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Newsline - June 13, 2001




PUTIN POINTS TO RUSSIAN ENDURANCE OVER PAST DECADE...

Speaking at a Kremlin session on Russian Sovereignty Day during which he presented former President Boris Yeltsin with the first Order of Merit of the Fatherland and gave awards to writers and artists, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that "everything we endured over the past decade, all our experiences, successes and failures, shows one thing -- any reform only makes sense when it serves the people," Russian and Western news services reported on 12 June. Putin added, "if reforms do not benefit citizens, then they will fail." Putin also said he remains committed to "democracy and civic freedoms -- they are the essence of society and have to be fought for every day." PG

...AS YELTSIN SAYS FOUNDATION LAID FOR FURTHER REFORM...

In an interview broadcast on ORT television on 12 June, former President Yeltsin said he is proud of the fact that over the last 11 years since the declaration of Russian sovereignty, the foundations have been laid for further reforms. The task 11 years ago, he said, was "to free Russia, to free people, to make them free." And to that end, it was necessary to make the press and markets free as well. Yeltsin said he is confident that the foundation laid during this period will withstand any future problems and will "hold up the house which will be built by future generations." Yeltsin praised Putin. He also said that he is "completely healthy" and did not see a single Chinese doctor during his recent stay in China. PG

...AND YAVLINSKY SAYS SOVEREIGNTY FREED RUSSIA FROM COMMUNISM

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky told Interfax-Northwest on 12 June that the adoption of Russian sovereignty was "the day of Russia's liberation from communist ideology and the first step to its integration into the world democratic community." Yavlinsky also said the appointment of members of the Federation Council is a retreat from democratic values, that a revival of the death penalty is completely unacceptable, and that any appearance of bureaucratic authoritarianism could "completely liquidate all the positive achievements which have taken place since the proclamation of the independence of our Motherland." PG

PUTIN WANTS DIALOGUE WITH CIVIL SOCIETY...

Putin on 12 June met with representatives of nongovernmental organizations and told them that he seeks "a constructive, positive, and continuing dialogue" between the Kremlin and civil society, Russian agencies reported. He said that these organizations, which were established without the state playing a role, often have "a more effective influence on society than do political parties." At the same time, he said he regrets that many NGOs now receive support from foreign rather than Russian sources. He noted that he has worked to strengthen the state and will now promote a stronger society, because "a weak state is a threat to democracy in no less a degree than a despotic power." PG

...WELCOMES ITS GROWTH...

Putin told the NGO leaders that there are now approximately 300,000 NGOs registered with the Justice Ministry, and that "even if half of these organizations fulfill their stated obligations, then this will be a major force." At the same time, he said that "society as a whole must divide with the authorities responsibility for the social-economic situation in the country, but this can happen only when society is given access to the development of these decisions." He also said that "power in Russia has been sufficiently strengthened that it can support democratic rights and freedoms of citizens." PG

...AND NGO LEADERS RESPOND POSITIVELY TO PUTIN

The NGO leaders in attendance welcomed Putin's attention to their work and told him that during the past year 12-13 percent of Russia's population received assistance from noncommercial and nongovernmental organizations, Interfax reported. The leaders requested that the Russian government promote the kind of conditions, including legal support for charitable giving, that would allow the NGOs to perform more effectively. PG

PUTIN AGREES TO SPEAK AT NGO CONGRESS IN NOVEMBER

Aleksei Leonov, the president of the international organization "Slavs," said after taking part in the meeting between Putin and NGOs on 12 June that Putin has accepted his invitation to speak at a congress of nonpolitical, nongovernmental organizations planned for November 2001, Interfax reported. Leonov said that at that congress, the various groups plan to form a chamber or committee of civil unions of Russia. PG

PUTIN CHANGES CONSTITUTION BY DECREE

President Putin has issued a decree that calls for the Russian Constitution to be modified to include the new name for Chuvashia, Interfax reported on 12 June. The republic will now be identified in the basic law and in other documents as the Chavash Republic. PG

PUTIN SAYS HE IS NOT YET THINKING ABOUT SECOND TERM

In a documentary film about his life shown on ORT on 12 June, Putin said he is not yet thinking about a second presidential term. Instead, he is continuing to try to demonstrate to others and himself that it was a good thing he was elected to the first one. Summing up the results so far, Putin said that what he has achieved is significant, but not as much as he had wanted. But he stressed that the first year was "only the beginning." Putin also said that the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine was "the most difficult" event of his time in office. PG

SELEZNEV HOPES FEDERATION COUNCIL WILL APPROVE NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS

Speaking in St. Petersburg on 12 June, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev expressed the hope that the Federation Council will approve the Duma-passed legislation allowing the importation of nuclear wastes into Russia for permanent storage, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

RADICALS LEFTISTS CALL FOR FREEING RUSSIA FROM 'WORLD CAPITAL'

The Avantgarde of Red Youth (AKM), a radical left-wing group that is part of the Labor Russia movement of Viktor Anpilov, staged a demonstration in Moscow's Pushkin Square on 12 June to call for "a struggle for the independence of Russia from world capital," Interfax reported. Anpilov told the 50 people in attendance that it is wrong to charge people for medical services or to show the American film "Pearl Harbor" in Russia. The meeting broke up without incident. PG

RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION REFERENDUM TO TAKE PLACE THIS FALL

Duma Speaker Seleznev told Interfax-Northwest on 12 June that a referendum on the formation of a single union state of Russia and Belarus will take place this fall following the presidential elections in Belarus. PG

BUSH STATEMENT THAT RUSSIA IS 'NOT AN ENEMY' GIVEN PROMINENT PLAY

Russian news agencies gave prominent coverage on 12 June to U.S. President George W. Bush's statement to journalists before his departure for Europe that "Russia is not an enemy of the U.S.," and to his comment that "our relations are based not on antagonism and old prejudices of the times of the Cold War." At the same time, the agencies reported, Bush said that he will continue to defend his proposals on national missile defense. PG

FSB ACCUSES U.S. TEACHER OF SPYING

The Omsk regional office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused Elizabeth Sweet, a U.S. citizen who has been teaching English at a university there, of espionage and ordered her to leave the country, pravda.ru reported on 11 June, citing "Vremya Novostei." FSB officials said that Sweet organized her students into a group to collect information about the Russian defense industry. VY

MOSCOW WANTS BERLIN TO HELP RUSSIAN GERMANS

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry told participants in an economic conference in Berlin this week that Moscow hopes German firms will invest in areas of the Russian Federation where ethnic Germans live, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 June. VY

PUTIN CONGRATULATES BLAIR...

