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Newsline - June 4, 2001




UNITY, FATHERLAND AGREE TO UNION, NOT MERGER

The coordination council of Unity and Fatherland on 1 June agreed that the two groups will form a union but will not merge into a single party immediately lest they forfeit the ability to compete in future elections, Russian and Western agencies reported. But officials from both groups suggested that a merger might take place before 2003. Many other politicians, including Yabloko faction deputy leader Sergei Ivanenko, cast doubt on the future of the combination, Interfax reported. PG

BEREZOVSKY DOUBTS PUTIN WILL LAST HIS TERM

Embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky said on NTV on 31 May that he thinks "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin will not even make it through the very next stage of his term." Berezovsky acknowledged he made a major mistake during the last presidential elections by supporting Putin, who he believed at the time would continue former President Boris Yeltsin's reforms. "Putin's view," Berezovsky said, "is that Russia cannot be ruled other than by authoritarian methods, whereas I am deeply convinced -- and the past 10 years have shown as much -- that Russia can develop for real as a liberal country." PG

KOVALEV HAS DOUBTS ABOUT BEREZOVSKY'S POLITICAL PLANS

Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces [SPS]) and human rights activist Sergei Kovalev told Interfax on 1 June that he finds Berezovsky's plans to create a neo-liberal party "an interesting idea," that he welcomes Berezovsky's acknowledgement that he made a mistake in supporting Putin, but that he doubts that Berezovsky's support of any parties in the future would be with funds "more clean" than he has used in the past. PG

NEVZLIN SAYS PUTIN VIEWS JEWS LIKE ANY OTHER SMALL ETHNIC GROUP

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" supplement "Figury i litsa" No. 10, Leonid Nevzlin, the president of the Russian Jewish Congress, said that Putin "in relation to Jews conducts himself just as he does to all other small nations of the Russian Federation, singling them out neither for positive special treatment or negative treatment." Nevzlin said he is satisfied by this approach. PG

PRESIDENTIAL GUARD TO LOOK MORE LIKE ALL OF RUSSIA

Following complaints by Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev and Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, officials responsible for the Kremlin guard have dropped the requirement that soldiers selected for Kremlin duty be Russians and have classic Slavic features, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 22, reported. It is not longer necessary that they look like Russian heroes from fairy tales, but it is still required that they be unusually tall and handsome. PG

RUSSIANS INCREASINGLY UNHAPPY WITH GOVERNMENT, POLLS FIND

Polls conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 1 June found that Russians are increasingly unhappy with the performance of the Russian government in areas most directly affecting their lives. Among other things, the polls showed that 47 percent of Russians now say that the government is unable to deal with rising prices and falling incomes, compared to 25 percent saying that in a poll taken in November 1999. PG

COMMUNISTS CONTINUE TO LEAD IN POLLS

If parliamentary elections were held now, a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 1 June showed, 37 percent of the electorate would vote for the Communist Party, 20 percent would vote for the Unity-Fatherland bloc, 11 percent for the SPS, 10 percent for Yabloko, 7 percent for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and 5 percent for Women of Russia. No other party would clear the 5 percent barrier needed for representation in the Duma. PG

SPS DIVIDES LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES

At a meeting of the SPS political council on 2 June, the party assigned former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to be responsible for the party's work with the regions, former acting Premier Yegor Gaidar to be responsible for ideology, and Duma deputy Irina Khakamada for foreign ties, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIANS BELIEVE U.S. MORE JUST SOCIETY THAN THEIR OWN

A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 June showed that almost half of all Russians -- some 46 percent -- are convinced that American society is basically just and 48 percent believe that it is more just than is Russian society. Only 17 percent said that Russian society is now more just than is American society. PG

SLAVIC CONGRESS CALLS FOR RUSSIA-BELARUS-UKRAINE UNION

More than 800 delegates from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other countries assembled in Moscow at a Congress of Slavic Peoples, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 June. The meeting called for reaffirming national values and for closer integration of the three large Slavic countries. The delegates voted to form a Slav Assembly led by a collective leadership including Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Kozik, and Ukrainian writer Boris Oleinik. VY

MOSCOW SAYS INF ACCORD FULFILLMENT A MODEL

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 1 June that the successful implementation of the INF accord between 1988 and now was not only unprecedented in reducing the number of weapons but provides a valuable lesson for the future, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW INTRODUCES VISA REGIME WITH HUNGARY

The press office of the Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 1 June that Moscow will impose visa requirements for Hungarian nationals on 3 June in response to a Hungarian plan to require visas for Russian visitors to that country. The ministry spokesman indicated that Moscow hopes that the two countries can reach agreement soon to restore the visa-free regime that existed over the last decade. VY

RUSSIAN GENERAL SAYS PEACEKEEPING FORCES IN KOSOVA MAY INCREASE IN SIZE

Lieutenant General Nikolai Staskov, the chief of staff of Russian paratroop forces, said on 1 June that the number of international peacekeepers in Kosova may increase in order to prevent a new upsurge of "extremist" actions, Interfax reported. PG

GREECE BOUGHT 13.8 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN MILITARY EXPORTS

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 1 June, Greece, the first NATO country to purchase military hardware from Russia, accounted for 13.8 percent of all foreign purchases of Russian arms in 2000. PG

MOSCOW CONDEMNS TERRORIST ACT IN TEL AVIV

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 2 June that Russia condemns the 1 June terrorist bombing in a Tel Aviv disco in which 20 people were killed and 90 injured and calls for the toughest possible response, regardless of who is responsible, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that both sides in the conflict cannot allow terrorists to set the agenda by such acts. Ivanov said that he has personally called officials in the region and in the U.S. and that special Russian envoy Andrei Vdovin was to fly to the Middle East on 4 June for consultations. VY

UIGHUR THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA, CHINA LINKED TO BIN LADEN

An article in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 19, argues that accused Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden is one of the prime movers behind the upsurge in Uighur assertiveness in China and that the Uighurs are linking up with Islamist groups in Central Asia, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, to threaten governments there as well. PG

RUSSIAN NAVY MAY NOT STAY AT CAM RANH BAY IF RENT IS TOO HIGH

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax on 1 June that Russia may not renew its lease in 2004 on the Cam Ranh bay facility in Vietnam if Hanoi raises the rent significantly. Moscow has been using the base -- which was built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War -- since 1979 but now questions whether it can justify this expenditure. VY

