Accessibility links

Newsline - April 24, 2002


U.S. ARMS-REDUCTION NEGOTIATOR HEADS HOME EARLY FROM RUSSIA...
After holding talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov on 23 April in the fourth round of U.S.-Russian arms-reduction negotiations, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton left Moscow early on 24 April, Russian and international news agencies reported. Bolton was expected to hold additional talks on 24 April with senior Russian officials, but the U.S. Embassy gave no explanation for his early departure. Both sides hope to reach an agreement that can be signed by U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet in Russia on 23-26 May. Prior to the 23 April talks, Bolton said, "The relationship between the United States and Russia has fundamentally changed... We are working as hard as we can to show as much of that progress in the agreement form as we can." VY

...AS RUSSIAN EXPERT WARNS AGAINST COMPROMISE WITH U.S. ON STRATEGIC-ARMS CUTS
Sergei Kortunov, the vice president of the Russian Foreign Policy Association, said Russia does not need to sign a treaty with United States on radically reducing the two countries' strategic weapons "at any price," "Vremya novostei" and RIA-Novosti reported on 23 April. Kortunov said Russia should only sign a "good treaty" that should address all issues of concern and differences that Moscow has with Washington on the matter. He also said there is not enough time to overcome the differences before presidents Bush and Putin meet in May; thus, Russia should refrain from signing a strategic accord at the summit, but keep the "negotiation process going." VY

FSB OFFICIAL COMPLAINS ABOUT U.S. INTELLIGENCE SHARING
Colonel General Viktor Komogorov, the deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said on 23 April that the Russian intelligence services are not satisfied with the "quality and quantity" of information they are receiving from their U.S. counterparts, Interfax reported. "In February, we provided the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency with 100 reports and got from them only 50," Komogorov said. He also complained that while the Russian side has provided the U.S. with analytical information and forecasts, the U.S. has provided only factual data and has not addressed specific questions. "This is not the kind of cooperation in the fight against terrorism that we were counting on," Komogorov said. VY

MVD AND FBI INVESTIGATE LAUNDERING OF $300 MILLION
Victor Plekhanov, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's (MVD) Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, said at a press conference in Moscow on 23 April that his agency together with the FBI is investigating the laundering of $300 million of Russian funds that were channeled from Russia to the United States via Europe, RosBalt and utro.ru reported. Plekhanov added that in May, both agencies will begin consultations on the creation of a joint working group for fighting organized crime. The MVD also wants to create similar groups with its counterpart agencies in Israel, Hungary, and Spain. All in all, the MVD already has legates in seven foreign countries, while members of law-enforcement agencies from 20 countries have missions in Moscow. VY

RUSSIAN PREMIER REFUTES KUDRIN'S STATEMENT ON OIL EXPORTS
Mikhail Kasyanov said in Copenhagen on 23 April that Russia has made no decision to end restrictions on oil exports, nor has the issue even been discussed, nns.ru reported on 23 April. In a clear retreat from Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin's statement in Washington on 22 April at the U.S.-Russia Business Council that Russia has no plans to continue export cuts in the second quarter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2002), Kasyanov said the decision will be made in the "usual manner" following consultations with the heads of oil companies. Kasyanov added, "If the market is stable, it will be one decision; if not, another." VY

GAZPROM AGAIN DELAYS DECISION ON FATE OF EKHO MOSKVY
Gazprom has again decided to postpone any decision about the fate of its media holdings, Ekho Moskvy Information Service Director Vladimir Varfolomeev told reporters on 23 April, RosBalt reported. According to Varfolomeev, the subject of its media holdings was not even discussed at a session of the company's board of directors the previous day. Last month, after a meeting with Gazprom-Media head Boris Jordan, Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov announced that Gazprom had agreed to examine and decide on the procedure and timing for the sale of the media entity's assets at the next Gazprom board meeting, which was then scheduled for 5 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2002). And last summer, Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov charged that the leadership of Gazprom had promised to resolve the issue of its shares in Ekho Moskvy at its next board of directors' meeting; however, "soon it will be a year," Nemtsov noted at the time, "and the problem has yet to be resolved" (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 February 2002). JAC

RUSSIA TO SEND HUMANITARIAN AID TO PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
The Emergency Situations Ministry will send humanitarian aid to the administration of the Palestinian Authority, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 24 April. A cargo plane with food, medication, and other basic necessities was to fly to Jordan on 24 April, and after Russian experts on that flight assess the situation on the ground in Palestine another shipment will be prepared. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 23 April that Russia is taking this step because "We cannot stand by while innocent civilians are suffering, who do not have enough water, food, and medicine. Many of them have nowhere to live and are in despair." And Interfax quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko as saying the same day that an ad hoc committee for providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians, which is meeting in Oslo from 24-25 April, is receiving "a lot of attention worldwide in light of the tragic situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, and the scale of destruction and human suffering, particularly in the area of the Jenin camp in the West Bank." VY

FSB INDICTS FORMER OFFICER WHO AUTHORED BOOK ON APARTMENT-BUILDING BOMBINGS
The Investigative Department of the FSB finished its investigation of the agency's former Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko and handed his case over to the Military Prosecutor's Office, Russian news agencies reported on 23 April. Litvinenko's lawyer, Vadim Svistunov, said he will file an appeal against the FSB's motion as the Litvinenko defense was not informed about the completion of the investigation and had no access to its indictment materials. Litvinenko, who is accused of abuse of office and theft of explosive materials, publicly stated in a press conference in Moscow in 1998 that the FSB's leadership asked him to kill media magnate Boris Berezovsky. Following his revelations, Litvinenko was dismissed from the FSB, arrested, and became the subject of a criminal investigation. However, in 1999, the Moscow Garrison Military Court found him not guilty and he was released from custody. In 2000, Litvinenko left Russia and received political asylum in Britain, where he co-authored a book on the role of the FSB in the apartment-building explosions in Moscow and Volgodonsk in August-September 1999. VY