According to Interfax on 12 June, Putin sent a message to British Prime Minister Tony Blair congratulating him on the victory of the Labour Party in parliamentary elections. Putin said he is "convinced that together we will preserve and multiply all the best that is today part of Russian-British relations." PG

...AND KHATAMI

Putin sent a message to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on his re-election as president, Interfax reported on 12 June. In his letter, Putin said that "in Russia your contribution to the development of friendly relations between our countries is highly valued." PG

MOSCOW WILL CONTINUE ATOMIC DEALS WITH IRAN, INDIA

Rejecting American calls to break off its atomic energy deals with Iran and India, Bulat Nigmatullin, the deputy atomic energy minister, said Russia has no reason to do so and every reason to continue, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 12 June. On the one hand, cooperation with these two countries is "good business" for Russia because both of these countries pay in cash. On the other hand, such deals create the foundation for closer political cooperation, Nigmatullin said. VY

MOSCOW MAKES A GESTURE TO CHINA IN VIETNAM

According to an analysis in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 June, Moscow's decision to stop using the naval base in Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay has less to do with the higher rents that Hanoi seeks than with a desire by the Russian government to make a gesture toward Beijing. Moscow began renting the base in 1979 during a period of high tensions with China. VY

RUSSIAN-INDIAN ANTISHIP MISSILE TESTED

Russia and India have tested a jointly produced surface-to-surface, antiship missile, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 June. Launched from a facility in India's Orissa state, the missile has a range of 280 kilometers. VY

REGIONS DISPLAY THEIR WARES IN MOSCOW

On 12 June, more than 600 firms from 30 subjects of the Russian Federation displayed their wares at their annual trade fair in Moscow, Interfax reported. Aleksandr Belyakov, the deputy head of the Unity faction in the Duma, told the group at the opening that "today we are convinced that Russians have learned to work under conditions of freedom." The fair ends on 15 June. PG

GAZPROM MAY SEEK FOREIGN INVESTMENTS

According to the German journal "Wirtschaftswoche," No. 23, new Gazprom head Aleksei Miller is prepared to allow foreign investors to purchase up to 20 percent of his company's shares. His goal, the economic weekly said, is to create a powerful market counterweight to the major international petroleum companies. Miller reportedly hopes that Royal Dutch/Shell will purchase a 5 percent stake in Gazprom. But the weekly said that Royal Dutch/Shell officials are concerned about taking any such step because of corruption within Gazprom. VY

ARMS EXPORT AGENCY IN 'TURMOIL'

According to an article in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 23, the Kremlin has concluded that the leadership of the Russian arms export agency has failed to generate the sales the Russian government hoped for. In the last six months, the two top leaders of Rosoboroneksport have failed to sign a single important new contract, the paper said. As a result, the agency is in "turmoil" as its officers wait for new appointments. PG

AIR FORCE PLANS CUTS, BUT LOSING GOOD OFFICERS

A spokesman for the Russian air force said that the service plans to cut more than 36,000 positions by the end of 2004, Interfax reported on 12 June. During the rest of 2001, he said, some 13,000 uniformed personnel will be let go. At the same time, he said, the high command is concerned by the increasing propensity of officers to leave the service after only a few years. During the last six months alone, more than 1,000 officers have left the service, and 53 percent of those leaving had less than 20 years in uniform. PG

'KURSK' MONUMENT PLANNED

Murmansk Oblast Governor Yurii Yevdokimov told Interfax on 12 June that a monument to the "Kursk" will be set up in the Murmansk town of Vedyaevo on 12 August, the first anniversary of the tragedy. Yevdokimov at the same time said that all the funds collected for the families of the sailors who died aboard the submarine have been distributed correctly. PG

LESIN SAYS HE'LL SUPPORT MEDIA UNION EFFORTS

On his arrival in St. Petersburg on 12 June to take part in the Russia Media Forum 2001 meeting, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said that his agency "intends to support any undertakings of groups like the Media Union which will help to promote the self-regulation of the information marketplace," Interfax-Northwest reported. He said that Moscow wants to allow the media market to regulate itself to the maximum extent possible. PG

NEW HIGH-SPEED TRAIN LINKS MOSCOW, ST. PETERSBURG

A new high-speed train, the Neva Express, now carries people between the two Russian capitals in only five hours, ntv.ru reported on 11 June. The train features a variety of updated conveniences including facilities for watching videos. PG

NEGATIVE ATTITUDES TOWARD PEOPLE FROM THE CAUCASUS DEFENDED

An article in "Literaturnaya gazeta" on 30 May said that negative attitudes among Russians toward people from the Caucasus have less to do with the Chechen war than with the behavior of people from that region in Russian cities in the past. According to the article, people from the Caucasus fail to respect Russian customs and pursue Russian girls in inappropriate ways. PG

POLICE SEIZE 1,500 SMUGGLED TURTLES

Moscow police seized 1,500 turtles from several passengers on a train from Tashkent to the Russian capital, ntv.ru reported on 11 June. The smugglers planned to sell the turtles to restaurants for making soup. PG

POLICE SEIZE ALL COPIES OF OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER AGAIN

Law-enforcement officials in Irkutsk have confiscated all copies of the newspaper, "Vostochnosibirskie vesti," the 19th such incidence, Radio Rossii reported on 8 June, citing the agency Sibnovosti. According to the station, the newspaper, in contrast to other mass-media organs in the oblast that are loyal to Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin, reports "objectively" on the local situation and publishes articles critical of local bureaucrats. The next day, the chairman of the oblast's Committee on Public Utilities, Petr Boronin, told reporters that fake campaign pamphlets had been discovered that falsely report that Govorin is going to raise the rates on electricity and water by 100 percent in upcoming months, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Boronin, the governor has no such plans and the pamphlets were obviously prepared on the order of one of the governors' opponents in the upcoming 29 July gubernatorial elections. JAC

