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Newsline - June 28, 2001




RUSSIA UNLIKELY TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD MIRVED MISSILES

Despite President Vladimir Putin's threats made (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 25 June 2001) to reinstall multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles on Russian rockets, Moscow is unlikely to be able to afford the $2 billion it would take to reinstall such warheads on the 140 missiles capable of carrying them and the $3-4 billion a year it would cost to maintain them, an article in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 26, suggested. But the Kremlin continues to use its missiles to put pressure on the U.S. over NMD. On 27 June, the Strategic Rocket Forces launched an SS-19 from the Baikonur space facility, and that rocket, which could be MIRVed, hit its target in Kamchatka. VY

RUSSIAN CLAIMS ABOUT TOBIN SAID BASELESS

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said on 27 June that American exchange student John Tobin, who is in a Russian prison following his conviction on drug charges, was never an agent of the bureau, as a Russian biologist has claimed, AP reported on 27 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). Meanwhile, the Connecticut Department of Corrections, where Tobin was said to have met with the imprisoned Russian scientist in 1997-98, said that Tobin had never been there, although it added that a person named Dmitrii Kuznetsov had been incarcerated there during that period for a larceny conviction. PG

PUTIN SAYS STATE MUST HELP YOUTH 'EXPRESS THEMSELVES'...

In a message on Youth Day on 27 June, President Putin said that the successes, victories, and achievements of young people "will become Russia's success and strengthen its national dignity and authority," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "the most important task of the state" is to "let young people fully express themselves, find their place in life and their vocations." PG

...EXPANDS ASSISTANCE TO HANDICAPPED

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said on 27 June that Putin has issued a decree increasing by 100 to 120 rubles a month support payments to handicapped children, handicapped adults, and those who care for them, ITAR-TASS reported. Matvienko acknowledged that the increases are small, but said that "it is impossible to do everything at once." PG

PARDON COMMISSION SET TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS

Anatolii Pristavkin, the chairman of the Presidential Pardons Commission, said on 27 June that his organization has suspended operation and is likely to be disbanded because many law-enforcement officials oppose the commission's work, and because Putin has granted so few pardons since becoming president, Interfax reported on 27 June. Meanwhile, Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Western reporters that she has information that the Justice Ministry wants Putin to replace the public figures on the commission with more pliable state officials. VY

IS THE STATE BUREAUCRACY GROWING OR SHRINKING?

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told the Duma on 27 June that the number of state apparatus employees declined by 13-15 percent last year to 333,000, ITAR-TASS reported. But deputy Yegor Ligachev (Communist) said that his information shows a different trend: He said the number of government employees grew by 10,000 in the last year alone and that expenses for the apparatus have increased 900 percent since 1995. Meanwhile, Duma deputies proposed creating an Agency for Federal State Service that would oversee personnel issues of federal employees, Interfax reported. VY

REGIONAL LEADERS CALL FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL TO DEBATE NUCLEAR WASTES BILL

While Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said on 27 June that the Duma-passed bill on the importation of nuclear wastes will go to the Kremlin for signature, more regional leaders, including Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov, and Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, called the same day for the Federation Council to debate the matter, Russian agencies reported. The upper house had not scheduled debate of the bill within the constitutionally mandated time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2001). PG

DUMA PUTS OFF CONSIDERATION OF ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING MEASURE

The Duma on 27 June delayed taking up for second reading a bill that calls for combating money laundering, Russian and Western agencies reported. Finance Ministry officials have called for removing inconsistencies and correcting several articles in the criminal code before the second reading, which is likely to take place next week. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin warned the Duma that any further delay would only further compromise Russia's international reputation. VY

DEPUTIES DIVIDED ON MEANING OF NATIONAL CULTURAL AUTONOMY

The Duma on 27 June overwhelmingly approved on first reading a measure that would allow members of a particular ethnic community to establish only one national-cultural autonomy in any given region, Interfax reported. But deputies differed widely in their interpretations of that measure. Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the measure represents a "hidden attempt" to expand the size of the national republics. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Deputy Yulii Rybakov, in contrast, said that national cultural autonomy arrangements are directed at "liquidating" the national republics within the Russian Federation. The Duma also adopted an amended version of the law on holdings that Putin had vetoed in July 2000, Russian agencies reported the same day. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES RUSSIA IS 'A SECOND-TIER' COUNTRY

In an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty" on 27 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that "it is high time to reject such cliches as Russia being a 'second tier' country." Moscow has both the real and formal attributes of a great power, he said, and uses them. Moreover, he said, Moscow knows how to play and win diplomatic games and therefore does not need to constantly "shake its fist" at the world. PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS NATO TO BLAME FOR PROBLEMS IN MACEDONIA

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation, said on 27 June that "the current crisis in Macedonia was provoked by the actions of NATO forces" and that it appears that some, "including NATO," want the conflict "to go on forever," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW TO FIGHT FOR LIFTING SANCTIONS ON IRAQ

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, said on 27 June that Russia will oppose the British draft resolution supported by the U.S. that seeks to introduce new "smart sanctions" against Baghdad, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 June. Instead, he said, Moscow will introduce its own resolution calling for a full lifting of sanctions in exchange for weapons inspections. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 27 June that the Russian leadership will do whatever is necessary to end the sanctions because of its economic interests, Russian agencies reported. Ivanov said that Russia has lost some $30 billion in income because of the sanctions. VY

MOSCOW PLAYS ON KOREAN, JAPANESE DIFFERENCES

"Izvestiya" reported on 27 June that Russia has provided South Korea with the fishing quotas it had sought in the seas around the Kurile Islands. Seoul views this as a purely economic issue, the paper said, but Tokyo is angry because of its political interest in the islands. The Moscow paper suggested that Russia is successfully playing on this difference to push Seoul into talks about the construction of an Irkutsk-China-South Korea gas pipeline and of a railroad linking the two Koreas with Russia's Trans-Siberian railway. VY

MOSCOW STEPS UP WORK ON TRANSPORT CORRIDORS

A special body set up by the Russian Highways Agency has decided to begin construction of the Russian section of a superhighway that will link Yekaterinburg to Europe, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 June. Meanwhile, Amur Governor Leonid Korotkov told Interfax the same day that Russia and China plan to construct a bridge over the Amur River. Both projects are part of Putin's plan to construct new north-south and east-west transport corridors for both economic and geopolitical reasons. VY

ECONOMIST SAYS INFLATION PUSHING RUSSIA TOWARD CRISIS

Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Moscow Institute of Globalization, said in an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 26 June that rising inflation threatens to plunge the country into a new economic and hence political crisis. Delyagin, who predicted default in advance of the August 1998 crisis, said that the new crisis will be different: It will hit not the banking system and stock market but rather the communal and energy sector infrastructures. Delyagin called on Putin to take urgent measures, including curtailing monopolies, protecting property, equalizing incomes across the regions, and implementing security minimum incomes, in order to prevent such a crisis. But Delyagin suggested in conclusion that Putin lacks the time and resources to do everything needed before the crisis is likely to take place. VY

