Accessibility links

Newsline - July 3, 2001




PUTIN-CHIRAC MEETING YIELDS MIXED POLITICAL RESULTS...

President Vladimir Putin's meeting on 2 July with French President Jacques Chirac called attention both to agreements between the two countries as well as to their continuing differences, Russian and Western agencies reported. The two men reaffirmed their opposition to any change in the ABM Treaty and their support for a multi-polar world. But Chirac did not speak out in support of the Russian efforts to lift sanctions against Baghdad. And the two pointedly disagreed on the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Putin said the extradition was regrettable and possibly destabilizing, while Chirac said it represents "the celebration of law over lawlessness." VY

...BUT IMPORTANT AEROSPACE ACCORDS

During the Chirac visit, the Russian Aviation and Space Agency signed agreements with the French-dominated European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company calling for long-term cooperation in the development of civilian and military aircraft and space equipment, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 July. The accords call for Russia to be able to use the Kourou space center in French Guyana and also for Russia to participate in the development of the Airbus A-320, A-330, and A-340 models. VY

POLICE RAID EKHO MOSKVY IN ADVANCE OF CHIRAC INTERVIEW

Officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry on 2 July entered the facilities of Ekho Moskvy to seize 14 percent of the shares of the station which media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky had given to journalists there as part of an effort to maintain the station's independence, Russian and Western agencies reported. Prosecutors said that the seizure was entirely valid because Gusinsky "gave the journalists something that may not have belonged to him." Gazprom-Media has filed a suit to be heard later this month to try to claim the shares as partial payment on Gusinsky's debt to that firm. French President Chirac is scheduled to give an interview at the station on 3 July. PG

PUTIN SEEN CONTINUING TO RELY ON 'KAMIKAZE' CABINET

According to an analysis in "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 26, President Putin is pleased with the present composition of the government because of its ability to push legislation through the Duma. As a result, he will leave the current "kamikaze" cabinet largely in place over the next two years to push through a variety of what are likely to prove unpopular laws, the paper said. "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 30 June reached a similar conclusion. PG

PUTIN'S END TO PARDONS DENOUNCED

The "For Human Rights" movement on 2 July released a statement denouncing Putin's nearly complete suspension of pardons and saying that he is attempting to suppress post-Soviet democratic institutions, AP reported. The statement added that "the style of rule of President Putin has again made itself quite obvious: unabashed harshness, favoring the base instincts of the masses and consistent replacement of the existing institutions of civil society with bureaucratic ones." PG

VLADIMIR PUTIN'S CLOSEST FRIENDS ARE LONGTIME FSB EMPLOYEES

According to an article in "Novaya gazeta" on 2 July, three Soviet intelligence service veterans -- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, and FSB Deputy Director Yuri Zaostrovtsev -- are Putin's closest and most loyal confidants. But if Ivanov and Patrushev are well-known figures, Zaostrovtsev is not. He remains in the shadow, the paper said, but he performs some key functions for the president. Zaostrovtsev is in charge of economic security and counterintelligence and has coordinated all law enforcement actions against Media-MOST. He has also taken charge of the battle against capital flight, particularly via Gazprom. VY

SELEZNEV BACKS LARGER ROLE FOR AUDIT CHAMBER

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin on 2 July that he fully supports proposals to increase the responsibilities of the Audit Chamber, Interfax reported. The expanded responsibilities which are laid out in a bill being considered by the Duma, also include having the Chamber report to the president as well as to the parliament. PG

DUMA DELEGATION VISITS CHECHNYA

Ten deputies who are members of the Duma commission for supporting the normalization of social-political and social-economic conditions in Chechnya arrived in Grozny on 2 July to discuss conditions there, Interfax reported. The same day, the Chechen authorities were slated to begin publication of a new newspaper, but its start-up was delayed for unspecified "technical" reasons. PG

CHECHNYA'S DUMA DEPUTY CALLS FOR TALKS WITH MASKHADOV

Speaking at the Duma committee hearings in Grozny on 2 July, Aslanbek Aslakhanov said that while he is not and never has been a supporter of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, he believes Moscow should begin unconditional talks with Maskhadov on ending the war, Interfax reported. But Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov rejected any talks with Maskhadov, asserting that "his time has passed." Aslakhanov also again demanded an end to the arbitrary detention by federal troops of Chechen civilians and for a partial withdrawal of Russian troops. He repeated his threat, first made last month, to resign if the safety of the Chechen civilian population is not guaranteed within the next few months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). LF

YAVLINSKY SAYS RUSSIA A 'DEFECTIVE' DEMOCRACY

In an article published in "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 26, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky argued that Russia now has a "defective" and "unstable" democracy which "is not supported by the majority of Russians." He further suggested that the Kremlin is trying to bring not only the media but all non-government organizations into a government-dominated "corporate" state. In such a situation, many Soviet-era phenomena are being restored, Yavlinsky said, including "the Soviet version of community" in place of civil society and "doublethink" among politicians and the population. He called for the promotion of both greater economic equality and democratic values. PG

COMMUNISTS STILL LEAD UNITY IN POLLS

According to a ROMIR poll reported by "Gudok" on 30 June, 35 percent of the electorate say they would vote for the communists in a parliamentary poll, with only 23 percent favoring Unity. Fatherland-All Russia continues to lose support and might not reach the 5 percent barrier needed to be represented in the new Duma. The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko have also lost support over the last few months, the poll suggested. PG

UNITY LEADER COMES OUT AGAINST APPOINTED GOVERNORS

Vladimir Pekhtin, who heads the Unity fraction in the Duma, told Interfax on 2 July that there is no reason to move away from the current system of elected governors even if "dirty techniques" are sometimes employed in gubernatorial elections. PG

SPS TO REGISTER AS PARTY THIS WEEK

The SPS is slated to receive official registration as a political party on 3 July, Interfax reported on 2 July. The party's leaders said that they expect to have 80 local groups by the middle of July and some 30,000 members by the end of 2001. PG

RUSSIA'S APPLICATION TO WTO DELAYED INDEFINITELY

Maksim Medvedkov, the deputy economic development and trade minister, told ITAR-TASS on 2 July that Russia's application for accession to the World Trade Organization has been postponed indefinitely. Medvedkov said that the most recent round of talks in Geneva had not been as positive as earlier ones. WTO officials have expressed concern about the nature and pace of reform, and Medvedkov said that Russia may not join the WTO for three or even four years. PG

KASYANOV SEES RUSSIA ENTERING EUROPEAN UNION...