SOVIET, RUSSIAN MILITARY COMBAT DEATHS DETAILED

The Russian General Staff told "Argumenty i fakty," No. 22, that the Soviet military lost 939,755 soldiers during the Civil War (1918-22), 626 in the struggle against the basmachi movement in Central Asia (1923-31), 187 in the 1929 Soviet-Chinese conflict, 353 in the Spanish Civil War, 9,920 in battles with the Japanese at the end of the 1930s, and 1,139 during the occupation of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus. During the Soviet-Finnish War the Soviet side lost 126,875, and suffered losses of 8,668,400 in World War II. During the Korean War (1950-53), the Soviet forces lost 299. During military assistance operations in Asia and Africa 145 Soviet soldiers died; in Hungary in 1956, 750; and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, 96 were killed. During the 1969 border dispute with China, 60 Soviet soldiers were killed. The Afghan war claimed 14,751 Soviet soldiers' lives. In the first Chechen war, 5,835 Russian soldiers died, and in the second 3,108 have died so far. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICERS CATEGORIZED

An article in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 19, argues that Russian military officers now fall into several categories: the "fanatics" who really believe in what they are doing, the ambitious who simply want to rise up in the world, those who cannot find any other work, those who remain in uniform to get benefits, and those who misuse their position to enrich themselves. The last category is growing, the weekly said, to the shame of the army and the society as a whole. One consequence of this deterioration in the quality of Russian officers is that "girls from 'good families' no longer intend to marry lieutenants." PG

MORE GOVERNORS NOW LIKELY TO BE ABLE TO SEEK RE-ELECTION...

The presidium of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction in the Duma has agreed with the "Federation" group of the Federation Council not to reduce from 69 to nine the number of governors who may seek re-election, Interfax reported on 1 June. PG

...AND MORE GENERALS BECOME GOVERNORS

Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov said in an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 1 June that the coming to power in the regions of professional military men reflects a shift in popular attitudes that may point to more generals becoming governors in the future. He said that "people today are tired of disorder, of irresponsible leaders, of blabbermouths, of chaos at all levels of the state, of the corruption of officials, and of widespread crime." In such a situation, he said, many people look to officers as people they can trust to restore order. PG

COURT DOES NOT EJECT DARKIN FROM FAR EAST RACE

The Primorskii Krai court on 1 June refused to bar Sergei Darkin, who finished first in the 27 May race, from the second round of the gubernatorial race there on 17 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Gennadii Apanasenko, the first deputy presidential envoy to the region, who finished third in the race and who brought the suit, said he will not appeal the verdict (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2001). Meanwhile, Darkin said that if elected he will seek to make his administration "transparent" and will name former Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko to represent the region in the Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Darkin's opponent in the second round, Duma deputy Viktor Cherepkov, said that such an arrangement would mean the return of Nazdratenko as the dominant figure in the region, the news service said. PG

TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT DEFENDS POWER-SHARING TREATY

Tatarstan's President Shaimiev continues to insist that the power-sharing treaty signed between Moscow and Kazan when Yeltsin was Russian president remains in force despite Russian court decisions to the contrary, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 June. Indeed, Shaimiev has noted that unless that treaty remains in force, Tatarstan's relationship with Russia will be undefined because, like Chechnya, Tatarstan did not sign the federation treaty. PG

PERM TO SEARCH FOR DATA ON U.S. SOLDIERS POSSIBLY HELD IN GULAG

Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev said his administration will participate in the search for evidence about American soldiers who might have been kept in gulag camps in Perm in the 1950s, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 31 May. Trutnev's comments came at a meeting with a mixed Russian-American commission that is now looking into the matter. PG

OFFICIALS ACKNOWLEDGE NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SCIENTISTS

Gennadii Mesyats, the deputy president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, acknowledged that the Russian authorities have imposed new restrictions on scholars' foreign contacts, but he said that the state is "entitled to hold its scientists to account" and that "the whole business has been blown out of all proportion," "Izvestiya" reported on 1 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001.) An article in "Vremya MN" the same day said that the rules represent "a throwback to the Soviet era" and will become obstacles to research. Meanwhile, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 22, reported that voluntary informers reporting to the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and other security agencies now number in the thousands. PG

RUSSIAN SCIENCE IN TROUBLE, SCIENTISTS ORGANIZE

The number of researchers employed in Russia has fallen from 2 million in 1990 to only 800,000 now, Russian scholars said at the meeting of the For Revival of Science Movement that was created on 2 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. The average age of scholars in the country is rising rapidly as young people choose not to go into this low-paying sector. PG

ONLY ONE RUSSIAN HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR IN 20 IS HEALTHY

According to a report on strana.ru on 1 June, International Children's Day, only about 5 percent of Russian in their last year of high school are healthy. The site added that the number of youthful drug users had increased by 17.5 times over the last seven years and that half of all Russian teenagers now consume alcohol. Psychological problems are increasing as well, the site reported, with one in every three suicides in Moscow being committed by a young person. Oleg Mironov, the human rights ombudsman, told Interfax on the same day that the Russian government does not provide adequate support for young people. In many regions, he said, there is not a single social institution for people under 20. PG

LUKASHENKA RELATIVELY POPULAR IN RUSSIA

A poll reported by Interfax on 1 June found that 35 percent of Russians are sympathetic to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, with only 10 percent being unsympathetic to him. Forty-one percent are neutral. PG

RUSSIANS HIDING 41 PERCENT OF INCOMES FROM TAX COLLECTORS...

"Vremya MN" reported on 1 June that Russians are hiding 41 percent of their incomes from tax collectors. The paper said that the statistic comes from the State Statistical Committee. PG

...BUT GAZPROM SEEN PAYING MORE...

Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev said on 1 June that he is confident that the shift in leadership at Gazprom last week will mean that the gas giant will pay more in taxes, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

...AND GAZPROM OFFICIAL URGES BUYING GAZPROM STOCK, NOT DOLLARS

Aleksandr Semenyaka, a member of the Gazprom administration, called on Russians to invest their savings in shares in his company rather than using their earnings to buy foreign currency, Interfax reported on 2 June. He noted that Gazprom shares have increased in value by 40 percent since the start of 2001. PG

'STATE IDEOLOGY' NEEDED TO FIGHT YOUTH CRIME, OFFICIAL SAYS

Major General Veniamin Petukhov, the head of the Main Administration of Internal Affairs in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, said on 31 May that Russia needs "a state ideology" in order to counter the growth in youth crime, Interfax-North-West reported. PG

5,000 SECTS ATTRACT SOME 5 MILLION RUSSIANS

Officials at the Russian Orthodox Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Nontraditional Religions said on 1 June that some 5,000 sects are operating in Moscow and other major Russian cities and that about 5 million Russians are involved in their activities, Russian agencies reported. Over the past 2 1/2 years, the officials said, they have been able to return 400 of those involved to the Orthodox faith. PG