SENATOR DEMONSTRATIVELY RESIGNS FROM FEDERATION COUNCIL...
On the eve of presidential elections in his republic, former President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev resigned his position as a representative in the Federation Council on 23 April, Russian agencies reported. Aushev declared that, "I think it makes no sense to stay in a chamber that decides nothing. All of the questions I raised regarding the Prigorodnyi Raion in North Ossetia were ignored," REN-TV reported (see RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 27, 24 July 2001). Aushev also said that his complaints about election irregularities in Ingushetia were also ignored. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 April, he explained that the office of the presidential envoy of the Southern Federal District had been actively interfering in the election process, forcing the withdrawal of local MVD head Khamzat Gutseriev from the race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2002). JAC

...AS NEW PUTIN CRONY SELECTED
The same day, Valerii Golubev was selected by the Leningrad Oblast legislature to represent it in the upper legislative chamber. Golubev, according to Interfax-Northwest, had headed the committee on tourism and recreation of the administration of St. Petersburg since 1999. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 April, Golubev also headed former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's secretariat when President Putin headed the mayor's international-affairs committee. And from 1979 to 1991, Golubev was a KGB officer. JAC

PUTIN CANCELS MORE POWER-SHARING TREATIES...
President Putin has signed a resolution declaring the power-sharing agreements between the federal center and Leningrad Oblast and Krasnodar Krai null and void, RosBalt reported on 23 April, citing the presidential press service. Earlier in the month, Putin signed a resolution canceling existing power-sharing treaties between the federal center and St. Petersburg, Orenburg, and Nizhnii Novgorod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2002). JAC

...AS KOZAK DECLARES STRUGGLE WITH TATARSTAN OVER
Meanwhile, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev and deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak met on 21 April to discuss federal-regional relations, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing ORT. Kozak said at the meeting that earlier when he criticized power-sharing treaties, he "wasn't referring to Tatarstan." He added that "to a large extent...we have settled all issues with Tatarstan." He said that, although 28 of 42 power-sharing treaties had been annulled because they bore "a political and declarative character," those documents did not have any legal content. Fourteen agreements, including Tatarstan's, remain valid. JAC

NEW JUDGE, PROSECUTOR SELECTED
Vladimir Strekozov has been selected to replace Tatyana Morshchakova as deputy chair of the Constitutional Court, polit.ru reported on 23 April. Strekozov has been on the court since 1994. The same day, the Federation Council confirmed the appointment of Vladimir Kolesnikov as deputy prosecutor-general, Interfax reported. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 April, Kolesnikov has worked in internal-affairs organs for some 30 years, including having once served as first deputy minister of internal affairs. JAC

DUMA AMENDS TAX CODE TO GET MORE MONEY FROM RUSSIAN BLUE-CHIP COMPANIES
The Duma quietly approved on 19 April an amendment to the Tax Code that could cost large Russian corporations billions of rubles that they tried to hide from the state, "Vedomosti" reported on 23 April. At the beginning of the year, Russian "blue-chip" companies revised the value of their primary assets in order to raise amortization expenditures and decrease reported profits, thus minimizing their taxes. As a result of this operation, the value of primary assets held by Unified Energy Systems was increased by 270 percent, Gazprom's by 200 percent, and Surgutneftegaz by 300 percent, while the Russian budget lost some 100 billion rubles ($3.2 billion) in taxes according to First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov. However, according to the approved amendment, the large corporations should pay the state a 24 percent tax on the profits they made from the revised value of their primary assets. VY

ANTI-GAY BILL CRITICIZED...
The leaders of the Unity faction and Russian Regions group have criticized the initiative of the People's Deputy group to criminalize homosexual activity, Interfax reported on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). Russian Regions head Oleg Morozov said, "Let them have a hearty talk with those people about this subject. Neither the Russian parliament nor society should be made a laughing stock, though." Presidential Ombudsman for Human Rights Oleg Mironov also spoke out against the effort in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, noting, "All over the world the rights of [people who have this sexual orientation] are protected." JAC

...AS NEW DUMA COMMITTEE STRUCTURE FINALIZED
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 April that the fate of four committees in the State Duma, as well as the Duma Mandate Commission, has finally been resolved. The chairs of those committees resigned following the recent redistribution of leadership posts in the Duma (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 9 April 2002). Three of the committees have been liquidated, and their functions transferred to other committees: the committees on public associations and religious organizations; on women's issues, family, and youth; and on nationalities affairs. The Committee on Culture and Tourism was kept intact and will be headed by a Unity member; and the Duma Mandate Commission will be chaired by a member of People's Deputy. According to the daily, the number of committees has now dropped from 28 to 25. JAC

DUMA DISCUSSES MERGING REGIONS, PRESIDENTIAL ENVOYS
Almost two years after the system of seven federal okrugs was established, the State Duma held a hearing on 23 April on the role of the presidential envoys in the seven federal districts, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Vladimir Lysenko (Russian Regions), chairman of the State Duma Committee on Federal Affairs and Regional Policy, said he believes that today's "governor-generals" were appointed to promote the interests of the federal center in the regions, where the bulk of federal ministries and departments have been transformed into "lobbying structures" for the local governor. Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn did not pick up on this theme, but instead lobbied for his idea of merging economically weak and strong regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2002). According to NTV, Lysenko criticized Lisitsyn's idea, saying, "If, instead of feeding the country and making the population wealthier, we destroy the borders [between the regions] and start a new revolution against the existing regional elite, everybody will understand that we are engaged in politics instead of economics, for which we will again have no time." JAC