CAPITAL FLIGHT SAID TO HAVE A POSITIVE SIDE

Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Soltaganov believes that capital flight has had at least one positive result, insofar as it has reduced the oversupply of foreign currency obtained via exports of raw materials, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 June. But analysts said that it has not diverted enough of these earnings to prevent an increase in the money supply and hence inflation, and reflects the absence of competitive restructuring in much of the economy, Reuters reported the same day. PG

RTR CLOSES REGIONAL BUREAUS IN RUSSIA

RTR television has closed its bureaus in Ivanovo, Yaroslavl, Arkhangelsk, Nazran, Vladikavkaz, and Stavropol, claiming that "there are few new events interesting for television taking place in these cities," "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 26, reported. PG

PRESS FREEDOM THREATENED IN RUSSIA, IPI SAYS

The Vienna-based International Press Institute said on 27 June that it continues to be concerned by the state of press freedom in Russia, dpa reported. Russia remains on the group's "watch list" because there have been few signs of improvement and many signs of worsening of the state of media freedom in that country, IPI officials said. Journalists have retreated into "self-censorship," they have been subjected to "massive political pressure," and financial interests rather than journalistic principles often dictate coverage, they added. PG

SPY MANIA MAY HAVE A DOWNSIDE

The spy mania in Russian society today has allowed the security services to act in ways they have not been able to since before the demise of the USSR, "Vremya novostei" reported on 27 June. That is because they are easily able to convince the public that any charges they bring are true. But they may be losing one important supporter, namely the president. The paper cited Putin's recent observation that "both the Russian and U.S. secret services are performing badly. They are not doing anything interesting. They are only interfering. Their main activity is to inform the political authorities, but I believe that they are doing very little to neutralize real threats. The Western security services call this 'making waves.' This expression can be applied to our secret services as well." PG

DESERTION, CRUELTY, AND THEFT MAJOR PROBLEMS IN MILITARY

Prosecutors responsible for the Caspian Flotilla told "Kaspiets," No. 22, that half of the crimes they had to deal with in 2000 involved desertion, 12 percent involved cruelty by officers and other soldiers, and 10 percent abuse of power by senior officers. Another problem the military faces is downsizing. A paper published in a city that soon will lose its military district status when the Urals and Volga military districts are combined this fall, "Samarskie izvestiya," on 25 May complained that money spent to move the headquarters could have been better spent on improving the army itself. PG

ANTI-CHECHEN PREJUDICES BEHIND POLICE ACTION IN TVER

An article in "Izvestiya" on 27 June reports that police in Tver Oblast sent 150 people to investigate a man just because he was from the North Caucasus. The police burst into his house, held the man and his family at gunpoint, but found no weapons. Nonetheless, a senior police official told the man: "We killed you in Chechnya, and we will kill you here." The man against whom all these actions were launched moved to Tver in 1983. Prosecutors justified the action by saying that some Chechen truck drivers have resisted police in the past. PG

TRADE UNION HEAD CALLS FOR WORKERS' POLICE TO FIGHT FOR BACK WAGES

Mikhail Shmakov, the chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, on 27 June proposed the creation of workers' police to put pressure on businessmen who fail to pay wages on time, ITAR-TASS reported. He also called for the use of strikes, marches, and "even the blocking of roads" to get the attention of business and the state. PG

RUSSIANS RELATIVELY POSITIVE ABOUT POSSIBLE PAPAL VISIT

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 27 June, 61 percent of Russians are positively disposed toward the hypothetical idea of a future papal visit to Russia. Only 17 percent are opposed. At the same time, however, 45 percent said that the Kremlin should listen to the opinion of the Russian Orthodox Church and not invite the pope until disputes between Rome and Moscow are settled. PG

MOSCOW SAID TO WANT SINGLE MUSLIM ORGANIZATION IN RUSSIA

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 12, the Kremlin wants to establish a single Muslim administrative body to supervise all Muslim communities in Russia, and Putin went to Ufa on 10 June at least in part to "interview" Talgat Tadzhuddin, who heads one of the Muslim boards as a possible candidate to head such a body. But the supplement suggested that Tadzhuddin has too many opponents within the Muslim community to become a credible leader of all Russian Muslims. PG

RUSSIAN NATIONALISTS PROHIBITED FROM DEMONSTRATING IN MOSCOW

Officials in Moscow's central administrative district refused to permit leaders of the organization "The Russian Project for 'Great Russia'" to hold a meeting and march on 27 June, Interfax reported. But some members of the group, which calls for promoting the interests of the Russian people above all others, assembled anyway, the news service said. They dispersed at the request of the police. PG

SCIENTOLOGY LEADER IN KHABAROVSK SENTENCED TO PRISON

Olga Ukhova, the director of the regional Dianetics scientology center in Khabarovsk, has been sentenced to six years in prison for money laundering and illegal business activities, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. The case against her lasted more than a year, and prosecutors suggested, in the words of the news agency, that "the scientology center did not limit itself to 'enlightenment,' but also impaired people morally, materially, and physically." Moscow's scientology center was closed in 1998 by court order. PG

GENERAL MOTORS, AVTOVAZ TO PRODUCE CHEVRO-NIVA

U.S. automobile giant General Motors and Russia's largest automaker AvtoVAZ have signed an agreement to jointly produce a new line of Chevro-Niva vehicles, Prime-TASS reported on 27 June. The project calls for the production of 75,000 cars annually in Russia by 2004 and is being supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. VY

FEDERAL FUNDING SHORTFALLS PREVENT FIGHTING FOREST FIRES

Officials in Khabarovsk said on 27 June that the failure of the federal government to provide full funding on a timely basis has prevented them from being able to bring many forest fires under control, Interfax reported. PG

AEROFLOT EXTENDS NO SMOKING BAN

Beginning on 1 July, Aeroflot will ban smoking on flights of less than four hours, a two-hour extension of the current limit, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. PG

VEDERNIKOV TIPPED TO HEAD BOLSHOI

Aleksandr Vedernikov, 38, is likely to be appointed the new artistic director of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, Russian and Western agencies reported on 27 June. He would replace Gennadii Rozhdestvenskii, 70, who quit earlier this month. Vedernikov currently serves as artistic director and music director of the Russian Philharmonic. Meanwhile, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has arranged for a Danish company to sell digitized Russian sheet music online, AP reported the same day. PG

TOURISM TRAINING INCREASINGLY POPULAR

There are now 15 applicants for every opening at Moscow's tourism training school, where 2,500 students are now enrolled, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 June. According to the school's leaders, its task is "to prepare not only highly qualified professionals, but also people who are called upon to make the lives of their compatriots more civilized." PG

SHAIMIEV SEES ELIMINATION OF POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS AS LONG-TERM PROCESS...