Speaking on his arrival in Salzburg for economic talks, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that at some point Russia could become a member of the European Union as part of its general effort to promote a common European economic space, Interfax reported on 2 July. PG

...AS LUKIN THINKS RUSSIA SHOULD BE IN NATO

Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Lukin, who is one of the leaders of Yabloko, said on 2 July that the optimal situation would be "the widening of NATO to Vladivostok," Interfax reported. Lukin added that "the U.S. is becoming ever less a European country while Russia is becoming ever more European." PG

PATRIARCHATE WELCOMES ESTONIAN PRESIDENT'S DECISION

The Moscow patriarchate said it is pleased by the decision of Estonian President Lennart Meri not to promulgate a bill adopted by his country's parliament that would have prevented the Russian Orthodox Church from registering in Estonia, Interfax reported on 2 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). PG

BORODIN TO REMAIN SILENT

Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin will again refuse to testify when he appears in Geneva on 3 July for questioning by Swiss prosecutors about his possible role in money laundering, his lawyers told Interfax on 2 July. PG

RUSSIA TO UPGRADE IRANIAN OIL AND GAS FACILITIES

The Russian Union of Producers of Oil and Gas Equipment has signed an accord with Tehran to retool Iranian oil and gas facilities, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 July. PG

RUSSIA HOSTS COAST GUARDS OF PACIFIC RIM COUNTRIES

Representatives of the coast guards of Canada, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan met with their Russian colleagues in St. Petersburg on 2 July, Interfax reported. On 4 July, they will hold additional meetings in Moscow. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER FINDS MISSPENDING IN CHECHNYA

The Audit Chamber has identified 155 million rubles ($5 million) in misspending by the Russian military in Chechnya, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 June. That is approximately one percent of the total amount of money allocated to the North Caucasus Military District. PG

A MEASURE OF THE IMPACT OF THE CHECHEN CONFLICT

Aleksandr Iskorotsinskii, the military commissar for the city of Noginsk in Moscow Oblast, said on 2 July that approximately 230 unidentified soldiers who died in operations in Chechnya are buried in his district alone, Interfax reported. PG

MORE MILITARY OFFICERS LIVING IN POVERTY

The number of officers and their families living below the official Russian poverty line increased by 3-5 percent from 2000 to 2001, according to an article in "Vek," no. 25. The article reported that only 10 percent of military personnel currently receive all the goods and benefits to which they are entitled, that many have second jobs, and that an increasing share are deciding not to have children because of their economic situation. PG

30,000 DRAFTEES REFUSE TO SERVE

Major General Yuri Smetana, the deputy chief of staff of the Moscow military district, said on 2 July that 30,000 young men refused to serve when they were called up this spring. Interfax reported. That represented approximately 1.4 percent of the age cohort, he said. Meanwhile, the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers said that the spring draft featured numerous violations of the law, the news service added. But one group that now can serve for the first time, "Itogi" reported on 26 June, are holders of kandidat degrees. Earlier they had been prohibited from serving. PG

ROSSEL WANTS TO MAKE SVERDLOVSK A DEMOGRAPHIC MODEL

Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel is promoting a demographic program for his oblast intended to increase the birthrate and slow the aging of the population there, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 June. Rossel hopes that his effort, which so far has had only limited success, will nonetheless become a model for Russia as a whole. PG

NORILSK AGAIN IN RESTRICTED ZONE

Norilsk Mayor Oleg Bugargin told Krasnoyarsk Krai FSB and Interior Ministry officials that his administration is re-imposing restrictions on visits by foreigners to his city, regions.ru reported on 28 June. He said that the city administration will allocate additional funds to enforce this regulation. VY

LEADING EDITORS SEEK CONTINUED TAX BENEFITS

The editors of Russia's largest newspapers have sent a letter to the Duma asking the legislators to preserve existing tax breaks for the print media, "Izvestiya" reported on 2 July. Without the break, the editors said, many of them will have to increase prices by as much as 70 percent and thus lose up to 50 percent of their circulation. VY

SABANTUI CELEBRATED IN MOSCOW

Sabantui, the national holiday of Tatars and Bashkirs, was celebrated in Moscow's Ismailovskii Park on 1 June, "Izvestiya" reported the following day. Vladimir Platonov, the president of the Moscow City Duma, told those taking part that "the strength of Russia is in its multi-national character." This is the sixth consecutive year that this sowing time holiday has been officially marked in the Russian capital. PG

POLLS FIND ELITES, POPULATION IN AGREEMENT ON FOREIGN POLICY

According to polls conducted by the Russian Institute of Social and Ethnic Studies and reported in "Izvestiya" on 30 June, Russian elites and the Russian population as a whole view the West in general and the United States in particular in almost identical ways. Nearly half of both groups believe that the United States remains interested in Russia and will continue to be throughout the administration of President George W. Bush. PG

RUSSIA EXPECTS LARGER HARVEST THIS YEAR THAN LAST

Russian agricultural officials told Prime Minister Kasyanov on 2 July that they expect Russia will harvest somewhat more grain in 2001 than it did last year when the country took in 65 million tons, ITAR-TASS reported. One of the reasons for the improvement, officials said, is an increase in the number of combines available. Some 9,000 have been manufactured this year alone. PG

RUSSIANS NEED 'PRAIVESI'

Boris Gruzd, a member of the Russian Lawyers' Committee in Defense of Human Rights, responded to a letter in "Izvestiya" on 30 June by observing that Russian democracy needs "privacy," a concept for which there is no single Russian word. At the same time, he said every individual's rights to privacy must take into account the rights of society and other individuals to information. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH TO BE BUILT AT PACIFIC FLEET HQ

The commander of Russia's Pacific Fleet has agreed to the construction of an Orthodox Church next to the fleet's headquarters, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 2 July. Bishop Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primore thanked the navy for this decision and said it will help remind everyone of Russian traditions. PG

RUSSIANS SPEND SMALLER SHARE OF INCOME ON HARD CURRENCY

Russians spent 6.2 percent of their money incomes on purchasing hard currencies during the first five months of 2001 compared to 6.9 percent of their incomes during the same period in 2000, Interfax reported. PG

NEW TAXES PUSH ALCOHOL PRICES UP

Alcohol prices have risen 7-8 percent in the month since new tax stamps were introduced on 1 June, National Alcohol Association head Pavel Shapkin told Interfax on 2 July. Part of the reason for the increase is the tax itself, but another part reflects the fact that many distilleries still are not operating because they do not have the necessary tax stamps. Meanwhile, Sergei Zivenko, the general director of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rosspirtprom, said that the country's "alcohol barons" are seeking to remove him as their profits have plummeted, Interfax reported. PG

2,500 PIRATED TAPES CEREMONIALLY DESTROYED

Militia officers working in the high tech crime area have ceremonially destroyed 2,500 pirated tapes in a vacant lot in Moscow, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 June. Russia loses enormous sums from pirated tapes, the officers said, and they staged this public demonstration to call attention to that fact and to their work against such intellectual piracy. PG