GYNECOLOGICAL ILLNESSES RISING, WHILE ABORTIONS DROPPING
There has been a steep rise in the number of gynecological illnesses in Russia over the past five years, Deputy Health Minister Olga Sharapova said on 23 April, according to ITAR-TASS. As partial proof of this claim, she noted that gynecological surgeries make up 16 percent of all surgeries at Russian hospitals. At the same time, she added that preventive measures have helped reduce the rate of abortions over the past five years, while abortion-related deaths have dropped by 17.6 percent. JAC

ARMENIAN COURT REJECTS APPEAL BY EMBATTLED TV STATION
The Armenian Economic Court rejected on 23 April an appeal by the independent TV station A1+ to be allowed to resume broadcasting pending the outcome of its appeal against the ruling of a presidential commission that awarded A1+'s frequency to the rival TV station Sharm in a controversial tender earlier this month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002). The management of A1+ and many opposition politicians are convinced that the commission's decision was unfair and intended to silence the station, which was critical of the present Armenian leadership. The nine-man commission insists that Sharm submitted a stronger bid than did A1+. LF

FORMER ARMENIAN PRISONS CHIEF PLEADS NOT GUILTY
Mushegh Saghatelian, the former head of the Armenian prison system, pleaded not guilty on 23 April to charges of torture, fraud, and fabricating false evidence, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. He claimed he is being subjected to political persecution for having implicated President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in the October 1999 parliament shootings in which eight senior officials died. Most of the charges against Saghatelian relate to the beating of Interior Ministry personnel suspected of planning a coup in 1995 against then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2002). LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS ARMENIAN PROPOSAL FOR JOINT MEASURES TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
Azerbaijani participants at an OSCE-sponsored conference in Baku on 15-16 April on the use of water resources in the South Caucasus rejected all proposals by the Armenian side to cooperate in determining the level of, and taking measures to reduce, pollution of cross-border rivers in the South Caucasus, Noyan Tapan reported on 23 April. Azerbaijan has repeatedly blamed Armenia for what is says are unacceptably high levels of pollution of the River Kura, which flows from Armenia via Georgia and Azerbaijan to the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan has also accused Armenia of burying nuclear waste in Azerbaijani territory currently controlled by Armenian forces. Conference participant Vladimir Narimanian, who heads Armenia's Department for the Protection of Water Resources, rejected those allegations as "misinformation." LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS INTENTION TO SEEK THIRD TERM
Heidar Aliev told journalists at Baku airport on 23 April prior to his departure to attend the Caspian summit in Ashgabat (see below) that he will seek a third term in the presidential ballot due in October 2003, ITAR-TASS reported. He said his son Ilham will not be a candidate in that ballot, as the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party will field only one candidate. Yeni Azerbaycan members endorsed Heidar Aliev's presidential candidacy at their congress last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2001). Heidar Aliev, who will turn 79 next month, first announced his intention to seek a third term last summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2001). LF

NEW GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS SCHEDULED
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia reached agreement during their 24 April telephone conversation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2002) that a Georgian delegation headed by Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze will travel to Sukhum later this week for talks with the Abkhaz leadership on unspecified confidence-building measures, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 24 April, Djergenia met in Sukhum with the UN's chief military observer, Major General Anis Ahmed Bajwa, to discuss ways to prevent a further confrontation in the Kodori Gorge. UN observers and Russian peacekeepers will resume their joint patrols in Kodori on 25 April, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE BATTLE WITH SUSPECTED KIDNAPPERS
In a gunfight in western Georgia on 23 April, Georgian police killed two members of a gang suspected of having abducted Levan Kaladze, whose brother Kakha is a member of the Georgian national soccer team as well as Italy's AC Milan, last summer and arrested a third, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). The fourth member of the gang managed to escape. Kaladze's father Karlo, who recently threatened to commit suicide if his son is not released soon, accused the Georgian police last fall of preventing him from meeting with the kidnappers in western Georgia to hand over the ransom they had demanded for Levan's release. LF

KAZAKH ARMY TO GUARD KEY INDUSTRIAL FACILITIES
The Chief of the Kazakh army's General Staff, General Malik Saparov, told journalists on 23 April that the Kazakh armed forces will permanently guard all important industrial facilities in the country, including oil depots, plants and factories, mines, and shipyards, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He did not specify the rationale for that decision. LF

EU-KYRGYZSTAN COOPERATION COMMITTEE MEETS
A 20-member EU delegation attended the third session, on 23 April, of the EU-Kyrgyzstan cooperation commission, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Delegation head Cornelius Wittebrod told journalists after the session that the EU drew Kyrgyz officials' attention to unspecified human rights abuses and urged them to seek to resolve political tensions by means of negotiations. Wittebrod also noted that the events of recent months have negatively affected the level of foreign investment in Kyrgyzstan. Meeting on 22 April with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, Wittebrod announced that the EU will give Bishkek 9.5 million euros ($8.45 million) to fund a food security program. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER-GUARD COMMANDER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Visiting Bishkek on 23 April, General Konstantin Totskii reviewed with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topoev implementation of the 1999 bilateral agreement on military-technical cooperation, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The two men also signed a new protocol on cooperation. ITAR-TASS quoted Totskii as saying after his talks with Topoev that despite the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, "international terrorism" still poses a threat to the southern borders of the CIS. LF