'NONE OF THE ABOVE' PROVES INCREASINGLY APPEALING IN NIZHNII

Over the course of a month, voters in Nizhnii Novgorod have become less rather than more certain about who they will support in upcoming 15 July gubernatorial elections, the local weekly "Monitor" reported in its issue of 11-17 July, citing the Institute of Sociology. According to that institute's survey of local voters, some 24 percent of the respondents had not made up their minds as of 1-3 June, compared with 20.3 percent at the beginning of May. The number of voters planning to vote against all candidates has also increased. So far the leaders in the survey are State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Vadim Bulavinov, former Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor and convicted felon Andrei Klimentiev, and incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov. Presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko supports Sklyarov, as do the local branches of the Fatherland and Unity parties. JAC

TATARSTAN MARKS SCYTHE FESTIVAL, SHAIMIEV'S 10 YEARS AS PRESIDENT

Having celebrated the traditional Sabantuje (Scythe Festival) on 9-10 June, the Republic of Tatarstan did not schedule any special events on 12 June to mark the anniversary of Russia's 1990 declaration of sovereignty, RFE/RL's Tatar Service reported. The observation on 12 June of the 10th anniversary of Mintimer Shaimiev's election for his first term as president of Tatarstan was likewise low-key. Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau that Shaimiev's election was significant insofar as it marked a break with the Soviet-era practice of appointing leaders from Moscow and with the control hitherto exercised by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union over the political process. A previous Tatar Obkom first secretary, in 1991 Shaimiev was chairman of the Tatarstan Supreme Soviet. LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMNESTY BILL

Deputies voted unanimously on 12 June at the end of a two-day debate to approve President Robert Kocharian's proposal to declare a general amnesty to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The amnesty extends to some 2,100 persons, or one-third of the country's prison population. Of those, almost 1,250 will be released and a further 870 will have their sentences reduced. It is not clear whether the amnesty applies to former Education Minister Ashot Bleyan, who was sentenced last December on corruption charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2000 and 21 May 2001). LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OPPOSES PROPOSED PENSION INCREASE

Ministers on 12 June rejected as not economically feasible a proposal by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) to raise state pensions, which currently average $10 per month, by up to 30 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. State Social Security Fund head Frunze Musheghian said the government cannot raise the 13 billion drams ($23.6 million) that he calculated the pension hike would cost. The HHD has challenged that figure, saying it is too high. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT RATIFIES OIL CONTRACT...

The Milli Mezhlis on 12 June ratified the production-sharing agreement signed in January between the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR and Russia's LUKoil on rehabilitating the Zykh and Hovsany oil fields, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). Those fields, which have been in exploitation for some 50 years, contain residual reserves estimated at 33.3 million tons. SOCAR President Natik Aliyev said that the cost of renewed exploitation of the two deposits is estimated at $225 million. LF

...AS AZERBAIJAN STATE OIL COMPANY SEEKS TAX BREAKS FOR OIL IMPORTS

SOCAR has asked the Azerbaijani government to exempt the country's oil refineries from paying import duties and VAT on crude imported for refining in Azerbaijan, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 12 June. The company argues that such tax breaks would boost output. Azerbaijani refineries are currently working at only 50 percent of capacity following a recent agreement with Russia's Transneft to increase to 2.5 million tons the amount of oil extracted by SOCAR to be exported this year via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT PLANS TO FORM 'KARABAKH' FACTION

Seven independent and opposition parliament deputies announced on 12 June their plans to create a new parliament faction named Karabakh, Turan reported. The faction intends to protect the interests of war invalids and internally displaced persons and to ensure that the position adopted by the Azerbaijani leadership toward resolving the Karabakh conflict is "fair." The seven deputies will seek simultaneously both to recruit further members and to persuade fellow legislators to amend the parliament's statutes to lower the current minimum number of deputies required to register a new faction from the present 25. The Azerbaijani parliament has a total of 125 deputies. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION STILL OPPOSES PLANNED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Opposition parliament deputies on 12 June walked out of a session of the parliament's Legal Issues Committee to demonstrate their rejection of the amendments to the Georgian Constitution proposed by President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Those amendments provide for the introduction of a Cabinet of Ministers headed by a premier (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 19, 21 May 2001). The opposition again rejected that model as "unacceptable," saying that it would transform the presidency into a "monarchy." Legal Issues Committee Chairman Zurab Adeishvili said the previous day that no alternative proposals have been tabled except for a draft by the opposition Industrialists' Faction. Meanwhile parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania denied on 12 June that if the amendments are passed he will seek the post of premier, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian media have for several weeks identified Zhvania as the most likely candidate for that post. LF

UN ENVOY CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS

During talks in Sukhum on 12 June, Dieter Boden, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, urged Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia to end the Abkhaz side's boycott of further sessions of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council and to embark on the implementation of confidence-building measures agreed on during talks in Yalta in March, Caucasus Press reported. In early May, Abkhazia made further participation in the work of the Coordinating Council contingent on measures by Georgia to halt the activities on Abkhaz territory of Georgian guerrillas. Boden expressed concern at the impasse in talks between the two sides, and at the Abkhaz side's rejection of an invitation from the Georgian government to observe the military and naval maneuvers with NATO that got underway on 12 June on the Georgian Black Sea coast south of Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001). LF

UIGHUR ACTIVIST FOUND MURDERED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Dilbirim Samsakova, who was reported missing from her home in Almaty late last month (see "RFE Newsline," 8 June 2001) was found dead in the town of Qapshaghay, Almaty Oblast, last weekend, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on 12 June. She had been hit on the head with a blunt object. Up to 1,000 Uighurs from Almaty and neighboring Kyrgyzstan attended her funeral on 11 June. LF

KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN

Some 100 supporters of imprisoned former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov staged a protest in Bishkek on 12 June to demand his acquittal and release, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The protest was timed to coincide with a Supreme Court session to review Kulov's appeal against his January sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001), but that session was indefinitely postponed. The protesters marched on the government building calling on President Askar Akaev to resign. Police used force to break up the protest and detained three activists from Kulov's Ar-Namys party. LF