DROWNING WHILE DRUNK

Forty-four people have drowned in Moscow since 1 June, Yuri Vedenev, the head of the Emergency Situation Ministry's Moscow branch, told AP on 2 July. Most of them were drunk at the time. PG

WATERGATE-TYPE SCANDAL IS THE LATEST TO HIT NIZHNII

Another pre-election scandal has occurred in Nizhnii Novgorod in the lead-up to that region's 15 July gubernatorial election, NTV reported on 30 June. According to the station, FSB investigators have found electronic listening devices in the office of one of the leading candidates, Vadim Bulavinov, who is also a State Duma deputy (People's Deputy). A top official from a private security firm, which provides security services to companies owned by another candidate, Dmitrii Savelev, has been detained in connection with the case. Savelev, who is also a State Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces), has been trailing badly in opinion polls in fourth place. According to Nizhnii Novgorod's "Monitor" weekly of 2 July, incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov leads in a recent opinion polls by just 2 percent. JAC

LEGISLATOR CALLS FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY WITH NORTHERN DELIVERY

State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Valentina Pivnenko, chair of the Committee on Problems of the North and Far East, has called for more detailed monitoring by the media of the prices paid by local and regional authorities for goods for the so-called "Northern Delivery," Interfax-AFI reported on 2 July. According to Pivnenko, there are "not rare occurrences" in which suppliers ratchet up prices "irrationally" for the Northern Delivery, the consequence of which is that "a number of regions are chronically short of money." She suggests that the market and wholesale prices that fuel companies are charging for fuel oil as well as the prices at which the northern regions are paying for such fuel be published. The resulting data, according to Pivnenko, would provide "interesting material for analysis" not only for the population of several regions but also for law-enforcement agencies. JAC

ANOTHER REGIONAL LEADER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST HIKES IN ELECTRICITY RATE...

Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov announced on 2 July that the 21 percent hike in electricity rates that became effective that day in his region threatens to unleash an economic crisis for all industry on the Kola peninsula, ITAR-TASS reported. The chief engineer of the Kola Mining company, Liva Averbukha, told the agency that the higher electricity prices will lower her company's profits by 60 million rubles in this quarter, which will mean a lower sum will be transferred to the local budget. Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev had argued that it is necessary to stabilize the situation regarding fuel supplies before Russia's domestic electricity market can be liberalized (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). JAC

...AS DEPUTY ENVOY SAYS THAT EES, COAL PRODUCERS AGREED TO RESTRAIN PRICES

Meanwhile, Tuleev has reached an agreement with Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais on ensuring "stable fuel and power supplies for enterprises and individuals," "Vek" reported in its issue of 29 June citing Igor Prostyakov, senior deputy presidential envoy for the Siberian federal district. According to Prostyakov, both parties agree to restrain growth in fuel and power prices by trying to abstain from provoking a spiral in future prices and to provide regular supplies of coal during the summer time. JAC

DEFEATED KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE APPOINTED TO FEDERATION COUNCIL

Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy to the South Russia federal district, announced in Cherkessk on 2 July that his economic advisor Stanislav Derev, who was finally defeated two years ago in his bid for the presidency of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, will represent that republic in the Federation Council beginning at the end of this month, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 July. The paper claimed that Kazantsev made that announcement without previously informing the republic's current representatives on the Council, President Vladimir Semenov and parliament speaker Djanibek Suyunov, neither of whom intends to relinquish those duties before January 2002. A member of Semenov's entourage said Kazantsev has no right to nominate Derev to the Federation Council, and that only the republic's parliament or president are empowered to make such appointments. LF




NAGORNO-KARABAKH HOSTS MEETING OF UNRECOGNIZED REPUBLICS' FOREIGN MINISTERS

A two-day meeting opened in Stepanakert on 2 July of foreign ministers from the unrecognized republics of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniester, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The participants reported on recent developments their republics' respective conflicts with the central authorities of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. According to a source in the Transdniester Foreign Ministry quoted by Infotag, the meeting will focus on drafting guidelines to assist the four republics in negotiating with the central authorities. But Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian told RFE/RL that the four conflicts differ historically and politically and each requires a unique solution. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SLAM RUSSIA'S FAILURE TO WITHDRAW FROM GUDAUTA...

The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 2 July condemning Russia's failure to vacate the military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia by 1 July in accordance with an agreement signed at the OSCE Istanbul summit in November 1999, Caucasus Press reported. The statement said it is "inadmissible" that such agreements should be thwarted by the Abkhaz "separatist regime." Interfax on 2 July quoted Zurab Abashidze, Georgia's ambassador to Moscow, as saying that the Abkhaz leadership's protests against the Russian withdrawal do not justify Moscow's failure to comply with its international commitments. Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania told parliament deputies on 2 July that Russia's request to leave a security detachment of 300 Russian troops in Gudauta is "unacceptable," Prime News reported. LF

...AS PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS PROBLEM...

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze acknowledged on 2 July that "problems" have arisen in connection with the Russian withdrawal from Gudauta, but expressed the hope that talks between the two sides will result in a mutually acceptable solution, Caucasus Press and AP reported. State chancellery official Shalva Pichkhadze for his part noted that the Russian government has offered to complete the withdrawal from Gudauta by 1 August, according to Prime News. LF

...AND RUSSIA DENIES VIOLATING ISTANBUL AGREEMENT

In Moscow, Interfax quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official as denying on 2 July that the failure to withdraw from Gudauta constitutes a violation of the 1999 agreement, noting that the blockade of the base by local Abkhaz and Russian civilians is continuing. Interfax also quoted "diplomatic-military sources" as rejecting as unacceptable the Georgian proposal to destroy the Russian military equipment that cannot be removed from the base because of the blockade. Russian Defense Ministry official Colonel General Leonid Ivashov blamed Georgia for failing to ensure that the equipment could safely be evacuated. LF

GEORGIA'S ARMENIAN MINORITY DEMAND LOCAL OFFICIAL'S DISMISSAL

An unspecified number of Armenian residents of the southern Georgian region of Samtskhe-Djavakheti staged demonstrations on 30 June in the towns of Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe, Aspindza, Borjomi and Ninotsminda and are collecting signatures on a petition addressed to Georgian President Shevardnadze, demanding the dismissal of the region's governor, Gigla Baramidze, the daily "Akhali taoba" reported on 2 July. They accuse Baramidze of failing to take measures to improve the socioeconomic situation in the region. LF

PEACEKEEPERS SUE GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY FOR SALARY ARREARS

A Tbilisi court has begun hearing a suit brought against the Ministry of Defense by 15 Georgian servicemen who served with the UN peacekeeping force in Kosova, Caucasus Press reported on 2 July. The men are demanding payment of their salary arrears for the six months they served in the Balkans and an additional payment of $600 to which they are contractually entitled. LF .