PRESIDENTS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT AT CASPIAN SUMMIT IN TURKMENISTAN...
As most analysts had predicted, the presidents of the five Caspian littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan) ended their talks in Ashgabat on 23 and 24 April without signing either the hoped-for agreement on the status of the Caspian Sea and how to divide its resources, or even the joint declaration prepared on 22 April by deputy foreign ministers from the five countries. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said that latter document was "incorrectly formulated" and "does not make sense," according to Turan on 24 April. Unconfirmed reports suggest the summit was stormy, and that little if any progress was made on narrowing the differences between the various countries' positions. The five presidents pledged only to continue efforts to do so. LF

...REAFFIRM PREVIOUS ARGUMENTS
On 23 April, Niyazov interrupted a speech in which President Heidar Aliev reaffirmed Azerbaijan's intent to continue exploiting hydrocarbon resources in its sector of the sea and accused Baku of "intransigence," Reuters reported. The two countries dispute ownership of two Caspian oil fields. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami left that evening's session precipitously, but Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev insisted that Khatami needed urgent medical attention for a back problem. Khatami on 23 April reaffirmed Tehran's position that until such time as agreement is reached on dividing the sea into equal national sectors (which Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia oppose), littoral states should refrain from unilateral exploitation of its resources. Russian President Vladimir Putin again argued that the five states should divide the Caspian Sea bed but retain common use of its waters. LF

TURKMENISTAN, IRAN DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION
The Caspian summit coincided with a state visit to Ashgabat by Iranian President Khatami, who met on 23 April with Niyazov to discuss expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation, especially in the field of oil and gas exports, ITAR-TASS reported. Gas exports account for 80 percent of the estimated $423 million trade turnover between the two countries. LF

TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA SIGN NEW BILATERAL AGREEMENT
Meeting on 23 April on the sideline of the Ashgabat summit, Presidents Putin and Niyazov signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation that supercedes an earlier accord signed in 1992, ITAR-TASS reported. Niyazov also invited Putin to select an Akhal-Tekke horse from the state stud farm as a gift. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS OSCE MISSION, OPPOSITION...
Alyaksandr Lukashenka made his annual address to the National Assembly on 23 April, Belarusian media reported. He stressed that Belarus wants to have the mandate of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk reviewed. According to the Belarusian president, the group's mandate expired following the presidential election last year. "The OSCE group has pursued only one aim, which is not envisaged in any mandate -- to topple the current authorities. We clenched our teeth and tolerated these activities," Reuters quoted Lukashenka as saying. Lukashenka also praised the police intervention during an opposition rally last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002), adding that opposition parties are funded by the West and stage rallies against him merely for publicity. JM

...DEMANDS PAYMENT OF WAGE, SOCIAL-SECURITY ARREARS...
Lukashenka told the National Assembly that he has ordered the government to pay all wage and social-security arrears in the government-funded sector by 9 May, Belapan reported. Lukashenka placed the blame for the payment delays on Prime Minister Henadz Navitski and Social Security Minister Antanina Morava. According to the president, wage arrears now total some $18 million, while state employers owe nearly $58 million in social security contributions to the pension fund. JM

...AND KEEPS QUIET ON MONEY FOR GOVERNMENT'S LUXURY CARS
Lukashenka did not reveal the source from which he took money for the recent purchase of 170 Mercedes automobiles for government officials. He only divulged to the National Assembly that the new cars were bought "dirt cheap," and added that "not a single kopeck" was taken from the public treasury for this purpose. "Where I took [the money] is my own business. I took it legally," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN JORDAN
During the visit of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to Amman on 23 April, the two sides signed accords on cooperation in trade and economy as well as in education and science, UNIAN reported. Trade turnover between Ukraine and Jordan amounted to $45 million in 2001. JM

GEORGIAN SPEAKER CALLS FOR UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS
Georgian parliamentary speaker Nino Burdjanadze said at a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart Ivan Plyushch in Kyiv on 23 April that she wants Ukrainian participation in the peacekeeping forces dispatched to help ease the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, Ukrainian television reported. Burdjanadze said the Georgian people trust Ukrainians much more than Russian peacekeepers, and added that the presence of Ukrainian peacekeepers in the Kodori Gorge could decrease tension in the region. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION JOURNALIST RELEASED FROM JAIL WITH TRAVEL BAN
Oleh Lyashko, the editor in chief of the opposition weekly "Svoboda" in Cherkasy, was released from jail on 23 April on a written pledge not to leave the city, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Lyashko was detained on 15 April for allegedly resisting police, who confiscated the entire print run of his newspaper (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET
The cabinet approved and sent to the parliament on 23 April a 2002 supplementary budget of 404.7 million kroons ($22 million), ETA reported. The 2002 budget was passed by the parliament in December with balanced expenditures and revenues of 33.13 billion kroons. Nearly 100 million kroons of the supplementary budget will go to increase pensions beginning on 1 July, and 304 million kroons will be assigned to fulfill the top priorities of the ruling coalition agreement. These include 120 million kroons to support local governments, 65 million kroons to finance lunches for elementary schoolchildren, 24 million kroons for special police pensions, 15 million kroons for organizing the Eurovision 2002 song contest in Tallinn, and 11 million kroons for the forming of a security police reserve unit. Some 65 million kroons will be kept in reserve. SG

NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES COOPERATION IN LATVIA
On the second day of his three-day official visit to Latvia, Jan Petersen discussed with his Latvian counterpart Indulis Berzins in Riga on 23 April the development of bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the areas of justice, economy, societal integration, agriculture, rural development, education, and culture, LETA reported. In a subsequent meeting, Prime Minister Andris Berzins noted that Norwegian businessmen have invested almost $100 million in Latvia and stand in sixth place among foreign investors. Petersen assured President Vaira Vike-Freiberga that Norway fully supports Latvia's efforts to join NATO and the EU -- even though Norway is not a member of the latter organization -- because an expanded Europe would enhance stability in the region. Petersen also met with parliament Deputy Chairman Rihards Piks and visited the Museum of Occupation. SG

AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT SAYS LITHUANIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN BY 2009
Accompanied by Austrian Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, and Water Minister Wilhelm Molterer and a dozen businessmen, Thomas Klestil began his first official visit to Lithuania with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported. He praised the progress Lithuania has made in completing EU membership negotiation chapters, but said commercial relations between the two countries should be expanded. Klestil stressed that Lithuania will have to comply with the EU's recommendations that the first reactor of the nuclear power plant at Ignalina be shut down in 2005 and the second reactor in 2009. Adamkus responded by saying that the greatest problem in closing the reactors is obtaining the necessary funding to complete it. Klestil also discussed the issue of closing the nuclear power plant with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas. The two presidents also spoke at an Austrian-Lithuanian business forum organized by the Economy Ministry that is intended to develop contacts and boost trade. Klestil invited Adamkus to visit the Salzburg economic forum in September 2002. SG

POLISH CABINET APPROVES CHANGE TO HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM
The Polish cabinet on 22 April adopted a strategy for changing the health-care system, PAP reported. Under this strategy, the current 17 regional patients' boards will be replaced in 2003 by a single National Health Protection Fund supervised by the premier and the health minister. The current health-care system in Poland was introduced by the previous Solidarity-led government in 1999. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES RESOLUTION ON BENES DECREES
As expected, the Chamber of Deputies on 24 April approved the resolution stipulating that the Benes Decrees are "unquestionable, inviolable, and unchangeable," while at the same time not applicable at present, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2002). All 169 deputies in attendance voted for the resolution. The dailies "Mlada fronta Dnes" and "Lidove noviny" reported the same day that Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus said at an electoral rally that his party will vote against the Czech Republic joining the EU if the union does not "give legal guarantees" that issue of the Benes Decrees will not be not be questioned following the country's accession. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SUPPORTS RESOLUTION ON BENES DECREES
Vaclav Havel said on 23 April that he supports the resolution of the Chamber of Deputies on the Benes Decrees "without reservation," and that the text of the resolution "also reflects my own views," CTK reported. He added, however, that he is not convinced that "the Czech Republic should be involved in...awakening the various demons of the past." The president said after meeting with ODS Chairman Klaus that the differences between himself and the ODS leader have not disappeared in the wake of the encounter but they are still able to discuss issues of national importance, and that "the dialogue has been useful." "We exchanged opinions...but it is clear that on some matters our views differ and will probably always differ," Havel said. MS

ODS LEADER BELIEVES HAVEL WILL APPOINT ELECTION WINNER AS CZECH PREMIER
Klaus said after his meeting with Havel that he believes the president will entrust the head of the largest parliamentary group in the parliament with the task of forming the government after the June elections, CTK reported. Havel said that he hopes the postelectoral negotiations on forming the new ruling coalition will be "smooth, quick, and satisfactory to all sides involved" in the parleys. He said he also wants to discuss "postelectoral strategies" with the chairman of the Social Democratic Party and with the leaders of the Coalition. Klaus said he has given Havel ODS electoral materials and hopes to convince the president -- often a critic of Klaus' party -- to vote for the ODS. MS

HAVEL VETOES CZECH RADIO LAW
President Havel on 23 April vetoed a law on the Czech Radio Council that was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 9 April, after overriding Senate objections to the law, CTK reported. Havel's objections are similar to those voiced by the Senate, namely that the Czech Radio Council should be elected by both chambers of the parliament rather than by the lower house. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek explained that the law has "the same conceptual faults" as a similar law on the Czech Television Council, which Havel promulgated last year because at that time Czech Television was "in a tense situation." This does not apply to the current situation at Czech Radio, Spacek said. MS

CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO CONSULT ECHR ON 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER'S CASE
Constitutional Court Deputy Chairwoman Eliska Wagnerova told CTK on 23 April that the court will consult the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in connection with the appeal by "Mein Kampf" publisher Michal Zitko against his sentencing by a lower Czech court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). Wagnerova said the Czech Constitutional Court will ask the ECHR for a "comparative study" of similar cases in other European countries. MS

CZECH SECURITY CHIEF DISMISSED OVER THEFT
The reason for the recent dismissal of Vaclav Soustruznik as head of the military police's Protection Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002) is theft, dpa reported on 23 April, citing the daily "Hospodarske noviny." Earlier, the weekly "Tyden" reported that Soustruznik was dismissed because he failed to pass security checks. Military police chief Josef Becvar told "Hospodarske noviny" that Soustruznik -- who was to be in charge of the security of NATO military officials at the defense alliance's November summit -- stole a colleague's mobile phone. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ACCELERATED NEGOTIATIONS WITH HUNGARY
Rudolf Schuster told CTK on 23 April that following the recent elections in Hungary, it is now necessary to accelerate the stalled negotiations on the Status Law. Schuster said the two countries "need to cooperate" not only to ensure that all four Visegrad countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) join the EU, but also because "the worsening of relations does not hurt only one side, it hurts both." MS