BOTH CHAMBERS OF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT REVIEW BORDER AGREEMENT WITH CHINA

The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) began on 12 June reviewing the 1996 and 1999 bilateral agreements on the delimitation of the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Some deputies have called for the annulment of those agreements, which cede tracts of Kyrgyz territory to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). Also on 12 June, Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev and Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev briefed the People's Assembly (the upper chamber) on the border agreements, after which the chamber voted to postpone further discussion of the issue until the fall session since the texts of the two agreements are not yet available. The People's Assembly did, however, begin debating a Memorandum of Intent signed in February between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on a possible exchange of border territories (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 27 April 2001). LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT LOWER HOUSE ELECTS NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

The Legislative Assembly on 12 June elected to the post of deputy speaker the former deputy head of the government staff, Bolot Kudaibergenov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He replaces Omurbek Tekebaev, who resigned under pressure last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2001). LF

TAJIK FIELD COMMANDER TAKES POLICE OFFICERS HOSTAGE

Senior members of the Tajik opposition were engaged on 12 June in negotiations with former Tajik field commander Rakhmon Sanginov in an attempt to persuade him to release seven police officers whom he had taken hostage in eastern Dushanbe the previous day, ITAR-TASS reported. Sanginov told RFE/RL's Tajik Service on 12 June that he took the police officers hostage in order to secure the release of an unspecified number of his followers who were detained last week. He released three hostages on 12 June but still holds four. Earlier on 12 June, Interior Minister Khumdin Sharipov announced the release of all the hostages and termed the incident "a misunderstanding." Sanginov is one of several former opposition field commanders who refused to disarm following the signing of the 1997 peace agreement. LF

UZBEKISTAN SENTENCES 73 TAJIKS FOR ABETTING ISLAMIST MILITANTS

Four separate courts in Tashkent have handed down prison sentences ranging from three to 18 years on 73 ethnic Tajiks from Uzbekistan's southern Surkhandarya Oblast accused of supporting fighters of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who invaded Uzbekistan last summer, Western agencies reported. The accused were charged with terrorism, complicity in murder, and seeking to overthrow the constitutional order. A Tashkent-based human rights activist said the accused confessed to accepting money to help the militants, but that the prosecution failed to prove their direct involvement in the killing by the militants of some 20 Uzbek army troops. LF




BELARUSIAN NGOS VOW TO FIELD 14,000 ELECTION OBSERVERS

Some 200 Belarusian NGOs have set up an Independent Monitoring civic group in order to coordinate their efforts to prepare no less than 14,000 observers for the 9 September presidential elections, Belapan reported on 12 June. "For the first time we have created a single, nonparty and independent monitoring network that will cover electoral commissions of all levels on the entire territory of Belarus," human rights activist Ales Byalatski commented. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST JAILED FOR THREE MONTHS

The authorities on 12 June jailed opposition activist and journalist Valery Shchukin for three months. A Minsk district court found Shchukin guilty of hooliganism when the latter tried to force his way into the Interior Ministry building on 16 January 2000 in order to attend a news conference by Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau. "I was given 92 days in jail for standing for the freedom of expression in Belarus. On that day, 16 January, I went to an open news conference. I told them in advance that I would come, but they illegally prevented me from participating," Shchukin told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. JM

KYIV WANTS TO RESTORE COOPERATION WITH IMF

Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh said on 12 June that his government wants to resume cooperation with the IMF, Interfax reported. Kinakh noted that his government views the resumption of cooperation as a move intended both to obtain access to the fund's loans and to send a positive signal for investors. Kinakh made these statements during his meeting with Luca Barbone, the World Bank's director for Belarus and Ukraine. The previous day, an IMF mission arrived in Kyiv "to update [the IMF's] view of the economic situation in Ukraine and make the acquaintance of new government," according to an official statement. Meanwhile, Barbone said the World Bank can make a decision on its $750 million loan in September if the government resolves problems in reforming the country's largest bank, Ukrayina. The loan, if approved, would be dispersed in three $250 million tranches. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES THEFT OF RUSSIAN GAS

Leonid Kuchma said in Bratislava on 12 June that Ukraine has not stolen any Russian since it became independent in 1991, Interfax reported. Kuchma said allegations of illegal gas-siphoning are voiced to apply economic pressure on Ukraine. He noted that the problem of illegal gas-siphoning "is not on the agenda" of Ukrainian-Russian relations. Kuchma stressed that both governments have signed all documents regulating gas issues between Ukraine and Russia. "If Russian President Vladimir Putin were here, he would say the same," Kuchma added. JM

ESTONIA BANS PURCHASE OF ELECTRICAL CABLE AS SCRAP

The parliament by a unanimous vote on 12 June amended the Waste Act to ban the purchase of aluminum and copper cable as scrap metal until the end of 2003, ETA reported the next day. This year, more than 700 kilometers of cable have been stolen from the Estonian Energy Co., at times leaving households and villages without power or telephone connections. The same day, the government decided to give the Business Development Foundation the task of shaping Estonia's international image. It also completed the first reading of the draft law on the merger of Estonian Radio and Estonian Television into a national broadcasting organization, and charged Economy Minister Mihkel Parnoja with overseeing the use of Technology Agency funds to study the opportunities for financing the genetic database project. SG

LATVIA CLOSES SIX EU NEGOTIATION CHAPTERS

Latvian negotiators in Luxembourg closed six more chapters in the European Union accession talks on 12 June, raising the number of completed chapters to 15, BNS reported. The newly closed chapters were on free movement of capital, free movement of goods, business legislation, cultural and audio/visual policies, free movement of services, and social policies and employment. Transition periods were granted on some of the chapters. For example, Latvia will have until 2008 to reach the necessary payment levels for deposit guarantees and investor compensations in the free movement of services chapter. At the meeting Latvia also opened negotiations on two new chapters, agriculture and free movement of persons. Latvia has made significant progress in the negotiations this year and hopes to complete them by the end of 2002. SG