Following reports that President Putin has signed a decree establishing a commission to define the separate powers of regions and the center, Tatarstan's President Shaimiev commented on 27 June that such a "commission faces the prospect of a large amount of work," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). "The creation of the commission is the beginning of a long path -- the commission will work on a continuous and long-term basis," Shaimiev continued. Deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak had said the previous day that the commission will work toward making the power-sharing agreements previously negotiated between Moscow and a number of regions, such as Tatarstan, superfluous. According to "Izvestiya," the commission will revise the numerous power-sharing agreements so that they are in compliance with federal law. JAC

...AND CAUTIONS AGAINST RETURN TO 'OLD THINKING'

Shaimiev also cautioned the members of the commission not to look for easy answers to the problems of federal construction. "It seems to many that a unitary government would be easy to rule, but I think that this is the inertia of old thinking," he concluded. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 June, Shaimiev along with Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev and Kabardino-Balkaria President Valerii Kokov will be the only regional leaders represented on the commission. Shaimiev had been scheduled to give a report on the subject of defining the responsibilities of the center and the regions in the State Council several months ago, but his speech was taken off the agenda of that body at the last minute, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. At the time, "technical reasons" were cited, but the daily speculates that perhaps "political reasons" were a more likely reason. JAC

ONE PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY CALLS FOR APPOINTING GOVERNORS...

The presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, told reporters in Moscow on 27 June that he personally favors the appointment -- rather than the election -- of Russian's regional governors, Interfax reported. Pulikovskii added that he believes that some of the newly elected governors in his district came to power accidentally. He said that some of the governors have confessed to him that they "do not know why they came to power or what they are going to do with it." Pulikovskii did not specify to whom he was referring, but the five new governors in his district are Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin, Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev, Amur Oblast Governor Leonid Korotkov, Koryak Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Loginov, and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. On the same day, a high-level unnamed source in the presidential administration told the agency that the Kremlin does not share Pulikovskii's view regarding the preferability of nominating governors. JAC

...AS ANOTHER PLANS TO TELEVISE COURT PROCEEDINGS OF CORRUPT PUBLIC OFFICIALS

On the same day, presidential envoy to the Urals federal district Petr Latyshev told another gathering of reporters in Moscow that over the last year the problem of creating a single legal field in his district has practically been resolved. He added that over the same time period his office has opened around 30 consultative organs, such as a consultative cooperation council for foreign investors and an analogous council for domestic investors, according to Interfax. With regard to his office's work combating official corruption, Latyshev declared that television stations in his region will start to broadcast the judicial proceedings against corrupt officials, the website polit.ru reported. JAC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEADS HAILS KILLING OF BARAEV...

Speaking on 27 June in Volgograd, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov described the killing of Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev as "a strong blow to the remnants of the illegal formations," and as a move that will contribute to stabilization in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov added that many other field commanders, with the exception of Shamil Basaev and Khattab, and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, have already left Chechnya. LF

...BUT CALLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS TO BE OBSERVED

At the same time, in a possible allusion to the destruction wrought by Russian troops during their operation to wipe out Baraev and his men (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2001), Kadyrov said it is imperative to ensure that innocent people do not suffer in the course of such operations. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 27 June that the situation in the village of Alkhan-Kala, which was sealed off during the operation and subjected to artillery bombardment that destroyed homes and killed an unspecified number of civilians, is returning to normal. A local commission is assessing the damage in order to provide assistance to residents. Also on 27 June, Kadyrov's nephew Abubakar, who was a member of his security service, was killed when his car hit a mine as he was leaving his native village of Tsentoroi, Russian agencies reported. LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS BILL ON CIVIL SERVICE

A controversial bill aimed at improving the professional level of Armenia's civil servants failed to pass in the second reading on 27 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. It was similarly rejected during the first reading in February. While 63 deputies voted in favor and only two against, the vote was invalid as fewer than half the 131 legislators participated. Opposition parties argue that the bill will augment the already broad powers of the president by giving him the exclusive right to nominate all seven members of a supervisory body that would rule on all civil service appointments. Communist Party deputy Frunze Kharatian said that the bill is therefore unconstitutional. Some deputies from the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), the junior partner in the majority Miasnutiun coalition, boycotted the vote, thereby fuelling the widespread perception that differences between the HZhK and its partner, the Republican Party of Armenia, will lead to Miasnutiun's disintegration. LF

LAWYERS TO CHALLENGE RELEASE OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL DEFENDANTS

Lawyers representing the families of victims of the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings said in Yerevan on 27 June they will appeal the parliament's decision last week to amnesty six men on trial for their role in the killings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2001), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The lawyers claim the decision to release the six men, who include three police officers who were on duty at the parliament building on the day of the shootings, was made at the behest of the Armenian leadership in an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARIAN ADVOCATES RETAINING DEATH PENALTY

Gulamhusein Aliyev (Azerbaijan Popular Front Party-Reformist wing), who is a member of the Azerbaijan parliament delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has argued in Strasbourg that Azerbaijan should have the right to retain the death penalty until the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh is finally resolved, according to Turan on 27 June. He argued that doing so would not conflict with Azerbaijan's international obligations. LF

RUSSIA REFUSES TO ALLOW GEORGIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT TO MOSCOW

A Georgian airlines flight from Tbilisi to Moscow was cancelled on 27 June after the Russian air administration refused to allow it to enter Russian airspace, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Deputy Transport Minister Giorgi Karbelashvili said the same day that Russia has no right to cancel flights without prior warning, and that Tbilisi will complain to the International Civil Aviation Organization. The plane took off from Tbilisi for Moscow on 28 June. Russia had unilaterally imposed a ban on Georgian flights 10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN MAY EXTEND DEADLINE FOR LEGALIZATION OF CAPITAL

Speaking to parliament on 27 June, Kazakhstan's Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev proposed extending for a further 10 days, from 4 July to 14 July, the deadline for bringing back to Kazakhstan capital illegally transferred to foreign banks, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Esenbaev argued that some individuals involved may need more time to decide whether to do so. National Bank officials said on 26 June that since 14 June, when the bid to legalize shadow capital got underway, some $60 million has been returned to Kazakh banks. Also on 27 June, it was announced that all tax returns filed between 1995-2000 will be destroyed next month. LF