POLICE SEIZE 1939 GERMAN CANNON FROM MOSCOW CRIME GANG

FSB officers and police working in the organized crime area seized four members of a Moscow criminal group and took from them, among other weapons, a 1939-vintage German cannon, Interfax reported on 1 June. PG

GLASNOST DEFENSE FUND SAYS RUSSIA DOES NOT HAVE FREE MEDIA

Speaking at a conference on the 10th anniversary of the Glasnost Defense Fund, that body's president, Aleksei Simonov, said that "the state monopoly on the mass media is moving toward its apogee and...the press itself acknowledges that it has sold out," Interfax reported on 1 June. As a result, Simonov said, public trust in the mass media has fallen four to five times from what it was a decade ago. He said that Russia lacks "the laws, traditions, and even the societal demand" for freedom of speech and of the press. PG

GUSINSKY GIVES AWAY EKHO MOSKVY SHARES BEFORE COURT ORDER

Aleksei Venediktov, the editor in chief of Ekho Moskvy radio, said on 1 June that Vladimir Gusinsky has given the journalists at that station his 14.5 percent share in Ekho Moskvy in advance of a court decision liquidating the Media-MOST holding company, Russian and Western agencies reported. As a result, the station's journalists now control 42.6 percent of the station's shares, with Gazprom having only 25 percent plus one share. PG

REGIONAL MEDIA UNDER THREAT

Even more than in Moscow, the media in Russia's regions are now under threat as a result of official pressure and legal cases that frequently drive recalcitrant editors out of business, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 June. The Moscow paper pointed to a recent case in Tomsk where an editor was sentenced to pay 220,000 rubles ($7,300) -- far more than he or his paper could afford. PG

REGIONS MAY BENEFIT FROM SELL-OFF OF MILITARY INDUSTRIAL CONCERNS

Many Russian regional leaders have opposed the privatization of military industries on their territories, fearing that such sales will lead to the closure of the plants and thus increase unemployment while reducing their tax revenues, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 19, reported. But now Moscow officials are arguing that the sales can actually increase the income of the regions and some regional leaders are changing their positions. PG

HIGH COST TO DELAY WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM IN RUSSIA

Interior Ministry officials told "Argumenty i fakty," no. 22, that the creation of an effective witness protection program would cost approximately 5 billion rubles ($17 million). Because of that high cost, the weekly reported, officials do not believe that they will be able to start the program in even a minimal way until 2002. PG

SCHOLARS SAY RUSSIAN MAY BE LATINIZED EVENTUALLY

Several scholars suggested that Russia itself may be forced to introduce a Latin script in place of Cyrillic for Russian just as Tatarstan is now planning to do with Tatar, "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 31 May. The scholars said that the Internet and other communications technologies will likely push Moscow to do that sometime in the next several decades. PG

COSMONAUTS SAY NO SEX IN ORBIT

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 1 June, Russian cosmonaut Talgat Musabaev said that having sex while in orbit is prohibited for many good reasons, not least of which the consequences for any child that might be conceived. "We laugh about it," Musabaev said. "We simply don't have any possibilities to engage in it, and the Americans are very disciplined people." PG

CHECHEN FIGHTERS TO CONTINUE TARGETING RUSSIAN MILITARY

Spokesmen for the Chechen resistance told AFP on 3 June that they intend to continue targeting the Russian military in retaliation for intensified Russian reprisals in recent weeks against Chechen civilians. Two Russian police officers were shot dead the same day at Grozny's central market, which had been cordoned off and searched two days earlier in a Russian operation aimed at apprehending Chechen militants in which seven people were arrested. Similar searches ended on 2 June in Novye Atagi, Starye Atagi, and Cheri-Yurt. LF

RUSSIAN GENERAL SUGGESTS REWARDS FOR CAPTURE OF CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS

North Caucasus Military District commander Colonel General Gennadii Troshev proposed on 1 June that financial incentives of up to $1 million be offered for the capture of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov or top field commanders such as Shamil Basaev and Khattab, ITAR-TASS reported. Troshev also warned it may be necessary to undertake a "special operation" to locate and neutralize Chechen fighters currently in the territory of neighboring Ingushetia. But Ingushetia's President Aushev made clear his opposition to that "irresponsible" proposal, warning that any action against his republic must be undertaken in strict compliance with the law. Aushev noted that President Putin has neither declared war on Ingushetia nor proclaimed a state of emergency in that republic, Interfax reported on 1 June. LF




FURTHER STRAINS SURFACE WITHIN IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY

Speaking in Yerevan on 2 June at the second congress of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Chairman Stepan Demirchian again made clear that the HZhK does not approve of all decisions taken in the name of the Miasnutiun parliament majority bloc of which it is the junior partner, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Demirchian specifically criticized the government's privatization policy. He also again rejected the hypothesis that the five gunmen who murdered eight senior officials, including his father Karen, in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 acted on their own initiative. He expressed doubt that the parliament commission created last month to investigate allegations that senior government officials are providing the gunmen with legal advice will succeed in establishing the truth. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS FAIL TO SET DATE FOR NEXT KARABAKH TALKS

Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev told journalists on 1 June on his return to Baku from the CIS summit in Minsk that his talks on the sidelines of the summit with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian probably lessened the chances that the two will meet as planned in Geneva later this month to continue their search for a mutually acceptable solution to the Karabakh conflict, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev said that in order for the Geneva meeting to take place, certain unspecified conditions must be met, and that at present "my and Kocharian's positions on the settlement are quite different although they are not worlds apart." He denied, however, that the talks are deadlocked. Speaking in Yerevan on 2 June, Kocharian's spokesman Vahe Gabrielian denied that the Armenian president had asked the Minsk Group co-chairmen to postpone the planned Geneva talks. French co-Chairman Philippe de Sureman said last week that the two presidents had asked for the Geneva meeting to be postponed, but Aliyev denied on 31 May having made any such request (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001). LF

POLICE AGAIN CLASH WITH AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATORS

For the second time in three weeks, police in Baku used force on 2 June to break up an unsanctioned demonstration by an estimated 150-200 members and supporters of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR), Reuters and Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2001). Eighteen people were temporarily detained and several injured. As during two previous demonstrations, the participants were demanding the release of political prisoners and the dropping of criminal charges brought against ADR Chairman and former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev. Guliev, who has lived in the U.S. since leaving Azerbaijan in September 1996, is charged with embezzlement of state property worth $74 million. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS CHECHEN REFUGEES SHOULD RETURN