LITHUANIAN-POLISH DEFENSE COOPERATION

A delegation of Polish parliament deputies, headed by its National Defense Commission Chairman Stanislaw Glowacki, held talks in Vilnius on 12 June with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius, ELTA reported. Glowacki suggested that the two countries organize joint purchases of weapons, as larger orders might allow them to get better terms. He stressed that Poland is "Lithuania's friend" and will try to help it become a member of NATO in 2002. Linkevicius reminded the Poles that Lithuanian-Polish relations are frequently cited as a model for other countries to follow. For example, the joint battalion LITPOLBAT has participated successfully in peacekeeping operations and exercises. The delegation held meetings with Lithuanian parliament National Security Committee Chairman Alvydas Sadeckas and other deputies. It also visited the regional airspace surveillance center in Karmelava, which is located near Kaunas and the Military Academy. SG

POLAND, DENMARK READY TO BUILD 230-KILOMETER GAS PIPELINE

Denmark's DONG and Poland's oil and gas company PGNiG are set to form a BalticPipe consortium to construct a 230-kilometer gas pipeline for transporting Danish gas to Poland, PAP reported on 12 June. The pipeline is to become operational in autumn 2003. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek said the same day in Copenhagen that agreement on the construction can be reached within two weeks, adding that the gas pipeline project will also benefit Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia. JM

EU GRANTS POLAND SEVEN-YEAR TRANSITION PERIOD FOR UNRESTRICTED LAND SALE

The EU on 11 June offered Poland only a seven-year transition period for the sale of arable land and forests to foreigners following the country's accession to the union, PAP reported. Poland had demanded an 18-year transition period. However, an annex explaining the EU position includes a sentence that gives Poland hope that the transition period may be prolonged. According to some EU diplomats, their governments may agree on up to a 10-year transition period. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT REITERATES HIS POSITION ON FIGHTER PURCHASE...

In an article in the daily "Pravo" on 12 June, Vaclav Havel said the Czech military doctrine worked out by experts stipulates the necessity of purchasing supersonic fighter jets. He said he would personally be ready to accept a revision of that option if the doctrine were to be changed by experts. That doctrine, he explained, is binding "on the commander in chief" as well as on others. Havel said that "as a citizen" he continues to believe that "we should be capable of defending our country, including its airspace." These, Havel wrote, "are the conditions under which the Czech Republic acceded to NATO" and "I find it slightly absurd if someone suddenly claims that the Czech Republic could be defended by others in order to save money." That argument is tantamount to saying that as a NATO member "we need not have an army at all," Havel concluded. MS

...RECEIVES YUGOSLAV PREMIER

Zoran Zizic and President Havel on 12 June said relations between their countries are being revived after a period of stagnation caused by the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic, CTK reported, citing presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek. Spacek said Havel had "no comment" on the declaration the day earlier by Zizic and Prime Minister Milos Zeman that it is necessary to safeguard Yugoslavia's territorial integrity and the inviolability of its borders. In the past, Havel on several occasions has expressed support for the right of peoples in the former Yugoslavia to self-determination. Spacek said the president emphasized in his conversation with Zizic that it is necessary to find a quick solution to problems that complicate relations between Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova. "There has been a considerable level of consensus on questions concerning the solution to the situation in the Balkans and bilateral cooperation," Spacek said. MS

LATVIAN PREMIER IN PRAGUE

President Havel told journalists after meeting with visiting Latvian Premier Andris Berzins on 12 June that "the world must respect the will of the Baltic countries to independently decide their own fate," CTK reported. Havel said that "the world seeks...a new architecture, corresponding to the 21st century" and is "parting with the division into spheres of influence of big powers." He said Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania strive for membership in NATO and the EU and that he continues to support that quest. Presenting Havel with a Latvian painting entitled "Masks," Berzins said his generation had been forced to live part of its life "under masks" and that everything must be done to prevent a repetition of such a scenario in order to allow younger generations to "live happily in a new Europe." Berzins later on 12 June discussed economic relations and military cooperation with Premier Zeman. Zeman said the Czech Republic intends to lease from Latvia part of the Liepaya port, which never freezes over. MS

EU COMMISSIONER REFUSES TO COMMENT ON ATTRIBUTED STATEMENT ON KLAUS...

Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, on 12 June reacted to a statement attributed to him by Premier Zeman by saying "I would never say something like that publicly," CTK reported, citing Czech radio and the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." Zeman told the BBC's Czech-language service on 11 June that Verheugen had told him that a government headed by Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus would hurt the Czech chances for accession to the EU. Zeman said that "those words were not uttered publicly [but] were not embargoed either, so I can quote them here." Reacting to Zeman's "indiscretions," Verheugen told "Mlada fronta Dnes" in Brussels that "whatever I tell premiers in private, they must know not to pass it on." MS

...AND KLAUS DEMANDS THAT ZEMAN EXPLAIN STATEMENT OR FACE 'PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION'

Klaus said in reaction that Zeman must explain the incident or will be officially questioned in the parliament on it, CTK reported. Klaus said he will not ask Verheugen himself what he actually said and that he could "well imagine Zeman and Verheugen talking about what they think of Klaus over a drink." But what he cannot understand is why Zeman would tell those things to the media. Klaus, who is also parliamentary chairman, also said that if the premier were to refuse to answer in the parliament a question submitted to him by the speaker, it "would not contribute to good relations in the Chamber of Deputies." MS

KAVAN REBUFFS HUNGARY OVER EU ACCESSION TALKS

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 12 June that Hungary's acceptance on the same day of a transition period on the free movement of labor (see below) "limits our room of maneuver." Now, he said, "the idea that what is acceptable for Hungary is acceptable to all will be in the heads of interested [EU] politicians," CTK and Reuters reported. He said that "for Hungary, this question is not so sensitive as it is for us." Kavan said he sees "no reason why we should close this chapter today, just because Hungary has done so. And when we do close it, it will by no means be under worse conditions than the Hungarians." Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in reaction in Luxembourg that "Hungary never criticizes its partners" and that it would never say that another country's position narrowed or widened Hungary's own room for maneuver. MS

TENSION REEMERGES AT CZECH TELEVISION

The Civic League association, which was formed by people who supported the Czech TV journalists' strike in December 2000-January 2001, on 12 June said in a statement that the decision of interim Director Jiri Balvin to dismiss Martin Mrnka as head of the political programs department seems to be "the beginning of cleansing" at Czech TV. Balvin dismissed Mrnka on 11 June, saying he was not satisfied with his work and with the way the department finances some programs, CTK reported. The agency said rumors are circulating at Czech TV that Bohumil Klepetko is also about to be dismissed as head of the news department. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER COMES TO THE DEFENSE OF KLAUS