GASOLINE SHORTAGE MAY JEOPARDIZE GRAIN HARVEST IN KAZAKHSTAN

The Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) on 27 June discussed the recently announced decision by the Canadian-owned Shymkent Oil refinery to suspend operations for an indefinite period, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Some deputies noted that this is the third consecutive year in which the refinery, which is Kazakhstan's main producer of gasoline, has suspended operations at the start of the grain harvest. Some deputies attributed the refinery's move to a desire to drive gasoline prices up and thus increase profits. Representatives of Kazakhstan's state oil company KazakhOil and of the export organizations KazTrans and KazTransGaz who were asked to report to the session on the activities of those companies failed to appear at the session. Hearings on those companies' activities were postponed until an unspecified date this autumn. LF

SECOND KYRGYZ EDITOR SUES JUSTICE MINISTRY

Opposition People's Party of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Melis Eshimkanov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 27 June that he has brought a law suit against the Justice Ministry in connection with its decision to rescind the registration of 16 new media outlets registered since 1 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 June 2001). Three of those are newspapers that Eshimkanov owns. A second editor, Aleksandr Kim, has already brought such a lawsuit against the ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZ MINISTERS DECLINE TO TESTIFY TO PARLIAMENT COMMISSION

Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, Defense Minister Esen Topev, and Justice Minister Jakyp Abdrakhmanov on 27 June ignored a request to testify before the parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs concerning the controversial border agreements signed with China in 1996 and 1999, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, 20 and 22 June 2001). Instead, the ministers sent lower-ranking officials who were unable to answer parliament deputies' questions. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES WANT NEW ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS

Ten Belarusian opposition parties have said Belarus's territorial electoral commissions were formed in an illegal manner and demanded that the Central Election Commission disband them and set up new ones, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 27 June. The parties said in a memorandum that the authorities rejected virtually all candidates proposed to territorial commissions by the opposition and manned those commissions with people "who have already acquired experience in rigging the elections to the Chamber of Representatives" in 2000. The memorandum was sent to all potential presidential candidates, foreign embassies in Minsk, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). "We expect that there will be a widespread reaction [to the memorandum] -- from Belarusian society, countries neighboring with Belarus, the U.S., the EU, Russia, and so on," Vyachaslau Siuchyk of the Belarusian Popular Front said. JM

EBRD THREATENS TO BREAK TIES WITH BELARUS IF ELECTIONS ARE UNDEMOCRATIC

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has threatened to stop its loans to Belarus if the 9 September presidential elections fail to meet democratic standards, "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" reported on 28 June. Speaking to PACE in Strasbourg on 27 June, EBRD President Jean Lemierre said the bank will be closely watching developments in Belarus's election campaign. Lemierre stressed that should international observers, including those from the OSCE, conclude that the ballot is unfair, the EBRD will completely break its ties with Belarus. The current session of PACE is attended by two Belarusian delegations with guest status: one from the National Assembly and the other from the opposition Supreme Soviet. JM

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH JOINS LUKASHENKA IN APPEAL FOR TRILATERAL SLAVIC UNITY...

In a village where the borders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine converge, Russian Patriarch Aleksii II and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 27 June called for the unity of the three Slavic and predominantly Orthodox nations. "There are forces in the world whose soul is against the unity of the Slavic peoples. Those forces, using peaceful rhetoric, want to break that unity apart and are engaged in attempts at spiritual and political expansion," AP quoted from a joint statement by Aleksii II and Lukashenka. Aleksii II's five-day journey through Belarus was seen by many commentators as a thinly veiled challenge to and protest against Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Ukraine. Polish media reported that Aleksii II and Lukashenka failed to gather impressive crowds, adding that the number of presidential bodyguards usually surpassed that of believers willing to see and listen to the Russian patriarch. JM

...DECORATES BELARUSIAN KGB OFFICERS

During his visit to Belarus, Russian Patriarch Aleksii II also decorated several Belarusian KGB officers, including KGB Chairman Leanid Yeryn, with Russian Orthodox Church orders, Belapan reported on 27 June. According to an official announcement, the KGB officers obtained their decorations for their contributions to "spiritual revival, the preservation of interdenominational peace and harmony, and the strengthening of the spiritual foundations of society" in Belarus. JM

POPE ENDS VISIT TO UKRAINE

"My hope is that Ukraine will be able fully to become a part of the Europe which will take in the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Urals," Pope John Paul II said in his farewell speech on 27 June. "Your Holiness' visit to Ukraine obviously proved to the world that Ukraine is an integral and natural part of European society," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma responded to the pontiff during a farewell ceremony at the Lviv airport. "To you, land of Ukraine, I renew my wish for prosperity and peace. Goodbye Ukraine," AP quoted the pope as saying upon his departure to Rome. JM

KYIV ACCUSES EBRD OF FAILURE TO SUPPORT COMPLETION OF TWO REACTORS

Ukraine's delegation to the current session of PACE said on 27 June that the EBRD has failed to meet its obligations on funding the construction of two reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power plants, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. The delegation said the EBRD pledged to assign some $1.5 billion for closing the Chornobyl plant and completing the two reactors but allocated only a small part of the declared amount. EBRD President Jean Lemierre responded that the bank is waiting for an IMF decision on the resumption of its cooperation with Ukraine. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said the same day in Moscow that Russia will allocate $200 million to Ukraine for the purchase of nuclear fuel and the completion of the reactors. JM

UKRAINE TO COLLECT VAT ON RUSSIAN IMPORTS AS OF 12 JULY

Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov on 27 June said the government decided to introduce VAT on all groups of goods imported from Russia to Ukraine as of 12 July, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. The decision is in response to Russia's switch as of 1 July to collecting VAT on goods in countries of their destination. JM

BALTIC STATES IN TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL CORRUPTION PERCEPTION INDEX

Transparency International on 27 June issued its 2001 index on the level of corruption in 91 countries. Finland, with a rating of 9.9, was deemed the least corrupt, followed by Denmark and New Zealand. Bangladesh, with a rating of 0.4, was the most corrupt. Estonia was still deemed the least corrupt state in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE with a rating of 5.6 even though it slipped from 27th place in 2000 to 28th place overall this year. Lithuania, with a rating of 4.8, rose from 43-47th place to 38th. Meanwhile, Latvia fell from 57th to 59th place with a rating of 3.4. The ratings of other former communist countries were Hungary (5.3), Slovenia (5.2), Poland (4.1), and Bulgaria, Croatia, and the Czech Republic (all with 3.9), the Slovak Republic (3.7), Moldova (3.1), Romania (2.8), Kazakhstan (2.7), Uzbekistan (2.7), Russia (2.3), Ukraine (2.1), and Azerbaijan (2.0). SG

