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Newsline - November 14, 2001




PUTIN-BUSH SUMMIT BEGINS

Russian President Vladimir Putin met for more than three hours on 13 November with his American counterpart George W. Bush at the White House on the first day of his state visit to the United States, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin said that he and Bush "intend to dismantle conclusively the vestiges of the Cold War." The two presidents discussed reducing nuclear arsenals, the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, and missile defense. Bush said that he will seek to "end the application" of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that restricted trade between the two countries. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that Russian military commanders are increasingly concerned by Putin's pro-U.S. tilt, and an article in "Izvestiya" on 13 November suggested that any U.S. concession on the number of nuclear warheads will have to be considered carefully lest Washington leave itself in a position to rapidly restore warheads it had agreed to take off line. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES NORTHERN ALLIANCE ADVANCE INTO KABUL...

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 13 November that Moscow welcomes the advance of the Northern Alliance into Kabul as an important step in the anti-Taliban campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. The withdrawal of the Taliban from the Afghan capital, the statement added, shows the "serious damage" that they have suffered as a result of the antiterrorist operation and the actions of the Northern Alliance. PG

...AS GENERAL WARNS THAT 'MOST SERIOUS FIGHTING IS STILL AHEAD'

Colonel General Sergei Maev, the head of the main administration of armored troops of the Russian military and a veteran of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, told ITAR-TASS on 13 November that "the hasty retreat of the Taliban troops from key cities of Afghanistan shows that they wish to save their manpower and military hardware in order to impose a guerrilla war on the Northern Alliance and the U.S. commando troops." He said that as a result and despite recent victories, "the most serious fighting [in Afghanistan] is still ahead." Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry released a second statement on 13 November saying that Moscow does not want to see the antiterrorist action go beyond the borders of Afghanistan, Interfax reported. PG

BIN LADEN DOES NOT HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS, RUSSIAN GENERAL SAYS

Colonel General Igor Valynkin, the chief of the Defense Ministry's 12th chief directorate that supervises Russia's nuclear arsenal, said on 13 November that "[Osama] bin Laden now does not have and cannot have nuclear arms of either Soviet, Russian, or foreign manufacture," AP reported. But he added that bin Laden could at some point acquire such weapons due to his ties with the secret services of Pakistan, which does have nuclear weapons. The same day, "Vremya novostei" reported that the Russian government is increasingly concerned about the problems of nuclear security and is issuing new orders to tighten control over all nuclear materials in Russia. Meanwhile, in an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 13 November, presidential security advisor Igor Sergeev said that the terrorist acts in the U.S. may have lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. He called for international steps to reverse that trend. PG

U.S. HAS NOT ASKED FOR RUSSIA'S HELP ON ANTHRAX

Lieutenant General Viktor Kholstov, the chief of the radioactive, chemical, and biological defense forces of the Defense Ministry, said on 13 November that Washington has not asked Russia for help in combating anthrax despite Russia's expertise in this area, Interfax reported. Kholstov said that American specialists are "highly professional and well prepared," but noted that they have not been able to uncover the source of the recent anthrax scare and might have benefited from help. PG

KUDRIN DOES NOT EXCLUDE 'PESSIMISTIC' SCENARIO FOR 2002 BUDGET

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 13 November said that the scenario for the 2002 budget year may prove "pessimistic" if the price of oil falls below $18.50 a barrel, Interfax reported. The same day, the government approved a plan to redistribute 12.5 billion rubles ($420 million) in the 2001 budget, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

ILLARIONOV BLAMES GOVERNMENT POLICY FOR RUSSIA'S LOW RATE OF GROWTH

Presidential economics adviser Andrei Illarionov said on 13 November that Russia has one of the lowest rates of GDP growth in the Commonwealth of Independence States, Interfax reported. He attributed that trend to government policies. Russian growth, Illarionov said, reflects higher prices for natural resources rather than good economic planning, in sharp contrast to Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said the same day that the government has approved a new draft bankruptcy law that will bring Russian legislation into line with international standards and promote growth, the news service said. PG

KHRISTENKO SAYS RUSSIA MAY REDUCE OIL EXPORTS FURTHER

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 13 November that Russia may reduce oil exports by between 40,000 and 44,000 barrels per day, rather than the 30,000 bpd announced the day before, ITAR-TASS reported. But an article in "Vedomosti" on 13 November noted that these small reductions are only "Potemkin cuts" and have done little or nothing to halt the slide in oil prices. OPEC experts hope that as a result, Russia will take more steps to boost the price of oil, Interfax reported. PG

STEPASHIN SAYS AUDIT CHAMBER DOES NOT TAKE POLITICAL ORDERS

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin told the Federation Council budget committee on 13 November that his agency fulfills legal requirements and does not take political orders as to which institutions and people it should investigate, Interfax reported. PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER SOCIAL-POLITICAL GROUPS

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 13 November that his agency intends to increase control over the activities of social-political organizations, Interfax reported. He said that he plans to focus in particular on groups that promote political, religious and national extremism. The same day, the Interior Ministry announced that it is taking measures to remove "criminal influences" from Moscow markets as part of an effort to improve tax collections and police control of those markets, the news agency said. PG

ENERGY MINISTRY CALLS FOR ORGANIZING MAJOR REGIONAL ENERGY SYSTEMS

Deputy Energy Minister Viktor Kudryavii said on 13 November that his ministry wants to see the creation of fewer but larger energy systems than the current 100, Interfax reported. He said that such a reorganization would improve both management and efficiency. He also said that after joining the World Trade Organization, Russia will have to raise the price of fuel by a factor of four. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL REORGANIZES

The International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council on 13 November elected Mikhail Margelov as its chairman in place of Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, who has left the upper chamber of parliament, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Federation leader Valerii Goreglyad said the same day that the Council will at present not challenge the status of current speaker Yegor Stroev even though he has been re-elected governor of Orel Oblast and thus is ineligible to remain in the chamber. Goreglyad added, however, that the upper house will select a new speaker before the end of the year, the news service said. PG

DUMA BACKS COLLECTING DATA ON FOREIGN VISITORS

The Duma on 13 November approved on first reading a draft bill that calls for creating a single data bank on foreigners entering and exiting Russia, Interfax reported. Deputies said that at present the government does not know exactly how many people have entered and left the country and how many may have overstayed the amount of time specified on their visas. PG

PEKHTIN TO HEAD CENTRIST COORDINATING COUNCIL IN DUMA

Vladimir Pekhtin, the leader of the Unity faction in the Duma, will head the coordinating council of the four centrist groups in the party until the end of this year, Interfax-Moscow reported on 13 November. After 1 January 2002, People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov will head the council, and then Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Vyacheslav Volodin. Meanwhile, the general council of Unity, Fatherland, and All-Russia on 13 November approved the name of their future combined organization, the All-Russia Party Unity and Fatherland, Interfax reported. The same day, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov met with the leaders of those groups and several others to discuss social and economic problems and legislative responses, the news service said. PG