Vladimir Meciar, leader of the Slovak opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, on 12 June told CTK that he "very much doubts" Verheugen made the statements attributed to him by Zeman (see above). Meciar said that "as in Slovakia, in the Czech Republic some people want to appropriate the right to negotiate with the EU." Klaus, he added, "is the biggest Czech personality, a dignified representative of the Czech Republic." Earlier on 12 June, the former premier said he deplores the fact that Ireland has voted against the Nice Treaty. "It is clear that a lot of people in the EU think that we want to come to them to live on their social welfare," he commented. Meciar said the Irish forget that at the beginning of their EU membership "they took something [from the union] and now, when there should be some balancing of accounts, they behave more than selfishly." MS

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS SLOVAK VISIT AMID CRITICISM

Kuchma on 12 June began a three-day visit to Slovakia at the invitation of his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster, CTK and dpa reported. Reacting to media criticism for having invited Kuchma, President Schuster said his guest "is a democratically elected president of a country that is important to Slovakia." Kuchma said after talks with Schuster that journalists should come to Ukraine to see reality with their own eyes. He said that in Ukraine the president has fewer powers than anywhere else and cannot even dissolve the parliament. His measures, he said, are only aimed at "stabilizing power in the country during the change of governments." On East-West relations, Kuchma said that "Ukraine does not want to side with any party, it wants to stand on its own feet, but mainly does not want to abandon the intention to integrate into European structures." MS

SLOVAKIA WANTS TO FOLLOW HUNGARIAN MODEL IN ACCESSION TALKS

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said in Luxembourg on 12 June that Slovakia hopes to close the chapters on the free movement of labor and on the free movement of capital --including foreign ownership of land -- by the end of June, when the Swedish presidency of the EU ends, CTK reported. Kukan said Bratislava hopes to close the chapter "approximately under the same conditions as Hungary" (see below). MS

HUNGARY, EU AGREE ON FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR, FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF LAND

Hungary on 12 June became the first EU candidate country to agree to restrictions demanded by the EU on the free movement of labor after enlargement. Following talks in Luxembourg, the EU pledged that after accession Hungarians will have more job opportunities in EU countries than at present, Hungarian media reported. According to the compromise, individual EU member states will be allowed to restrict the influx of Hungarian labor for up to seven years, and Hungary will be permitted to impose reciprocal restrictions. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Verheugen called the compromise "an exceptional result and a real breakthrough in negotiations," adding that Hungary now is likely to close negotiations at the end of 2002. It has also been agreed in negotiations over the free movement of capital that foreigners will not be allowed to buy farmland in Hungary for seven years following the country's EU accession. Hungary has now closed 22 out of 31 chapters in the aquis communautaire. MSZ




NATO HOLDING 'CRISIS TALKS' ON BALKANS

Top NATO leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, were to attend talks in Brussels on 13 June that would go beyond the originally planned focus on Bush's plans for missile defense, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. The "hastily arranged talks" were to deal with how to prevent the conflict in Macedonia from spinning out of control and include "the possibility of the eventual use of NATO peacekeeping troops to stabilize" the situation there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 12 June 2001 and below). The daily reported that "three [undescribed] teams from [NATO] are already on their way to Macedonia, diplomats said..., to serve as an advance unit of military advisers to the government" (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 7 and 14 June 2001). PM

NATO TO HELP WITH MACEDONIAN PEACE PLAN?

The "International Herald Tribune" added on 13 June that "the NATO teams, apparently involving only a few dozen men at this stage, also will examine ways in which the alliance could help with security issues if President Boris Trajkovski of Macedonia follows through on a peace plan that his government put forward on [12 June]. That plan includes an amnesty for the rebels and their disarmament with NATO supervision." Trajkovski has invited leaders of the main political parties -- ethnic Macedonian and Albanian alike -- to meet with him at Lake Ohrid later in the week to discuss details of his plan. Reuters reported on 13 June that NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson will go to Skopje on 14 June. PM

FORMER U.S. AMBASSADORS CALL FOR 'FIRM ACTION' IN THE BALKANS

Democrat Richard Holbrooke and Republican Jeane Kirkpatrick, both former U.S. ambassadors to the UN, wrote in the "International Herald Tribune" of 13 June that "NATO needs to make clear that it will stay the course in Bosnia and Kosovo, and that it will not allow Macedonia to be destroyed -- that it will do what is necessary now to establish a settlement and enforce it -- before conflict in Macedonia threatens not only peace in the Balkans but the transatlantic partnership." The former ambassadors warned that "failure to take firm action now threatens to reverse all that NATO action has gained, prolong the time that NATO troops must stay in the region, and cause political ramifications and human misery that could extend well beyond Balkan boarders." PM

GREEK MINISTER SAYS MACEDONIA MAY NEED INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION

Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Athens on 12 June that "if the political process does not go forward [in Macedonia], the international community will be called on to intervene militarily as well," AP reported. He had just returned from a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas added, however, that the idea of intervention "is just a thought at this stage." But the next day, Papandreou repeated his argument: "The deployment of an international peacekeeping force will be unavoidable in the future. Greece has an immediate interest that peace comes to this region because there are many Greek companies that have invested funds in this country... A peacekeeping mission which has the approval of the Skopje government is something the Greek government would look at positively," dpa reported. For historical reasons, Greece, like Bulgaria, has ruled out any direct role for its troops should the international community intervene in Macedonia. PM

MACEDONIAN RELIEF CONVOY MAKES THIRD ATTEMPT

Reuters reported from Bedinje on 13 June that a relief convoy carrying food and medicine will attempt to reach guerrilla-held villages near Kumanovo after being turned back the two previous days by Macedonian troops. On 12 June, the Macedonian soldiers held back the 26 trucks because journalists were in the convoy. The guerrillas insisted that journalists be present to witness the restoration of water supplies to Kumanovo from a rebel-held reservoir. Meanwhile, Kumanovo has been without normal water supplies for over one week. PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT CHANGES STRATEGY

Presumably as a reaction to the ineffectiveness of the security forces against the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK), the president's counselor for security issues, Nikola Dimitrov, announced on 11 June that the government has adopted a change in strategy. The new concept puts police and military forces under a common command. Future antiguerrilla units will include elite troops of both the police and the army, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 7 and 14 June 2001). According to Dimitrov, the government will also create a Center for Crisis Management in order to better coordinate intelligence and security activities. UB

FORMATION OF A COMMON COMMAND BLOCKED BY MACEDONIAN PREMIER?