POLL SHOWS ONLY 6 PERCENT OF GEORGIANS SUPPORT CURRENT POLICIES

A poll of 1,000 Georgian citizens in both urban and rural areas, conducted between 25 June and 2 July, shows that only 6 percent consider that the situation in the country is developing satisfactorily, Caucasus Press reported. Those 6 percent are mostly aged between 35-40 and have a higher than average income. Respondents listed as the most pressing problems facing the country corruption, poverty, unemployment and political instability. Forty-six percent said Georgia should orient its policies towards Russia. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES BOYCOTT DISCUSSION OF BORDER ACCORDS...

Not a single parliament deputy attended a 2 July meeting convened by the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan at which Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev and government official Salamat Alamanov again insisted that the 1996 border agreement with China and the controversial 1999 amendments to it are in Kyrgyzstan's best interests, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) is campaigning for those accords to be annulled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, 20 and 22 June 2001). LF

...AS SPEAKER INSISTS APPROVAL OF ENERGY PRIVATIZATION VALID

Legislative Assembly speaker Abdygany Erkebaev told a news conference in Bishkek on 2 July that the assembly's 29 June vote approving the government's proposed program for privatizing the state-owned KyrgyzEnergo company was valid, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Seventeen deputies left the chamber prior to the vote, some of whom subsequently claim that for lack of a quorum it was invalid (se "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of parliament) is to meet in emergency session on 3 July to reconsider that program which it rejected last month, together with a broader government privatization program. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW DATE, VENUE FOR CASPIAN SUMMIT

In a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on 29 June, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov suggested that the twice-postponed Caspian summit be held on 26-27 October in Ashgabat, Caucasus Press reported on 3 July. The summit was originally scheduled to take place in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi in early March, postponed until mid-April, and then postponed indefinitely (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 9 April 2001). Putin accepted the invitation and reciprocated by inviting Niyazov to attend an informal meeting of CIS presidents in Sochi on 1-3 August. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT DECREES INCREASE IN PENSIONS, MINIMUM WAGE

Islam Karimov has issued a decree raising pensions and budget sector wages by an average of 40 percent beginning on 1 August, Interfax reported on 2 July. The minimum monthly wage will rise to 3,450 soms ($9.1) and pensions to 6,780 soms. LF




FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER TURNS DOWN LUKASHENKA'S INVITATION TO WATCH MILITARY PARADE

Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir has rejected President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's invitation to jointly watch an Independence Day military parade in Minsk on 3 July, Belapan reported on 2 July. "I reject this dubious honor because I cannot, even for a short time, stand near the man...who continues to mercilessly deal with his political opponents," Chyhir said in an open letter to Lukashenka. In what was widely believed to be a retaliatory move by Lukashenka against his former aide, Chyhir was arrested in 1999 and spent eight months in jail, his wife received a two year suspended sentence, and his son was arrested earlier this year on charges of stealing cars and spare parts for them. "I think it is inadmissible to waste more than $1 million on a show while the country is in a deep economic crisis," Chyhir commented on the parade. JM

OSCE ENVOYS END FACT-FINDING TRIP TO BELARUS

Uta Zapf of Germany and Urban Alin of Sweden, members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's working group on Belarus, wound up their three-day visit to Belarus on 2 July. Zapf and Urban studied the political situation in the country, meeting with government officials, opposition figures, media representatives, and diplomats from foreign embassies in Minsk. They are to deliver a report to the Credentials Commission of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. This week the commission is scheduled to consider which body -- the opposition Supreme Soviet or the official Chamber of Representatives -- has the right to represent Belarus in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Zapf told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that she and Alin will propose that the current policy of "an empty chair" -- neither the Supreme Soviet nor the Chamber of Representatives represents Belarus -- be maintained at least until the September presidential elections in the country. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS STATE NOT TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR GAS DEBT

Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 3 July that Naftohaz Ukrayiny's gas debt to Russia will "in no way" become the responsibility of the state, Interfax reported. "Such questions should not be raised at all. Corporate debts will never become state debts," Kuchma noted. Kuchma's statement follows the pronouncement of Premier Anatoliy Kinakh the previous day in which Kinakh rejected the idea of restructuring the gas debt by issuing Eurobonds guaranteed by Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). Last December, Russian Deputy Premier Viktor Khristenko and then Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko signed an agreement to assure Russian gas supplies for the winter by converting some gas debt obligations into sovereign debt. The agreement has not been ratified by the Ukrainian parliament. JM

FOREIGN MINISTERS OF NATO CANDIDATE COUNTRIES MEET IN ESTONIA

Foreign ministers of ten countries that aspire to NATO membership -- Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia -- adopted a joint statement in Tallinn on 2 July which urged the alliance to extend invitations at the Prague summit in 2002 to all prepared candidates regardless of geography and history, ETA and BNS reported. The ministers praised the speech by U.S. President George W. Bush on European security in Warsaw last month and the positive impact of pro-enlargement statements by many European leaders. The participants agreed on the need for closer cooperation between the candidate countries in the run-up to the Prague summit. To that end, they will hold a summit conference in Sofia on 5 October, a prime minister meeting in Bucharest in the spring of 2002, and a high-level meeting in Riga in the summer of that year. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS SALZBURG

During the World Economic Forum in Salzburg on 1 July, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told Vaira Vike-Freiberga that Latvia has made great progress in its EU membership efforts and has caught up with the candidates who started negotiations earlier, BNS reported. He noted that Latvia should work harder on harmonizing its legislation with the EU, emphasizing the implementation of legislative changes. In talks with former Russian Premier Sergei Kirienko, Vike-Freiberga affirmed that economic ties between their countries have improved in the last six months. Addressing the forum on 2 July, she called on foreign business people not to give bribes to Latvian officials if they want to operate in Latvia in a truly free and fair market environment. Vike-Freiberga and Austrian President Thomas Klestil agreed that Central Europe and the Baltic states need to be integrated further, with Klestil stating that his planned visit to Latvia next year will promote political, economic, and cultural dialogue between the two countries. SG

BRAZAUSKAS NOMINATED AS LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER

At an extraordinary parliament session on 2 July, President Valdas Adamkus officially presented Social Democratic Party Chairman and former President Algirdas Brazauskas as his nominee for prime minister, ELTA reported. Brazauskas told the parliament that his government will pursue a socially-oriented domestic economic policy which will aim "to reduce unemployment and create new jobs, to create a favorable environment for foreign and domestic investments and to liberate business from bureaucratic constraints." He asserted that the principal foreign policy goals will be membership in NATO and the European Union, while retaining friendly ties with neighboring countries. Brazauskas also had separate meeting with the various factions in the parliament during which he answered their questions. It is not clear how many of the ministers in the outgoing cabinet will retain their posts. SG