HUNGARY'S SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT TO KEEP STATUS LAW...
Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs, in separate interviews with Slovak and Romanian media on 23 April, said Hungary's new government does not intend to abolish the controversial Status Law, CTK and Romanian radio reported. Kovacs told the Slovak Hungarian-language daily "Uj Szo" that the new government will seek an agreement with Bratislava on the implementation of the law "in line with its original aim, which serves the interests of both Hungary and ethnic Hungarians in other countries." In an interview with Romanian radio, Kovacs said that the "Status Law is a good law," but the Socialists disagree with the memorandum on its implementation signed last December by Hungarian Premier Victor Orban and Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, and will seek to renegotiate it. In both interviews Kovacs pledged that, unlike its predecessor, the new government will not interfere in the internal matters of parties representing ethnic Hungarians and will not take sides for or against factions in those formations. MS

...WILL RESPECT EU DECISION ON BENES DECREES...
Kovacs also told "Uj Szo" that it is "up to the EU to decide whether the Benes Decrees are or not an obstacle" to the accession of the Czech Republic and Slovakia into that organization. He said Hungary will "accept any decision by Brussels." But he added that "the idea of collective guilt," as expressed in the Benes Decrees, "is unacceptable." MS

...AND WILL SEEK BETTER EU DEAL FOR HUNGARIAN FARMERS
Kovacs said on 23 April in an interview with Reuters that the new government may try to renegotiate with the EU the acquis communautaire chapter pertaining to the free movement of capital, under which individual EU members are entitled to purchase land in Hungary if they have lived there for three years and were engaged in farming activities. Kovacs said that in agreeing to this stipulation, outgoing Premier Orban's cabinet had concluded a "hasty deal" without receiving anything in return. He also criticized the cabinet for agreeing to allow foreign firms or individuals to purchase land in Hungary once the country has been in the EU for seven years, whether or not they previously lived in Hungary. MS

FREEDOM HOUSE CRITICIZES STATE INFLUENCE ON HUNGARIAN MEDIA...
The U.S.-based Freedom House, in its annual report on the media around the world, said Hungarian media is "free" and the print media generally lively and diverse. However, the report noted that pro-government newspapers have received preferential treatment from the Orban's cabinet, in the form of advertisements placed by state-run companies, and had easier access to exclusive governmental information. The report also said the government has abused the law by establishing media boards for radio and television exclusively made up of its own supporters, which has given the cabinet undue influence in the appointment of radio and television officials and in providing information. The report noted that out of the country's five television stations, three are state run and that "the state media generally covers political issues in a biased manner." MS

...WHILE MTV PRESIDENT REFUSES TO QUIT
Hungarian Television (MTV) President Karoly Mendreczky said on 23 April that he will not heed the demand of the Socialist Party to submit his resignation, Hungarian media reported. The Socialists said Mendreczky is responsible for the broadcast on 18 April of a 40-minute supportive report on the FIDESZ electoral campaign, which was followed by a critical report on the campaign of the Socialists. They also said the network's newscast the same day (the last that election coverage was permitted ahead of the 21 April ballot) gave excessive coverage to FIDESZ. Mendreczky told reporters that the results of the elections will not affect MTV and that the media law prevents his dismissal, to which two-thirds of the MTV board must agree (see also "End Note"). MS

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST 'GLOATING'
As six indicted Serbs prepare to surrender and go to The Hague, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica warned unnamed persons against "gloating" over the surrenders, AP reported from Belgrade on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2002). He argued that Belgrade finally agreed to cooperate with the tribunal "because of international obligations that cannot be avoided." He indirectly accused Washington of applying "endless pressure" to that effect. Kostunica hailed the indicted war criminals' decision to turn themselves in as "a tremendous, responsible step." But Zoran Andjelkovic of Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) said that former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic decided to surrender only because of unspecified "government pressure." The other five who are prepared to go to The Hague voluntarily are General Dragoljub Ojdanic, Croatian Serb leaders Milan Martic and Mile Mrksic, as well as Vladimir Kovacevic and Momcilo Gruban, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

KARADZIC STILL REFUSES TO SURRENDER
Radovan Karadzic said in a recent letter to his Belgrade supporters that he will not surrender because the tribunal is "illegal," adding that the West should be ashamed of it, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2002). PM

DJINDJIC CALLS ON EU NOT TO FORGET YUGOSLAVIA
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in London on 23 April that Brussels should not delay in integrating Yugoslavia into the EU, the "Financial Times" reported. He told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that talks on an association agreement between Belgrade and Brussels should begin even before the new state of Serbia and Montenegro is officially launched. Djindjic added, "It is a question of symbols. Does Europe want us or not?" He warned of an unspecified nationalist backlash unless there is tangible progress toward Serbia's European integration. PM

NO END IN SIGHT FOR CONFLICT AT TARGU-MURES LYCEUM
Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 23 April that the situation at the Targu-Mures Bolyai Farkas Lyceum is "delicate" and that a "serious analysis" of the conflict must be undertaken, Romanian radio reported. He pledged that the government "will find the right solution," but added that this would be possible only if "some people stop attempting to build personal political capital" by exploiting the situation. Nastase said he "can understand" both the parents of ethnic Hungarian children who consider the lyceum to be "a place of learning with a long Hungarian tradition," as well as the protesting ethnic Romanian pupils. The latter group on 23 April said it feels "sold out by the government" after the ruling Social Democratic Party and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania the day earlier agreed to go ahead with implementing the agreement to restore teaching in Hungarian alone at the lyceum. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS AT PACE
Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 23 April, President Ion Iliescu said democracy in his country has been "consolidated" and Romania has "stepped into normalcy" insofar as the country's political and social environment is concerned, as well as in the respect of democratic rights of its citizens, Romanian radio reported. Iliescu said, "Romanian society has matured and has integrated many of the Western values," with much of this progress being due to help received from the European Council. He emphasized that the 2001 Local Public Administration Law is fully in line with European legislation and grants extensive rights to national minorities. But he added that, "We are fully aware of our shortcomings as well," and said Romania is working extensively to correct those shortcomings. Among these, Iliescu mentioned the protection of children's rights, the struggle against the trafficking of women, the integration of the Romany community, and property restitution. MS