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 2 June that during his talks in Minsk on the sidelines of the CIS summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin he had proposed that the estimated 7,000 Chechen refugees currently in Georgia be voluntarily repatriated, Caucasus Press reported. But Shevardnadze said that Russia should provide material and financial assistance to those willing to return. Shevardnadze and Putin also discussed the Abkhaz conflict, the planned closure of Russia's military bases in Georgia, and economic cooperation, Interfax reported on 1 June, quoting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. LF

GUUAM MEMBERS TO CREATE FREE-TRADE ZONE

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said in Minsk that an agreement on creating a free-trade zone will be signed at the upcoming summit in Yalta of GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), Caucasus Press reported on 2 June. Georgian President Shevardnadze said two days later that other countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, may join GUUAM in the near future. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze had suggested on 31 May that Russia and Armenia could acquire observer status within GUUAM. Speaking at the CIS Minsk summit, Russian President Putin said organizations such as GUUAM and the Eurasian Economic Community complement the CIS rather than weaken it. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SAYS FOREIGN INVESTMENT NOT ESSENTIAL

Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Aktyubinsk on 2 June that Kazakhstan does not need foreign loans, Interfax reported. Nor, Nazarbaev continued, does Kazakhstan currently have real debts, given that the country's gold and foreign currency reserves are more or less equal to its debts. Those reserves exceed $2.5 billion, while the national fund holds a further $900 million; gross foreign debt is estimated at $3.6-3.7 billion. LF

OSCE REJECTS KAZAKH ACCUSATION OF BIAS

The OSCE office in Almaty issued a statement on 1 June affirming its readiness to cooperate with all political parties in Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Speaking at a press conference the previous day, Azat Peruashev, the leader of the pro-Nazarbaev Civic Party, had accused the OSCE of bias, noting that during a visit to Kazakhstan earlier in May OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin had met with representatives of three opposition parties but not with Civic Party members, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The OSCE statement pointed out that Severin met in Almaty with opposition representatives and in Astana with parties that support the government; it said that in each case, the number of parties invited was limited to seven in accordance with OSCE guidelines. LF

KYRGYZ, RUSSIAN PREMIERS MEET IN MINSK

Kurmanbek Bakiev and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov met on 1 June on the sideline of the CIS Minsk summit to discuss provisions for the establishment in Bishkek of the headquarters of the CIS Rapid Reaction Force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2001), more Russian military assistance for Kyrgyzstan, and economic issues, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Meeting in Minsk on 31 May, the CIS premiers named General Valerii Verchagin, deputy head of the Kyrgyz National Security Service, as deputy head of the CIS Anti-Terrorism center. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST BORDER PROTESTS

Visiting Issyk-Kul Oblast on 1 June, Kyrgyz government officials led by department head Salamat Alamanov warned local residents they risk punishment if they protest against the 1999 border agreement whereby Kyrgyzstan ceded to China 70 percent of the disputed Uzengi-Kuush region, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The region is located at the conjunction between the Issyk-Kul and Naryn oblasts and China. The Kyrgyz parliament has not yet ratified the border accord (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 23 May 2001). LF

TAJIKISTAN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER U.S. TRAVEL ADVISORY

Tajikistan Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 1 June that he "regrets" the recent "perplexing" U.S. State Department advisory that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to Tajikistan. He said the advisory is at odds with the assessment of the situation given during a visit last month by U.S. General Tommy Franks, who noted "significant progress" toward establishing peace and democracy in Tajikistan. Azimov added that it is desirable that citizens of other countries should travel to Tajikistan to judge the situation there for themselves rather than rely on press coverage that, he said, is frequently "tendentious." LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT COOL ON EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY'S PROSPECTS

Islam Karimov said on his arrival in Minsk to participate in the CIS summit that he doubts the newly formalized Eurasian Economic Community will prove any more successful than its predecessor, the CIS Customs Union, in promoting economic integration among CIS member states, Interfax reported on 1 June. Karimov also said Uzbekistan will not renew its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, which it declined to renew two years ago, but instead will "solve all security problems on a bilateral footing." LF




CIS HEAD OF STATES HOLD SUMMIT IN MINSK

The meeting of the CIS heads of state in Minsk on 1 June was long on ceremony but short on substance, an RFE/RL special correspondent reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that efforts to establish a free-trade zone within the CIS would soon prove successful. "I think a free-trade zone practically has almost been formed. The Russian Federation has signed bilateral agreements with all CIS states. The question remains unresolved only with Ukraine," Putin told journalists. But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said the summit made no substantial progress on the establishment of a CIS free-trade zone, Interfax reported on 1 June. Zlenko noted that Ukraine has met all obligations required to join a CIS free-trade zone. Several leaders noted that the advantage of CIS summits is mainly in providing a venue for bilateral and trilateral meetings within a short period of time and with minimal costs. JM

CIS OBSERVERS TO MONITOR BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Russian President Putin said at the CIS summit in Minsk on 1 June that CIS states will send observers to this year's presidential elections in Belarus, Belapan reported. Putin added that the decision was made on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's request. JM

BELARUSIAN COMMUNISTS SEE STATE TELEVISION AS THEIR 'MAIN IDEOLOGICAL OPPONENT'

Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the opposition Belarusian Party of Communists, has said Belarusian Television is the party's "main ideological opponent," Belapan reported on 1 June. Kalyakin made the statement while explaining to a Hrodna branch of his party why he signed a declaration to coordinate his activities in the presidential campaign with four other possible presidential candidates -- Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Uladzimir Hancharyk, and Pavel Kazlouski. Kalyakin noted that his cooperation with the four gives his party the possibility to increase its popularity. According to Kalyakin, 50 percent of Belarusians do not know about the existence of the party, while 65 percent have never heard his name. JM

EXILED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS TO RUN IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Zyanon Paznyak, leader of one wing of the split Belarusian Popular Front, said in Krakow, Poland, on 2 June that he intends to run in this year's presidential elections in Belarus, PAP reported. Paznyak left Belarus in 1996 and obtained political asylum in the U.S. He lives alternately in the U.S. and Poland. Asked about the Belarusian regime's possible refusal to let him into Belarus or to register him as a presidential candidate, Paznyak said "this would be a political and moral defeat of Lukashenka." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO STAFF NEW CABINET 'IN A FEW DAYS'

Leonid Kuchma said in Minsk on 31 May that the formation of Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet will be completed "in a few days," Interfax reported. Kuchma noted that some Ukrainian politicians' forecasts about "trading in jobs" in the new cabinet have not come true. "Some thought that Anatoliy Kinakh's appointment was dependent on trading in government jobs at the expense of professionalism [of cabinet members]. I think you have become convinced that practically nobody traded in [cabinet] posts," Kuchma told journalists. JM