Citing unnamed high-ranking government officials, the Skopje daily "Vest" stated on 12 June that Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski previously blocked attempts to set up a joint command (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 June 2001). Trajkovski, who is the commander in chief of the army, will also be in charge of the joint security forces of the interior and the defense ministries. Georgievski will thus lose control over the police forces. UB

MACEDONIAN ARMY COMMANDER QUITS

General Jovan Andrevski resigned as chief of the army's General Staff on 12 June, "The Times" reported. He cited the "bad morale of his troops" and his sense of responsibility for the deaths of 26 soldiers in the fighting against the UCK. His successor is his deputy, General Jovan Petkavski. PM

HAGUE WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL MONITORING MACEDONIAN EVENTS

Florence Hartmann, the spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told AP in The Hague on 13 June that Macedonia "is part of the territory of ex-Yugoslavia and it is [the scene of] an armed conflict. The fact that we have jurisdiction [there] is a warning to all parties... All individuals responsible for crimes under our competency will have to respond before the international tribunal." She added that members of the tribunal staff are "in the field collecting information" and that any reports of offenses will be investigated. PM

RUN ON MACEDONIAN BANKS FOR MARKS

Recent developments in the Macedonian crisis led to a rising demand for German marks over the past weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2001). The exchange rate on 11 June reached a high of almost 35 denars to the mark in exchange offices after some banks temporarily halted the selling of German currency, while others restricted the amount of German marks that each customer could buy, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The German mark has functioned as the unofficial second currency throughout the former Yugoslavia for decades. UB

SERBIAN ARMY COMMANDER SLAMS POLICE

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the army's General Staff, said in Belgrade on 12 June that unnamed officials of the Interior Ministry are collecting "compromising" materials about "high-ranking officers, whether in an official capacity or for unofficial, politically motivated reasons," AP reported. He added that the army knows "what's up their sleeves, but that will remain secret for now." The army and police competed for power and funding during the rule of former President Slobodan Milosevic. They are widely believed to be loyal to rival factions within the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition. PM

POLICE COOPERATION BETWEEN FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLICS

The interior ministers of Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Bosnia met in Belgrade on 12 June to discuss cooperation in combating organized crime, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

EU STABILITY PACT MEETING OPENS IN CROATIAN CAPITAL

The EU's Stability Pact, which acts as a clearing house for projects in a number of reconstruction and development fields, opened a meeting in Zagreb on 13 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Coordinator Bodo Hombach reminded participants that the pact does not itself undertake direct measures aimed at promoting military security, although he stressed that he is concerned with developments in Macedonia. Hombach noted that there are 35 new projects underway dealing with security-related issues. He told the daily "Slobodna Dalmacija" that Croatia is the EU's "most important partner" in the former Yugoslav area (presumably excluding Slovenia) because it has taken seriously advice from the EU and shared its experiences and knowledge with its former Yugoslav neighbors. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SEEKS BETTER TIES TO BOSNIA

Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic agreed with top officials of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the federation to set up working groups to deal with practical economic issues, "Danas" reported. These include free trade, visa regulations, taxation, customs, and the easing of formalities for business travelers. PM

EU QUESTIONS ROMANIA'S ABILITY TO MEET MEMBERSHIP CONDITIONS...

Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, on 12 June said after meeting Romania's chief negotiator with the EU, Vasile Puscas, that "Romania has yet to meet the basic conditions for membership," an RFE/RL correspondent in Luxembourg reported. Verheugen said the "state of negotiations with Romania clearly mirrors the state of affairs in the country itself -- a lot of problems, a lot of weaknesses, but also some progress and a lot of hope." Verheugen said the country has yet to become a market economy and that its privatization process "is still in the beginning." The administrative system needs to be "totally reformed" to enable the country to battle corruption, he said. MS

...BUT NICHOLSON REPORT ON ROMANIA MIGHT UNDERGO REVISION

Upon returning from Luxembourg on 12 June, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said Baroness Emma Nicholson was among the EU officials he met there and that she will soon return to Romania for a visit, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Geoana said the baroness told him that her preliminary report submitted to a European Parliament commission will be updated to reflect the progress made by Romania in coping with the problem of abandoned children. Verheugen, cited by Radio Bucharest on 13 June, said he was "surprised" to have read in Nicholson's preliminary report her recommendation to suspend accession negotiations with Romania, which, he said, leads to "discouragement." MS

ROMANIA HAS 'NO OBJECTIONS' TO U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE PLANS

Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, currently visiting the U.S. for talks with officials there, on 12 June said Romania has "no objections" to U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Pascu said the danger coming from "rogue states" and "terrorists" is real and that the U.S. is justified in wishing to preempt that danger. MS

ROMANIAN JUSTICE MINISTER HAS 'NO INTENTION' TO GRANT CONTROVERSIAL AMNESTY

Meeting members of the association representing victims of the 1990-1991 miners' rampages in Bucharest, Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu gave assurances that her ministry is not contemplating granting an amnesty to those involved in "social protest movements" since 1989, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The association's representatives requested from Stanoiu that criminal charges be brought against police and Prosecutor-General's Office officials who in 1990 ordered police forces to use violence and arrest protesters on Bucharest's University Square. Stanoiu refused to comment, saying only that she will "examine" the problem. MS

VETERAN ROMANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRAT APPEALS AGAINST PARTY MERGER

In an appeal to members of the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR), the party's honorary chairman, Sergiu Cunescu, said the merger of the PSDR with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) at the end of this week "makes an old communist dream come true," Mediafax reported. Cunescu said he will not stay on as honorary chairman of the new party and will not join it. He said the merger is the outcome of a "shameful deal" under which the PDSR, which Cunescu called the "successor Communist Party," offered positions in the parliament and government to the PSDR. Those who "betray the PSDR's social democratic ideas," Cunescu said, "will be viewed as traitors always are." MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IS FED UP WITH SMIRNOV

Vladimir Voronin told journalists on 12 June that Moldova will stop negotiating with Tiraspol if the separatists reject Chisinau's proposals on the special status of the Transdniester. Moldova has made "not concessions, but compromises" in the negotiations, he said, but "everything has a limit that cannot be overstepped," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He accused separatist leader Igor Smirnov of "incorrect behavior" after their 16 May meeting, in which they agreed to mutually recognize documents issued by the other side. Only three days later Smirnov issued a decree on instituting passports of the breakaway region. "We did not agree on this, so I am free not to recognize those documents. I cannot imagine a country having two passports," Voronin said. He also said he will unilaterally dismantle the Moldovan checkpoints in the demilitarized zone, since Tiraspol is refusing to do this. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT OPENLY BACKS RULING ALLIANCE IN ELECTORAL CONTEST...