DUMA FACTIONS CHANGE SIZE

The Unity faction in the Duma acquired its 84th member on 13 November when the group accepted former Union of Rightist Forces deputy Aleksandr Shimanov into its ranks, Interfax reported. Now, Unity has the same number of deputies as the Communist Party. Meanwhile, former independent deputy Anatolii Kulikov and former Unity deputy Aleksandr Fedulov were accepted into Fatherland-All Russia the same day, the news agency reported. As a result, the Fatherland-All Russia faction now numbers 47 deputies. PG

RAIKOV SAYS PEOPLE'S DEPUTY PARTY TO BECOME VOICE OF 'SILENT MAJORITY'

People's Deputy Party leader Raikov said in an interview published in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 13 November that his party wants to become "the voice of the silent majority" in Russia. He said the party's program will not focus on "global ideas" but on the needs and interests of "the simple man. A man with a family, work, and pay." PG

PUTIN REPORTS DEMOLITION OF LAST NUCLEAR ROCKET WITHDRAWN FROM UKRAINE

The press service of President Putin reported on 13 November that Russia has destroyed the last nuclear rocket withdrawn from Ukraine as required by the 14 January 1994 accord among the presidents of Russia, the United States, and Ukraine, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN EXPERT SAYS NY PLANE CRASH RESEMBLES CONCORDE DISASTER

A Russian aviation expert speaking on condition of anonymity told ITAR-TASS on 13 November that the crash of the American Airlines flight in New York on 12 November is in many ways similar to the crash of the Concorde in Paris last year. PG

EU COUNTRIES ISSUE ONE MILLION VISAS TO RUSSIANS ANNUALLY

Belgium's Ambassador in Moscow Andrei Mernier told ITAR-TASS on 13 November that European Union countries issue approximately one million visas each year to Russian citizens. He said that only 4 four percent of Russian applicants have been turned down. PG

ACADEMY OF SCIENCES RE-ELECTS OSIPOV AS PRESIDENT

The Academy of Sciences has by an overwhelming majority re-elected as its president Yurii Osipov, who has held that post since 1991, "Vremya MN" reported on 13 November. Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 13 November, 63 percent of Russians believe that the Academy of Sciences plays a positive role in Russian scientific life, but 54 percent believe that its authority is lower today than in the USSR. PG

ECONOMICS, NOT PARTIES SEEN DRIVING REGIONAL ELECTIONS

An analysis of regional elections published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 November suggested that economic power rather than any political organization is the more important factor in determining who is elected governor in any particular region. PG

KULAKS ENCOURAGED AS PART OF EFFORT TO BLOCK BASHKIR-KAZAKH LINKUP

Officials in Orenburg have encouraged the development of large farms and their "kulak" owners as part of an effort to prevent Bashkirs from settling in the narrow strip of Russian land between Bashkortostan and Kazakhstan, "Vremya MN" reported on 13 November. Were the Bashkirs to dominate the population there, the paper said, there would be pressure to change the borders and thus give Bashkortostan a border with a foreign state. PG

MOSCOW PROMOTES SEPARATE ETHNIC IDENTITY FOR 'KRYASHENNY'

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 21, outlines the various ways Russian scholars and officials have attempted to promote the revival of ethnic identity and status among the Orthodox Turks, known as "kryashenny" (the baptized). After the 1926 census, this group was included within the Kazan Tatar ethnic group in all enumerations, but Russian officials are interested in reducing the number of Kazan Tatars, who are the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation, in the upcoming nationwide census (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2001). PG

IMAGE OF ISLAM IN RUSSIA INCREASINGLY POLITICAL

According to an extensive survey of research carried in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 21, the image of Muslims in the minds of Russians is increasingly political rather than cultural or religious. The paper suggests that this shift reflects growing feelings of mutual alienation between the two groups which may have potentially dangerous and destabilizing consequences. PG

'KURSK' INVESTIGATION TURNED OVER TO MILITARY PROSECUTORS

Investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Main Military Prosecutor have turned over the investigation of the "Kursk" submarine disaster to investigators from the procuracy of the Northern Fleet, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November. Meanwhile, a 57th body has been recovered from the wreck, Interfax reported. PG

ARKHANGELSK GOVERNOR SAYS SALE OF FISHING QUOTAS MAY LEAD TO SOCIAL EXPLOSION

Arkhangelsk Governor Anatolii Yefremov has warned Prime Minister Kasyanov that planned sales of fishing quotas may lead to a social explosion in regions like his where many people depend on fishing for their livelihood, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 November. PG

WATER SUPPLIES REDUCED TO VLADIVOSTOK RESIDENTS...

A "catastrophic" shortage of water in reservoirs has forced the city authorities in Vladivostok to reduce water supplies to the city by 30,000 cubic meters or 7.5 percent, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

...AND POWER CUT TO 11 DISTRICTS OF LENINGRAD OBLAST

"Izvestiya" reported on 13 November that as a result of heavy snow, power supplies to more than 300 population centers in 11 regions of Leningrad Oblast have been cut off. The Emergency Situations Ministry is working to restore power, the paper said. PG

ANOTHER SOVIET-ERA TRADITION RESTORED

Komi Governor Yurii Spiridonov on 12 November became the latest in a long line of regional leaders to defend a doctoral dissertation, "Izvestiya" reported the following day. His thesis topic was "The Administration of the Social and Economic Development of the Region." The paper noted that "an academic degree, to which all the leaders of the regions strive, is a kind of indulgence which they receive." In the USSR, officials frequently tried to acquire academic degrees both for the extra income they provided and for protection in the event that they lost their political positions. PG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SAYS RACISM WIDESPREAD IN RUSSIA...

The Council of Europe's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance on 13 November released a 35-page report saying that ethnic and religious minorities in Russia continue to face official discrimination at all levels, AP reported. The report said that Russia's remaining Jews face "widespread manifestations of anti-Semitism, including episodes of violence." It also decried "the widespread use of extreme nationalist, racist, and xenophobic propaganda" by political parties and the media, and also the existence of "extremist movements" that "engage in violent actions against members of minority groups." The report also criticized Russian actions in Chechnya. PG

...AS RUSSIAN PAPERS CONTINUE TO COVER SKINHEAD VIOLENCE

On 13 November, an unidentified skinhead leader told "Novye izvestiya" that participants in antiforeigner violence are just "ordinary Russians fed up with foreigners." He said he does not care that people were killed during the recent pogrom. Also on 13 November, "Moskovskii komsomolets" carried two extensive articles about such extremist youth groups. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY CONCERNED BY FAKE MEDICINES

Officials at the Interior Ministry said on 13 November that up to 10 percent of medicines sold in Russia are not what the labels claim they are, Interfax reported. As a result, the health of the population is at risk, and the Interior Ministry has staged a crackdown against sales of such "medicines" as part of a general effort to protect consumers. The same day, Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko said that about two-thirds of all such fake medicines are of domestic origin, the news service said. PG

HIV, TUBERCULOSIS INFECTIONS INCREASE IN RUSSIAN PRISONS

A new exhibit in Moscow, "Man and Prison," showed that of the 991,000 people now detained in Russian prisons and camps, 86,000 have tuberculosis, and more than 21,000 are HIV-positive, Interfax reported on 13 November. The number of HIV infections, the exhibition showed, has increased "more than five times" over the last year alone. PG

MONUMENT ERECTED TO PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT HEAD...