UKRAINIAN-POLISH ECONOMIC FORUM HELD IN DNIPROPETROVSK

Ukrainian President Kuchma and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski met in Dnipropetrovsk on 3 May, where they attended an annual Ukrainian-Polish forum of several hundred businessmen, PAP reported. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamakus, who was also scheduled to participate in the forum, cancelled his trip to Dnipropetrovsk because of health reasons. JM

ESTONIA CLOSES ENVIRONMENT CHAPTER AT EU TALKS

Estonia concluded the environment chapter in its European Union membership negotiations in Brussels on 1 June, BNS reported. Estonia thus joined the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia in concluding the chapter, and was granted transition periods ranging from 2004 to 2013. The longest transition period granted to Estonia was that of the Drinking Water Directive, necessary for the renovation and construction of water supply systems and drinking water treatment facilities. The transition period for the Urban Wastewater Directive is until 2010 and the Landfill Waste Directive will be in effect until July 2009. Environment Minister Heiki Kranich noted that the EU is ready to finance projects related to drinking water, wastewater treatment, and clean air for up to 75 percent of their total cost, provided that Estonia contributes the rest. SG

BALTIC ASSEMBLY 18TH SESSION CONCLUDES IN LATVIA

During its two-day session in Riga on 1-2 June the interparliamentary Baltic Assembly approved a number of documents, BNS reported. It adopted a statement about stepping up cooperation between the assembly and the Nordic Council, a resolution about developing a common Baltic education region, and an appeal to the Baltic Council of Ministers to curb drug-trafficking and trade. The assembly also adopted an appeal to Russia and its breakaway republic of Chechnya to form delegations for peace talks. Due to the objections of the Latvian delegation, the session did not approve a resolution calling on Russia, as the successor of the Soviet Union, to take responsibility for the damage inflicted on the Baltic states and their populations from 1940 to 1991. Outgoing presidium Chairman Romualds Razuks declared that the resolution is unnecessary, as it has no specific purpose and would only hinder cooperation with seven border areas in northwest Russia. The assembly approved Estonian Trivimi Velliste as the new chairman of the Baltic Assembly's Presidium for six months and resolved that the next session will be held in Tallinn on 13-15 December 2002. SG

WORLD BANK SET TO SUSPEND LOAN PAYMENT TO LITHUANIA

Mantas Nocius, head of the representative office of the World Bank in Vilnius, announced on 1 June that the bank intends to temporarily suspend the payment of a $50 million loan to Lithuania, which was to have been granted in July, BNS reported. The reasons are Lithuania's failure to carry out its obligations on restructuring the power utility Lietuvos Energija, delays in the privatization of the state-owned gas company Lietuvos Dujos, as well as problems in the agricultural sector. Deputy Finance Minister Mindaugas Jonikas, however, noted that the suspension of the loan will not affect Lithuania financially because the financing of the budget is guaranteed and interest rates on loans in both domestic and foreign markets are low and decreasing even further. SG

POLAND URGED TO IMPLEMENT REFORMS TO AVOID EU 'ADJUSTMENT SHOCK'

France and Germany on 1 June urged Poland to push ahead with structural reforms to prevent a possible economic shock from joining the EU, Reuters reported. French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius and his German counterpart Hans Eichel expressed particular concern that Poland's large and inefficient agricultural sector may not be ready to operate in the EU's single market. Fabius also noted that Poland has not yet fully freed up capital controls, while Eichel was worried that rising unemployment in Poland might push Poles to mass migrations westward in search of work. "What really matters for everyone is not to argue over the year of entry, but instead to do the entry in such a way that it doesn't -- perhaps because one large sector is not competitive -- cause an adjustment shock," Eichel said. JM

VISEGRAD GROUP WANTS QUICK EU ACCESS

Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek said after a meeting of the Visegrad Group's government leaders in Krakow on 1 June that joining the EU as soon as possible is a strategic priority for all four countries of the group, PAP reported. Buzek hosted Czech Premier Milos Zeman, Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, and Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban. Commenting on NATO enlargement, Zeman said Slovakia and Slovenia could be accepted into NATO at the alliance's summit meeting in Prague next year. JM

POLISH MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS CHANGES IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

More than 300 local government officials attended a meeting organized by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in Kielce on 2 June to discuss improvements in the local-government system, PAP reported. SLD leader Leszek Miller told the gathering that if his party wins the upcoming legislative elections, it will curb executive-level overstaffing in local governments and make them less dependent on central government institutions. JM

U.S. PEACE CORPS ENDS MISSION IN POLAND

The U.S. Peace Corps has wound up its mission in Poland after 11 years of activities, PAP reported on 3 June. More than 950 U.S. voluntary workers were involved in Poland in English-teaching as well as in environment and business programs. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw said the volunteer workers had successfully achieved their goals agreed upon with appropriate Polish ministries. The U.S. Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to promote peace and understanding as well as to provide assistance to countries in need. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC REJECTS EU POSITION ON FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR...

Pavel Telicka, chief Czech negotiator with the EU, on 1 June said in Brussels that his country cannot agree to close the chapter on the free movement of labor in the aquis communautaire under the conditions stipulated by the EU last week, CTK reported. Those conditions include a transition period of between two and seven years. Telicka warned that the EU positions might have a negative influence on the way Czechs will vote in a referendum on joining the union (see End Note below). MS

...BUT CLOSES OTHER CHAPTERS IN THE AQUIS

Earlier on 1 June, the Czech Republic and the EU closed the environment and social policy chapters in the aquis communautaire, bringing its number of closed chapters to 18 out of 31, CTK reported. The sides agreed on a seven-year transition period during which the sale of agricultural land to EU citizens will be restricted, and on a five-year transition period during which EU citizens will not be allowed to purchase "second-residence" real estate. Under the agreement, EU citizens who have resident permits for the Czech Republic will be allowed to purchase "primary-residence" real estate and companies registered in the country will continue to have the right to purchase both land and real estate. MS

AUSTRIAN, GERMAN LEADERS WANT BENES DECREES ABOLISHED

Addressing the annual meeting, held this year in Augsburg, Germany, of the organization representing Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia as a result of the 1946 Benes decrees, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said on 2 June that the decrees must be declared invalid before the Czech Republic can join the EU, CTK reported. He said protection of minority rights must remain a "crucial element" in the EU and Austria will "strive for these rights to be observed." On 3 June, Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoibler told the gathering that Prague must "rid itself of decrees and laws that are at odds with international legislation." Stoibler also said transition periods for the purchase of real estate should not apply to the Sudeten Germans. MS

CZECH MILITARY PERSONNEL WRONGLY CLEARED OF LINKS WITH STB...