Petar Stoyanov on 12 June openly backed the ruling United Democratic Forces (SDS) alliance in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 17 June, BTA and Reuters reported. He said that "the line followed by the SDS in the past four years was the right line. What is more -- it was [also] my line." In an allusion to the National Movement Simeon II, which is leading in the polls, Simeon said that "what has been achieved up to now [by Bulgaria's government] should not be easily erased and questioned for the sake of pre-election promises and pre-election expectations." In response to a journalist's question, Stoyanov said the former king is "no doubt...the leader of a new political party seeking its worthy place in the Bulgarian parliament." He called on Simeon to "unambiguously say if the restoration of the monarchy is on his agenda." MS

...DOES NOT EXPECT WAVE OF MACEDONIAN REFUGEES

Asked to comment on developments in neighboring Macedonia, Stoyanov told journalists that he is "concerned" and follows developments "on an hourly basis," but that "at this stage" he does not expect a wave of refugees from that country. "Should this happen, however, Bulgaria will not be unprepared," he added, according to a BTA report. MS

SIMEON READY FOR COALITION WITH SDS

Bulgaria's former king told AFP in Varna on 12 June that even if his National Movement wins an absolute majority, he would prefer to form a coalition, naming "the governing party or the Movement for Rights and Freedoms" as prospective partners. But in an allusion to attacks on his movement by the SDS, Simeon added that the task of post-electoral coalition-forming "is not made easier by exaggerated insults, and hurtful or completely false statements." Simeon also sought to brush aside accusations that his movement is populist, saying that after the elections "one should not have any illusions" and should be "realistic" in coping with problems like poverty and corruption. "We have promised to try to act legally, in a European way... We plan to introduce normal measures, which by themselves could trigger a weakening of corruption," he said. MS

SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER CONGRATULATES BULGARIA ON EU PROGRESS

"Congratulations to Bulgaria and thank-you for your efforts," Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said in Luxembourg on 11 June, following the latest accession talks round with the Bulgarian delegations, BTA reported, citing Bulgarian television. Lindh said that during the last six months, negotiations were opened with Sofia on six new chapters of the aquis communautaire, and the country has made significant progress in justice and home affairs, which has led to the lifting of visa requirements for Bulgarians traveling in the EU. MS




MACEDONIA: TIME FOR CONTINGENCY PLANNING?


The following is Part II of a two-part series; Part I appeared on 12 June.

By Patrick Moore

...Macedonia thus seems to be a country where ethnic tensions are ready to boil over, but where the politicians have their eyes only on the next elections. In a growing realization that this is indeed the case, some Western commentators have recently called for the international community to think about and discuss what it is prepared to do to help prevent a civil war in this strategically important Balkan country.

The key lesson that was learned in the previous conflicts in the former Yugoslavia is that the international community can be effective only if it speaks with one voice and only if it is prepared to assemble and use a credible amount of force to back up its views. If civil war breaks out in Macedonia or comes much closer to doing so, it thus will not be sufficient for the international community to send individual envoys into the region without a clear plan and without the potential means to bring recalcitrants or troublemakers into line.

Some observers have suggested that the "international community" in the Macedonian case should be the EU for two reasons. First, the EU has become more determined since the Kosova conflict -- in which the Americans dominated the scene -- to show that it can manage crises in its own backyard. Macedonia could give Brussels an opportunity to prove that it can do so. Second, many argue that it is unlikely that the Bush administration would be willing to undertake a new Balkan mission, and that the EU would be best advised not to count on Washington should Brussels contemplate some form of more active involvement in Macedonia.

What the Bush administration is or is not willing to do remains to be seen. But what is clear is that, while the EU may be welcome in the Balkans as a source of money, it has yet to establish itself everywhere in the region as a completely credible military or, for some, even political partner. In concrete terms, no international endeavor is likely to win the confidence and cooperation of ethnic Albanians anywhere in the Balkans unless the Americans are involved. That seems to be a fact of life, at least at present.

What would be the political program on offer? Most observers agree that it would be basically what OSCE envoy Robert Frowick suggested in his recent dealings with the Albanian parties and the UCK, which is similar to the proposals put forward by the EU's Javier Solana. In essence, this would mean constitutional changes making the Albanians and their language coequal to the Macedonians and their language. A greater role for Albanians would have to be ensured in public service and the economy. There would have to be an amnesty for at least most of the fighters, as was the case in Presevo. In return, the UCK would disarm and end the conflict, returning to civilian life. As in Presevo, the guerrillas would have to be part of the peace process, even if only indirectly.

There will be two big practical difficulties for the international community in bringing such a settlement about, according to many familiar with the crisis. The first is how to bring military muscle into play, at least as a deterrent against any brash steps by extremists on either side. Perhaps the international community -- which probably means NATO -- could start out with a basic peacekeeping force -- a revived UNPREDEP -- and expand it as the situation warranted. It is not clear whether it would be beneficial to introduce unarmed monitors into a situation where the potential for conflict remains high, despite some suggestions in the press for the OSCE to do so.

A second question regards the nature of the mission. Unless a clear political road map and timetable are set down for the reintegration of a single state, the danger is that a peacekeeping mission to Macedonia could come to resemble that in Cyprus. There is also the danger that Macedonia could come to look like Bosnia, with two essentially independent entities -- each with its own military -- linked by only a few fragile institutions.


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