Prince Georgii Lvov, who headed the first Provisional Government in 1917, was the subject of a conference in Tula Oblast on local government, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November. A book first published in Paris in the 1930s was reissued for the occasion and a monument erected in Lvov's home village of Popovka. PG

...AND ROLE OF RELIGION IN RUSSIAN REVOLUTION SURVEYED

"Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 21, carried three long articles on the role of religion in the 1917 Russian Revolution. The first surveyed the religious worldview of Leon Trotsky, the second considered the role of "red mystics" like Aleksandr Bogdanov, and the third examined the role of religious sectarians who joined the Bolshevik party. PG

CONTROVERSY OVER REALITY TV SHOW CONTINUES

The Union of Orthodox Citizens on 13 November said that the showing of the "Behind Glass" reality television show by TV-6 showed its connection with totalitarianism, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). But First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said that the show does not violate any existing laws, the news service said. PG

MOSCOW POLICE CLOSE BORDELLO RUN BY KENYAN STUDENT

A bordello operated by a Kenyan student at the Patrice Lumumba Friendship of the Peoples University in Moscow was closed by the police on 13 November, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

CHECHEN STATE RADIO RESUMES BROADCASTING

Chechen state radio has resumed broadcasting, having suspended broadcasts in October 1999 when the current war began, Chechnya's Deputy Media Minister Yurii Rossokhan told Interfax on 13 November. A new Chechen newspaper began publication in August after repeated delays (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2001). LF




UKRAINE TO PURCHASE MAJORITY STAKE IN ARMENIAN CHEMICAL GIANT

Representatives of Ukraine's Inter-Kontakt recently visited Yerevan to discuss the possibility of acquiring for 6.6 billion drams (some $12 million) a 51 percent stake in the Nairit chemical plant that produces chloroprene rubber, according to Arminfo on 13 November as cited by Groong. Inter-Kontakt has expressed its readiness to invest some $22 million in the plant in order to increase annual output from 10,000 tons to 25,000-30,000 tons. Nairit's debts for the first six months of 2001 alone amount to over $7 million. LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATION TO FREEZE CONTACTS WITH AZERBAIJAN...

Yerevan Press Club (YPC) chairman Boris Navasardian told a press conference in Yerevan on 13 November that his organization has decided to freeze contacts with Azerbaijani journalists due to the hostility and intolerance to which visiting Armenian journalists have been recently subjected in Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The YPC and similar organizations have been organizing regular exchanges with Azerbaijan since 1996 with the aim of creating what Navasardian termed "an appropriate atmosphere for the improvement of relations between our peoples and countries." But, Navasardian continued, mutual visits in recent months have proven counter-productive, and the most recent visit to Baku by a group of journalists from Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic gave rise to what he termed "anti-Armenian hysteria." LF

...BUT INITIATE NEW CONTACTS WITH TURKEY

Navasardian told the same press conference on 13 November that under the terms of an agreement signed in Istanbul last week, the YPC will expand its contacts with journalists in Turkey, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. An exchange of visits between journalists from the two countries will begin in December 2001, and the YPC is also considering whether it is feasible to convene virtual press conferences with the participation of Turkish politicians. Armenia and Turkey still do not have diplomatic relations. LF

ARMENIAN LAWMAKERS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SUSPENSION OF U.S. SANCTIONS ON AZERBAIJAN

In separate statements released on 13 November, the chairmen of two Armenian parliament committees warned that the suspension of the ban on direct U.S. government aid to Azerbaijan could lead to a renewal of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The U.S. Congress last month empowered President George W. Bush to suspend that ban for the duration of the ongoing international antiterrorism campaign provided that the aid Baku receives is not used for "offensive purposes against Armenia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2001). But Armenian parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Vahan Hovannisian argued that that condition is meaningless. He said that the bill, which still has to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, should include a specific reference to Karabakh. Parliament Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Hovannes Hovannisian (no relation to Vahan) similarly argued that "it is extremely important that...the bill directly ban the use of [U.S.] military aid against Nagorno-Karabakh." LF

AZERBAIJANI EDITORS PROTEST RESTRICTIONS ON NEWSPAPER DISTRIBUTION

Editors of Azerbaijani media outlets met on 13 November with Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov and presidential administration official Ali Hasanov to protest Abutalibov's systematic destruction of newspaper kiosks belonging to the Gaya distribution network, Turan reported. Gaya owner Hanguseyn Aliyev said he believes the Azerbaijani authorities want to eliminate any competition prior to privatizing the state-owned periodicals distribution network. Also on 13 November, media editors decided to stage a picket in Baku on 15 November to protest the enforced closure of the newspapers "Bakinskii bulvard" and "Milletin sesi" ( see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September and 7 November 2001). But on 14 November Abutalibov rejected their request for permission to do so, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NATO REGIONAL COMMANDER

Meeting on 13 November with General Oktay Ataman, who heads NATO Joint South-East Command, President Heidar Aliyev lauded the conduct of the NATO Cooperative Determination 2001 simulated exercises that began in Baku one week earlier, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2001). LF

GEORGIA, POLAND DISCUSS OIL EXPORTS, NATO

Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski's official visit to Georgia, originally scheduled for July, took place on 12-13 November, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 12 November that the visit was intended to provide a basis on which to build "new relations" between the two countries. He mentioned as promising areas for cooperation transport routes and the possible export via the Odessa-Brody pipeline of Caspian oil exported through Georgia. Kwasniewski expressed his personal support for Shevardnadze and for Georgia's territorial integrity. But he downplayed the possibility of military cooperation between the two countries, offering only to help train 50 Georgian border guards. Kwasniewski also recalled Russia's initial opposition to Poland joining NATO, but added that thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin's "pragmatic approach" the resulting cooling in bilateral relations was only temporary. Shevardnadze for his part acknowledged that he had angered Russia by his affirmation two years ago in an interview with the "Financial Times" that Georgia would "knock loudly on NATO's door" by 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1999). Shevardnadze said Georgia "is not in a hurry" to accede to the alliance. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW MINISTERS