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross on 1 June said that investigations in the ministry revealed that some 100 Defense Ministry employees were wrongly issued certificates in 1991-1992 clearing them of links with the Communist Secret Police (StB). Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said Gross had used an "unfortunate formulation" and that there are only 16 cases in which ministry employees were wrongly issued certificates, and of those only eight people are currently employed in the ministry, CTK reported. Tvrdik said they will be "suspended from duty" within 10 days and that they had a rank "below general." According to a report in "Mlada fronta Dnes," the certificates were issued as a result of the "extensive misinformation game played by the then-chiefs of military counterintelligence." MS

...TRIGGERING NEW POLITICAL DISPUTE

Prime Minister Zeman on 3 June said he believes the false certificates must be explained by Freedom Union Deputy Jan Ruml, who was a deputy interior minister when they were issued, CTK reported. The same opinion was expressed by Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus on Nova TV. The two leaders diverged, however, in their views of the lustration law that made those certificates necessary. Zeman said the law might "have made sense in the early 1990s" but added that he believes the "StB has probably managed to somehow exempt their best agents from the screening process." Klaus said the affair does not call into question the lustration law itself. Ruml said he has no personal responsibility in the matter, as the certificates were issued on information received from the Defense Ministry. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTRY REGISTERS BID FOR SUPERSONIC FIGHTERS

The Defense Ministry on 1 June officially registered the only remaining bid made for supplying supersonic fighters to the Czech air force. The bid was submitted by the British-Swedish BAE Systems-Saab, after four other foreign companies withdrew from the tender one week earlier. Also on 1 June, Interior Minister Gross told journalists that Social Democratic Party Chairman Vladimir Spidla intends to discuss the issue of the purchase with leaders of other parties, CTK reported. On 3 June, Klaus and Christian Democratic Party Chairman Cyril Svoboda both said they are ready for such talks, but voiced skepticism over the deal. Klaus said it is questionable whether the Czech Republic needs the supersonic fighters now or whether it can afford them. Svoboda said a decision on the fighters should be made by the government formed after the 2002 elections. MS

SLOVAK COALITION KNOWS NO REST

The Christian Democratic Party (KDH) on 2 June announced it is submitting in the parliament a draft bill providing for the reduction of ministers from 20 to 13 and of ministries from 15 to 12, CTK reported. The KDH says that, if approved, the bill would save 528 million crowns (nearly $10.4 million). The bill is likely to be supported by the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP), but is opposed by Prime Minister Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) is also opposed to the bill. SMK Deputy Gyula Bardos said on Slovak Radio that the bill is likely to "cause the destabilization [of the coalition] and thus threaten Slovakia's efforts for [EU] integration." MS

SLOVAK SOP LEADER RE-ELECTED CHAIRMAN

Pavol Hamzik was re-elected on 2 June as SOP chairman, receiving 133 votes in a second round of voting against 27 votes cast for Privatization Minister Maria Machova, CTK reported. Twenty-five delegates representing the Kosice district walked out of the extraordinary National SOP Conference to protest Hamzik's policies promoting a restructuring of the government and a reorientation of the SOP to the left. Hamzik told journalists he does not expect the group's withdrawal to cause a rift in the party. Last month, Hamzik was dismissed as deputy premier in charge of European integration over suspicions of misuse of funds. MS

ANOTHER JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN SLOVAKIA

Seven tombstones have recently been destroyed by unknown vandals in the Jewish cemetery of Vranov nad Toplou, east Slovakia, CTK reported on 2 June, citing the daily "Pravo." The cemetery, which was declared a cultural heritage site in 1963, has been vandalized several times in the past. Last week, unknown perpetrators damaged 58 tombstones in the Jewish cemetery of Levice, west Slovakia. MS




MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS EARLY ELECTIONS...

Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 3 June that the projected date of January 2002 is too far away for new elections. He added that "the government is barely functioning. We can't get on with any serious work because of daily squabbles" over how to deal with the ongoing insurgency, AP reported. "It would be best to hold early elections as early as September" to end the deadlock in talks with ethnic Albanian political leaders, Georgievski said. He noted that he does not have much enthusiasm for remaining in his office much longer, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. PM

...TAKES BACK CONCESSIONS TO ALBANIANS

Georgievski argued in Skopje that ethnic Albanian "terrorism" will continue until the constitution is changed to make the Albanians fully equal. He added that the government should seek to defeat the guerillas militarily instead, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 June. Georgievski ruled out any "amnesty or negotiations" with the insurgents, dpa reported the next day. He added that "all Albanian parties support the [guerrillas], none of their intellectuals stands on the Macedonian side, and even civilians kept hostage by [the guerrillas] in their villages show solidarity with them." The news agency added that his remarks amount to a retraction of his recent constitutional concessions to the Albanians (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). Observers note that he may be trying to position himself to keep the support of his nationalist electorate in the upcoming ballot. PM

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN MACEDONIA

President Boris Trajkovski held a crisis meeting in Skopje on 3 June, but the ethnic Albanian political leaders did not attend, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Meanwhile, fighting continued in the Tetovo and Kumanovo areas over the weekend despite Trajkovski's previous offer of an amnesty (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). PM

MACEDONIA SEEKING PEACEKEEPING FORCE?

Dpa reported from Taipei on 2 June that Georgievski recently told Taiwanese Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao that Skopje will soon switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing in order to obtain China's support in the UN Security Council for a UN peacekeeping force for Macedonia. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told a Taipei news conference on 4 June that "although all the information [on Skopje's plans] is unfavorable to us, our embassy will continue to monitor developments. We will try to save ties till the last second." PM

MACEDONIA'S 'OLD FOX' WARNS OF IRREDENTISM

Former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov told "Jutarnji list" of 4 June in Split that the ethnic Albanian nationalists in his country want to redraw state borders in a way that could affect the entire region (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 March 2001). He argued that the Albanians constitute only "22.9 percent" of the population and are hence not entitled to full equality with the majority Slavic Macedonians. He nonetheless urged all states in the region to introduce unspecified "necessary reforms" to make themselves less vulnerable to efforts to destabilize them. Gligorov is visiting Croatia to promote his memoirs entitled "Macedonia Is All That We Have." PM

NO AGREEMENT ON YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMES COOPERATION LAW

Leaders of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition failed again on 3 June to secure the agreement of their Montenegrin allies, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), to proposed legislation on cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE./RL's South Slavic Service reported. But Serbian Prime Minister Zoran said: "We don't have the luxury of losing needed economic aid as a consequence of not collaborating with the court in The Hague. We cannot avoid turning [former President Slobodan Milosevic] over if we don't want to remain isolated," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). SNP leader Predrag Bulatovic stressed that he is not opposed to the law but added "that it should not come down just to a hand-over of Yugoslav citizens to The Hague court," AP reported. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER SAYS HAGUE COURT IS BIASED AGAINST SERBS