POLAND SIGNS GAS DEAL WITH DENMARK

In Warsaw on 2 July, Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek and his Danish counterpart Poul Nyrup Rasmussen signed an accord on building a pipeline to deliver North Sea gas to Poland, AP reported. The accord calls for the Polish gas company PGNiG and its Danish partner DONG to build and operate a 230-km-long pipeline from Danish Zealand to Poland's Baltic coast at an estimated cost of $250-300 million. Poland is to obtain 2 billion cubic meters of gas annually for eight years starting in 2003. "[The deal] brings competition to our markets. We can get good prices and stable supplies," Buzek commented. Poland imports about 90 percent of its gas needs, mostly from Russia. Warsaw is currently trying to review its long-term deal with Moscow, hoping to scale down Russian gas supplies and make room for other imports. JM

POLISH JUSTICE MINISTER SUES TV FOR SLANDER

Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski have sued Polish Television, demanding an apology for allegations voiced in a two-part documentary last month that they illegally accepted some $600,000 in campaign funds in 1990-91 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 June 2001), Polish media reported on 2 July. The Kaczynski brothers maintain that the documentary was made and broadcast to discredit them before the parliamentary elections in September. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO KEEP DEFENSE SPENDING LOW...

The government on 2 July decided that it will "try" to keep defense spending in the 2002 budget at 2.2 percent of the GDP, Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok told journalists. Previous reports said the ministry wants defense spending to be as low as 1.86 percent, CTK reported. Upon joining NATO, the Czech Republic pledged it will spend 2.2 percent of the GDP for defense purposes every year. The government also re-confirmed its earlier decision that the 2002 budget deficit is to be 10 billion crowns (some $251 million). The cabinet also discussed "behind closed doors" the current conflict between the National Security Office and the Counter Intelligence Service, but no details of that discussion were made public (see "RFE/RL Newsline", 2 July 2001). MS

...DISCUSSES INCREASE IN ASYLUM REQUESTS

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told journalists after the cabinet meeting that ministers discussed a report on the growing number of asylum requests in the Czech Republic, CTK reported. Gross said the figures show that the Czech Republic has become a "standard democratic country." In the first six month of 2001, more people requested political asylum in the Czech Republic than during the entire previous year, when some 8,800 requests were registered. The figures for 2000 were 22 percent higher than for 1999. Gross said the "general impression" is that many people "abuse the asylum procedure" and "do not have a legitimate claim." He said the situation requires that the law be amended to allow for "on the spot rejection" of asylum requests at entry points in the country. MS

CZECH DEPUTIES FEAR CONSEQUENCES OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING

Parliamentary Deputy Josef Kunetka told journalists on 2 July that the Petitions Committee will ask the Chamber of Deputies to set up a group of legal experts to examine the consequences of a June ruling by the Constitutional Court for properties confiscated under the Benes decrees, CTK reported. The Constitutional Court ruled at the request of the heirs of Karl Des Fours Walderode that property confiscated from him in the Jablonec nad Tisou district must be returned because Walderode had Czechoslovak citizenship. The total value of the family's properties is estimated at some 3.5 billion crowns (nearly $88 million), and the inheritors are pursuing similar court actions in different districts. Kunetka said the ruling could trigger off an avalanche of "unjustified property restitution to aristocratic families." The court said it cannot be adequately proved that Walderode gave up Czechoslovak citizenship in 1939 to acquire German citizenship, or that he served in German SS units during the war. Walderode acquired Austrian citizenship after being expelled in 1949, but in 1992 regained Czech citizenship. MS

CZECH AIR BASES GETTING NATO UPGRADE

NATO will invest millions of dollars in the next few years to upgrade two former Soviet air bases in the Czech Republic to the standards of the alliance, Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka told dpa on 2 July. The project will prepare the Caslav air base in the center of the country and the Nastem nad Oslavou base in the south for the new squadrons of supersonic fighter jets that the Czech Republic intends to purchase next year. The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 2 July wrote that NATO plans to spend 5 billion crowns ($128 million) on upgrading the bases over the next five years, while the Czech Republic's contribution to the alliance during that period will be 2 billion crowns. MS

ROMA ATTACKED IN CZECH REPUBLIC

A group of several young people aged between 15 and 17 attacked a Romany family in Uhersky Ostroh, southern Moravia, on 1 July and threatened to kill them, CTK reported. A spokesman for local police told the agency that although the youngsters broke into the Roma's house "no one has been physically assaulted." He added that "the investigation has not revealed any racial motive" behind the attack. "The doors and a window of the house have been damaged and it will cost about 2,500 crowns (some $63) to repair them," he said. The spokesman also said that some of the suspects have been questioned and could be prosecuted for violation of home privacy, damage caused to property and violence. He said the reason for the attack was "a quarrel" between a Rom and one of the attackers. MS

SLOVAKIA POSTPONES ORBAN VISIT

A meeting between Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban scheduled for 3 July has been canceled by Bratislava on grounds that a crucial parliamentary debate on the pending Public Administration Law requires Dzurinda's presence in the parliament. A spokesman for the Hungarian government said the meeting will take place later this month. The two premiers were due to inaugurate a new terminal at the Rusovce/Raja border crossing point and inspect the construction site of the bridge over River Danube at Sturovo, which is being rebuilt. MS

SLOVAKIA PROMISES EU TO SPEED UP CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION

Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova on 2 July said the investigation of the alleged embezzlement of EU funds by Slovak government officials will most likely end in August and will not affect the EU assessment of Slovakia's progress towards EU membership, CTK reported. Kadlecikova said "The Interior Ministry reports on developments...at every meeting of the cabinet...I am convinced that--even though the European Commission report will mention the case--it will not harm us, provided we complete the investigation by the end of August." Kadlecikova's predecessor, Pavol Hamzik, was dismissed from the government over the affair, following the sacking in March of Ronald Toth from the post of EU funds distribution coordinator. A delegation of the European Parliament's Budget Control Committee last month criticized Slovak officials for the slowness of the investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2001). MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION DENIES DEAL WITH CZECH TELEVISION MAGNATE

Opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) spokeswoman Zaneta Pittnerova on 2 July declined to comment to CTK on a report alleging that HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar recently discussed with Czech television magnate and Nova television director Vladimir Zelezny a deal for "mutual support." Pittnerova told CTK she can "neither confirm nor refute the information," but added that she "would have known" if such a meeting had taken place. The daily "Narodna obroda" published an interview with Nova co-founder Petr Huncik, in which Huncik said Zelezny and Meciar discussed a deal under which Zelezny would support the HZDS 2002 electoral campaign and Meciar would help Nova enter the Slovak market in exchange. Martin Chalupsky, a spokesman for the CET company that owns Nova, dismissed the report as "speculation." He said Nova has openly expressed an interest in entering the Slovak market but the report was "not accidentally" published in a newspaper owned by Slovak media empire magnate Pavol Rusko, who "fears competition." MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS LEGISLATION BANNING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS

The parliament on 2 July rejected a bill explicitly banning discrimination against homosexuals at the workplace, CTK reported. The bill was intended to amend the current Labor Code and would have banned discrimination on grounds of race, gender or faith as well. A spokesman for the Inakost (Uniqueness) organization said Slovakia's EU accession "is linked to granting equal rights to gays and lesbians." Labor and Social Affairs Minister Peter Magvasi said his ministry supports the bill, but the provision banning discrimination on grounds of sexual preference will now "be the task of the next, less conservative parliament." MS

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS COURT FORMER ALLIES...