LATVIA CLOSES CHAPTER ON FREE MOVEMENT OF PERSONS IN EU TALKS

Andris Kesteris, the head of Latvia's delegation for EU entry talks, announced on 27 June that Latvia has closed the chapter on the free movement of labor, thus completing 16 of the 31 chapters, BNS reported. The EU accepted Latvia's three additional conditions in the chapter -- the parity principle for free movement of labor with current EU members, the right to restrict movement of labor from new EU members if their workers pose a danger to some sectors of its economy by squeezing out local labor, and the recognition by the EU of Soviet-era diplomas in certain professions. Latvia also opened negotiations on the chapter on interior and justice affairs, thus completing its goal to open all chapters of the EU membership negotiations during Sweden's presidency of the EU in the first half of 2001. SG

LITHUANIA CLOSES ENVIRONMENTAL CHAPTER IN EU TALKS

Lithuania's chief negotiator with the EU, Petras Austrevicius, announced on 27 June in Brussels that his country became the fifth current EU candidate to complete the very complicated chapter on the environment, ELTA reported. It was granted three transition periods -- on package and package-waste management, urban sewage treatment, and the treatment of volatile organic compounds. Compliance with the EU's environmental standards will require about 200 million litas ($50 million) every year until 2009, with the largest investments necessary for waste management and water-treatment systems. About 100 million litas are expected to come from EU funds with the other half coming from budgetary allocations and grants from international financial institutions. Lithuania has now completed 18 of the 31 chapters, and with the opening that day of the chapter on interior and justice affairs has started negotiations on all of the chapters. SG

POLISH COURT ORDERS REVIEW OF FORMER PREMIER'S LUSTRATION CASE

An appeal court on 27 June said the Lustration Court's decision last year that former Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy lied about his past links to the communist-era secret services was flawed and should be reconsidered, PAP reported. The decision means that Oleksy can keep his parliamentary seat and run again in legislative elections scheduled for 23 September. In October 2000, the Lustration Court ruled that Oleksy had covered up the fact that he had secretly collaborated with the military intelligence service of the Polish People's Republic in 1970-78. JM

POLISH CENTRAL BANK CUTS KEY INTEREST RATES BY 1.5 PERCENT

Following a decision by the Monetary Policy Council, the National Bank on 28 June cut three key interest rates by 1.5 percent, Polish media reported. The bank's 28-day intervention rate was lowered to 15.5 percent, the discount rate to 18 percent, and the Lombard rate to 19.5 percent. "The decision was made too late and will have a marginal influence on the economy, but it will be a relief to the economy in 2002," Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc commented. The move follows a slowdown in the country's economic growth. Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Steinhoff said the government expects GDP to grow this year by some 3 percent, well below the projected 4.5 percent level in the 2001 budget bill. JM

POLISH PREMIER SEEKS TO DECORATE GERMAN CHANCELLOR FOR SLAVE LABOR COMPENSATIONS

Jerzy Buzek has requested that President Aleksander Kwasniewski decorate German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, PAP reported on 27 June. Buzek said the decoration should be awarded to Schroeder for his contribution to securing compensation payments to former slave laborers of the Third Reich. "I want to say that resolving the issue of compensation removes one more thorn from Polish-German relations," Buzek added. JM

PUBLIC DRINKING BAN COMES INTO FORCE IN POLAND

A new law forbidding drinking alcoholic beverages in parks, on sidewalks, and in other public places came into force on 28 June, PAP reported. Those caught by police imbibing alcohol in public will have to pay fines of up to 150 zlotys ($38), the equivalent of some 50 bottles of beer. Previously, drinking bans were imposed in railway stations and other public transport sites as well as in public transport vehicles. JM

HUNGARIAN PREMIER MEETS IN PRAGUE WITH CZECH COUNTERPART...

Visiting Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman on 27 June said relations between their countries are "problem-free." They discussed expanding trade relations and reached progress in lowering bilateral trade barriers in steel production and transportation, CTK and AP reported. Zeman and Orban also agreed that admission to the EU should take place on the basis of progress made by each individual candidate country rather than as a group of all candidates. "The big bang theory is a good theory for outer space, but not for EU enlargement," Zeman said. The Czech premier also said he "respected" Hungary's option to sign a mutual agreement with the EU on transition periods on the free movement of labor and that Orban had consulted him by phone before doing so. MS

...AND WITH HAVEL

Prime Minister Orban also met with President Vaclav Havel and agreed with him that cooperation among the Visegrad Four countries must not end should members of that group gain admission to the EU. Orban said that the EU is "a multilayer conglomeration of countries" and that groups are likely to collaborate within that structure, as Benelux countries do. Havel said that the competition that existed among Visegrad countries for accession to the EU between 1994 and 1998 had been harmful. MS

CZECH LEADERS MEET EU VISITORS

The possibility of "informal cooperation" between Benelux countries and members of the Visegrad Four following possible EU expansion was also mentioned in talks conducted in Prague between Luxembourg's visiting Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Lydie Polfer and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, according to a CTK report. Polfer also met with President Havel, with whom she discussed NATO enlargement, among other things. Havel told her that enlargement of the alliance is "unavoidable" and that including the Baltic states in the organization "will be a test." In talks with Premier Zeman, Polfer promised support in EU accession talks. Another prominent guest received by Havel, Zeman, and Kavan on 27 June was Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen. He and Havel agreed that the recent results of the Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty were not "a vote against the EU." Cowen told Havel that there were various reasons for the "no" vote in the plebiscite, but that 56 percent of the Irish support EU membership. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE REJECTS BILL ON ARMS AND AMMUNITION

The Chamber of Deputies on 27 June again rejected a government-drafted bill that would have brought Czech legislation on bearing arms and carrying ammunition in line with EU legislation. Eighty-two out of the 163 deputies present voted against the bill, which is mainly opposed by the rightist formations represented in the chamber. They argued that the bill invites corruption and arbitrariness of civil servants who would decide on applications for permits. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said he will not resubmit the bill before the chamber's mandate runs out in 2002. "Evidently, some deputies in the lower house think they feel better if they carry a pistol, or the armament lobby was more successful in making its point to deputies than we were," he commented. MS

SLOVAKIA CLOSES CONTROVERSIAL EU NEGOTIATIONS ON FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR...

Slovakia on 27 June followed the Hungarian precedent and closed the controversial chapters on the free movement of labor and of capital in the negotiations with the EU, CTK reported. Like Hungary, Slovakia accepted the "mutuality" of transition periods on the free movement of labor. The transition period is to apply for between two and seven years, but Slovakia said it does not intend to introduce any restrictions on the movement of labor from the EU in the event that it gains entrance to that body. The two-year transitions can be extended by a further three years and again by two years if conditions require it. MS

...AND OF CAPITAL

Slovakia also agreed to renounce its request for a five-year transition period on the purchase of real estate by foreigners and to shorten from 10 to seven years the transition period on purchasing farmland. Individual farmers will, however, be able to purchase land immediately upon accession if they have farmed Slovak land in the three years prior to EU entrance and have a residence permit. Bratislava has thus far closed 19 chapters of the aquis communautaire in the negotiations with the EU. MS

MECIAR PARTY REJECTS VERHEUGEN'S STATEMENT ON SLOVAKIA...

Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Deputy Chairman Rudolf Ziak on 27 June said Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, "should not try to interfere in Slovakia's internal affairs," CTK reported. Ziak was reacting to a statement made by Verheugen one day earlier that a return to power of HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar would hamper accession talks with the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). MS

...BUT HINTS MECIAR MAY BE DROPPED AFTER ELECTIONS

Ziak also said that members of the current ruling coalition have been involved in attempts to "manipulate public opinion" by distorting or making up alleged statements of foreign leaders regarding the HZDS and its chairman. He said Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan had attributed to U.S. President George W. Bush a statement allegedly made in Warsaw that Meciar's return to power would hinder Slovakia's NATO accession and that the allegation was later denied by both the White House and Polish diplomats. Ziak also said that "for now" Meciar is the leader of the HZDS and that, as an opposition party, "who heads it is our affair." But he also added that "what will happen after the elections is a different question." MS

HUNGARY DISMISSES ROMANIAN CRITICISM OF STATUS LAW...

Prime Minister Orban on 27 June denied Romanian allegations that the recently passed Status Law infringes on European legislation. "The Hungarian Status Law is not contradictory to the legal system in the EU," Orban told Hungarian Radio in his weekly interview with the station. "On the contrary, the law was conceived taking into consideration EU legislation," he said. Commenting on Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase's criticism of the law, Orban said that he just read press reports on it and that if Nastase "has something to say, he will probably find a way to do so in person." Foreign Ministry Political State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth told journalists in Budapest that most of Hungary's neighbors "in general" accept the Status Law and that Budapest hopes that Romania will "gradually" change its position. Nemeth said, "we do not see any problem with going ahead and implementing the law," dpa reported. MS

...WHILE HUNGARIANS FROM NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES DEFEND THE LAW

Representatives of ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries issued a statement in Budapest on 27 June in support of the Status Law, Hungarian media reported. They said Romanian and Slovak reactions to the legislation are due to misinterpretations. Slovak Coalition Party leader Bela Bugar was cited by TASR as saying that the law is "a stabilizing factor in the Carpathian basin" and that it would "help preserve the identity of Hungarians and prevent their emigration." MS

TORGYAN ATTACKS HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT AND STAYS IN RULING COALITION

Controversial Hungarian Smallholders' Party (FKGP) leader Jozsef Torgyan on 27 June criticized Janos Martonyi, saying the foreign minister is "playing the role of quartermaster" in handing agricultural land to foreigners, Hungarian media reported. He said Martonyi has assumed this role by having agreed in EU accession talks to grant EU citizens the right to purchase land after a three-year period of residence in the country. Torgyan also said Premier Orban is "misleading people" by using FKGP slogans. But he said he continues to support the current ruling coalition. Citing illness, Torgyan the same day refused to attend a trial in which he is a defendant in a case of suspected corruption. He said that if he "were to attend all trials in which I am a defendant, I would have no time left for the party." In related news, Hungarian media reports say Torgyan rival Zsolt Lanyi now intends to renounce the idea of setting up a rival Smallholders' party. MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS EXPORTS TO NON-EU COUNTRIES MUST INCREASE

Martonyi on 28 June said Hungary would like to conclude more free-trade agreements with neighboring countries and boost waning trade with Russia and Ukraine, saying these countries "represent very large and important long-term markets," dpa reported. Martonyi said that while Budapest wishes to continue and increase exports to EU, it will also pursue the goal of increasing trade with CEFTA countries, Arab and Asian markets, as well as attempt to boost exports to the U.S., Canada, and Japan. MS




U.S. TO ATTEND SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE...

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 27 June that Secretary of State Colin Powell "has decided that the United States will participate in the June 29th European Commission and World Bank donors conference for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to be held in Brussels," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 27 June 2001). Reeker noted that "U.S. participation has been made possible by the recent steps taken by the Yugoslav and Serbian governments to meet Belgrade's obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and by Belgrade's commitment to transfer indicted war criminals to The Hague and fulfill all legal obligations to the tribunal." The spokesman called U.S. participation a way of "expressing strong support for building a democratic and progressive society...and overcoming the legacy of [former President] Slobodan Milosevic. We also strongly support the steadfast commitment of the Yugoslav authorities to economic reform." PM

...BUT WITH CONDITIONS

Reeker also said in Washington on 27 June that the eventual "disbursement of the U.S. assistance pledged at the conference will be contingent upon Yugoslavia's further steps to cooperate fully with the tribunal... It's in the interests of the United States that Yugoslavia remain on the democratic path, that they be allowed to move forward now that they're rid of Milosevic and his regime; that they can move forward with economic reform, continue with their democratic reforms, and pursue a progressive, more prosperous society. It's in our interests, and so we will support that and going to this donors conference is an expression of that support." VOA reported that Powell made his decision after a telephone call with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. PM

A 'YUGOSLAV MODEL' FOR TRANSITION COUNTRIES?

"The Washington Post" wrote on 28 June that "the Bush administration...has demonstrated in the case of Yugoslavia that insisting on principles of human rights can strengthen fragile democratic governments. Yugoslavia's democrats and some of their defenders in Europe were slow to accept that truth. For months after Mr. Milosevic's overthrow last year, they argued that arresting him would cause the new democracy to break down, that turning him over to The Hague would reignite Serbia's destructive nationalism. Several European governments appeared more than ready to accept these arguments. However, the Bush administration made clear that U.S. support for Yugoslavia's economic reconstruction would depend on cooperation with the international criminal court. That stand forced Yugoslavia's political elite to make hard choices -- and strengthened those who most favor democratic reforms and alignment with the West... As the West grapples with other European nations hoping to make that transition in the next few years, including Ukraine and Russia, Yugoslavia may offer a model." PM

ARE MACEDONIAN POLICE BEHIND 'DISAPPEARANCES'?

The "International Herald Tribune" wrote on 28 June that Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and his police may be behind the recent unexplained disappearances of several ethnic Albanian community leaders. Interior Ministry officials said that they are investigating the cases in question. But Mayor Tahir Hani of Velesta said that "the message is clear. It is to scare the Albanian people from pursuing political issues and to scare Albanians from speaking out and [taking action] in Macedonia." Elsewhere, "The Independent" wrote that hard-liners led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski are increasingly calling the tune in the Macedonian government. PM

BUSH CUTS OFF SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN REBELS...

