievski of the VMRO-DPMNE and Branko Crvenkovski of the opposition SDSM -- have now agreed to meet on 5 April for a first round of talks.

The mutual accusations drew attention to the deep rift between the two parties' views on a number of issues. First, SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE disagree on the origin of the current crisis. Whereas the government says it is imported by "terrorists" from Kosova, SDSM is of the opinion that it is an internal problem of Macedonia. According to the Social Democrats, the recent violent clashes were orchestrated by the PDSH.

Second, the government officially does not show any inclination to change the constitution to meet key Albanian demands because this step might be seen as weakness by the electorate. On the other hand, there are some discussions going on in the press as to whether and how the constitution could indeed be changed. This may be seen as a sign that the government could eventually back down on the issue. This possibility seems even more likely if one keeps in mind the calls by the international community for greater equality for the Albanians, and Xhaferi's virtual ultimatum to the same effect.

Changing the constitution is exactly what the SDSM wants to avoid by entering a government coalition. On 30 March, Crvenkovski told a press conference that if Georgievski does not give way to a broader coalition -- Crvenkovski did not specify how broad this coalition should be -- his party would have to resort to street protests either to force its way into a coalition or to bring down the government.

In response to Crvenkovski's claims, Georgievski first reacted by accusing Crvenkovski of "diversionary acts against the Macedonian state." He nonetheless then offered talks on forming a coalition. On the agenda are the demands of the SDSM for two key ministries (Interior and Justice) and for holding parliamentary elections before the end of this year.

While the smaller parties generally agree to the creation of a broad coalition, some of them do not, such as the Liberal Democrats led by Skopje Mayor Risto Penov.

Whether a broad coalition will be formed or not will be decided by the current junior coalition partner, the PDSH. Party Vice President Menduh Thaci already signaled that he is not willing to cooperate with either the "former UDBA [Yugoslav secret service] members of the PPD" or with the SDSM. To the SDSM offers to form a "coalition for national salvation," he replied: "The SDSM and PPD have saved Macedonia enough. With their criminal activities and the torture of Albanians that took place during their government [before the 1998 elections], they sowed the seed for the grain that the current government has to harvest."


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