Georgian media on 13 November published, and commented extensively on, what is said to be the list of proposed new government ministers submitted to parliament by President Shevardnadze. The presidential press service, however, declined to confirm the accuracy of that list, which lists Levan Dzneladze, minister for tax revenues in the outgoing government, as minister of state. Former Deputy Interior Minister Koba Narchemaishvili is identified as the new interior minister, presidential parliamentary secretary Valeri Khaburzania as national security minister, former academic Paata Tsnobiladze as justice minister, former Minister of State Property Management Giorgi Gachechiladze as economy minister, and Mamuka Nioleishvili as fuel and energy minister. Other outgoing ministers, including Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze and Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, retain their posts. LF

SUPREME COURT REDUCES FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER'S SENTENCE

The Supreme Court on 13 November reduced from 17 to six years' imprisonment the sentence handed down three months earlier on Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). The court found Absandze not guilty of involvement in the February 1998 attempt to assassinate President Shevardnadze, the charge on which Absandze was extradited to Georgia from Russia in March 1998, but guilty of misappropriating some $127,800 and of participating in Gamsakhurdia's abortive attempt in 1993 to return to power. A second former member of Gamsakhurdia's team, Nemo Burchuladze, expressed surprise at the court's decision which, he said, demonstrates that it acts independently of the president, Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIA CALLS FOR GEORGIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM KODORI GORGE...

In a statement issued on 13 November, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on Georgia to withdraw its army units from the Kodori gorge in compliance with the peace agreement signed in Moscow on 14 May 1994, Russian agencies reported. That withdrawal, the statement continued, will help to ease the tensions created by the incursion last month onto Abkhaz territory from neighboring regions of Georgia of several hundred Georgian guerrillas and Chechen fighters. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Ekho Moskvy on 12 November that Abkhazia will not resume talks with Tbilisi until the Georgian military withdraws from the upper reaches of the Kodori gorge. LF

...BUT GEORGIA READY TO INCREASE MILITARY PRESENCE THERE

Also on 13 November, Georgian armed forces Chief of Staff Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili told the parliament's Defense and Security Committee that the Ministry of Defense is ready to send additional troops to Kodori to augment the 350 men currently deployed in the villages of Sakeni and Chkhalta. President Shevardnadze's representative for the Kodori gorge region, Emzar Kvitsiani, who Abkhaz officials claim accompanied the invaders, told the same parliamentary committee that he can prove that "a traitor" in Tbilisi provided exact coordinates to the Russian military aircraft that bombed villages in the Kodori gorge, Caucasus Press reported. LF

SUSPECTED ISLAMIC MILITANTS APPREHENDED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Police in Kazakhstan detained three young men in Almaty late on 12 November on suspicion of membership in the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir party, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Police also confiscated quantities of leaflets calling for the overthrow of the Kazakh government. Hizb ut-Tahrir aims to establish by peaceful means a caliphate on the territory of the five post-Soviet Central Asian states. Four alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members were tried and sentenced in Zhambyl Oblast in May of this year. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES REPORT ON BUDGET FULFILLMENT FOR 2000

The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's bicameral legislature) finally approved on 13 November Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev's report on fulfillment of the budget for last year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputies declined to do so on 17 October on the grounds that the draft was implemented only by 80.9 percent. The tax shortfall for 2000 amounted to 909.5 million soms ($18.6 million). Bakiev admitted that government bodies misspent considerable sums of money. The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened investigations into several such instances. LF

TAJIK OFFICIALS DENY AGREEMENT REACHED ON U.S. USE OF AIR BASES

A Tajik Foreign Ministry official told Reuters on 13 November that he has no information that a concrete agreement has been signed between Tajikistan and the U.S. granting the latter the use of a Tajik air base or bases from which to launch bombing raids on Afghanistan. A Defense Ministry official similarly said that that possibility is still under discussion. Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev for his part told Interfax on 13 November that the Kulyab air base which U.S. experts had decided on is not suitable for heavy aircraft such as bombers and transport planes, or for frequent takeoffs and landings. On 12 November, Reuters quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying that the U.S. will move aircraft to at least one base in Tajikistan, but declined to specify which one. LF

EBRD URGES UZBEKISTAN TO SPEED UP ECONOMIC REFORM

Visiting European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Jean Lemierre told journalists in Tashkent on 13 November following talks with President Islam Karimov that Uzbekistan should dismantle the existing barriers to foreign investment (meaning the limitations on the convertibility of the som) and seek to promote foreign investment and expand foreign trade, Reuters reported. Lemierre and Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov signed an agreement whereby the EBRD will advance a 77 million euro ($67.7 million) credit to modernize the country's rail network and a second credit worth 17.5 million euros to improve the heating system in Andidjan, Interfax reported on 13 November. LF




BELARUSIAN COURT CLOSES OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER

The Supreme Economic Court on 13 November shut down the opposition Belarusian-language weekly "Pahonya" based in Hrodna, a regional center in northwestern Belarus, Belarusian media reported. The court liquidated the newspaper under Belarus's media law, which allows for a publication to be closed after receiving two warnings from the authorities within a year. "Pahonya" received its first warning in October 2000. The second came on 21 September 2001, in response to the publication of materials before the 9 September presidential election on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's alleged role in the disappearance of opposition politicians. At that time police seized the entire issue with the incriminating materials, while prosecutors sued "Pahonya" for defaming the president. "This is a shame for the Belarusian jurisprudence, for Belarus and Belarusians," Editor in Chief Mikola Markevich commented on the verdict closing "Pahonya." JM

KUCHMA SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL LAND CODE...

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed the Land Code adopted last month in a stormy debate (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 October 2001), Interfax reported on 13 November. The code makes farmland the property of agricultural workers as of the beginning of 2002. The code allows limited land sales between 2005 and 2010 and free trade in farmland after 2010. Ukraine's Communists, who oppose private land ownership, have announced their intention to challenge the code's legality in the Constitutional Court. Meanwhile, presidential administration deputy chief Pavlo Haydutskyy said Kuchma will soon ask the parliament to speed up the adoption of some 30 bills necessary to implement the Land Code. Haydutskyy suggested that Kuchma may introduce some provisions of the Land Code by decree if the parliament fails to pass the appropriate laws. JM

...DISMISSES AIR DEFENSE COMMANDER

President Kuchma has dismissed Air Defense Commander Volodymyr Tkachov, Interfax reported on 13 November. Tkachov offered his resignation last month in connection with the accidental downing of a Russian passenger plane by a Ukrainian missile. JM