President George W. Bush said in Washington on 27 June that he will stop supporters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) from traveling to the U.S. He will also block their attempts to raise funds in that country. He said: "We've got some evidence that the ethnic Albanians, the extremists, are raising money not only in America, but in Europe [as well. We] will do our part to make sure that moneys do not go to fund extremist activities that become a destabilizing influence for a democratically elected government in Macedonia." The White House said in a statement that "the purpose of these two actions is to send a clear message to the extremists and their supporters in the region, who actively obstruct and undermine peace and stability, that such tactics are unacceptable and that we will use the means at our disposal to isolate these groups and individuals and cut their access to financial support," Reuters reported. PM

...STRESSES SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN DIALOGUE

The White House said in a statement on 27 June that "the United States has joined with its European allies and other countries of the United Nations in strongly condemning the terrorist violence perpetrated by armed extremists determined to destabilize the democratic, multiethnic government of Macedonia. Their violent tactics threaten U.S. and international efforts to promote regional peace and stability and pose a potential danger to U.S. military forces and other Americans supporting peacekeeping efforts," Reuters reported. The statement added that "Macedonian President [Boris] Trajkovski has asked for our support to combat these extremists, who are undermining the political dialogue currently underway among Macedonia's legitimately elected leaders. This dialogue offers a real opportunity for a negotiated and peaceful settlement." PM

NATO DEBATES ROLE IN MACEDONIA

NATO ambassadors discussed a plan in Brussels on 27 June aimed at disarming UCK rebels, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The operation has been code-named "Essential Harvest" and would last for approximately one month. The U.K. has expressed a willingness to lead the mission, and France has offered to perform a substantial role. Other interested countries include Greece, Spain, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Some observers have referred to the possible participants as a "coalition of the willing." The discussion will continue on 29 June. PM

BUSH, SCHROEDER TO FULFILL NATO OBLIGATIONS IN MACEDONIA

When asked by reporters about a possible role for the U.S. military as part of a yet unspecified NATO mission in Macedonia, Bush said in Washington on 27 June: "I take no option off the table in terms of the troops. We're a participant in NATO," Reuters reported. In Berlin, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also said that Germany will stand by its commitments to its allies once NATO clarifies its goals and intentions in Macedonia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Schroeder stressed that Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping will have the means at his disposal to fulfill Germany's obligations. PM

EU MACEDONIAN REPRESENTATIVE RETRACTS STATEMENT ON UCK TALKS

Francois Leotard, whom the EU has nominated to be its representative in Macedonia, said in a statement in Paris on 28 June that "the position of the EU has not changed: the Albanian guerrillas have no place in the political dialogue," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). He added that his "activity in Skopje as EU Macedonia representative will be wholly based on this policy." Leotard told French radio journalists that "if this war develops in Macedonia, it will call into question everything we [in the international community] have been doing for 10 years" to bring peace and stability to the Balkans, AP reported. PM

BALKAN STABILITY PACT COUNTRIES SIGN FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT

The governments of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia signed a free-trade agreement in Brussels on 27 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The signatories intend to create a network of bilateral free-trade agreements by the end of 2002. By that time, at least 90 percent of trade within the region is expected to be tariff-free. The governments of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Yugoslavia also adopted a plan to resettle or integrate some 1.25 million people across the region within two years. The seven Stability Pact countries welcomed Moldova's intention to join the free trade pact as soon as it is admitted into the EU's Stability Pact. The pact is a clearing house for aid, security, and development projects, but does not fund its own projects or incorporate any military component. RFE/RL/PM

SLOVENIA'S FOREIGN DEBT NEARS $7 BILLION

The Slovenian news agency STA reported from Ljubljana on 27 June that the foreign debt stands currently at $6.71 billion. Foreign exchange reserves amount to $4.91 billion. PM

ROMANIA TO ANNUL RESITA PRIVATIZATION DEAL

Privatization Authority Minister Ovidiu Musatescu on 27 June announced that the government has decided to launch judicial proceedings to annul the contract under which the Resita steel-producing company CSR was sold to the U.S. Noble Ventures company, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Musatescu said Noble Ventures had "acted in bad faith" and failed to fulfill the contract's terms. The decision was due to "the risk of losing control over the extremely serious Resita situation, which could trigger [countrywide] economic and social destabilization." Musatescu said the judicial procedure may take between two to three months and in the interim period the Resita workers would "probably be best served if they applied for unemployment benefits." He also said the government has "no intention" of taking over CSR again and will look for an alternative investor. The striking workers in Resita celebrated "victory" upon hearing the news, Mediafax reported. MS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RECOMMEND LIFTING VISA REQUIREMENTS ON ROMANIANS

A report prepared for the European Commission and placed on its agenda for 29 June says Romania has made "considerable progress" in coping with the struggle against illegal immigration and recommends that visa requirements be lifted if the Romanian cabinet fulfills all the obligations it has assumed, Mediafax reported on 27 June. The agency said this does not necessarily mean that visa obligations will be abolished very soon, since the report is only a recommendation that has yet to be discussed by the EU interior and justice ministers. The earliest date visa requirements could be abolished is January 2002. The EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said on 28 June that "the result of our monitoring in Romania was surprisingly positive." In other news, Romania on 27 June closed the seventh chapter in accession negotiations with the EU and continues to lag behind all other candidate countries. MS

ROMANIA, HUNGARY TO DISCUSS STATUS LAW IN JOINT COMMISSION

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has accepted a Hungarian proposal that the dispute over the Status Law be discussed by the countries' joint commission established within the framework of the basic treaty between them, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), told journalists after meeting with Nastase that "neither the UDMR nor the [ethnic] Romanian political parties are interested in the continuation of the current tense situation" and added that he believes "defusing the situation soon is possible." Meanwhile, on 27 June a Hungarian parliamentary delegation headed by Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Istvan Szentivanyi began a visit to Romania and heard from Romanian parliamentarians the main reasons for their opposition to the Status law. Szentivanyi said the law will go into effect on 1 January 2002 and that discussions between the sides will continue till that date. MS

U.S. GRANTS AID TO ROMANIA TO REACH NATO STANDARDS

The United States has granted Romania $17 million in aid to help its military forces make progress in reaching compatibility with NATO, Reuters reported on 27 June, citing the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. The funds are to be used before 2007. MS

VORONIN TELLS PACE MOLDOVA NEEDS EUROPE, EUROPE NEEDS MOLDOVA...