Socialist Party (MSZP) Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 2 July said he considers "promising" the recent declaration by newly elected Free Democratic Party (SZDSZ) Chairman Gabor Kuncze that the unseating of the incumbent government is the main SZDSZ priority, Hungarian media reported. Kuncze's predecessor Gabor Demszky favored a policy of "equal distancing" from both the ruling FIDESZ and the opposition MSZP. Kovacs told journalists in Eger that "the most likely scenario" for the 2002 elections is that the MSZP and the SZDSZ will withdraw in the second round candidates in those constituencies where the other party's candidate was placed better after the first round. MS

...AND FIDESZ RESUMES COURTSHIP OF CURRENT PARTNER

Also on 2 July, FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni told "Nepszabadsag" that he is proposing to Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David that their formations resume negotiations on electoral cooperation. But FIDESZ sources consider the Democratic Forum's demand for 44 Democratic Forum candidates in individual constituencies in which the two parties will support the same candidate as "unrealistic" and are ready to offer 30 joint individual constituency candidatures. According to the most recent polls, the MSZP has a slight lead over FIDESZ (41 as against 38 percent), and only two other political formations, the far right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, and the Democratic Forum, are likely to pass the 5 percent electoral hurdle. MS

HUNGARY REJECTS GERMAN CONSERVATIVES' 'NEW VISION FOR THE BALKANS'

The dailies "Nepszabadsag" and "Magyar Hirlap" on 3 July reported that the German Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union conservative opposition has drafted a joint document on the future of the Balkans in which Hungary is also included. The document says regional borders are likely to lose significance and a union of independent states patterned on the EU model, which the document calls the Southeast European Union, is likely to emerge instead, incorporating the Yugoslav successor states, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Romania. Laszlo Surjan, who is FIDESZ deputy chairman of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said in response that the envisaged union is "about as realistic as a union between Hungary, Austria, and Bavaria would have been after World War II." Surjan added that the whole concept is "opposed to EU policies." MS




MILOSEVIC DEFIANT BEFORE TRIBUNAL

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said in his initial appearance before the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague on 3 July that the court is illegal and that the charges against him are false. Milosevic -- who declined legal representation -- called the tribunal "false," saying it was not formed by the UN General Assembly. Milosevic also waived the right to have the indictment read to him, telling Judge Richard May in English: "That's your problem." May urged the former president to reconsider his decision to represent himself. Milosevic replied that "this trial's aim is to produce false justification for the war crimes committed by NATO in Yugoslavia." May later told Milosevic that a plea of "not guilty" was being entered by the court for him. PB

DEPUTY PROSECUTOR CALLS MILOSEVIC'S TACTICS 'FOOLISH'

Deputy UN war crimes tribunal prosecutor Graham Blewitt said on 3 July that Milosevic's strategy to defend himself during his trial would be "extremely foolish" and that the former Yugoslav president will revise his stratagem, Reuters reported. Blewitt said that "it's just a tactic, a strategy he's engaging in this morning." Another prosecutor said that the trial could be conducted without Milosevic present, but that he will likely decide to have a defense team. Blewitt said that if Milosevic's trial includes charges from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, it is "going to be a huge trial." Claude Jorda, the president of the UN war crimes tribunal, said Milosevic's trial might start in 8-12 months. Jorda said the court case could last from one year to 15 months. Milosevic is being charged on three counts of crimes against humanity and is accused of violating the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, several thousand supporters of the former Serbian leader rallied in front of the Yugoslav parliament building. PB

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT HOLDS TALKS ON REFORMING CABINET

Vojislav Kostunica held talks on 2 July in Belgrade with members of the ruling alliance on forming a new government, Reuters reported. Kostunica said a key duty of the new Yugoslav government -- which collapsed on 29 June when Premier Zoran Zizic resigned over the Milosevic handover -- will be to redefine relations between Serbia and Montenegro, the two components of Yugoslavia. A statement from Kostunica's office said: "During the talks, it was highlighted that the new federal government should have clearly set objectives and deadlines for their achievement." Outgoing Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said that "what we agreed is that a new federal government should be formed as soon as possible because reaching an agreement on a new joint state of Serbia and Montenegro will be its top priority." PB

SWISS REQUEST MORE INFO ON MILOSEVIC'S AND FRIENDS' BANK ACCOUNTS

The Swiss government on 2 July asked Belgrade for more information on frozen bank accounts in the alpine state from which the Yugoslav government would like to acquire money it says was illegally deposited, Reuters reported. A Yugoslav delegation led by Aleksandar Radovic arrived in Switzerland on the same day. Some 600 people are believed to have held the illegal accounts and filled them with some $6 million in embezzled money (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). PB

MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT

Montenegro's parliament approved the minority government led by Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic on 2 July, more than two months after elections were held, AP and dpa reported. Comprised of ministers from President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists-led, pro-independence Victory for Montenegro coalition, the government will be supported by the nationalist Liberal Alliance provided it organizes a referendum on secession from Yugoslavia to be held within eight months. Vujanovic said one of the government's first tasks will be to open talks with Serbia on a "union of two independent states." Serbia's current government has already rejected such a plan. DW

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER TO MEET WITH UN TRIBUNAL

Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic will visit The Hague on 4 July to meet with UN war crimes tribunal officials and discuss cooperation, Reuters reported on 2 July. He will meet with tribunal President Jorda and chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to improve on what tribunal spokeswoman Florence Hartmann called "no cooperation...only a dialogue." The Hague tribunal says that 26 out 37 indicted war crimes suspects are hiding in Republika Srpska, and it has demanded access to archives, documents, and witnesses there. DW

CAN BOSNIAN REFUGEES RETURN?