Recalling a favorite theme of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and of the Milosevic regime, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic wrote to chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that he finds it unfair that she "seeks the extradition of Milosevic every day" but does not take similar steps against Croatian, Albanian, and Muslim leaders. Batic says that he finds it unacceptable that Kosovar leaders such as Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj take part in international gatherings and are not arrested for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 June. He did not offer evidence of the two men's alleged guilt. Del Ponte recently appealed to the EU to do more to seek the extradition of Milosevic, AP reported on 1 June. PM

SERBIAN POLICE INVESTIGATE EVIDENCE OF MILOSEVIC'S WAR CRIMES

Serbian authorities have begun to exhume from a mass grave near Belgrade the bodies of an unspecified number of people believed to be Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbian forces during the 1998-1999 conflict, "The Times" reported on 4 June. Some of the victims wore uniforms of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and some bore signs of torture. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that there are more bodies in the grave than were retrieved from the Danube in a related case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Unnamed Serbian official sources told the British daily that dumping the bodies in a mass grave to conceal evidence of war crimes required complicity "at the highest level of the army." In Belgrade on 3 June, Djindjic's Democratic Party said in a statement that the latest exhumations show that Milosevic and his cronies were involved in war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT NOT GOING TO KOSOVA

Local Serbs invited Kostunica to visit Mitrovica on 3 June, but his office said that he would not go, AP reported from Prishtina on 2 June. "Thousands" of ethnic Albanians had demonstrated in the capital and in other towns against the visit as well as against plans by the French military to build a "small security wall" to protect peacekeepers in divided Mitrovica. The Albanians said that the wall would reinforce the ethnically based division of the city. Demonstrators carried posters showing an old, well-known photo of a grinning Kostunica holding a Kalashnikov. PM

SERBIA PREPARING NEXT MOVE IN BALKAN CHESS GAME?

U.S. special envoy James Pardew told reporters in Washington on 2 June that the recent return of Serbian forces to the Presevo valley security zone constitutes "a remarkably peaceful end to what could have been a very destructive conflict in the Balkans," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Kostunica said in Bucharest the previous day, however, that "we need concrete measures to get rid of extremism and violence from Kosovo." One of his advisers wrote two articles in the weekly "NIN" in December 2000 in which he argued that Serbian leaders should seek a return of Serbian authority to Kosova through cooperation with the international community. On 2 June, "Vesti" published a photo of Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic and General Ninoslav Krstic in Bujanovac amid posters proclaiming "Return." In front of the two men were Yugoslav and EU flags. PM

RUSSIAN COMMANDER MEETS KOSOVAR GENERAL

General Vladimir Kazantsev, commander of the Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo, met in his headquarters with General Agim Ceku, commander of the Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), Interfax reported from Moscow on 1 June. The two men discussed "possible interaction" between units of their respective organizations and the need to hold regular meetings of their subordinates. The TMK is a civilian work force based on a French model. Most Kosovars consider it the nucleus of the army of a future independent Kosova. Many Serbs regard Ceku, a career military man and a veteran of the Yugoslav and Croatian armies, as a war criminal. PM

ISTRIAN PARTY LEAVES CROATIAN GOVERNMENT

Making good on repeated threats to leave the six-party coalition government, Ivan Jakovcic, Minister for European Integration and head of the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS-DDI), said in Pazin that the IDS has decided to leave the government, "Novi List" reported on 4 June. The IDS charges that the Zagreb government is almost as hostile to regional autonomy as former President Franjo Tudjman was. Matters came to a head recently over the IDS's plans to raise the legal status of Italian and make Istria officially bilingual (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). In related news, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb that early elections are possible, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 June. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES NEW LINKS TO BOSNIA

Stipe Mesic and the three members of Bosnia's joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 1 June to improve transportation and communication links. Elsewhere, Mesic and High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina must work through the institutions of that state if they want to secure their rights, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BARONESS NICHOLSON INTERVIEWED ON ROMANIAN RADIO

Baroness Emma Nicholson, whose draft report submitted to a commission of the European Parliament stirred a flood of negative reactions in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001) on 1 June said in an interview with Romanian Radio that she is "delighted" the draft has attracted the attention of the Romanian mass media and public opinion. Baroness Nicholson said that if all countries criticized for lack of adequate progress in meeting EU criteria "would react as terrified as Romania did, we would make little progress" toward integration. She said the Romanian reaction overlooked those parts of the draft report that laud Romania's progress and that she is particularly satisfied with the activity of the country's president and its premier. The draft, she said, also includes for the first time an unprecedented recommendation that the European Parliament back Romania's NATO candidacy. MS

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT IN BUCHAREST

Visiting Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica met in Bucharest on 1 June with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu and with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They discussed bilateral (particularly economic) relations, regional developments, and the Balkan Stability Pact. The Romanian side insisted on the urgency of reconstructing the Danube bridges destroyed by NATO airstrikes and on the resumption of traffic on the Danube River. Kostunica said the resolution of the issue depends primarily on funding and that he is "disappointed" by the scarcity of funds made available thus far by the international community for those purposes. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER RETURNS TO 'MOTHER-PARTY'

The National Alliance Christian Democratic on 2 June rejoined the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and former Premier Victor Ciorbea was elected chairman of the PNTCD National Committee. The National Committee on the same day approved the party's program and its new statutes. MS

ROMANIAN GENERAL TO FACE COURT MARTIAL OVER ANTONESCU COMMEMORATION

The Defense Ministry on 3 June announced that General Mircea Chelaru, former chief of staff of the Romanian army, will face an army disciplinary body for having attended a recent ceremony honoring pro-Nazi World War II leader Marshal Ion Antonescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001). The ministry said it will "not tolerate" infringements on the "principle of the army's political noninvolvement." It also said that it is "regrettable that individual gestures," such as Chelaru's, honoring "a person who has been condemned by the international community," might "overshadow the collective efforts of the army...to meet the national objective of joining NATO and the EU," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH MINSK CIS SUMMIT

Vladimir Voronin is "satisfied" with the results of last week's CIS summit in Minsk, where he conducted talks with the presidents of Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, Flux reported on 2 June. Vladimir Putin reassured Voronin that Russia is "ready to assume its responsibilities" as mediator in the Transdniester conflict and supports Moldova's territorial integrity. The Moldovan delegation did not participate in debates on CIS military affairs, nor was Moldova's joining of the Russia-Belarus Union discussed. MS