YUGOSLAVIA PRODUCES NEW WARPLANE FOR LIBYA AND OTHERS
Despite widespread poverty in the country as a whole, the Yugoslav military has produced an improved light-trainer aircraft that can be used for attacks, namely the Super Galeb G4, AP reported from Belgrade on 23 April. It can carry armor-piercing missiles that enable it to attack tanks and other armored vehicles from a distance of up to 20 kilometers. Among the potential customers for the aircraft are Libya, Congo, and Burma, all of which now use some Yugoslav-made military aircraft. The Defense Ministry's budget for 2002 was $660 million, or two-thirds of the entire federal Yugoslav budget. PM

YUGOSLAV AND CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS CALL FOR 'GOOD-NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS'
Speaking without interpreters, Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula and his Yugoslav counterpart, Goran Svilanovic, agreed in Belgrade on 23 April to put the past behind them and concentrate on the future, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2002). Picula called his visit to the Serbian capital a "strong message to Europe and the whole world that things are changing in the region...[and that] certain times are irretrievably behind us." He called for "removing stereotypes and prejudices that exist in Yugoslavia about Croatia and in Croatia about Yugoslavia." Svilanovic added, "We share with Croatia a very long past, but...the future ahead will be much longer and better than what is behind us." Turning to concrete issues, the two signed one agreement on culture and education and another on refugee returns. It is not clear what this will actually mean in practice for the thousands of Serbs waiting to return to their homes in Croatia and the smaller number of Croats wanting to return to Serbia. The two men discussed border issues but did not reach any breakthrough. PM

ROMANIA TO PARTICIPATE IN 'ENDURING FREEDOM' AFGHANISTAN OPERATIONS?
Chief of Staff General Mihail Popescu told journalists on 23 April that his country has "placed at the disposal" of the U.S. command of the Enduring Freedom operations in Afghanistan an infantry battalion and a unit specialized in antinuclear, antichemical, and antibacteriological warfare, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Popescu said these contingents are ready to depart "in case of need," and that the offer has been approved by the country's Supreme Council for National Defense. Ground Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Eugen Badalan detailed the proposal, saying that the infantry battalion has 400 soldiers and the unit has 46 military specialists. MS

COVIC WANTS UN TO SHORE UP BELGRADE'S ROLE IN KOSOVA
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic told Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service on 24 April that he wants to engage the UN Security Council to overrule Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), regarding Belgrade's role in the mainly ethnically Albanian province. Covic said that Steiner is trying to marginalize Belgrade's role in Kosova, adding that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 specifies that Kosova remain part of Yugoslavia. Observers note that none of the ethnic Albanian parties will accept any role for Belgrade in the province. Steiner has been seeking to convince local Serbs that they should work primarily with the Albanians and UNMIK, and not ask Belgrade to try to solve their problems. PM

BOSNIAN FEDERATION MOVES TO CUT LENGTH OF MILITARY SERVICE
The House of Representatives of the mainly Croat and Muslim federation agreed on 23 April to reduce the length of compulsory military service from 12 to six months, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 April. PM

ILIESCU SAYS ROMANIA HAS 'NO TERRITORIAL CLAIMS' ON MOLDOVA
In his speech before PACE on 23 April, President Iliescu said Romania and Moldova are linked by "strong historical and traditional ties," but that these "do not signify we have territorial claims" on Moldova, Romanian radio reported. He said Romania "does not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign state" and that his country was the first to have recognized Moldovan independence in August 1991. Iliescu added that human rights and fundamental freedoms are currently infringed upon in Moldova, and that it is the duty of that country's leadership to find "peaceful modalities" of solving the crisis in cooperation with Moldovan civil society and with the help of the Council of Europe. He reiterated that Romania does not play any role whatsoever in the antigovernment demonstrations in Chisinau. MS

BOSNIA JOINS THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
The three members of the joint presidency -- Beriz Belkic, Jozo Krizanovic, and Zivko Radisic -- took part in a ceremony at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 24 April, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The Bosnian flag was raised as Bosnia became that body's 44th member. Observers note that this is the first big step by Bosnia toward formal Euro-Atlantic integration. The lack of a unified military under civilian control has hindered its admission to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. PM

MOLDOVAN PREMIER TO DISCUSS WORLD BANK FINANCING IN WASHINGTON
Vasile Tarlev left for Washington on 23 April for talks with World Bank officials on the resumption of financing for his country, ITAR-TASS reported. Before departing he told journalists that the invitation for negotiations "was a pleasant surprise, because we did not expect them to start before 15 May." Speaking on Moldovan television on 22 April, Tarlev denied that his country's relations with Romania and Ukraine have deteriorated lately, saying those relations are "quite favorable and constructive," Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIAN EFFORTS IN WASHINGTON AND BRUSSELS
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski met on 23 April with U.S. President George W. Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. After the meeting, Saxecoburggotski said that Bush encouraged Bulgaria to continue its efforts for NATO accession, Bulgarian National Television reported. Earlier the same day in Brussels, Bulgaria's chief negotiator with the EU, Meglena Kuneva, addressed the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security, and Defense Policy, BTA reported. Kuneva and the parliamentarians had conflicting viewpoints over the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi the same day met with the leaders of the parliamentary groups in the European Parliament. The talks focused on Bulgaria's efforts toward Euro-Atlantic integration, the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, as well as nuclear safety in Bulgaria. UB