Nationalist political bickering and the lack of an efficient program for returning refugees are cementing the effects of wartime ethnic cleansing, Srdjan Dizdarevic of Bosnia's Helsinki Committee on Human Rights said on 2 July, Reuters reported. He added that a series of nationalist attacks on refugees who had returned to areas where they were an ethnic minority, as well as the slow implementation of legislation to aid refugees in reclaiming lost property, are hindering the return of refugees. He also claimed that Bosnian Serb authorities are allocating land belonging to displaced Muslims and Croats to displaced Serbs who want to stay in Republika Srpska. DW

LOTS OF MEETINGS IN MACEDONIA...

A meeting between Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and the leaders of Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian political parties was held in Skopje on 2 July, AP reported. It was the first meeting between the leaders since riots in front of the parliament building one week ago ended the talks. The meeting focused on a draft constitution written by French constitutional expert Robert Badinter. Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of Albanians said before the meeting that international mediation, similar to that during the Rambouillet talks on the Kosova crisis, should be used if the four main Macedonian political parties prove unable to resolve the dispute. On 3 July, Trajkovski held a closed-door meeting with U.S. envoy James Pardew and EU envoy Francois Leotard. No details of those talks are available. In other news, the OSCE announced that Max van der Stoel, the former OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, will begin his duties on 1 July as the personal envoy of the chairman-in-office of the OSCE, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. PB

...AS NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS SITUATION IMPROVING

Lord George Robertson said on 2 July in Salzburg that he believes the risk of civil war in Macedonia is declining and that ethnic Albanian rebels now pose less of a threat to the capital, Reuters reported. Robertson said "I think that the threat of civil war is receding because people have recognized that there is a bonus in political dialogue and that if agreement can be reached, then there is a path for...Macedonia to move away from the cliff and further in the direction of mainstream Europe." Robertson said that two weeks ago the National Liberation Army (UCK) "certainly posed a threat to Skopje and to the airport, the oil refinery, and the presidential palace. But that was resolved by the evacuation of the Albanian fighters from Aracinovo." Fighting was reported overnight in hills just 50 kilometers west of Skopje in and around several villages held by UCK forces. PB

TENSIONS INCREASE AS ETHNIC ALBANIAN UNIVERSITY RECTOR ARRESTED

Fadil Sulejmani, the rector of an unofficial ethnic Albanian university in Macedonia, was detained by police on 2 July for questioning, Reuters reported. Abduladi Veseli, a parliamentary deputy from the Party of Democratic Prosperity, said a protest was registered with the government demanding his immediate release. Police said Sulejmani was arrested coming into Macedonia from Kosova and that he is "under suspicion that while he was [in Kosova] he was in close contact with Ali Ahmeti, who is a wanted terrorist in Macedonia." PB

MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SHOPPING FOR WEAPONS IN UKRAINE

Vlado Buckovski arrived in Kyiv on 1 July for a three-day visit, AP reported. Buckovski met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Kuzmuk, and discussed several issues, including the possibility of training Macedonian pilots in Ukraine. Buckovski also visited a tank-repair facility and the national defense training center outside of Kyiv. Macedonia bought four Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopters from Ukraine in March, four Mi-24 helicopter gunships in June, and has also purchased Su-25 ground support aircraft from Kyiv this year. PB

ROMANIAN PREMIER ELUSIVE ON MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION...

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 2 July said the decision to extradite former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague "is political, and will leave deep scars inside Yugoslavia," Mediafax reported. MS

...STARTS GERMAN VISIT

Premier Nastase on 3 July began a three-day official visit to Germany during which he will meet with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and other officials. Nastase will also meet German businessmen to promote investments in his country and will sign an agreement on avoiding double taxation as well as several other commercial accords, Romanian radio reported. Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu met on 2 July in Berlin with his German counterpart Rudolf Scharping. After the meeting, Pascu said Germany is "ready to continue the dialogue with Romania" and to extend military aid, but "wishes to avoid" the early nomination of candidates for NATO expansion "to allow all [candidates] time to fulfill the obligations they have assumed in negotiations with the alliance." MS

ROMANIA CONTINUES ATTACKS ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

President Ion Iliescu told journalists in Salzburg, Austria, where he is attending an international forum on Eastern Europe, that the Hungarian Status law is "a diversionist, provocative, anti-democratic, and discriminatory document," Romanian television reported on 2 July. Iliescu also said the law "offers ammunition to the forces of extreme nationalism [in Romania], making it possible for them to intensify their demagogy and populism." Iliescu said he has discussed the law at a meeting with Austrian President Thomas Klestil, "whose views of it are similar." Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana was quoted by MTI as saying that Romania "would have preferred to receive the recent letter from Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi before the Hungarian parliament approved the law, rather than after it." Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko told a UDMR leadership meeting in Targu Mures that "the crisis situation" triggered by the dispute "is over." MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION WANTS TO RESCUE COLLABORATIONIST CLERGY...

The parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service decided on 2 July to recommend several amendments to the 1999 law on access to files of the former communist secret police, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Among the recommendations is eliminating clergy from the list of officials whose former collaboration with the Securitate must be made public and shortening the term of office of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) from six to four years. According to an AP report, the Romanian Orthodox Church has requested the elimination of the former provision, and though it denies doing so, the request was confirmed by CNSAS member Mircea Dinescu. Shortening the term of office of CNSAS members would enable the ruling Social Democratic Party to gain control of the council, whose members were appointed by the previous cabinet. MS

...AND COURT RULES FORMER MINISTER WAS NOT SECURITATE COLLABORATOR

A court of justice in Timisoara ruled that there was "no justification" for the CNSAS's decision to include former Health Minister Zoltan Baranyi on the list of officials who collaborated with the communist secret police, Mediafax reported on 1 July. Baranyi resigned after the CNSAS included him on the list, but claimed he had been forced to sign the pledge to collaborate but had never acted on it. MS

U.S. EMBASSY REACTS TO RESITA DEVELOPMENTS

Susan Johnson, U.S. charge d'affaires in Bucharest, on 2 July said the situation created in Resita by the labor conflict involving the Noble Ventures company is "regrettable," but "there is still hope that differences can be solved through dialogue," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Johnson said "we encourage both sides to maintain a channel of communication open" to allow for "the proper adjudication of Romanian legislation." She said tension in Resita could be diffused through direct contacts between the U.S. company and the Romanian government. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TO SERVICE FOREIGN DEBT FROM DEPLETED HARD CURRENCY RESERVES

The parliament on 2 July amended the 2001 budget to allow the government to borrow $30 million for the purpose of foreign debt servicing, Infotag reported. Finance Minister Mihai Manole said the government had counted for this purpose on funds from the International Monetary Fund and the EU, which failed to materialize after relations with Chisinau were frozen following the February elections. Former Premier Dumitru Braghis told the house that the measure was "unavoidable," but emphasized that the 14 percent interest charged by the National Bank is far higher than the 0.25 percent interest on IMF loans. The measure will allow the government to service the $3.7 million interest due on 3 July on a $75 million eurobond redeemable in June 2002. The National Bank's hard currency reserves are currently $250 million, and Chisinau must service some $150-170 million in 2001 and 2002. MS