U.S. CONGRESSMAN SAYS BULGARIA IS AMONG LEADING NATO CANDIDATES

Doug Bereuter, a Republican U.S. congressman, said on 1 June in Sofia following meetings with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova that "Bulgaria and Slovenia are leaders in Southeast Europe" and "an important message would be sent to the people in the Balkans" should they be invited to join NATO in the next round of expansion, Reuters and AP reported. Bereuter later said "It will be advantageous if we have at least one member brought [into NATO] from Southeastern Europe and one from the Baltic states." MS

NEARLY 80 FORMER BULGARIAN COMMUNIST AGENTS RUN FOR PARLIAMENT

The parliamentary commission in charge of reviewing communist secret police files said on 1 June that 78 out of the 5,769 candidates running for the parliament in the 17 June elections have been established with certainty to have worked in the former secret police or to have been informants for the organization, international agencies reported. Last month, the commission established that at least 57 deputies with such links were members in the past four post-communist legislatures. Since many files have been destroyed, the lists are probably not complete. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on the same day called on all parties fielding candidates to exclude those exposed from their lists, saying this is "not a moral question, but one of national security." Current legislation does not provide for lustration and allows only the names of former collaborators to be published. MS

BULGARIANS PLEAD 'NOT GUILTY' IN LIBYAN TRIAL...

Six Bulgarian medics -- five nurses and a doctor -- on 1 June pleaded not guilty at the opening of their trial in Libya, international agencies reported. One Palestinian and nine Libyans tried for the same offense also pleaded not guilty. They are accused of having deliberately infected 393 children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus and face the death penalty if convicted. Two of the Bulgarian nurses said they were tortured to extract confessions, one of them saying she was "tortured with electricity, beaten, and submitted to every kind of torture known from the Middle Ages until now." The other said she tried to commit suicide because she feared she would not withstand more torture. The trial will resume on 16 June. MS

...BULGARIAN LEADERS CONCERNED AT TRIAL'S FAIRNESS

On 2 June, Premier Kostov said that after having learned of the alleged torture, he is concerned that the trial is "neither fair nor just." President Petar Stoyanov said "All Bulgarian institutions, the media and citizens must...insist that the trial be fair, transparent and based only on evidence," Reuters reported. Reacting to these statements, Libyan Foreign Minister Hassuna Shaush said on 3 June that Libya is "surprised" by them and that they could "hamper the trial," AFP reported. MS




MOST LEADING EU CANDIDATES WILLING TO ACCEPT LABOR MOVEMENT CURBS


By Ahto Lobjakas

Leading European Union candidate countries indicated on 1 June they are ready to accept the EU request for a maximum seven-year ban on the free movement of East European labor following EU expansion.

Negotiators from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia met EU officials in Brussels the same day to discuss the free movement of labor and other outstanding chapters of EU regulations.

At the request of Germany and Austria, the EU position stipulates that the free movement of labor enjoyed by all EU citizens will not take effect until up to seven years after enlargement. An initial two-year ban would be reviewed upon its conclusion, and again after five years.

Individual EU member countries, however, are still free to open their labor markets to candidate workers on a bilateral basis from the day of the first accessions.

Hungary appeared the keenest to press ahead with negotiations, with Hungary's chief negotiator Endre Juhasz saying he does not rule out closing talks on the labor movement chapter on 12 June, when EU foreign ministers meet their candidate counterparts in Luxembourg.

Juhasz said that, while the EU's position is a disappointment to candidates, the curbs are a political reality that have to be accepted. "Although we are not convinced about the economic and social need for a transitional arrangement, we could accept the EU proposal as it is without any change," he said.

Juhasz said Hungary's acceptance of the EU's terms has two conditions. The first is that the 15 EU members must clearly specify how long and to what degree they plan to take advantage of the curbs. Secondly, Juhasz said, Hungary must be allowed to introduce similar measures against EU citizens.

Juhasz described the EU position as a "fragile construction," and said it is not in the interests of either the EU or candidate countries to restart the debate.

Spain and Portugal blocked agreement on the position within the EU until 30 May. They demanded assurances that the accession of the poorer candidate countries would not lead to a decrease in the developmental aid they currently receive from the EU. Spain gets more than 60 percent of the approximately 30,000 million euros that make up the EU's annual developmental aid budget.

The Czech, Estonian, and Polish negotiators also said the EU position needs further study, but would be an acceptable starting point for talks.

Although they accepted the inevitability of restrictions on labor movement, some negotiators sharply criticized the way the EU position justified the curbs by citing "political sensitivities" in certain member countries.

Jan Telicka, the Czech negotiator, was particularly scathing in his comments. He said that when candidate countries apply for transition periods in other fields, the EU demands that the requests be accompanied by a thorough explanation of their necessity, including their possible economic and social implications.

Telicka said Prague cannot accept the EU argument on the "sensitivity" of the issue and wants to learn whether the Czech Republic would also benefit from "transition periods" on chapters considered "sensitive" by the Czechs. He also said that when candidate countries demand transition periods they are told to come up with "reliable estimates" accompanied by a thorough explanation of their necessity, including their possible economic and social implications, not arguments about "sensitivity," while the EU has produced no estimates whatever.

The Czech Republic also broke new ground in becoming the first Central European applicant to close talks on the chapter entitled "free movement of capital." Together with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, the Czech Republic had asked for long transition periods for sales of agricultural land and secondary residences to foreigners after accession.

Telicka said the Czech Republic accepted the EU's offer of a seven-year transition period for the sale of land, although Prague had originally asked for a 10-year delay.

The EU's offer is widely seen as a compensatory gesture for the curbs it is seeking impose on labor movement.

Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovenia have already closed talks on the free movement of capital without asking for any delays on land or property sales. Latvia -- still to conclude talks on the chapter -- has also asked for no delays or transition periods.

The Czech Republic, Estonia, and Hungary also closed talks on 1 June on the difficult environment chapter, thus becoming -- along with Slovenia -- the only candidate countries to have done so thus far.

After the completion of the 1 June round of talks, Cyprus retained a slender lead among candidates, having closed 21 of the 31 chapters of the EU regulations that form the substance of accession talks. Slovenia has closed 20 chapters, Estonia and Hungary 19, and the Czech Republic 18. Poland brings up the rear in the leading group with 16, but has already been caught by second-wave countries Malta and Slovakia, both also with 16. Lithuania has closed 15 chapters, Latvia 13, Bulgaria nine, and Romania only six.

Ahto Lobjakas is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels. Michael Shafir also contributed to this report.


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