BALTIC STATES SATISFIED WITH EUROPEAN COMMISSION'S REPORTS

Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves praised the report released on 13 November assessing the progress made by EU candidates, ETA reported. Ilves said the report provides "an opportunity to compare our progress with that of other candidates." He said he is glad that the EC acknowledged Estonia's development in all spheres and admitted the validity of its criticism, noting, "we are aware of these problems and we continue trying to solve them." The report called for the continued implementation of the public administration reform program, improving the efficiency in dealing with court cases, and an acceleration of the restructuring of the oil-shale industry. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga noted on 14 November that Latvia has been working on the areas most criticized in the report: its judicial system, public administration reform, curbing corruption, and improving the situation with ethnic minorities, LETA reported. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis on 13 November expressed satisfaction that this year's report is more favorable than last year's, BNS reported. Among the areas needing more work on the part of the Lithuanian government are: reinforcing administrative and judicial capacity, combating corruption, stimulating internal and foreign direct investment, reducing the unemployment rate, and meeting the obligations to shut down its nuclear power plant. SG

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LATVIA

During an official trip to Riga on 12-13 November, Ilves had separate meetings with President Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Kristovskis, and parliament Chairman Janis Straume, LETA reported. The talks mostly focused on bilateral relations and ongoing efforts to gain EU and NATO membership. At a joint press conference, the two foreign ministers stressed that their countries have very friendly relations and that cooperation even extends to the joint purchase of some military equipment. They mentioned the need to improve and optimize the border crossing for residents of the Latvian and Estonian twin-towns of Valka and Valga and to step up work, together with Lithuania, on completing the Via Baltica highway project. They also identified as a shared goal the closure by the end of this year of the OSCE missions to Estonia and Latvia. SG

LATVIAN PRIVATIZATION HEAD DISMISSED

By a vote of nine to four with one abstention, the government on 13 November dismissed Latvian Privatization Agency Director Janis Naglis for procedural violations, LETA reported. Ministers from the People's Party and For the Fatherland and Freedom (TB/LNNK) voted for Naglis's dismissal, while Premier Andris Berzins and other members of Latvia's Way voted against. Naglis, who will remain in office until 14 December, does not admit to any wrongdoing and is considering filing a court appeal against the decision. He said that he can respond to the charges only in general terms since he was not allowed to examine the materials which Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis provided to justify his ouster. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES SALE OF ALCOHOL AT GAS STATIONS

The parliament passed on 13 November amendments to the law on alcohol regulation, BNS reported. Those amendments abolish the ban on the sale of hard alcohol at gasoline stations and in sport establishments and health care facilities, and allow such sales outside houses of prayer at a distance to be determined by local governments. The measure was supported by the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and New Union as well as the Liberal Union, but opposed by the Conservatives and Christian Democrats. The parliament also overrode by a vote of 77 to 36 with one abstention President Valdas Adamkus's veto of the law on the establishment of new private health care institutions. Adamkus had objected to the provision that local governments be required to approve the founding of such private clinics, arguing that this "would add up to bureaucracy and corruption, prevent competition among medics, and limit access to quality medical aid." The parliament also amended the law on excise duties by setting rules for paying compensation to farmers and fishermen. The amount of compensation will be based on the actual volume of fuel purchased, but not exceeding 120 liters per hectare of agricultural land and 275 liters per ton of fish caught. SG

EU ANNUAL REPORT PRAISES POLAND, URGES MORE REFORMS

The European Commission in its annual report released on 13 November praised Poland for its progress on the path toward EU membership, but also called on Warsaw to increase its efforts to reform the economy and streamline administration to be more effective in enforcing the adjusted law. The report places Poland among the front-runners for EU membership and suggests that it is realistic for Warsaw to conclude negotiations by the end of 2002 and join the EU in 2004. The report criticizes Poland for its failure to reform the agricultural sector and points to threats connected with a recent economic slowdown and high unemployment. Minister for European Affairs Danuta Huebner said the annual report on Poland's EU accession progress is "positive and constructive." JM

POLISH DEPUTY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNS OVER COMMUNIST-ERA PAST

Deputy Prosecutor-General Andrzej Kaucz on 13 November tendered his resignation over questions regarding his role as a prosecutor in trials of Solidarity opposition activists in the 1980s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001), Polish media reported. "The situation today and the emotions associated with my person are destabilizing the work of the national Prosecutor's Office and are undermining trust in me as a person directing it," Kaucz explained his move to Polish Television, adding that his resignation is not prompted by feelings of guilt. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT AMENDS TAX LAWS TO GET EXTRA $1 BILLION IN 2002

The Sejm on 13 November voted by 251 to 188 to pass amendments to personal income tax legislation in a bid to generate an extra 4 billion zlotys ($976 million) in revenues in 2002, PAP reported. The main changes introduce a 20 percent tax on income from interest on savings or investments and move more taxpayers into higher tax brackets by freezing the current income tax thresholds for the next two years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). JM

POLAND'S CIVIC PLATFORM PARLIAMENTARY GROUP SHRINKS

The Civic Platform (PO) parliamentary group will be left with 58 deputies after seven politicians from the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL) refused to sign declarations on joining the PO and quit the PO caucus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2001). "We are sad that seven people have turned out to be people who are not loyal, and especially toward their own promises. Nonetheless, many of us are happy that we will be free of time-wasting with persons who probably did not have goodwill from the very start," PAP quoted PO leader Donald Tusk as saying. Meanwhile, the seven SKL members who won parliamentary seats on the PO ticket have announced their intention to form a separate group of deputies in the Sejm. JM

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS JEWISH PROPERTY RESTITUTION IMPOSSIBLE

Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said at a meeting with American Jewish Committee leaders in New York on 12 November that it will not be possible for Poland in her difficult financial situation to meet expectations of a restitution of Jewish property confiscated during the communist era, PAP reported on 13 November. In March, President Aleksander Kwasniewski vetoed a bill providing for partial compensation of people whose property was seized by the Polish authorities after 1944. JM

POLISH PLANT TO PRODUCE 'SAFE BULLET'

The Mesko plant in Skarzysko-Kamienna is going to produce a "safe bullet" that hits its target victim but does not kill. The plant signed an agreement to this effect with Junior Staff Warrant Officer Wojciech Stecki from Inowroclaw, who patented the bullet. "We can't say anything about dates or arrangements. Generally speaking, production will start next year. It turned out that the National Defense Ministry may also be interested in such a bullet as it concerns peacekeeping missions like the one in Kosova," Stecki told Polish Television on 13 November. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SATISFIED WITH EU ASSESSMENT...