CHINESE COMPANIES PROMISE INVESTMENTS IN BULGARIA
According to an Economy Ministry press release distributed on 23 April, three large Chinese companies have expressed their willingness to invest in Bulgaria, BTA reported. Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev left on 20 April for an official visit to China. Chinese electronic consumer-goods manufacturer Hisense announced that it will continue its cooperation with Bitova Elektronika of Veliko Tarnovo. Refrigerator manufacturer Haier assured Vasilev that it intends to inject money into the Bulgarian economy. The Tianjin Yide Investment Group is to invest some $1 million in western Bulgaria, as well as in the construction of a bicycle factory. Early on 24 April, Bulgarian National Television reported that Chinese companies are also interested in the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company. UB

THE HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS, AND BEYOND


After a most bitterly contested election, the left-wing alliance of the Socialist Party (MSZP) (178 seats, 46.11 percent of the vote) and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) (20 seats, 5.18 percent) will form the new government of Hungary. The left's victory was narrow, by just over 1 percent of the vote, which gives it an overall majority of 10 seats in parliament. Unexpectedly, FIDESZ (188 seats, 48.7 percent) added some eight percentage points to what it won in the first round on 7 April, making it the largest party of the three that have gained representation by passing the 5 percent hurdle that Hungarian law prescribes. The turnout of 73.47 percent was actually higher than in the first round.

The aftermath of the elections shows a deeply divided country that places a responsibility on both the new government and the new opposition to find common ground. The left's victory was essentially built on its support in the capital, Budapest, and in Hungary east of the Danube. Western Hungary, with a few exceptions, is solidly right-wing territory, and FIDESZ also gathered support in parts of the east.

There are reasons for this. In effect, FIDESZ has acquired the image of being anti-Budapest, certainly justified in the context of the friction that existed with the SZDSZ mayor. At the same time, FIDESZ largely neglected the capital in its campaign and this was reflected in its poor showing there. Even though four-fifths of voters live outside Budapest, it is clearly difficult to win an election without solid support there. As a matter of fact, many felt that FIDESZ seriously neglected its image-building in general, and as a result it is widely seen as far more right-wing than is the reality. If nothing else, the elections have shown that to gain a higher vote, FIDESZ will have to move toward the center -- there are effectively no more votes to be picked up on the right of the spectrum.

The real strength of the right is in western Hungary, which is strikingly more prosperous than the east. Thus, voters in the broken-down industrial areas around Miskolc, for one, had few incentives to vote for FIDESZ. Furthermore, the eastern part of the country is broadly nominally Protestant and still has memories of the poverty of the prewar period. The FIDESZ government, many analysts believe, was too close to the Roman Catholic Church and did not pursue a regional policy that would have enhanced the material well-being of these regions.

The MSZP, by contrast, benefited from its image of being the party of "socialism," meaning social welfare provision and caring for the less well-off. But FIDESZ polled well among the younger generations, something that must be a source of concern for the MSZP, which has a distinctly aging voter base.

Much has been made of FIDESZ's use of the national question, like last year's Status Law for the benefit of Hungarians living in neighboring states. Although the MSZP voted to support this legislation, the left has been uneasy with it and has attacked it. Indeed, on the national issue, the left -- especially the SZDSZ -- has pursued a relentless campaign of trying to link FIDESZ with the right-radical Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), which failed to pass the 5 percent hurdle this time. The absence of MIEP from parliament will make this coupling more difficult to substantiate.

So much for the elections. The interesting questions are about the future. With a majority of only 10 seats, the left has every reason to worry about how it will govern. Not least, in order to complete a number of outstanding chapters in the negotiations with the EU, the government will have to pass legislation amending the existing media law, and this requires a two-thirds majority. This will leave the MSZP with no alternative but to negotiate with FIDESZ.

The relationship between the two coalition partners, the MSZP and the SZDSZ, is far from easy; indeed, the 1994-98 period in office together has left residues that neither can be happy with, but currently they need each other. The SZDSZ will certainly strike a hard bargain and is probably less inclined to have regard for the half of the electorate that voted for the right. While it styles itself "liberal," it is more intransigent in the pursuit of certain left-of-center issues, like multiculturalism, than is the case with the European liberal tradition.

There are also contradictions in the position of the MSZP. It is accepted as a left-wing party, yet evidently is much more open to globalization and the role of free-market thinking than the left wing traditionally accepts. If the prices protected by the FIDESZ government now start to rise, many of the weaker sectors of Hungarian society -- pensioners, for instance -- will feel betrayed.

Indeed, there is a serious problem here for the left. Whereas FIDESZ broadly had a fairly clear idea of why it was in government -- to represent a society that was explicitly Hungarian -- the left is much less united on this question of purpose. It tries to stand for both openness to foreign investment and to social justice, although these are very hard to reconcile. It is internally divided and while Peter Medgyessy, the left's prime-ministerial candidate, came over successfully as a moderate, he is not regarded as a true insider in the MSZP. Then, some observers are anxious that the politicization of the civil service will be intensified, with the new government sacking large numbers of people whom they identify as FIDESZ supporters rather than as professionals, whereas they may actually be both.

In the short term, this may not matter, at least until the new government takes Hungary into the EU, but after that the left coalition may well be without much sense of why it is in power, other than power itself. Much depends, therefore, on the capacity of the left to reinvent itself and to find a new role, shedding the last remnants of being the communist successor party. If the MSZP fails in this, it will be punished by the electorate in 2006.George Schopflin is Jean Monnet professor of politics at University College, London.

XS
SM
MD
LG