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 27 June, President Vladimir Voronin said, "Moldova needs Europe, just as Europe needs Moldova," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Voronin said his country remains faithful to the Council of Europe's values and that the country's democratization is one of the main objectives of its current administration. He said Moldova cannot fully reach European standards until it solves its three main problems: the Transdniester conflict, poverty, and corruption. Voronin said the conflict with the separatists is "not an interethnic, but a political conflict" and added that Moldova has on numerous occasions offered Tiraspol a special status, provided Moldova's territorial autonomy and sovereignty are safeguarded. He said the transition to a market economy is "difficult" and the price paid by the population is "very high... A poor person is never a free person," he said, adding that poverty also breeds corruption. MS

...AND SAYS HE MAY RUN FOR PRESIDENT OF TRANSDNIESTER

According to an Infotag report, Voronin also told the PACE that if the separatists in Tiraspol persist in their refusal to recognize the government in Chisinau, he is "prepared to make a presidential bid there." He said he is a native of the region and has a "much better economic and social record than [separatist leader] Igor Smirnov." In response to a question by Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu, Voronin said Moldova cannot be held responsible for the continued detention in Tiraspol of three members of Ilascu's group because his government "does not exercise control there." MS

INTERNATIONAL AGENCY DOWNGRADES MOLDOVA'S RATING

The Fitch international rating agency on 27 June downgraded Moldova's country risk rating from CCC-plus to CC, citing as the reason the likelihood that Chisinau will fail to pay $3.7 million for servicing the interest on an outstanding Eurobond issue by 3 July. The agency also said that the chances that Moldova will default on servicing its external debt are high, Infotag reported. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said in reaction that the agency's decision was "premature" and that "we are doing our best to honor our Eurobond obligations on time," but refused to say how Moldova intends to do that. Tarlev also said that the Fitch announcement also has "a positive side," as he now expects "an inflow of programs designed to improve Moldova's balance of payments." He also said that talks with the IMF have made progress and he expects the arrival of an IMF mission to arrive in Chisinau in mid-July. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT URGES SDS TO JOIN COALITION

Petar Stoyanov on 27 June urged the outgoing ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) to join the coalition led by the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), saying that "at a time of difficult post-communist reform, it is better to distribute the burden on many shoulders," Reuters reported. Ekaterina Mihailova, the new SDS chairwoman, said she does not rule out joining such a coalition, but "we have to have some kind of [formal] invitation" from the NDSV "before discussing the matter." But observers cited by Reuters said the recent change at the head of the SDS was merely "cosmetic" and that former SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov, who opposes a coalition with the NDSV, still has a strong grip on the party. Plamen Panayotov, the likely NDSV parliamentary group leader, told Reuters that negotiations will "begin soon" and will be conducted "with political parties on the basis of mutually acceptable principles, not with personalities." MS

OVER 120 FORMER BULGARIAN OFFICIALS COLLABORATED WITH COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICES

Several ministers and scores of other senior officials who served in Bulgaria's post-communist governments were agents of the communist secret police, AP and Reuters reported on 27 June. A parliamentary commission set up to review the files of the secret police said it found evidence that 121 former top government officials served as agents, including two former premiers whose names were not disclosed because the evidence that they collaborated is insufficient. The largest number of collaborators -- 12 -- was found among members of the Socialist Party, while in the United Democratic Forces cabinet set up in 1997 only one official, with the rank of deputy minister, was found to have been a collaborator. Among those Socialist ministers listed are former Foreign Affairs Minister Lyuben Gotsev, former Foreign Economic Relations Minister Petar Bashikarov, and two former defense ministers, Alexandar Staliiski and Valentin Alexandrov. MS




ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS LEAD IN ELECTION RETURNS


By Fabian Schmidt

Preliminary parliamentary election returns suggest that the Socialists will stay in power. The opposition, however, is likely to make gains.

According to the preliminary results of the 24 June general elections, the Socialist Party (PS) has managed to win 46 percent of the votes countrywide, clearly ahead of the opposition Union for Victory coalition, which received only 34 percent, the "Albanian Daily News" reported.

The outcome gives a boost to the Socialists, who have been running the government since 1997 when they won the general elections after the country had plunged into anarchy. Since then, the government has conducted numerous and significant reforms to improve public administration, speed up privatization, legalize private media, and introduce a better system of checks and balances in the country's institutions. The opposition, however, could emerge in better shape after the 2001 elections than it did in 1997.

The New Democrat Party (PD e Re) founded by legislators close to the reform-oriented Genc Pollo won nearly 8 percent of votes. The party split off from the Democratic Party (PD) of former President Sali Berisha at the end of last year. The PD is the leading force in the Union for Victory, which also includes the Republican Party (PR), the monarchist Legality Movement (LL), the National Front (BK), and the Liberal Party (PL).

Four other smaller parties barely managed to win more than 2.5 percent of the vote each, which is the minimum needed to enter parliament. Three of the four are the Social Democrats (PSD), the Democratic Alliance (AD), and the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party (PBDNJ). All three have been in a coalition with the Socialists since 1997. Voter turnout was around 60 percent.

PS candidates appear to have won 35 direct seats in parliament, while the opposition won in only 17 constituencies. Another 47 direct seats will be decided in a second round of voting on 8 July. Due to administrative irregularities, voting did not take place in Lushnja, a traditional stronghold of the PD. Elections will be held there as well in July. An additional 40 parliamentary seats will be divided by proportional vote.

Central Election Commission (KQZ) Chairman Ilirian Celibashi said late on 25 June that more than 20 polling stations had been reluctant to hand over their records of the voting and of the count, as they are supposed to do. Celibashi blamed unnamed political parties for the delays. Most heads of polling-station commissions are opposition officials. Celibashi warned that commissioners will be fined up to $600 if they refuse to cooperate with the KQZ.

According to Celibashi, there were some technical problems during the voting, but he added that they were not sufficient to call the validity of the elections into question. He concluded: "The election was free and fair." OSCE officials shared that view.

Just before the elections, on 23 June, the KQZ barred all but five out of 114 independent candidates from running, arguing that they had received support from one or another of the main political parties. The PD and especially the PS had tried to increase their chances of winning a parliamentary majority by nominating formally independent candidates.

After having claimed irregularities in the voting on 25 June, PD officials issued a statement the following day, saying that the vote took place in "an acceptable way." Berisha had claimed initially that police forced some polling stations to close at 6:00 p.m. and thus deprived some voters of their right to cast their ballots. Opposition officials filed 150 complaints with the KQZ and the OSCE, including charges of violence used against opposition election commission members.

According to officials from the Public Order Ministry, one man shot and injured two others, including an election official, in Tirana on voting day. Neither was seriously hurt. In the village of Lekbibaj, in the lawless north of the country, armed men burst into a polling station and set fire to voting papers. No other significant incidents were reported, however. This was Albania's most peaceful and orderly election since the fall of communism a decade ago.

Meanwhile, PD officials invited representatives of the PD e Re and the other smaller parties to join coalition talks. It seems more likely, however, that Prime Minister Ilir Meta will eventually be able to form a coalition government, should he manage to win a significant number of direct seats in the runoff. Meta said he is "sure that the PS will have more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament, including those from the second round." Meta pledged to continue his reform policy: "I am very satisfied with the [electoral] process that helped the country take another remarkable step toward European standards."


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