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said in New York that he is satisfied with the EU assessment of his country's performance and that the report's conclusions "correspond to our ideas and our timetable," CTK reported. A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry said the EU report "gives the Czech Republic the certainty that it will be included in the first wave of enlargement." The statement also described the report as "objective and comprehensive." The ministry said it does not overlook shortcomings mentioned by the report and that the government will make "additional efforts" to overcome them. Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart said he is "satisfied" with the report's findings, emphasizing that the commission speaks of "important progress" in passing environmental protection legislation. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, reacting to criticism in the report on protection of the Czech state border, said a new service will start operating in 2002 within the foreigners' police to increase border protection. He added that special units seeking illegal immigrants have already started operating (see also "End Note" below). MS

...REACTS TO KABUL EVENTS

Kavan told the UN General Assembly, whose presidency he is seeking for 2002, that the Czech Republic welcomes the fall of Kabul but would like to see the UN play a "more visible" role in forging a new Afghan government that would be "as representative as possible," CTK reported. Kavan said such a role must be played "independently of regional powers and the great powers," which "have their own interests in Afghanistan." Kavan also said that the UN should "pay more attention" to ways to resolve conflicts in various parts of the world because those conflicts breed international terrorism. He added that this "does not mean negotiating with the terrorists." The Czech Republic is competing for the UN General Assembly presidency with Belarus and will need the votes of developing countries, which are in majority in the General Assembly. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER OFFERS LITHUANIA TO JOIN CZECH UNIT IN AFGHAN OPERATIONS

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on 13 November suggested to his visiting Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius that Lithuanian soldiers should join forces with the Czech antichemical unit in possible operations in Afghanistan, CTK reported. He said he has already agreed with Linkevicius that Lithuanian units will reinforce the joint Czech-Slovak peacekeeping unit in Kosova. Tvrdik said that after Slovakia, Lithuania is "the closest" country in military cooperation with the Czechs and that the experience of this cooperation so far has been "excellent." MS

CZECH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES CALLED IN SPECIAL SESSION

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Vaclav Klaus on 13 November called a special session of the house for 15 November to debate the government's decision to postpone by one year the reform of the wage system in the civil service, CTK reported. The reform would have entailed wage increases which the cabinet says it cannot afford at this stage. MS

CZECH TELEVISION MOGUL DETAINED

Television mogul Vladimir Zelezny was detained on 13 November and spent the night in police custody, CTK and international agencies reported. A police investigator said the Prosecutor-General's Office is expected to ask the court that Zelezny be placed in "preventive detention." He is charged with "attempting to cause financial damage to a creditor." Zelezny already faced a related charge in April, but was released from detention. Zelezny is suspected of attempting to inflict on the U.S. Central European Media owned by businessman Ronald Lauder damages of about 900 million crowns (over $24 million). MS

CZECH, ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and his Romanian counterpart Ioan Rus signed an agreement in Prague on 13 November on cooperation in fighting organized crime, CTK reported. Gross said the agreement also covers ways to solve the problem of illegal Romanian immigrants in the Czech Republic. Prague made it clear last month that despite having twice postponed the implementation of visa requirements for Romanian nationals, it would impose that requirement as of 1 January 2002 if Romanian illegal immigration does not significantly drop by December. The agreement stipulates that the two countries will exchange information and classified data. The accord must still be approved by the Romanian and Czech parliaments. MS

SLOVAK OFFICIAL SAYS EU REPORT IS 'APPEAL TO SPURT'

Chief Slovak negotiator with the EU Jan Figel told CTK on 13 November that the European Commission's report must be viewed as an "appeal to Slovakia to spurt," since it strengthen hopes that Bratislava could become a EU member by 2004. Figel described the report as "inspiring and encouraging" and said the criticism it contains shows his country "must still improve the situation" in several sectors. Finance Minister Brigita Schmoegnerova said the report assessed her country's economic performance "in a very balanced way." She added that Slovakia can be content with the "reflection [in the report] of its achievements" (see also "End Note" below). MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER DEPLORES CALL FOR ALLIANCE AGAINST HIS PARTY

Vladimir Meciar on 13 November described as "unfortunate" the recent call by Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky to set up a so-called "toleration pact" among political parties opposing Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), CTK reported. Meciar said that the call is "premature, unrealistic, and unfortunate," since it is unclear at this stage whether any formation except the HZDS, the KDH, and Smer (Direction) will gain parliamentary representation in 2002. MS

SLOVAK ROMA WANT REPRESENTATION ON STATE-OWNED MEDIA EDITORIAL BOARDS

Representatives of some 50 Romany associations, meeting in Banska Bystrica on 13 November, called for including Romany journalists on the editorial boards of state-owned media, CTK reported. A recommendation to that effect was made to the Slovak government. Alena Horvathova, a member of the commission that drafted the recommendation, said people would get better and more objective information on the Romany minority if the information was provided by the Roma themselves. MS

HUNGARY WILL NOT CHANGE ITS STATUS LAW, DESPITE EU CRITICISM

Hungary does not plan to amend its Status Law, despite criticisms of it in the European Union's latest country report released on 13 November, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told "Nepszabadsag" the same day. Martonyi said he believes the report does not state unequivocally that the Status Law runs counter to the EU's aquis communautaire, adding that the issue will be "worthy of attention" after Hungary has been admitted to the union. The report says that the law has led to differences in the region, particularly as it was passed by the Hungarian parliament in June 2001 without prior consultations with neighboring countries. Reacting to other criticisms mentioned in the report, opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said if his party comes to power next year, it will concentrate on making up for the shortcomings cited in the report, rather than "engaging in propaganda" (see also "End Note" below). MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR MORE SOBER PUBLIC DIALOGUE

President Ferenc Madl on 13 November said in a statement that he expects all members of society, especially political parties, to discuss public issues and in particular "difficult human matters" in a "sober-minded way, with a European tone, and...keeping in view the nation's interests." Madl's statement came in response to an earlier request from the Socialist Party, which asked him to comment after several opposition politicians were whistled and booed at during a wreath-laying ceremony on the 4 November commemoration of the 1956 Uprising. The President's statement said "it is not dignified either in a cemetery, in parliament, or at other public forums to express our real or assumed emotions by hurting others in their dignity and grief." MSZ

HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST TO SANCTION SZUROS

Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said on 13 November that Deputy Matyas Szuros, who one day earlier voted in favor of the government's amendment of the budget bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001), "may possibly be sitting in the wrong parliamentary group." Kovacs said "this is neither the first nor the 10th time" that Szuros has consciously opposed the position of the party's parliamentary group, and as a consequence, he will not be a candidate in next elections on either the party's individual constituency or county lists. Szuros responded that the sanctions mentioned by Kovacs "will shed poor light on those who apply them." In other news, Independent Smallholders' Party deputy Margit Kertesz Koppan will quit the party's parliamentary group to join the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP). As the reason for her decision Koppan cited the Smallholders' long-standing infighting. Under the house rules, Koppan will now be obliged to spend six months among independents. She is the second Smallholder deputy to join MIEP, Hungarian media report on 14 November. MSZ




MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS CONTINUED U.S. BACKING

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Janet Bogue discussed the political and security situations in Macedonia with President Boris Trajkovski in Skopje on 13 November, AP reported. He asked Washington to continue its support for the peace process. She also met with Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. It is not clear whether he told her what he recently told U.S. envoy James Pardew, namely that the U.S. is "the greatest terrorist." PM