MOLDOVA WITHDRAWS ARMORED CARS FROM DEMILITARIZED ZONE

Moldova on 2 July unilaterally withdrew 11 armored cars from the demilitarized zone dividing the conflicting sides in the Transdniester region, Romanian radio reported. Chisinau says the measure is aimed at "promoting the idea of [genuine] demilitarization and introducing full transparency in the security zone." MS

MOLDOVAN TEACHERS PROTEST HISTORY MANIPULATION INTENTION

Some 500 teachers demonstrated in Chisinau on 1 July to protest the authorities' intention to replace in schools and university curricula the teaching of the History of Romanians with "The History of Moldova," Romanian radio reported. According to the planned obligatory textbooks, the peoples of the two countries are historically different, as are the Romanian and Moldovan languages. This is precisely what Soviet-time "historiography" used to claim. MS

SIMEON SAYS PREMIERSHIP ACCEPTANCE REPORT 'EXAGGERATED'

Former King Simeon II told journalists on 2 July after a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov that the report in the Spanish daily "El Mundo" that he has decided to accept the premiership was "exaggerated," BTA and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). Simeon said that the journalist who published the report did not interview him but rather produced the report after "a friendly conversation." He added that he has known the journalist "for 41 years." Simeon said that his National Movement "will announce the name of the premier in the next few days, after we complete negotiations with the other political forces." He also said he discussed with Stoyanov the president's forthcoming participation in the Salzburg economic summit currently underway in Austria, and Stoyanov's scheduled meeting in Salzburg with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. MS




THE EU AND THE EXPANSION 'INVASION': HOW REAL IS THE THREAT?


By Michael Shafir

Public opinion in the 15 current members of the EU has been much preoccupied recently by the alleged threat that its members would face from the East once the union finally decides to stop procrastinating on its expansion. While the "free movement of labor" is dreaded particularly in Germany and Austria, both of whose governments have asked for a seven-year "transition period" during which that important part of the EU association agreement would not apply to the new members, there is also considerable apprehension elsewhere. In an attempt to neutralize those fears, the Hungarian government-- followed by those of Slovakia and Latvia-- recently agreed to a compromise whereby, after their accession to the Union, the free movement of labor would be applied on the basis of reciprocity. Other governments in former communist countries are likely to accept that compromise under which a "transition period" of between two and seven years would apply to workers from former East bloc countries.

But how real is the "invasion threat?". The Brussels-based Central European Opinion Research Group (CEORG), a public opinion umbrella polling organization that unifies some of the most prestigious polling organizations in different countries, conducted fieldwork research in five of the candidate-states between mid-April and late May 2000. Three of the countries sampled (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) are in the category of accession front-runners, while the other two (Romania and Bulgaria) have little chance of gaining EU membership in the near future.

The most striking finding in all five countries is that only relatively small minorities are interested in taking advantage of the free movement of labor provision in order to seek a job in the EU. Not surprisingly, those minorities are largest precisely where the chances of immediate accession are smallest. It was to be expected that Bulgarians and Romanians would wish to escape the harsh conditions in their countries by courting fortune elsewhere. Yet even in these two countries, only a minority of respondents are contemplating such a move. Thus, 9.6 percent of Bulgarians said they are "interested and will certainly try" to find a job in the EU after expansion, and 10.6 percent said they will "probably" do so. In other words, only one in five Bulgarians (20.2 percent) are ready to take advantage of the free movement clause, with an additional 11.5 percent saying they would be interested "if somebody offers me such a job, but [I] will not personally look for it."

The Romanians, whose situation is even worse than that of their southern neighbors, produce a higher ratio, yet fall into the same pattern: 30.8 percent would "certainly" or "probably" seek a job in the EU, and an additional 10.7 percent would accept an offer made to them. But majorities of both Bulgarians (54.4 percent) and Romanians (50.7 percent) said they will either "probably" or "certainly" be uninterested.

The picture emerging from the three leading candidates is substantially different, in the sense that the "invasion threat" is far more remote than the danger of "invasion" stemming from the Balkans.

In the Czech Republic, only some 12 percent of respondents are tempted to seek their fortune elsewhere on the continent, and large majorities of between 60 percent (in April) and 62 percent (in May) dismiss that possibility; and only one Czech in 10 would accept an offer from the EU if it was specifically made to him or her. A largely similar picture emerges in Hungary, with 13 to 14 percent possibly tempted by the prospect, 65 to 68 percent rejecting it, and 9 percent saying they would accept a personal offer. Poles are somewhat less negative than Czechs and Hungarians about "going West" but not exceedingly so: between 18 and 23 percent are either "certain" or "likely" to seek a job in the EU after accession, and the proportion of respondents who reject the prospect is certainly smaller: 51 percent in April and less than half (46 percent) in May, with between 11 and 14 percent willing to consider a "personal offer."

Respondents who showed an inclination to seek their fortune in the EU (whether actively or "accepting an offer") were further asked what country they would choose for that purpose and how long would they like to work abroad. German perceptions of the "invasion threat" seem to be vindicated by these responses, with large pluralities of between 48 percent of Poles and 27.2 percent of Romanians mentioning that country as their hoped-for paradise. One must, however, remember that these figures refer to the minority that would pursue that course--not to the sample as a whole. Austria, however, seems to have little justification for its apprehensions. Except for Hungarians, 24 percent of whose "prospective labor immigrants" would opt for a personified revival of the "Old Empire," the Alpine Republic is hardly an attraction for Central East Europeans. Only one in ten prospective EU Czech labor immigrants (11 percent) would like to work there, and only 5 percent of Poles, 5.4 percent of Romanians and 1.8 percent of Bulgarians would do so.

In all five countries surveyed, only small minorities of between 15.4 percent (Romania) and 5 percent (Czechs and Hungarians) said they would like to "settle permanently" in the EU. Large pluralities of one in four Poles and small pluralities of 16.5 percent Romanians would prefer "to work in the EU at regular intervals but continue living in my country." About one in four Czechs (24 percent) would like to work in the EU for longer than two years, and almost the same proportion for either up to one year (23 percent) or two (20 percent). There is an even smaller ratio favoring long-term stay abroad among Hungarians (18, 19, and 18 percent, respectively) and the ratio drops even further in the case of the Poles (12, 14, and 16 percent).

In short: predictions of a pending invasion are, as Mark Twain put it, "slightly exaggerated."


XS
SM
MD
LG