MACEDONIAN CRISIS AREA REMAINS TENSE

No new incidents were noted in the Tetovo area on 13 November, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). NATO troops and international observers -- with the assistance of three helicopters -- closely monitored the movements of Macedonian forces in the area. The news agency noted, however, that "dozens of civilians, mainly ethnic Albanian women and children, were seen fleeing the area, fearing possible police action." Reuters reported that the men of the villages erected armed roadblocks while sending their families out of the area. One villager told Reuters that they are not guerrillas but local people protecting their homes. Hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said on 12 November that he wants a "24-hour" police presence in areas where they have recently returned with only limited daytime patrols, AFP reported. PM

YUGOSLAV MINISTER ASKS UN FOR SUPPORT

Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told the UN General Assembly on 13 November that his country faces several important problems, including security in Kosova and Serbia's future relations with Montenegro, AP reported. He said: "These questions do not concern Yugoslavia alone; they are also of vital political importance for the entire region of southeast Europe. [They have] to be addressed by broad regional action and with the help of the international community." Observers note that Kosova is in practice an international protectorate, linked to Yugoslavia only on paper in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority wants nothing more to do with Belgrade and seeks independence. Some Serbian critics have argued that the government would do well to stop spending time on Kosova and Montenegro, concentrating instead on myriad domestic problems such as crime, poverty, and corruption. PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CALLS FOR PRESSURE ON SERBIA

Shortly before Svilanovic spoke on 13 November, Human Rights Watch said in a statement in New York that the international community should put more pressure on Belgrade to persuade it to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The NGO stressed that Serbia must arrest and extradite indicted war criminals. PM

MONTENEGRO, CROATIA DISCUSS PREVLAKA

Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula and his Montenegrin counterpart Branko Lukovac discussed the Prevlaka peninsula question in New York on 13 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Experts from both countries will soon meet to examine the issue. Prevlaka is Croatian territory that controls access to Kotor Bay, home of Yugoslavia's only deep-water port and naval base. UN monitors have been stationed in the area for several years. Montenegro would like to negotiate the issue as proof of its sovereignty. But Croatia is reluctant to offend the Yugoslav federal government, which has been less than enthusiastic about dealing with the problem. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT DEBATES INDEPENDENCE VOTE

Pro-independence deputies debated the terms of a planned referendum on independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 13 November. The Social Democrats and Liberal Alliance want the issue to be decided by a majority vote of those casting ballots. President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists favors a decision by a majority of registered voters. Pro-Belgrade deputies are continuing their boycott of the legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001). They insist on a much larger figure than a simple majority and want the total to be based on the number of all Montenegrin citizens, including those living in Serbia. The OSCE, too, objects to the simple majority approach. Montenegrin political culture is known for eloquent debates and public posturing. It is not to be excluded that all sides will eventually reach a last-minute compromise in time for the April 2002 referendum. PM

POLITICAL FALLOUT OVER SERBIAN ELITE POLICE PROTEST

Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic offered to resign on 13 November in the face of anti-Hague protests by the Red Berets, who were used by former President Slobodan Milosevic as his elite paramilitary unit, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). Mihajlovic later spoke with Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic about unspecified security issues, but it is not clear whether Djindjic accepted his resignation. Elsewhere, police General Zoran Mijatovic, who is Serbia's deputy chief of state security, resigned his post over what he considered criticism of his department by Djindjic and Mihajlovic, AP reported from Belgrade on 14 November. For his part, Foreign Minister Svilanovic called for the dissolution of the Red Berets as a consequence of their "mutiny." He said that "people with weapons in their hands cannot make political decisions. These men are supposed to execute orders from their superiors." PM

UN SACKS MORE BOSNIAN POLICE

Officials of the UN police force (IPTF) have sacked seven local police officers, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 13 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). Three men are Bosnian Serbs who had concealed the fact that they were interrogators at the Omarska concentration camp in 1992. The other four are Croats who had failed to properly investigate the 1992 murders of two Serbs. PM

HAGUE SENTENCES THREE BOSNIAN SERBS

On 13 November, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced Dusko Sikirica to 15 years for atrocities against Croats and Muslims at the Keraterm concentration camp in 1992, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Damir Dosen received five years imprisonment, while Dragan Kolundzija got three years. PM

MASS GRAVE BEING EXCAVATED IN BOSNIA

Forensic experts have begun excavating a mass grave in Liplje south of Zvornik near the inter-entity border, AP reported on 13 November. The grave is believed to contain the bodies of up to 180 Muslim males murdered by Serbian forces in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims following the fall of Srebrenica. Exhumations usually take place only in the warm weather of spring and summer, but Muslims planning to return to their homes in Liplje asked the forensics experts to start work before they move in. PM

ROMANIAN LEADERS CONTENT WITH EU COMMISSION REPORT

President Ion Iliescu said on 14 November that the EU Commission report released one day earlier is "objective" and "takes note of the real progress our country has made since 2000." Iliescu said there are "still many problems to be solved" and Romania's citizens "can feel their effects," Romanian radio reported. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 13 November that the 2001 report is "a lot more positive" on Romania than was the case one year earlier and that Romania has been "for the first time included among countries that made real progress," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see also "End Note" below). MS

DUTCH QUEEN IN ROMANIA

Queen Beatrix, on a three-day visit to Romania, on 13 November told President Iliescu that the Netherlands are backing Romania's quest for EU integration and will help Romania implement reforms, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two heads of state attended a ceremony where accords were signed on mutual social benefits for citizens working in each other's country and on transportation. Queen Beatrix inaugurated on 13 November a Dutch-financed center for documentation on European legislation at the Supreme Court of Justice. She is meeting on 14 November with Premier Nastase and other officials. MS

CEFTA ANNUAL AGRICULTURAL MEETING IN BUCHAREST CHANGES RULES OF THE GAME

Agricultural Ministers from the Central European Free Trade Organizations agreed at their annual meeting in Bucharest on 13 November that disagreements over protection measures be addressed in future not by the seven-member body but during bilateral negotiations between the members involved. Romania claims Hungary is subsidizing its agriculture and that Romanian producers cannot compete on domestic markets with Hungarian produce, and intends to tax Hungarian agricultural imports next year. The ministers also briefed colleagues on the evolution of BSE ("mad cow disease") in their respective countries, Romanian radio reported. MS

MAVERICK CLUJ MAYOR FEARS 'HUNGARIAN ANTHRAX'

Gheorghe Funar, who is Cluj mayor and secretary-general of the extremist Greater Romania Party, on 13 November claimed to have received from Hungary a letter containing "a suspicious powder" and carrying a text threatening him with anthrax contamination, the Hungarian daily "Nepszava" reported. Funar has claimed on several other instances in the past that the Hungarians intend to liquidate him. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE DELEGATION IN JAPAN

A Romanian Senate delegation headed by Speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu met on 14 November with Japanese Premier Junichiro Koiziumi and handed him an invitation from Premier Nastase to visit Romania, Romanian radio reported. Vacaroiu also attended a meeting with Japanese businessmen, briefing them on investment possibilities in his country. On 13 November the delegation was received by Emperor Akihito. MS

RUSSIAN ARMS PULLOUT FROM MOLDOVA NEARS END

Russia has almost completed withdrawing its military hardware from the Transdniester and the last train carrying arms and ammunition is due to leave on 14 November, Interfax, cited by AFP, reported on the same day. This is the fourth such train to leave the Transdniester and it carries armored vehicles, artillery fire-control systems, and other weapons. According to the November 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit agreement, Russia must withdraw the hardware and recycle it before the end of 2001. Interfax says Moscow has already recycled all of its T-64 tanks and 125 armored vehicles since June, and some 100 armored vehicles and other weapons systems were evacuated this week. Russian officials say that some 40,000 tons of ammunition and 50,000 firearms stored in deposits in the Transdniester will also be withdrawn and recycled shortly. MS

SEPARATISTS PARTIALLY RELEASE BLOCKED MOLDOVAN FREIGHT WAGONS

The Transdniester authorities released on 13 November 165 freight wagons blocked on 25 October in Bendery-Tighina on grounds that they transported "humanitarian aid" sent to Moldova, but 109 wagons transporting fuel remain blocked, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS WANT TO RESTORE COLLECTIVIZED AGRICULTURE

Ion Filimon, chairman of the parliamentary Commission for Agriculture and Food Industry and a member of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), said on Moldovan television on 12 November that the PCM wants collectivization reintroduced in the agricultural sector, Infotag reported. Filimon said there is no other way to rehabilitate the sector because "land splitting into tiny private plots does not allow for the use of modern technologies and sophisticated machines" and, as a result, agricultural productivity has dropped considerably. MS

PARVANOV AHEAD IN BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL FIRST ROUND

Results from all 31 Bulgarian constituencies and from votes cast abroad announced on 14 November by the Central Electoral Commission show the leader of the Socialist Party, Georgii Parvanov, ahead of incumbent President Petar Stoyanov, BTA reported. Parvanov garnered 36.3 percent and Stoyanov 34.9 percent. Turnout was 41.5 percent. In third place is former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev with 19.2 percent, followed by former caretaker Premier Renata Indjova with 4.9 percent, George Ganchev with 3.3 percent and Peter Beron with 1.1 percent. MS

TURKISH PARTY TO BACK PARVANOV IN RUNOFF

The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) decided on 13 November to support Parvanov in the 18 November runoff, Mediafax reported. Observers said the decision was not surprising, since Parvanov's running mate is General Angel Marin, who ran on the DPS ticket in the June parliamentary elections. In the first round the DPS backed Indjova. DPS Chairman Ahmed Dogan said that the party wants to have "good relations" with "whoever will be the next president," but added that "since we speak of a new policy, a new morality, and new responsibilities, we should also have new people embodying those ideas." The DPS is the minor coalition partner of the National Movement Simeon II, whose leader, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, urged voters to support Stoyanov in the runoff, Reuters reported. Saxecoburggotski said Stoyanov "has been and will be a guarantor for the achievement of national ideals." MS




EUROPEAN COMMISSION RELEASES 2001 PROGRESS REPORTS


By Ahto Lobjakas

The European Commission on 13 November released this year's reports on candidate countries' progress toward European Union membership. The reports on the 13 candidate countries, accompanied by a "composite paper," say the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia -- together with Cyprus and Malta -- all fulfill the political and economic criteria of membership. Although all 10 are in need of further political and economic reform, they could finish accession talks by the end of next year and join the EU in 2004. The reports indicate Bulgaria and Romania cannot expect to be among first-wave accessions. Turkey, the 13th candidate, is yet to open accession talks.

Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, welcomed the reports, saying that although much still needs to be done before the EU can accommodate the first accessions, enlargement is "within our grasp." Presenting the reports to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the EU's enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, said the 10 frontrunners were on course to meet the 2004 timetable. However, the reports make it clear that any firm commitments or decisions on enlargement must wait until next year, perhaps until the next reports due in November 2002.

The reports stress that accession talks have yet to tackle crucial topics like agricultural subsidies, post-enlargement development aid, or the new members' future budget contributions. They also say that although all candidate countries have made significant efforts at reforms, the list of major problems remains essentially the same as last year. All candidates need to make further efforts to bring their administrative capabilities in line with EU requirements and develop and strengthen their judicial systems.

The reports say corruption remains a "serious cause for concern," exacerbated by low public sector salaries and extensive bureaucratic control exercised by governments over the economy. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are all mentioned as suffering from corruption, with only Estonia and Slovenia escaping reference to the problem.

Although all candidate countries are regarded as complying with the political "Copenhagen" criteria of membership -- democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and minorities -- most must nevertheless do more before they can be considered to have reached EU standards.

The report on Romania notes that the situation of the country's children -- their living conditions, abuse and the large numbers of homeless children -- remains a cause for grave concern despite a number of administrative, legal and financial measures taken recently by the Romanian government.

The reports note that although all candidate countries with sizeable Romany minorities have now initiated national action plans, discrimination of the Roma remains widespread. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia all find mention as needing to improve their records in this respect.

The reports on Estonia and Latvia note that both countries have "further progressed" in integrating non-citizens, but say "due care" needs to be taken to ensure that their now OSCE-compliant language legislation is properly implemented.

All candidates, with the exception of Bulgaria and Romania, now fulfill the economic "Copenhagen" criteria, being termed "functioning market economies" by the reports. However, the authors of the reports note that the existence of legal and institutional frameworks necessary for the functioning of a market economy varies extensively, with only Estonia and Hungary cited as having attained a high degree of "legal certainty" and having removed all significant barriers to market entry and exit.

The 10 front-runners are all considered ready to withstand competitive market pressures in the near future, although all with certain qualifications.

Among the front-runners, Poland comes under harshest economic criticism. The Polish report says the functioning of market forces in the country is partly hindered and that the privatization process has stalled in certain sectors. The report also says Poland is going through a more severe slowdown than other candidate countries, largely as a result of a "poorly coordinated policy mix, combined with...political domestic uncertainty." The report goes on to say that Poland's large agricultural sector "still lacks a coherent strategy."

This criticism of Poland has implications for all front-running candidates, as most EU officials and observers agree that enlargement remains impossible without Poland in the first wave.

In another indication that substantive decisions on enlargement must wait until next year, the report notes that all candidates need to do more to ensure the effective implementation of the more than 80,000 pages of EU law they must adopt before accession. The report announces a 1 billion euro action plan for 2002 to help candidates strengthen their administrative capabilities in a number of key fields. These include the ability to participate in the EU's internal market after enlargement, observance of the EU's health and safety standards, compliance with EU standards in the area of justice and home affairs, and financial control, including the fight against fraud and corruption.

Ahto Lobjakas is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels.


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